Candidates Charlie Strong Should Consider for Texas' Offensive Coordinator Job
Now that Charlie Strong is the head coach at Texas, it's time for him to begin assembling his coaching staff.
Perhaps no hire will be more important than who he brings on as offensive coordinator.
The Longhorns have been inconsistent on offense since 2009 when quarterback Colt McCoy was a senior. Former coach Mack Brown and his coaching staff have failed to develop offensive talent over the past few years. There has also been a lot of turnover at the OC spot, from Greg Davis, who resigned, to Bryan Harsin, who left to take the head job at Arkansas State.
Chances are, current OC Major Applewhite is not going to be retained by Strong.
With so many great offensive minds in the Big 12, it's crucial that Strong finds someone who can make Texas an exciting offensive team again.
Here are five candidates he could consider.
Chad Morris, Clemson
This should be a no-brainer. Morris is a highly respected offensive coordinator who has had a meteoric rise in the coaching ranks.
Since Morris joined Dabo's Swinney's staff at Clemson in 2011, the Tigers have been among the best offenses in college football. In 2013, Clemson finished eighth in the country in scoring, averaging 40 points per game.
But more than numbers, Morris has 16 years of coaching experience at the Texas high school level. As Strong breaks into the Texas recruiting grounds, he'll need help from his assistants who are familiar with the area. (Vance Bedford, who will reportedly join Strong's staff as defensive coordinator, is a Texas graduate.)
The challenge would be finding a way to pay for Morris. According to USA Today, Morris is the highest-paid assistant in major college football at $1.3 million annually. He also has a hefty buyout should he leave for another assistant job that ranges in the millions of dollars.
Morris' salary means he doesn't have to jump at the first opportunity to be a head coach. In fact, going to many schools, even as a head coach, would probably mean a pay decrease for him.
How much is Morris really worth? It's an interesting question that Texas will have to answer if it shows interest in him.
Shawn Watson, Louisville
Watson has been with Strong at Louisville as an offensive coordinator since 2011. One would think that means he'll be considered for the Texas OC job if he's not the favorite to get it.
Watson came to Louisville from Nebraska, where he had an unceremonious departure following the 2010 regular season. He also spent time at Colorado from 1999-2005 as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, so he has prior Big 12 connections.
His biggest achievement as of late has been the development of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is expected to be among the first players taken in the NFL draft.
Watson's more pro-style approach with the Cardinals may mesh better with the players the Longhorns have on roster. It may not be the flashiest hire, but it could be a solid one.
Philip Montgomery, Baylor
This may be a long shot, but it's worth a try.
Texas reportedly reached out to Baylor coach Art Briles about becoming the 'Horns' next coach. It didn't work out, but that doesn't mean Strong can't ask the person closest to Briles about joining the staff.
Montgomery has been with Briles all six years at Baylor, and their connection goes back 15 years to Briles' days at Stephenville High School.
The Bears have been practically unstoppable on offense under Montgomery. In 2013, they led the country in scoring, averaging 52 points per game. He's also coached a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Robert Griffin III. Montgomery knows the Texas high school scene through and through.
The question would be whether Montgomery would leave Briles for another coordinator job within the conference. Even if it is Texas, that's a bold move that would probably burn a bridge or two with his longtime employer.
Chances are slim he'd leave, but Strong isn't going to know unless he asks.
Mike Sanford, Stanford
This would be a major promotion for someone who hasn't led an entire offense, but Mike Sanford is an intriguing, up-and-coming coach.
In 2013, Sanford was the quarterback and wide receiver coach for the Stanford Cardinal. In addition to those duties, he's also been the program's recruiting coordinator. Prior to that, he served as Stanford's running back coach for two years.
Sanford came to Stanford after a one-year stint at Western Kentucky under Willie Taggart, where he was the Hilltoppers' quarterback coach and passing game coordinator.
At just a month shy of 32 years old, Sanford is a young, energetic coach who has already worked with some of the best in the business, including Taggart, Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. Sanford's experience comes from a ground-and-pound offense, which suits Texas' strengths and meshes with Strong's intensity.
This would be a chance for him to spread his wings beyond the Harbaugh coaching tree, but it would be a bit of a risky hire by Strong, who could perhaps name him to a co-offensive coordinator role.
Rhett Lashlee, Auburn
If you're Strong and you like what you saw out of Auburn's offense in 2013, it's probably worth it to you to pick up the phone and see if Lashlee would break ties with Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn.
Lashlee has spent seven of the past 10 seasons with Malzahn and followed him to Auburn from Arkansas State. The Tigers finished 11th in total offense and 12th in scoring offense. Though the up-tempo, spread offense that Auburn runs is different from what Texas does offensively, the Tigers are focused on the run and that's what the Longhorns do well.
Like Sanford, Lashlee is a young, but bright coaching mind. If Auburn is willing to pay Lashlee to keep him, it may be hard to lure him away from Malzahn. But this would be a good opportunity for Lashlee to try a new challenge.