Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm doing just fine, thank you — and let's hope Derek King is too

Thanks, Greg M, for inquiring about my mental state. No, I'm not in a deep state of depression. I'm having a great holiday season, eating exceptionally well, hanging out with my kids, watching ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries (I got the first volume for Christmas), preparing to do some cooking on the Green Egg, and of course watching some bowl games. (Tyler Bray's kind of a punk.)

In other words, I'm not at work and I'm not trying to kill time. And yes, I'm taking a little break from MV!

But soon I will be.

Oh, and if you've heard we've lost two verbal commitments, don't be too worried about it.

Alex Barr has switched his commitment to NC State. He was a huge kid who'd have been a project much like Andrew Bridges, who redshirted this past seasons. We've got two other offensive linemen, James Lewis and Jake Bernstein, who'll play before he would have, and two other promising projects, Jose Valedon and Spencer Pulley.

Also, QB Damien Fleming has reportedly withdrawn his commitment. We've got another quarterback commitment, Shaun White, who was similarly rated, and this gives Coach Franklin some room to recruit a better QB before signing day in February. If you ask me, Coach Franklin's going hard after a better quarterback and he deciding whether to keep White or Fleming.

Sumler's best offers are from Southern Miss, Memphis and UAB, while Fleming supposedly had an offer from West Virginia (not sure that'll stick with Dana Halgorsen joining the Mountaineers since then) as well as MTSU, Southern and Hampton.

So which recruits should we really want to keep?

Athlete Derek King had offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee and Ole Miss. He's by far our most decorated recruit.

Tackle James Lewis could have been but he committed early with offers from Kentucky, Duke and Illinois, but he almost certainly would have gotten better ones.

The other recruit with an SEC offer was RB Mitchell Hester (Arkansas).

Guys with BCS offers included DE/TE Keith Heitzman (Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana), OL Jake Bernstein (Arizona, Cincinnati, others), DE Conor Hart (Syracuse), WR Courtney Bynes (Illinois, Duke, Cincy), RB JJ Keels (Maryland, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Cincy, Duke) and RB Marcus Sumler (Iowa State).

Happy New Year, everybody.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vanderbilt fans should give James Franklin a chance

So James Franklin is our new coach. I will not be at lunch today with other VU alums plotting to fire David Williams. Some of you will be, and you certainly have that right.

We're Vandy fans. For many, many years, being Vandy fans has made us feel bad, and we don't like feeling bad. What would have made us feel instantly good? Why, getting the offensive coordinator for the best college football team in America. Or getting another big-name coach.

Wake up, people. We're not capable of getting a big-name coach who's going to make us feel instantly good. And that's not David Williams' fault. While he was interviewing coaches and asking them questions about what they plan for the future, they're asking him to explain Vandy's past. It's not an easy task, unless you choose to make fun of yourself and form a blog called Moral Victory!

So there was no way we were getting a big-name coach. Sure, big-name coaches were talking to us so they could more than double their current salaries as coordinators. Instead, we had to find somebody who's good but nobody knows he's good until he turns out to be good.

So is James Franklin good? We won't know until he turns out to be good.

I'm giving him a chance. If I could, I'd ask him these questions:

• Who's your offensive coordinator?
• Who's your defensive coordinator?
• Who are you keeping from Vandy's current staff?
• How in heaven's name do you plan to jump-start the offense?
• What are you looking for in a quarterback?
• Which Vandy players are you most impressed with?
• Which high school players that you were recruiting to Maryland do you hope to lure to Vandy?
• Which current Vandy verbal commitments are you trying hardest to keep?
• Which current Vandy verbal commitments don't fit your plans?
• Do you know how to get to every high school in the metro Atlanta area?

I see a guy who's worked with Aaron Rodgers, who's a highly respected recruiter, who's young and energetic, and who's thought of highly enough to have been the coach-in-waiting for a job considered to be at least a step above the Vandy job. No, I didn't want to hire a coach because he's black, but the fact that he's our first black coach sure doesn't hurt us with recruiting, especially in metro Atlanta.

Right now, some of you want to jump out of a building.

I'm hopeful. I'm looking forward to seeing what James Franklin does on the recruiting trail, in spring practice, in preseason, and when the season starts.

Go Dores!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vanderbilt's stuck with James Franklin, and we'll just wait and see if that's a good thing

Boy, those geniuses at the Washington Post's Terrapins Insider never sleep, do they? Now they're claiming that James Franklin is Vanderbilt's next head coach. You go, Matt Bonesteel.

Of course, I'm sure that it's true. Just the sort of hire we'd make. You know, because we're so smart and we know how to spot a winner. If anybody's flying under the radar, it's Franklin, who's the architect of the 85th best offense in college football and supposedly has a magnetic personality and comprehensive long-term goals.

David Williams told Eric Prisbell of the Post that he met Franklin when he was offensive coordinator at Kansas State: "Even back then, he was put­ting into motion a plan of what it would take to be a head coach. The other thing is, we were aware that he is the coach-in-waiting at Mary­land. Obviously, some­body else has recog­ni­zed some of the same things that we recognized."

OK, so we're not getting our big-name candidate, which is what we needed to feel good about the search between now and September. And isn't that waht we wanted? Isn't that what we as Vanderbilt fans deserve? To feel good about our team for once, even if nothing actually materializes?

When I was writing all that crap about Kiehl Frazier following Malzahn to Vanderbilt, I knew it would never happen because it was great, great stuff that could never be true. Sure, Frazier would have followed Malzahn to Vandy, and I'm sure I'm 100 percent right about that. But I knew that Malzahn in the end would never come to Vanderbilt.

No, we're getting a no-name coach with an upside and a downside and we're going to have to wait months and months — and maybe years and years — before we know whether Williams and friends made the right decision and whether we'll be ready to celebrate.

I'm glad Vanderbilt made a strong run at Malzahn. Now we've got Franklin — who was just as good as the other no-name finalists — and so we'll just sit back and see if he can close the deal on our best recruits and maybe pick up a couple of other decent players and then in spring practice install an offense that doesn't suck and then in the fall field a team that doesn't get destroyed.

And that's about all there is to say about it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The only Gus that Vanderbilt is getting is a field-goal kicking mule: Malzahn slams the door on our ass

Whew, we almost had to change the name of this blog. Yep, Gus Malzahn ALMOST came to Vanderbilt and brought Kiehl Frazier with him. Just like we ALMOST win football games.

If you haven't been a Vanderbilt fan long enough and don't believe me, it's being reported by ESPN, not Matt Bonesteel.

I've spent all morning telling co-workers who went to Auburn the exact same thing I told them in 2001 when we were trailing Auburn 24-21 and driving down the field. Boy, those Auburn fans were nervous! Boy, they were whining!

But I set them straight. I told them not to worry because Vanderbilt would find a way to lose in the end.

That's what I've been telling them today, and it's exactly what happened. We faked a field goal, ran the option to the field goal kicker, and lost Malzahn.

I've heard the sticking point was that we wouldn't let him coach in the national championship. I don't know and I don't care. All I know is, we almost got him and we didn't, just like we almost win nearly every game and we don't.

Now instead of getting the offensive coordinator for the No. 1 team in the nation, we're probably getting the offensive coordinator for Maryland, which ranks No. 85 in total yardage.

The only Gus we're getting is a field-goal kicking mule.

Vanderbilt players go to Facebook to comment on Malzahn

What were Vanderbilt players doing yesterday after rumors were swirling and exactly one news agency was reporting that Gus Malzahn was Vanderbilt's new head coach.

They were on Facebook, of course.

Here's an interchange between Grant Ramsay, a freshman O-lineman who just finished a redshirt year, and Jabo Burrow, who started at guard as a redshirt sophomore:

Grant Ramsay: Gus Malzahn baby! Lets goooooo!!!
Jabo Burrow: I actually heard that ted cain is gonna be the head coach
Grant Ramsay: haha dude really?

And here's Jordan Matthews, the true freshman who caught fire at the end of this season with five touchdowns from Jared Funk late in games:

Jordan Matthews: “We just got Malzahn!! LEEETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! To hype!!!!!!"

Ah yes, to hype. Like Vandy fans, these guys are psyched that Malzahn just may be headed to Nashville. Think they'll be this excited if James Franklin or Greg Roman show up instead?

But the big question is, do these guys know something we don't, or were they surfing the web just like the rest of us?

Unfortunately, I imagine the latter is true.

It's never too late for a Vandy fumble: Malzahn still reportedly mulling Vanderbilt offer

On Sunday afternoon, this was the headline on the Washington Post's Terrapin Insider blog: "Gus Malzahn accepts Vanderbilt coaching offer." It was based on what a source told reporter Eric Prisbell who told the blogger Matt Bonesteel.

By midnight, Prisbell had posted a story with this headline: "Gus Malzahn expected to be named head coach at Vanderbilt."

That was after everybody and their mother had run stories saying that Malzahn had taken the Vandy job, but they all were attributing the Washington Post. For example, USA Today runs the story and attributes the Post, and then somebody else reports that the Washington Post and USA Today are reporting that Malzahn had accepted Vandy's offer. You know, because it's nice to have two sources. Except that there was one source all along, and that was the Terrapin Insider blog.

Now, as if to bring everybody down from the mountain, ESPN is reporting that Malzahn has a Vanderbilt offer. Geez, let's hope that much is true. I'd hope we weren't getting excited about Gus accepting the job when he didn't even have an offer.

Right now, it's the same old same old. Malzahn's mulling the offer and James Franklin will take the job if he doesn't.

Oh, and David Williams plans to make an announcement in the next day or so. You know, so the students can spread the gospel of Vandy football when they go home for the holidays to Dallas, Atlanta and Jersey.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

David Williams tells AP he'll make an announcement about Vandy coach "within the next day or so"

Since the time Matt Bonesteel said that Eric Prisbell said that an unnamed source told him that Gus Malzahn is headed to Vandy, the always reliable Teresa Walker with the Associated Press filed this story:

"NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams says the Commodores expect to announce their new football coach within the next day or so.

"Williams declined to comment when asked Sunday if Vanderbilt has offered the job to anyone. The Commodores have been searching for a new coach since Robbie Caldwell resigned Nov. 27, and they wanted to announce the new coach before students leave for their winter break later this week."

Wow, so Williams is timing his announcement for the students? Then maybe he'll stoop scheduling the Tennessee game when the students are away on Thanksgiving break.

Who is Matt Bonesteel and why is he the only person on earth saying that Gus Malzahn is heading to Vandy?

ESPN SportsCenter just told us (1) that Urban Meyer has health problems, (2) that Will Muschamp, as a reminder, is headed to Florida and (3) that Bobby Petrino has signed a big contract at Arkansas. Then on to NFL football.

In other words, they're NOT reporting that Gus Malzahn is going to Vanderbilt. Why? Because it's not been confirmed.

Instead, a bunch of web sites are quoting the Washington Post. As in, Gus Malzahn is the next head coach of Vanderbilt, the Washington Post reports.

Um, it's not Woodward and Bernstein on this one.

No, in a blog entry on Terrapins Insider entitled "Gus Malzahn accepts Vanderbilt head coaching offer," some guy named Matt Bonesteel quotes some guy named Eric Prisbell who was told by somebody with no name that Malzahn has accepted Vandy's offer.

As soon as Matt Bonesteel finishes filming his latest adult movie, he'll update us on the story.

In the meantime, let's don't start celebrating yet. Nobody has confirmed this.

Is Gus Malzahn really headed to Vanderbilt? Remember, at Vandy it's never over till the foghorn sounds

We're not gonna run a giant BREAKING NEWS: MALZAHN IS VANDERBILT'S HEAD COACH headline. Not gonna do it. Yes, the Washington Post's Maryland blog is reporting that Malzahn has agreed to take the Vandy job, so James Franklin has probably told them he's not a candidate. And Greg Roman is allegedly no longer a candidate. And Petrino has signed his big deal with Arkansas.

Sounds like the pieces are in place. If they are, we've come a long way since Ivin Jasper, haven't we?

Kind of like when we were beating Georgia 17-0 in the fourth quarter in Nashville and we called a fake punt. Or we scored a miracle touchdown against LSU to make the score 7-6 and lined up for the two-point conversion and the win.

Feel free to insert your own Vanderbilt pull-defeat-from-the jaws-of-victory story here.

I'm not saying it's not going to happen. But don't forget this is Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt has never gotten its first choice for a head coach. Malzahn was our first choice, and the first choice of a whole bunch of people.

I feel like I'm standing in the bitter cold at the Music City Bowl watching the seconds tick off the clock and not believing it.

I'm waiting until the clock reads 0:00 and it's over.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Only one SEC job available for Gus Malzahn

Earlier this week folks were speculating that Malzahn could become the head coach of:

• Arkansas, if Petrino bolted for Florida.
• Miss State, if Mullen bolted for Miami.
• Ole Miss, if Nutt got canned.

Well, it looks like Will Muschamp is about to be named the coach at Florida, Miami has narrowed its search to Golden, Edsall and another guy, and Nutt still has a job.

That means there's one SEC job open for Malzahn: Yes, Vanderbilt.

Would Kiehl Frazier follow Gus Malzahn to Vanderbilt?

Will Gus Malzahn take the money and the Vanderbilt job? That's the big question right now.

But here's another question: If the answer to the above question is yes, then would Kiehl Frazier be coming to Vanderbilt?

Frazier is the fourth-best high school quarterback in the nation, a big strong guy who can run and throw. He's committed to Auburn, presumably to play for Malzahn, who coached at his high school Shiloh Christian in Springdale, Ark., before moving to Springdale HS.

Frazier is the perfect quarterback for Malzahn's offense, and as we all know because Vandy lost five of its best recruits this time last year, nothing's official until signing day in February.

If Frazier chose Auburn because of Malzahn, he could without question follow him to Vandy, provided he hasn't already taken $180,000 to come to Auburn.

Maybe James Franklin and Greg Roman will be better head coaches than Malzahn, though we wouldn't pay them $3 million to find out and I'd bet that Malzahn in his first year could do more with our current "talent" than those other guys could.

But the big difference would be in recruiting. Caldwell and friends have put together a remarkable class considering the uncertainty of the past six months, but as usual it's still the worst class in the SEC. Malzahn could change that.

If he took the job (Bobby Petrino has reportedly just signed a 7-year deal with Arkansas) and Frazier joined him, then Frazier would be Vanderbilt's highest rated recruit ever, by far. It would be an unbelievable coup for us, on par with getting Malzahn. He'd likely be the starting quarterback from Day One, and you'd probably see Larry Smith graciously accept a utility role similar to the one given to Auburn's Kodi Burns when Malzahn arrived in Auburn.

You could also see a couple of four-star wide receivers and maybe even a big running back jump ship to come to Vanderbilt. And while we're at it, we desperately need linebackers, as well as some SEC-sized linemen on both sides of the ball.

All of a sudden, guys like two-star running back Mitchell Hester, who's said he's not sure if he'll come to Vandy after all, may not even have the option.

And them's the breaks. We got Jordan Rodgers because Mark Mangino got fired at Kansas and new coach Turner Gill rescinded the Jayhawks' offer to Rodgers.

Malzahn would be keenly interested in his quarterbacks, and Vandy recruits Damien Fleming and Shaun White may or may not meet his standards.

Athlete Derrick King and offensive linemen James Lewis and Jake Bernstein are definite keepers, and so are running back J.J. Keels, tight end/defensive end Keith Heitzman and defensive end Conor Hart.

If Frazier didn't follow Malzahn to Nashville, then it wouldn't be the end of the world. When he arrived in Auburn Malzahn took Chris Todd, a senior quarterback and JUCO product coming off shoulder surgery and a confidence-shaking season, and got these results:

Todd before Malzahn: 86-156 (55.1%), 903 yards, 5 TDs, 6 INTs, 106.6 rating
Todd after Malzahn: 198-328 (60.4%), 2,612 yards, 22 TDs, 6 INTs, 145.7

At Vanderbilt, Malzahn would have a senior quarterback coming off another confidence-shaking season (Larry Smith) and a JUCO product coming off shoulder surgery (Jordan Rodgers).

He'd also have a bunch of all-purpose running backs in Norman, Stacy and Keels and a big, raw back in Wesley Tate. Oh, and a ton of young wide receivers. And an All-SEC tight end in Brandon Barden, and a couple of redshirt freshmen, Blake Gowder and Chris Boyd, with the potential to play H-back.

Hey, it's a start.

But without a doubt, getting Malzahn would give Vandy a huge initial boost that it wouldn't get from the other candidates.

With him, we're talking about which of our recruits are GOOD ENOUGH to play for Vandy.

Without him, we're talking about which of our recruits are WILLING to play for Vandy.

That's a big difference.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 reasons Gus Malzahn should take the Vanderbilt job

1. $3 million
2. The opportunity to prove he's a genius by winning at Vanderbilt.
3. $3 million
4. Cam Newton's leaving Auburn after this season.
5. $3 million
6. $3 million
7. $3 million
8. $3 million
9. $3 million
10. $3 million

Back up the Brinks truck! Vanderbilt tries to lure Gus Malzahn with cold hard cash

Jeff Lockridge just slipped into one of his blogs that Vanderbilt has supposedly offered Gus Malzahn $3 million to coach the Commodores. Ah, blogs! That nifty invention that enables journalists to serve up information not quite cooked enough for a so-called real news story.

Still, it's nice to see that Vandy's at least rumored to be making a last-minute run at Malzahn, which would of course take truckloads of cash to pull off. Like a lot of people, I'm just not sold on James Franklin. When Maryland fans say they hope he leaves to go to Vandy because they hate the Terrapins offense, well, that's a little bit disconcerting.

And in case you're wondering, if somehow we did lure Malzahn to Nashville, he'd be the SEVENTH highest paid coach in the nation.

Let's just say Malzahn wants to take the money and also accept the challenge of proving he's the best freaking coach ever by actually winning at Vanderbilt. What would stand in our way?

Urban Meyer. Meyer's departure opens the door for Bobby Petrino to do what he's so good at and jump ship to Gainesville which would open the door for Malzahn in his home state of Arkansas. Oh, and Arkansas currently pays Petrino $2.7 million. Bet they could cobble together another 300 grand.

Anyway, here are all the coaches who currently earn $3 million or more per year:

• Nick Saban, Alabama: $6M
• Mack Brown, Texas: $5.2M
• Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: $4.4M
• Urban Meyer, Florida: $4M
• Jim Tressel, Ohio State: $3.9M
• Les Miles, LSU: $3.9M

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vandy holds out hope for Ken Niumatalolo — or the next Urban Meyer

Late last night, FootballScoop reported that Franklin and Roman are Vanderbilt's head coaching finalists, which was enough to send shock waves through Vandy fans. What, no Jon Gruden? Hey, maybe Urban Meyer would be available!

In this morning's Tennessean, Jeff Lockridge says the Commodores are waiting until after the Army-Navy game to talk to Ken Niumatalolo, the triple option guru. So the rumors started with Navy's OC and have spread to its HC. Now we're cooking with gas!

Lockridge also reports that:

• Wisconsin OC Paul Chryst has interviewed. The Badgers' DC, Dave Doeren, has already talked to Vandy. Maybe we can interview their trainer and their cheerleader advisor too.

• Vandy has interviewed and is still considering Tulsa's HC Todd Graham and nearly every OC in North America not named Gus Malzahn — Michigan State's Treadwell, Nebraska's Watson and of course Franklin and Roman.

• Speaking of Malzahn, Gus has kept the lines of communication open which I suppose means his agent picks up the phone when we call, but he hasn't shown any interest.

• Oh, and Troy Calhoun's staying at Air Force. Dang.

• No mention of Al Golden or Tommy Bowden.

It's kind of funny that Vanderbilt and Florida are looking for a coach at the same time. And educational too. Guys who are waiting around for a big-time coaching job are gonna discover what happens when a really big job opens up. Malzahn, for example, is too good for Vanderbilt but he likely won't get so much as a postcard from the Gators.

This much is clear: We've got to grab a guy who's good but nobody realizes he's good and then we've got to hope he doesn't leave when he shocks the world and wins six games at Vandy.

In other words, Urban Meyer 10 years ago. Yes, 10 years ago Meyer was 34 years old and an assistant at Notre Dame. He turned the Bowling Green program around in two years, jumped to a better job at Utah, where he had an undefeated season and won the Sugar Bowl. Suddenly, four years and two jobs later, he's at Florida. Five years after taking his first HC job and before the age of 40, he's won a national championship.

That's the kind of guy who'd turn our program around. Maybe Roman or Franklin are that guy. But if they're Urban Meyer caliber guys, then they'll be two and done.

We'll see.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

James Franklin and Greg Roman named finalists for Vanderbilt job — but the wait has only just begun

FootballScoop, a well-sourced site specializing in sorting out coaching rumors in college football, is reporting that James Franklin, the OC and coach-in-waiting at Maryland, and Greg Roman, the OC and assistant head coach at Stanford, are the two finalists for the Vanderbilt job.

Sorry if you were hoping to get a big-name coach who could give you an immediate sense of false hope. Whoever we get, I'm sitting back and waiting to see what he does. Really, we're not gonna know if this is a successful coaching search for another two or three years. Vandy fans waited, what, 53 years to win another bowl game? We're used to waiting. I can wait two or three years to see if James or Greg or whoever will pan out.

I can call them James and Greg because both of these guys are under 40 years old. Roman has an NFL background but also knows how to win at an academic-minded university. Franklin has coached at a bunch of levels and has even worked with Brett Farve. He's a high-energy guy and a supposedly fabulous recruiter. Maryland fans think he calls too many screen passes and some of them are kind of hoping he goes to Vandy.

Anyway, he was named Maryland's coach in waiting nearly two years ago and has a deal that will pay him $1 million if sticks with the Terrapins and is NOT named Maryland's head coach by early 2012, which is a possibility because Ralph Friedgen just won ACC Coach of the Year and is pushing for an extension on his contract, which ends after next season.

Friedgen agreed to the head coach in waiting thing because other schools were telling recruits that he was going to retire because he was over 60 — or was going to die, because he tipped the scales at a fifth of a ton. But he went on a crash diet and lowered his weight to a sixth of a ton, and now he's coach of the year and the picture of health and he wants an extension.

Not sure if that's a good thing for Vanderbilt or not.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who are these guys interviewing for the Vanderbilt job?

The Tennessean is reporting that Vanderbilt has talked to six people about its vacant head coaching job. We already know a little bit about Greg Roman, the assistant head coach at Stanford, and also Todd Graham, the Tulsa head coach. But the other four guys? They've only recently jumped onto the radar:

(Pictured above)
When HC Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack after beating Notre Dame, Treadwell stepped in and led the Spartans to two victories in two tries, including a win over No. 4 Wisconsin. A former high school quarterback and four-year starting wide receiver at Miami-Ohio, he’s spent most of his 15 years as a college coach developing quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs. As an OC, he’s known for running a balanced offense. He’s around 50 years old.

A college offensive coach for the past 28 years, he’s coached nearly every offensive position, but especially quarterbacks. He was the HC at Southern Illinois for three years, inheriting a bad team and posting a 10-12 record after starting his first season 1-10. He’s 51 years old. Worked for Gary Barnett at Northwestern and Colorado, then became recruiting coordinator at Nebraska, where he was one of only two coaches retained by Bo Pelini after the firing of Bill Callahan.

A rising star at 38 years old, he’s been an assistant coach in Division II, the Danish Football Federation, the FCS, the FBS and the NFL. His FBS teams include Washington State, Kansas State and two stints with Maryland, where he’s currently the offensive coordinator. Has coached receivers for much of his career. Got his current job when Maryland HC Ralph Friedgen gave up playcalling duties. He installed a West Coast offense and is now the head coach-in-waiting at Maryland. Considered one of the best recruiters in college football.

Has coached at Drake, USC, Montana and Kansas before joining the Badgers. Has been the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for about three years and also coaches linebackers. Replaced a veteran defensive coordinator when the Badger defense faltered in 2007, dramatically improving a unit that now consistently holds opposing teams to under 100 yards rushing. Known for being detailed-oriented and business-like. He’s about 38 years old.

And by the way, we're still waiting to hear from Air Force HC Troy Calhoun, Temple HC Al Golden and Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Tommy Bowden appears to have dropped off the radar.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stanford's Greg Roman at the top of Vanderbilt's list

Jeff Lockridge at the Tennessean says Stanford assistant Greg Roman had a good interview with Vanderbilt on Friday. He also lists nine more names he thinks might be on David Williams' list of 10 men to interview: Gus Malzahn, Troy Calhoun, Al Golden, Todd Graham, Bud Foster, Tommy Bowden and a trio of coordinators — Paul Chryst and Dave Doeren of Wisconsin and Don Treadwell of Michigan State.

Meanwhile, FootballScoop says Vanderbilt plans to interview a couple of offensive coordinators, Shawn Watson of Nebraska and James Franklin of Maryland.

Don't get your hopes up over Malzahn, Calhoun or Golden. Graham has a longterm contract with Tulsa that Vandy would have to deal with, and Foster has said he doesn't want to take a job where it's a longshot to win. Hmmm. But Roman sees plenty of similarities between Vanderbilt and Stanford, which right now is the No. 4 team in the nation.

Let's shake out some of the names we've mentioned in recent days:
• Greg Roman, assistant head coach, Stanford
• Todd Graham, head coach, Tulsa

• Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech
• Tommy Bowden, former head coach, Clemson

• Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator, Auburn
• Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force
• Al Golden, head coach, Temple

• James Franklin, offensive coordinator, Maryland
• Shawn Watson, offensive coordinator, Nebraska
• Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator, Wisconsin
• Don Treadwell, offensive coordinator, Michigan State
• Dave Doeren, defensive coordinator, Wisconsin

• Mike Haywood, head coach, Miami-Ohio
• Rick Stockstill, head coach, MTSU
• David Lee, quarterbacks coach, Miami Dolphins
• Dana Holgorsen, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
• Mark Hudspeth, offensive coordinator, Miss State
• Mark Whipple, offensive coordinator, Miami
• Paul Petrino, offensive coordinator, Illinois

• Ivin Jasper, offensive coordinator, Navy
• Skip Holtz, head coach, South Florida
• Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy
• Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston
• June Jones, head coach, SMU
• Brady Hoke, head coach, San Diego State
• Randy Shannon, former head coach, Miami
• Mike Leach, former head coach, Texas Tech
• Mark Mangino, former head coach, Kansas:
• Phil Fulmer, former head coach, Tennessee:

• Jerry Kill, head coach, Northern Illinois

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bobby Johnson was supposed to replace Tommy Bowden, not the other way around

So Tommy Bowden is a top candidate to become the new head coach at Vandy. Which is kind of funny when you look back to Oct. 13, 2008.

That's the day Bowden got fired from Clemson, and Tiger fans responded by immediately calling for one man to save their program.

That man? Bobby Johnson.

Here's a sample post from a Clemson fan to a Tiger message board:

BOBBY JOHNSON COMES HOME TO CLEMSON!!!! (This has to be the headline the day after Vandy's last game of the season). Former Tiger football player, graduated 1973. Turned Vandy from SEC basement dweller to the team nobody wants to play. BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY!

At the time, Johnson's Vanderbilt team was 5-1 and ranked in the Top 25 while Clemson was 3-3 after starting the season ranked in the Top 10. Vandy had recently beaten Auburn, a team that had handled Clemson in its last bowl game, and it had embarrassed Steve Spurrier and the cross-state SC Gamecocks for the second straight year.

We were already trying to psychologically prepare MV! readers for what seemed inevitable: Bobby Johnson was leaving us for Clemson.

Now Bobby Johnson is out of work and Tommy Bowden is a front-runner for the Vanderbilt job.

So what happened?

Bobby Johnson lost to Duke, that's what happened.

He'd just lost his first game of the season to Miss State, which was a let-down but the sort of cowbell-induced let-down that happens to even established SEC teams. Then he suffered a respectable loss to an outrageously talented Georgia team to put Vandy at 5-2. He was still a hot name. But then he got embarrassed by Duke on homecoming. And then spanked by Florida.

Now Vandy was 5-4 and, with a history of losing every game in November, desperate for a win. Fortunately, the Commodores beat Kentucky, but lost to beatable teams from Tennessee and Wake Forest to finish 6-6.

Of course, the Dores finished with a Music City Bowl victory over Boston College, scoring 16 points without a single offensive touchdown. It was a magical season for Vanderbilt fans, and while heartwarming for the rest of America, not particularly impressive to fans and officials from Clemson, which finished with seven victories including a 31-7 win over Duke, and a New Year's Day bowl bid to play Nebraska in the Gator.

So that's what happened. On Oct. 13, Bobby Johnson had five wins in six games. In his next 18 games, he had four wins, counting the bowl victory. And in the 30 regular season games Vanderbilt has played since that Oct. 13, the Commodores have won just five times.

It was unthinkable on Oct. 13, 2008, that Vanderbilt football would be in this state, and even more unthinkable that Tommy Bowden would be considered as part of the solution.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who'll be the next Vanderbilt head coach? Here are eight good candidates

I heard somewhere that Vandy's looking at interviewing about eight coaches. Right now, there are literally hundreds of names flying around. I have no idea who we're looking at, but I'd start with these eight:

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Auburn
Age: 45
Upside: One of the elite offensive minds in college football; as a high school coach, landed a job as the Arkansas OC in a package deal with two of his blue-chip players, left for Tulsa after Nutt wouldn't let him take the wraps off his spread offense, then became the OC at Auburn, where last season he exceeded expectations with one of the SEC's worst quarterbacks and this season has taken the nation's best quarterback and catapulted a team with a shaky defense into the nation's No. 1 team.
Downside: He's the hottest name in college football right now and is being connected to openings at Miami, Colorado and jobs like Ole Miss that aren't even open.
Bottom line: Vandy would have to pull out all the stops — and all its wallets — to land Malzahn. By all accounts he's a steady, reliable guy who just might find a niche and excel at Vandy. But after having Cam Newton, would he really want to work with the likes of Larry Smith?

Current job: Head coach, South Florida
Age: 46
Upside: Amassed a 34-23 record at pre-FBS UConn, then led East Carolina to four bowls in five seasons before jumping to South Florida, where his Bulls have a 7-4 record and are headed to a bowl; an overall record of 79-54 in 11 seasons; learned the coaching ropes from Bobby Bowden at Florida State and from his father Lou at Notre Dame and South Carolina; knows what it takes to be an underdog in the SEC; a drawing point for going to USF was the chance to play and beat Florida
Downside: Is biding his time for a bigger job, and while he might jump to Vandy for a chance at coaching in the SEC, he'd be even more likely to leave for a better job; a good recruiter, but can he spot a Vandy kid after recruiting at EC and USF?
Bottom line: A winner who's ready to coach in the SEC, but he knows better than most people how tough it is to win there.

Current job: Former head coach, Clemson
Age: 56
Upside: Never had a losing season in 12 years of coaching; went 18-4 with a bowl victory in two seasons at Tulane, then went 72-45 at Clemson; only season at Clemson without a bowl was following a fight with South Carolina when both teams declined a bowl bid; knows how to win at an academic school, taking the Green Wave to a Top 10 finish in his second season as a head coach; he can recruit, which is why he got fired at Clemson — he got blue-chippers that led Tiger fans to believe they'd be national champs in two years
Downside: Has been out of coaching for two years; coached at an academic school in Conference USA, not the SEC
Bottom line: Stop saying he was a loser at Clemson because he's never had a losing season, ever; in fact, he may have better results with scholar athletes than with blue-chip players, as evidenced by his results at Tulane; plus, he'd probably finish his career at Vanderbilt if given another chance to coach

Current job: Head coach, Northern Illinois
Age: 49
Upside: A winner at four programs, starting with a 49-25 record at Division II Emporia State and Saginaw State, then taking a terrible Southern Illinois team in the FBS from 1-10 to 12-2 in six seasons and amassing a 33-32 record, then taking Northern Illinois from being ranked in ESPN's Bottom 10 to three bowls in three seasons; overall record of 127-71 in 17 seasons; this year's team in 10-2, undefeated in the MAC and ranked in the Top 25; a hard worker and the first member of his family to attend college; cancer survivor
Downside: Was hospitalized this season for dehydration; looks older than 49 and lacks the CEO polish of other SEC coaches; has coached at state colleges with lower academic standards than Vanderbilt
Bottom line: This guy's a winner wherever he goes; his teams score boatloads of points and rack up tons of yardage. He wouldn't be a big-name hire, but he does have a cool name. He'd be a great pick for a program like Indiana, but he'd be a rock-solid pick for Vandy too. He deserves a shot.

Current job: Head coach, Temple
Age: 41
Upside: After inheriting a winless football team, he led the Owls to one win in his first season, four wins in his second, five wins in his third, and last season to nine wins and a bowl game; has eight wins this season heading into a bowl game; this year his Temple team won 30-16 over UConn, which clobbered Vandy 40-21; has an overall record of 27-34, but 26-23 if you take away his first season as a head coach; has a master's degree in sports psychology; the former defensive coordinator at Virginia; was a strong candidate for both the UCLA and Cincinnati jobs but took his name out of contention
Downside: A former Penn State player, he's thought to be a front runner to replace JoPa when that day finally arrives; is known more for defense than offense; has never beaten a MAC team with a winning record.
Bottom line: In his first head coaching gig, led a winless team to a bowl bid in less than four years. He's a polished leader who can build a winner from scratch and who'll think hard about leaving. Case in point: He has been contacted by Vanderbilt and has apparently taken his name out of the running, but you never know.

Current job: Head coach, Tulsa
Age: 46
Upside: By season's end, he'll have taken two small private schools (Rice and Tulsa) to four bowl games in five seasons; has a combined record of 42-23; inherited a 1-10 Rice team in his first season as a head coach and led the Owls to a 7-6 record and a bowl berth; hired Gus Malzahn as Tulsa's offensive coordinator (as well as Herb Hand, Vandy's current offensive line coach)
Downside: Left Rice after one season, which inspired the Owls band to create a halftime routine called "Todd Graham's Inferno," in which the coach was forced to pass through the various stages of hell for snubbing them
Bottom line: Graham can quickly build winning programs at small, academic schools that are perennial losers, he can sustain success, and he knows offensive coaching talent when he sees it. So why is his name not being mentioned by other media? But if he wins at a place where winning doesn't come easy, he has been known to jump ship as soon as possible.

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Navy
Age: 38
Upside: A master of the triple option who's learned from Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo and has helped sustain the incredible run at Navy begun by Johnson and now sustained by Niumatalolo; a great recruiter and magnetic personality who knows how to spot scholars who are also good athletes; the only black coach in the mix (outside of far-fetched suggestions like Tony Dungy)
Downside: He has no head coaching experience and he's at a lower-level college; oh yeah, and he's not a household name.
Bottom line: People scoff at the idea of getting Navy's offensive coordinator, but there's a lot to be said for running the triple option at a school that can't get top athletes; Johnson and Niumatalolo aren't coming to Vandy, so why not take a shot at their protege? Plus, can you imagine him pitching Vanderbilt to black prospects in the Atlanta area? I can.

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
Age: 39
Upside: He learned the run-and-shoot and maybe a few things about pirates from Mike Leach at Valdosta State and Texas Tech, left to turn Case Keenum into a top QB at Houston, and in one year at Oklahoma State has established himself as one of the top offensive coordinators in America; has tweaked Leach's system, adding more of a running emphasis.
Downside: How's this for a guy who's ready for another job: He lives in a hotel. He also strikes me as a free-spirited guy who speaks his mind and doesn't have time for bureaucracy, which may or may not work at Vandy.
Bottom line: I don't think we want Mike Leach and his baggage. But Holgorsen has learned many of his tricks and would undoubtedly bring offensive improvement to Nashville in a hurry. Plus, he's young, tough-minded and would probably relate well to kids, though not sure about academic-minded kids.

Other names being bandied about include:
• Mid-major coaches: Mike Haywood of Miami-Ohio, Rick Stockstill of MTSU, Niumatalolo of Navy and Troy Calhoun of Air Force, Kevin Sumlin of Houston, June Jones of SMU, Brady Hoke of San Diego State
• Former BCS-conference coaches: Randy Shannon of Miami, Mike Leach of Texas Tech, Mark Mangino of Kansas, Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee
• Assistant coaches: Greg Roman of Stanford, Mark Hudspeth and Manny Diaz of Mississippi State, Bud Foster of Virginia Tech, Mark Whipple of Miami, Paul Petrino of Illinois, David Lee of the Miami Dolphins