In one word—yes. It is very much getting to crunch time.
The issue with Auburn is the fact that offensive recruits don't really know what kind of system will be run on the plains moving forward. Sure, Chizik can try and dispel some concerns of the recruits by telling them it will be a little of the spread and the pro system.
But, the truth is each of them know that Malzahn installed and ran the offense while he was there. Who will be the new leader?
They could promote from within, however, at this point it would look very underwhelming if Luper or Taylor were selected. Waiting this long in choosing one of them would show a lack of respect, not to mention that it may turn recruits off because of a perception of lack of experience. Also, to do so could suggest that the search for an outside OC would have been a failure.
What about the NFL?
As of now I can say with 99.99 percent confidence that the new offensive coordinator will not be one the remaining NFL playoff team's offensive coordinators. For one, New England's OC is heading to Penn State. The Ravens' and Giants' OCs are lifers in the NFL and have zero ties to the SEC.
As for the 49ers, after leaving John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens in '07 and going to brother Jim's Stanford team in '09 and '10, Greg Roman followed the Stanford head coach back to the NFL. It seemed like a plan from the beginning facilitated by John. And with no ties to Chizik, I doubt he is a candidate.
Which is it?
The hiring of Bill O'Brien at Penn State from the New England Patriots goes to show that you don't have to wait until the season is over for contact or a deal to be made in hiring a coach. In the pros, the players aren't going to get upset when a coach is leaving them so there is no need for a "hush-hush" deal.
Now, this is not to say that a hire can't come from another NFL offensive coordinator or subordinate coach. All I'm saying is I don't think it will come from the remaining teams in the playoffs.
Well, who are we talking about then? Is there any "hot" offensive coordinator out there right now who can make a splash? Is Chizik keeping it close to the vest in order to make it more special come a few days before signing day? Or, is he going to hire from within and make a lackluster hire that can not be shown before signing day for fear of recruitment fallout?
You tell me.
The realization is in this day and age of social media, glad handing, and blogosphere it would seem impossible for Gene to keep any potential candidate under wraps. People talk and when someone has accepted a job or interviewed for a job it is hard to keep the neighbors and friends quiet.
But then again, where did Brian Van Gorder come from? Left field. Who said they saw that one coming? Maybe Gene didn't either. Maybe it was a Ted Roof type of situation?
Or, Maybe Chizik is the best at keeping it close to the vest and does his own shopping around. If this is true he doesn't need to be a head coach—he needs to be the head of the CIA.
No matter what, with less than 12 days until February 1st, one has to wonder when Chizik will pull the trigger? That is, if the gun is loaded.