So you were wondering what Clemson Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips has been doing with his time recently? Obviously he has been making his list and checking it twice.
It is safe to assume that the "list" was decided upon last week when he reportedly interviewed former Oakland Raiders Head Coach and USC Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin for the Tigers' head coaching position.
Kiffin, who is currently unemployed thanks to the apparent commitment to mediocrity of Al Davis, was no doubt going to get an interview given his experience at Southern California. He was the offensive coordinator at USC before leaving for the NFL and was widely regarded as a fantastic recruiter.
Now, reports (supported with photos) surfaced late Tuesday supporting the notion that AD Phillips has interviewed current Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator and Associate Head Coach Brent Venables.
Venables has been with Bob Stoops for 10 years and is known inside and outside the Sooners' program as an aggressive coach who is an energetic, great recruiter with a keen eye for talent—talent that apparently loves to play for him.
Clemson interim Head Coach Dabo Swinney will also be considered by Phillips for the post. Swinney is also a young, energetic coach who is obviously going to be a great offensive coordinator and potentially head coach, whether at Clemson or not.
The odds for Swinney, however, are long given the mistake-filled loss to Florida State last weekend and upcoming tests versus Virginia and South Carolina. Additionally, Swinney does not have the experience in a leadership role (such as coordinator) with a highly successful program like, say, Will Muschamp.
Which brings us to Mr. Muschamp. The Texas Defensive Coordinator has been reportedly at or near the top of Clemson's list since the day Tommy Bowden stepped down. There is great reason for the banter too.
Muschamp is a Nick Saban disciple, serving as defensive coordinator with LSU for four years, including the national championship season of 2003. He went with Saban to the Miami Dolphins before taking the defensive coordinator position under Tommy Tuberville at Auburn. This is his first year with the Longhorns.
He is all of the above...aggressive, young, intense, great recruiter. He has the advantage over Swinney because of experience. He also would have an advantage over Kiffin and Venables given his ties to the Clemson area. He is from Rome, GA, graduated from the University of Georgia, and has recruited the Southeast while at LSU and Auburn.
Texas has an open date next week, so expect AD Phillips to make a trip to the state of Texas.
It is reported by Rivals.com that Bud Foster will interview for the Clemson position tomorrow. He is currently the Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator and has expressed interest in the job.
Those are the candidates we know of right now. We also know of one other fact, and it is probably the most critical piece of this entire puzzle. Terry Don Phillips knows what he is doing and has the reputation, contacts, and track record to prove it.
Phillips' last two major head coaching hires while athletic director were Les Miles while at Oklahoma State for football and Oliver Purnell at Clemson for basketball. He also insisted that Miles look seriously at a young offensive coordinator named Mike Gundy when Miles was hired.
Phillips is a graduate of Arkansas, where he developed a friendship with Jimmy Johnson and also Jerry Jones. His contacts in the Big 12 conference after his time at Oklahoma State are extensive.
That is what we know.
Who else is on that "list"? That is another question. Would Mike Leach be considered? Gary Patterson? There is talk of Tommy Tuberville as a good fit, or perhaps Phil Fulmer wanting to get right back into coaching. Given AD Phillips' relationship with Jimmy Johnson, is there an NFL assistant out there who is now on the list that nobody has heard of?
I believe the latter of those options is the most viable at this point. Obviously there will not be leaked interviews with current head coaches during the season, but I believe the pattern we have seen so far is telling.
Terry Don Phillips has an eye for identifying great coaching talent. Clemson is currently in the market for a young, energetic, aggressive coach that has a reputation as a stellar recruiter and a pedigree with successful programs and head coaches. If you happen to have ties to the area like Will Muschamp, even better.