October 8, 2013

The List

Even though I'm [tentatively] allowing the season to play out before going back to openly calling for Mike London to be fired, and even though Craig Littlepage has given London the dreaded vote of confidence, I'm going to proceed with compiling a comprehensive master list of potential head coaching candidates for the eventual UVA vacancy.

It's important to note that if/when London gets canned, the UVA job will be seen as radioactive by many coaching candidates.  Can you really win here?  Or are the obstacles too difficult to overcome?  Can you attract a real fanbase?  Or are the fickle-natured Virginia fans just destined to be wishy-washy and overzealous with their expectations for the program?  Can you draw talented players to Charlottesville?  Or are UVA's high academic standards and recent losing culture insurmountable problems when it comes to recruiting?

That said, it's also important to note that Virginia has some cash to throw around, ESPECIALLY when you consider all of the new TV money coming the ACC's direction.  Virginia Football has a ceiling that has already been proven to be pretty high.  We also have good-to-great facilities, and an infrastructure upon which you can build and sustain a winning program.  The proximity to both the Hampton Roads area (aka, the 757) and the Maryland / DC / Northern Virginia (aka, the DMV) area ensures relatively easy pipelines into talent hotbeds.

My biggest fear is that Virginia won't be considered a "destination" position, and instead will be seen as a potential stepping stone to a bigger and better job somewhere else.  Maintaining faith in the concept of our Sleeping Giant has grown trickier with every passing year that distances us from the George Welsh Era.  But for the sake of argument, and beholden to whatever football ego we have left, let's just say we won't attract coaches interested in a mere launching pad to greener pastures.  Let's have confidence that candidates will look at Virginia as the place they go to find their ultimate career success.

Okay, right up front, I have a quick wish-list of five traits I want in any coaching candidate.  None of these are "musts," but they are preferences.  Strong preferences.

1) The candidate should possess a specific D-1A / FBS background.  I don't want NFL guys, and I don't want D-1AA (or lower) guys.  Not that the NFLers and AAers don't have their merits, but Al Groh (NFL background) and Mike London (1AA background) haunt my dreams.  I just want a coach who is familiar with this specific level of football, and is comfortable trying to build a winner from the back end of a BCS conference.

2) I want a coach who comes from a successful program and/or from a successful coaching tree.  I want the coach to be very familiar with winning, to know what it takes to win, to know what winning tastes like, and to understand the inner workings of a winning program.

3) He needs to be young.  Not old.  Despite London's failings, I'm okay with getting another guy who can grow along with the program, because that would go on to promote loyalty when the coach ascends to notoriety.  (Think Chris Petersen at Boise State.)  But also - call me an ageist, that's fine - I just like young and energetic guys more than I like old fuddy-duddies.  Personal preference.

Fistpumps.  Fuck yeah.

4) My preference, and this is a strong preference, is that the coach has an extensive background coaching on the offensive side of the ball.  I'm open to current/former offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, wide receiver coaches, etc.  I just want an offensive-minded head coach, and break away from the Groh and London rut of always putting the defense first and only giving us splattered dogshit to look at on O.

5) Most importantly, I think we need a coach who will install and run a specific offensive system at UVA.  I'm talking a comprehensive system that transcends plays and formations and Xs and Os, and gives us an tangible offensive identity to build up and then build around.  Once you have that, you can recruit specific pieces and parts to fit that system. My personal preference is for high-octane passing offenses, hurry-up spreads and whatnot, and specifically the Air Raid.  (And look, part of the reason I want the Air Raid is because it's a brand of football that would be a blast to watch.  Sometimes the plight of the fan doesn't need to be so complicated.  Bring in a guy who runs a fun system, and the fans will be happy and excited to come and watch it, and the recruits will flock to it.  Air Raid fueled by 757 talent... it could be tremendous.)

I want us to be the next Texas Tech, hiring the next Mike Leach.

Note: Here's the immediate impact of installing the Air Raid...

From 1994-1996 the University of Kentucky went 9-24 while scoring 149, 223, and 138 points. Upon hiring Hal Mumme, they went 18-17 while scoring 348, 431, and 328 points from 1997-1999.

From 1996-1998 the University of Oklahoma scored 255, 232, and 184 points. In 1999 they would score 430 points and finish 13-0 while scoring 481 points in 2000. The 481 points were the most they had scored in a season since 1987 when they were coached by Barry Switzer.

From 1997-1999 Texas Tech University scored 245, 315, and 253 points. From 2000-2002 they would score 330, 402, and 537 points while improving their record to 9-5 by 2002. From 2002-2009 they never won fewer than 8 games under Mike Leach.

From 2000-2002 the University of Houston scored 211, 190, and 320 points. In 2003, under Art Briles, they scored 448 points. That was the most since 1990 when they were coached by John Jenkins. Art would have 2 more seasons in which his teams would score over 440 points in a season. Kevin Sumlin would then take that up a notch with his teams scoring 528, 591, 452, and 660 points from 2008-2011.

From 2009-2011 Texas A&M University scored 427, 382, and 475 points. Kevin Sumlin took over and led the 2012 Aggies to an 11-2 record while scoring 578 points and garnering a Heisman Trophy for QB Johnny Manziel.

Yards, touchdowns, points, high-fives, wins, Sportscenter, fistpumps, records being broken and barenaked titties being flashed, that's all I'm asking for.

Okay, that was a lot of lead-in, so I won't stall with any more foreplay.  With special thanks to coachingsearch.com, here's the reasonable and realistic list.  THE LIST.  It's a work-in-progress, so please post your ideas for candidates in the comments section, and if they're reasonable and realistic, I'll add 'em in.

Clemson OC Chad Morris -- Probably a pipe dream, but he deserves to be at the top of the list.  We have to at least try.  The thing I don't like is that all of his roots are in Texas, not the East Coast.  Also, he kind of seems like a butthole.

California OC Tony Franklin -- The last great Air Raid guru to have not held his own head coaching job.  Best of all, the guy has his own website called "THE SYSTEM."

Georgia OC Mike Bobo -- He's been a good coach for the Bulldogs for a while now, and played a big role in developing Aaron Murray and Matt Stafford.  Sign me up.  We whiffed on landing Mark Richt a decade ago, but now we might have a chance to land Richt's protégé.

Ball State HC Pete Lembo -- I know, I know.  He looks like a putz, but the guy runs an offensive system I like, and he's built winners at every stop.  He'll get a "big" job soon, will it be here?  Wouldn't that be ironic?

Baylor OC Philip Montgomery -- This young gun has learned the Air Raid from Art Briles and played a key role in developing RG3.  He'll be ready for his own gig soon.  He's kind of an under-the-radar name right now, but won't be for long.

Fresno State HC Tim DeRuyter -- He's a defensive-minded guy from the West Coast, but he's a star on the rise.  UVA could do much worse.  DeRuyter has coached under the likes of Kevin Sumlin, Jim Grobe, and Troy Calhoun.  Speaking of...

Air Force HC Troy Calhoun -- He was a UVA candidate in 2009, no reason he shouldn't be a UVA candidate now... other than the AFA is not playing very good football these last three years.

Oregon OC Scott Frost -- He's likely too young and green, but I love the pedigree.  And if we can plant a Duck seed and grow an Oregon tree with Nebraska Cornhusker branches... then... hallelujah and amen.

Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi -- Here's a dude who has built some verrrrrrrry solid defenses.  He's young (47), and even though he doesn't meet all five of my wish-list preferences, I get the feeling he'll be a successful head coach somewhere, sometime soon.

Florida OC Brent Pease -- He's bounced around, but has some of that Boise magic in him.

Florida DC D.J. Durkin -- Here's what coachingsearch.com has to say: Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has coached under Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, and Will Muschamp. He has experienced terrific success as a special teams coordinator, which is the only position for a coach to speak to the entire team other than as the head coach. In the off-season, Muschamp promoted Durkin to defensive coordinator. If the Gators’ defensive success continues throughout the year, Durkin may have enough momentum to attract an athletic director with an opening. It would be worth it considering Durkin’s success on the field, as a recruiter, and the program blueprints he’s acquired.

ODU HC Bobby Wilder -- I know I said "no D-1AA guys," but Wilder might merit an exception.  He built the ODU program from scratch, an experience which could help him put UVA football back on the rails.  He also believes in throwing the football all over the field, so there's that.

Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier -- He is currently learning the Nick Saban system for success, up close and personal.  I don't love the Bama style of smashmouth football, and I don't think it translates to a place like UVA where we won't be landing all of the 5-star offensive line talent in the world, but... it's the Nick Saban coaching tree!  Gotta pick the low-hanging fruit!

LSU Associate HC Frank Wilson -- He's a superstar recruiter in the SEC, but nobody knows if he has the Xs and Os to be a good head coach.  He'll get a shot, somewhere, soon.  He reminds me of an SEC version of Mike London, so I'm hesitant to really push this name hard.

Notre Dame OC Chuck Martin -- Martin kicked ass as the head coach at Grand Valley State in D-2, and now he's showing pretty well as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator.

Cincinnati OC Eddie Gran -- Good recruiter, experience in the ACC at Florida State, and generally well-respected in the coaching community.  A "meh" sort of option, but there are some things to like about him.

Again, this list is a work-in-progress, so PLEASE post your ideas for candidates in the comments section, and if they're reasonable and realistic, I'll add 'em in.


  1. Wow, great list. Great job on this. Lots of food for thought here.

  2. Great job. I agree with your preferences. I also wondered if hiring ODU's OC or another OC this winter may be a possibility. I tend to doubt Obrien would want the new system, even though is QB's in the last ten years were of the all-pro caliber.

    At UVA, there is a history with George Welsh building his program around a power running game. Though the four yards and a pile of dust rarely translates into consistent success nowadays in college football, there are many coaches, older fans, and administrators and fans at UVA that remember the Welsh years fondly (rightly so), that I think getting the school to hire a coach to install an updated system will be more difficult here than at other schools. One example was Ratcfliffe's column a few months back that seemed to gush excitement over Fairchild's installation of the power running game. I see the effectiveness of offensive systems that spread the field and seek one-on-one opportunities, but would UVA's current staff, older fans, and administration?

    1. Thank you! Great point on the potential resistance to an updated offensive system.

      I guess my premise is that we clean house completely and start over from scratch. So coaches currently on the roster do not matter. The administration and big-time donors are a different story, however.

      I truly hope they don't stand in the way of a spread-style offense arriving at UVA. Power football worked for George Welsh, but that was 20 years ago. UVA can't get the monsters on the o-line it needs to run that type of system. We won't be the Stanford of the East. It's better to just accept that and move forward with trying to be the next Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oregon, etc.

      Thanks again, my friend! Great comments!

  3. Two days ago, Mike called for Jon Oliver ("Puppetmaster') to be fired. Do you think Mr. Oliver will read this list? He might not be in a good mood to take it seriously.

    1. Ha ha ha, well. I can understand why Oliver might not be excited to see a list like this.

  4. I would add Justin Wilcox, DC at Washington. Another young guy. Given Oliver's ties to the Pacific Northwest I have to imagine he would get a look.

    Obviously this also means I don't think Oliver gets fired.

  5. What about Dave Clawson, current head coach at Bowling Green? He's an offense guy, has had success everywhere he's been, and has a Virginia connection from when he was coach at Richmond. Not to mention that he probably deserves more credit than London for the 2008 national title.

  6. Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that this list of coaches is based on having a style of offense that will be exciting to watch, and not on having something that will win championships. You made great points about texas tech and Kentucky air raid offense with Hal Mumme, but these teams didn't win championships. Spread offenses very rarely win championships. Those spread teams that did win championships had transcendent superstars like Cam Newton at Auburn or Tim Tebow at Florida. These type of players don't grow on trees. The SEC have been the most dominant conference because their teams play great defense and they run the ball with a power running game (Alabama, LSU). The pac 12 is full of spread offenses, but the champion of the Pac 12 is Stanford, and they do it with a power running game. You must also consider the fact that most teams with these spread offenses have horrible defenses. Look at the big 12 conference. Spread offenses = Horrible defense. If we were to have a spread offense, we could be a team that could win 8 or 9 games a season. That is a good record, but I want to compete for championships and you do that by playing great defense and having a power running game.

    1. I love ya Darryl, and you're definitely not wrong...


      Stanford is an absolute outlier. Name one other team that pulled itself up from the dregs of a BCS conference using power football. And I'm talking worst-to-first type stuff, not Wisconsin going from 8-4 to 10-2 and winning the BigTen.

      Odds are overwhelming that UVA will never be able to recruit the pieces and parts that Harbaugh brought to the Cardinal. Andrew Luck isn't walking through the door for UVA, is all I'm saying. Besides, has Stanford won a national championship? So aren't we talking about getting to presitgious (non nat'l championship) bowl games? Haven't spread and Air Raid teams done that, the same as Stanford has?

      Instead of trying the impossible task of building an effective power scheme at UVA, I'm choosing to go with the more likely route to success -- spread the field, get to 7, 8, 9 wins, and see if 757 skill position talent can put that type of system over the top... think Percy Harvin at Florida, Tajh Boyd at Clemson, etc.

      Agree to disagree, but I think my way is better!

    2. I have to say kendall, its really hard to get you to change your mind, but im going to try one more time. You talked about recruiting for the spread offense. I think its very difficult to recruit for the spread offense. If you look around the country, the teams with the most success running the spread are usually major programs (Ohio state, Texas A&M) or they are schools that can recruit the state of florida, Texas, or California. These states have more of the players that fit the spread system (small quick running backs, lighter quicker, offensive linemen). For example, Oregon's best players have come from Cal, or Texas. The state of Virginia usually do not have enough of the type of players that you need for the spread. Also, you said that we cannot recruit the offensive linemen that we need for the pro style offense. I will say that the last few years have been disappointing when it comes to the o-line, but over the years we've had our share of big, powerful linemen (Eugene Monroe, D'brickashaw Ferguson, Brendon Albert, Elton Brown, Austin Pastor). So, I hope that I have changed your mind, but I have a feeling that I have failed. That's alright, I respect a man who sticks to his guns.

    3. Ha! Awesome point about the really good spread teams recruiting FL, TX, CA. I hadn't considered that, but you're right.

      Then again, I'm also right. Smaller OL, smaller/quicker WR, smaller/quicker RB, QBs without cannon arms... these ingredients are just more abundant and easier to find than huge 4/5-star OL, big WR, powerful RB, and big-armed QBs.

      And if you need a state to recruit from that isn't FL, TX, CA... then Virginia is a pretty good one to have.

      One last point, and this one is tough. Think about the offensive line talent the state of Virginia has produced over the course of the last 10 years. Not very good, is it? All of our best guys came from out of state, and the same is [mostly] true for Virginia Tech. So while we've had success plucking OL from PA, NJ, NY, etc., can we really count on that to stock an o-line that is the absolute backbone of a power scheme? I think it's a shaky premise. We need to build an offense that can be supplied by local talent, and a spread-style system is what our state can give us.

      Anyway, I won't lie about this. The main reason I want a spread-type system is because that's what I'd rather watch. I think we'll probably not be able to elevate into a championship-caliber program (I try to keep realistic expectations), so if we're topping out at 7, 8, 9 wins... I'd rather watch us throwing the ball all over the field to do it.

      Finally, you want power football at UVA? You already got your wish. 2004, easily Al Groh's most talented roster during his time here, and easily our most talented roster this side of 1998. How did things go in 2004, running a power scheme? Punked by Florida State, punked by Miami, punked by Virginia Tech, and punked by the refs against Boise State in the MPC Computers Bowl. I'm not saying power offense can't work at UVA... I just think its ceiling might be lower than the ceiling we'd have running a spread-style offense.

    4. Was it Alabama and LSU's offense -- or the defense -- that is primarily and predominantly responsible for those national championships?

      Also, I am not sure the question of what system to install at any school should be based on Alabama and LSU winning a national championship with a different set of talent. Rather, what is enabling the schools who are recruiting on UVA's level (or even below) to establish competitive and consistent bowl eligible teams in today's college game.

  7. Great list, too bad that London is not going anywhere this season, especially with the amount of money invested in the current staff. I have a feeling we'll be revisiting this list next year....

  8. Kendall... How would you feel about Ruffin McNeill? Defensive mind however, he subscribes to the air raid philosophy. Might be hard to pull from ECU as he is alumnus however.

    1. Douglas!

      I think Ruffin would be a fine hire for UVA, but like you said, I think he's a tough pull from ECU.

  9. Great list. I was pining for Art Briles, but now I have to agree nabbing his OC would be an even better get.

  10. Great stuff, K. Out of my depth, but great info.

  11. who ever we get has to recuit interior talent. All the skill postions in the world will not lend itself to sucess until we first build our front lines.

    1. They have to be able to recruit it, and/or mine hidden gems, and/or develop OL/DL guys. Big uglies win games.

  12. Kirby Smart would be a great choice. Has been under Saban for years so he should know what it takes to win. Not to mention he is a great defensive cordinator

  13. There are a lot of UGA fans that would like to encourage Mike Bobo to move to the Hook. They would help him pack.

  14. How about Ken Niamatolo (sic) at Navy? There is a guy who consistently wins at a school with strong academics and he does it with out having to get the best recruits.