LSU Football: Who Are the Most Likely Candidates for Offensive Coordinator ?
Now that LSU coach Les Miles has made it official that he has spurned the University of Michigan job and that he will remain as the LSU football coach for at least the next seven years, it is time for Coach Miles to turn his attention to replacing departed offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.
For the last two years, most of the LSU fanbase has been clamoring for the replacement of Crowton as the offensive coordinator. With his resignation from LSU to accept the same position with the University of Maryland, the fans finally have their wish.
It has always seemed that the two coaches have had different philosophies, and the fans have always questioned who is really calling the plays in the games.
Coach Miles is much more of a running and grind-it-out type coach with occasional passing to give balance, while Coach Crowton is much more open and likes to spread out things to create passing lanes.
Due to the struggles that LSU and Jordan Jefferson in particular have had with the passing game, the 2010 offense has much more resembled Coach Miles' philosophy than that of coach Gary Crowton.
Coach Crowton was most effective in 2007 with Matt Flynn was at quarterback, as he lead LSU to the 2007 BCS title. Unfortunately for Coach Crowton, he has just not had a quality passing quarterback he could work with to put in his game plans since Flynn departed for the NFL.
Now with Crowton's departure for Maryland, Miles will be free to select a coach that will have similar offensive strategies to his own.
I have provided the following candidates that are considered most likely to be considered, but this is not to say that others will not be considered or even selected by coach Les Miles.
1. Justin Fuente, TCU Offensive Coordinator
The name Justin Fuente is being mentioned most often as a very likely candidate that the LSU Tigers and coach Les Miles are seeking for their offensive coordinator position.
His experience as the running backs coach at TCU and then as the offensive coordinator in 2009 makes this young and talented coach someone that should fit in very well with coach Les Miles' philosophy.
The former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback has been the main driver behind the offensive success that quarterback Andy Dalton and the Rose Bowl champion TCU Horned Frogs have had in 2010 and he is now being fully recognized for his talents.
Just recently Fuente was one of two interviewed by coach Lane Kiffin of the Southern California Trojans, and he was also interviewed by Clemson for their OC as well.
And now he is one of the names you are hearing most often mentioned with regard to LSU's search for their new offensive coordinator.
Fuente came to the Horned Frogs as their running backs coach in 2007, but since his promotion to offensive coordinator in 2009, Fuente has implemented an offensive scheme that has made Andy Dalton the Mountain West player of the year.
TCU's victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, who were considered the Big Ten's best team, was quite an accomplishment for the Horned Frogs as a non-automatic qualifier in a BCS game. Furthermore, under Fuente's direction, the Horned Frogs have been among the nation's leaders in passing and total offense.
This sounds like the cure LSU fans will be looking for, as the Tigers will be bringing in two quality passing quarterbacks this spring to compete with fellow seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarred Lee.
Justin Fuente is a young and accomplished offensive coach, and he is very much in demand these days. It appears that Les Miles needs to make his move if this is the guy he wants before he goes to Clemson or USC. It certainly will be interesting to see whether Justin Fuente will become the new LSU offensive coordinator or coach Miles chooses another.
2. Todd Monken, Jacksonville Jaguars WR Coach
When Les Miles assumed the head coaching job at LSU in 2005, he brought many of his Oklahoma State staff members with him, and one his key members on that staff was Todd Monken.
While at Oklahoma State with Les Miles, Monken was the passing game coordinator and OSU was scoring an average of 32 points per game, and in 2004 they averaged 35 points per game.
Prior to his stint with Oklahoma State, Monken was receiver coach and while at Louisiana Tech, Monken's Bulldogs had a prolific passing offense.
Of course, while at LSU, Monken was fortunate to have some very talented and speedy receivers to work with in Skylar Green, Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis. Many felt this was the top group of receivers in the country and they showed that with their performance in 2005 with over 1,500 yards and 11 TDs.
After the 2006 season with LSU, Todd decided to move to the NFL for an opportunity with the Jacksonville Jaguars as their wide receivers coach under head coach Jack Del Rio.
Monken has been with the Jaguars for the last four years and he has received some very valuable professional coaching experience that should benefit him in either college or the pros.
Miles and Monken have been close through the years, and Miles will be sure what he is getting with Monken, and because of their familiarity with each other's offensive philosophies, I will say that Todd Monken will be given a very good chance to be selected as the new LSU offensive coordinator.
3. Billy Gonzales, LSU Passing Game Coordinator
In 2009, coach Billy Gonzales, the longtime Urban Meyer assistant at Utah and with the Florida Gators, became the LSU passing game coordinator.
Even though he was a close and trusted assistant of Urban Meyer, Gonzales was passed over by Meyer for the offensive coordinator's job at Florida, and that apparently motivated Gonzales to look elsewhere.
Of course, LSU was having very sickly results with their passing game in 2009 and Les Miles was only too happy be able to bring a guy like Billy Gonzales on board as the passing game coordinator.
Most LSU fans felt the hiring of Billy Gonzales was a beginning step for Les Miles and many wondered if Gonzales would be the offensive coordinator-in-waiting for when Gary Crowton left the program.
However, the LSU passing game could not be fixed that easily, as they were suffering from a quarterback passing problem and not from a lack of receiver talent. Without a good quarterback to pass the ball, no number of great receivers will be able to produce big offensive passing numbers.
Up until now, it has been difficult to see exactly what a guy like Billy Gonzales can do with his receivers. However, with the signing of Stephen Rivers and Zack Mettenberger, we should see a significant change in the passing numbers next year.
According to Billy Gonzales, he has no desire to be the offensive coordinator for Les Miles and he is more than willing to continue in his present job. Of course, I think he is just not going to nominate himself, but I am sure he would be most interested if Miles were to approach him.
Due to his many years of working with a great offensive mind like Urban Meyer, I think Billy Gonzales is more than worthy of serious consideration. But, I think Les Miles is well pleased with Gonzales at his present position, and maybe he does not feel Billy Gonzales is ready, but only Miles is in the position to make that call.
4. Steve Ensminger, LSU Assistant
As a former LSU quarterback of the '80s, Steve Ensminger has traveled and coached for many teams throughout the South, but he has finally found himself back home in his hometown again.
Steve Ensminger has worked as an offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and now as a tight ends coach at various schools.
Before returning to Baton Rouge and the LSU Tigers last year, Ensminger spent time with Clemson, Texas A&M and for almost nine years he was with Tommy Tuberville at Auburn. In between college jobs, Ensminger was also a high school coach back in the area at Central High School, his former high school.
So, if it is experience Miles is looking for then Steve Ensminger would probably be his man. Although he has had a lot of experience, much of it has been void of any great achievements.
At Auburn, Tommy Tuberville moved him from the quarterbacks coach to the tight ends coach, and that is his present position with LSU now.
Even though Steve Ensminger is a former LSU quarterback with lots of experience as an offensive coach, I don't see this LSU fanbase having a lot of tolerance for another coach with a checkered past.
I think coach Miles is well aware of the need to put some excitement in the offense, and probably Steve Ensminger is not the right guy to do that.
Although Miles speaks highly of Ensminger, he may well be satisfied with having him remain as the tight ends coach.
5. Steve Kragthorpe, Former Louisville Coach
Still a fairly young and accomplished coach, Steve Kragthorpe has sort of run the gamut of coaching college football.
Kragthorpe was an assistant on coach R.C. Slocum's staff at Texas A&M from 1997-2000. He left A&M in 2001 for a job as quarterbacks coach with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. After a two-year stint with Buffalo and the NFL, Kragthorpe accept the job to become head coach at Tulsa University.
Steve took this program from the ashes of obscurity with a 2-25 record over the previous two years to being a conference champion and playing in three straight bowl games in his three years.
He became so successful that he was selected by Louisville to replace their highly successful coach Bobby Petrino, who was leaving for the NFL. But, for whatever reason, Kragthorpe was not able to achieve success and he was fired in November of 2009.
Immediately, Mike Sherman of Texas A&M hired Kragthorpe in February of 2010 to be their wide receivers coach.
However, Steve Kragthorpe resigned his position prior to the 2010 season with A&M to be with his family and an ill sister back in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Recently, his old job with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane became available, but he was not even given consideration by the current AD. Kragthorpe expressed his dismay and disappointment at not being given any consideration, but he still wants to coach college football.
Because of his vast experience and success as at the college level, Steve Kragthorpe is someone that Les Miles is seriously taking a look at.
However, Kragthorpe is another well traveled college coach and assistant similar to Steve Ensminger, and he seems to have several issues in his personal life. Therefore, I would view him with skepticism as a stable coach to lead this LSU offense and I question whether the fans would accept this as a real good change from Gary Crowton.
But, this decision is in the hands of coach Les Miles and we as fans will have to defer to his best judgement.