Who Will Be the Next Football Coach at Memphis?
According to Geoff Calkins, the sports writer for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, after watching the meltdown of the Memphis football team at Southern Miss last Saturday the President of the University of Memphis told her Athletic Director, R.C. Johnson that "changes" needed to be made.
Larry Porter, the two year embattled football coach was fired and R.C. Johnson, after 16 years as AD, will be retiring by the summer of 2012.
Memphis has never been much of a football school. Porter was not the first coach to leave with a losing record. However, taking a page out of the Ole Miss playbook, it would appear that Dr. Raines is forming a committee made up of boosters and alumni to search for a new football coach. And is also going to hire a service to evaluate potential coaches as well.
Could be that Memphis is finally going to get serious about football, much like their former arch-rival Louisville did over a decade ago.
Here is good list of candidates hopefully Memphis will consider.
Sonny Dykes- Louisiana Tech Head Coach
Much like every other program with a head coaching vacancy, Memphis fans are screaming already for Mike Leach. Of course, Leach is a very long shot for Memphis especially with programs like Arizona State, Kansas, North Carolina and Illinois open.
However, getting a protégé of Mike Leach is very possible for the Tigers. Sonny Dykes was Leach's former Wide-Receiver coach at Texas Tech. He was promoted soon to Offensive Coordinator. Under Dykes in 2006, Texas Tech was No. 6 in the country in total offense, averaging 32 points a game.
Dykes left Texas Tech to be the Offensive Coordinator with Arizona. While at Arizona, the Wildcat offense, set records in passing yards and passing yards per game. The Wildcats finished second in the Pac-12 in passing offense in 2007.
Dykes is now the head coach at Louisiana Tech in his second year. After a 5-7 first year, Dykes has got the Bulldogs 8-4 this year and heading to a bowl game.
Dykes is considered one of the top offensive minds in college football and a former 2009 nominee for the Broyles Award for the top assistant.
Memphis would be foolish to overlook Dykes.
Mark Hudspeth- Louisiana at Lafayette Head Coach
Mark Hudspeth is everything Memphis is looking for. Hudspeth is an excellent recruiter, which is what Memphis wanted when they hired Larry Porter. But Porter's downfall was his lack of play calling experience and Memphis fans were not willing to endure 'on-the-job-training'. Hudspeth does have head coaching experience.
He was the head coach at North Alabama for seven years. He left the Lions with a 66-21 record and four Division Two playoffs and four seasons with over 10 wins. Before he was the head coach with North Alabama, he was the Offensive Coordinator with Navy.
After leaving the Lions, he was the Wide Receiver coach at Mississippi State.
Now, as head coach with the Ragin' Cajuns, Hudspeth has manged in one year to get them more wins in a single season than any time since the mid-1990s. They will be in the New Orleans Bowl this year, the first bowl bid for the Cajuns since 1970.
The only draw back about Hudspeth is that it is rumored he is on Ole Miss' short list for their coaching search as well. And in a bidding war between Ole Miss and Memphis, the Rebels will probably win.
Kippy Brown- Seattle Seahawks Wide Receivers Coach
Memphis thought they got a home run when they hired Larry Porter, a good recruiter and a former alumni. Porter's downfall was a lack of play calling experience.
There is a former Tiger alumni out there who does have play calling experience and quite the resume: his name is Kippy Brown.
Brown is a former QB for Memphis from 1975-1977. His most impressive game was in 1975 when the unranked Tigers went to and beat No. 6 Auburn Tigers, 31-20
He spent several years as a Wide Receiver coach at Memphis, Louisville and three separate times at Tennessee(1983-1989, 1993-1994 and 2009-2010).
Starting in 1995, he made a long career as an assistant coach in the NFL. Brown has been at Tampa Bay, Miami, Green Bay, Houston, Detroit and now currently the Seattle Seahawks
He was Jimmy Johnson's offensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins from 1998-1999
He does have one year of head coaching experience when he served as the XFL Memphis Maniax head coach in 2000. The League folded after one year.
Brown would bring lots to the table for the Tigers. A former alumni. A coach with lots of NFL experience who can spot potential NFL talent on the college recruiting trial. Has recruited for Tennessee Vols for years in the state so unlike alot of NFL coaches, Brown knows what college recruiting is like.
Also, Brown lobbied hard for the Tennessee job after Lane Kiffin bolted for USC. When Brown did not get the head coaching job he went back to the NFL. Sounds as though Brown would like to be back in the college ranks. And as much as the Memphis Tigers hate the Vols, who better to hire as head coach then somebody with a chip on his shoulder against their big brother rival in the state?
Paul Petrino- Illinois Offensive Coordinator
Now that that Ron Zook has been fired at Illinois, his coaching staff is going to be scrambling for new jobs for next year. Paul Petrino, the brother of Bobby Petrino of Arkansas, was the Offensive Coordinator for the Fighting Illini.
Petrino is considered by many, including Rivals.com, one of the top coordinators in the game. At Louisville, Arkansas and now Illinois, Petrino has shown a knack for generating offense.
While coaching receivers at Louisville, Petrino's players helped the offense become No.1 in the country in passing offense.
As Offensive Coordinator at Louisville from 2003-2006, Petrino ran his brother's offense that eventually got the Cardinals to the Orange Bowl and 12-1 record. Louisville's offense averaged 41.1 points a game under Paul's leadership.
At Arkansas, serving in the same position, the Hogs averaged 39 points a game and ranked No. 14 in total offense.
After leaving Arkansas to take the position with Illinois, despite Illinois' lackluster W-L record, his offense was prolific. Setting school records in total points and points per game. Illinois averaged 41 points in the 2010 season.
Petrino will be sought after now that he is without a job. But if Memphis is serious about football, hiring one of the best offensive minds in the game would not only go a long way in terms of the 'wow' factor for the fanbase, but also show the Big East, who is still looking for one more team, that Memphis is finally serious about upgrading their program.
Jim Leavitt- San Francisco 49ers Linebackers Coach
Jim Leavitt is in many ways is just what the doctor ordered for Memphis. The Tigers' football program is in shambles and they are behind in facilities and investment with other schools, even in C-USA.
Leavitt literally built the South Florida football program from scratch, including having to build a roster. The Bulls did not start playing football till 1997.
Under his leadership for 13 years, the Bulls went from being a Division Two program to a member in a BCS conference, the Big East, in 2005.
Leavitt was 94-57 as a head coach at South Florida. And in 2007, got the Bulls as high as No. 2 in the rankings. During his time in South Florida, he turned down Alabama twice and Miami once when they came to recruit him as their next head coach.
Leavitt's departure from South Florida was ugly; allegations that he struck a player in the locker room. Which is why he is no longer at USF and now coaching in the NFL under Jim Harbaugh at the 49ers.
While the locker room incident will tarnish his resume if Memphis chooses to consider Leavitt, his full body of work needs to be considered. Leavitt knows what it is like to have to build a program, get fans to come to football games and generate interest in a program. Likewise, he knows how tough it is to recruit in SEC territory, as Memphis is, since he had to go up against Florida and Georgia and other schools every year in the state of Florida.
Everybody deserves a second chance, right?
Randy Fichtner- Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterbacks Coach
Randy Fichtner is the former Offensive Coordinator for Memphis (2001-2006). During his tenure, he put in place the spread offense under then head coach Tommy West. That offense under QB Danny Wimprime and now NFL star running back DeAngelo Williams, set school records for offense, including over 5,000 yards in offense in 2003 and 2004.
Fichtner, prior to coming to Memphis, had served as Offensive Coordinator with Arkansas State and Wide Receivers coach for Purdue. During his time with Arkansas State he meet and befriended a coach named Mike Tomlin who served as the Defensive Backs coach.
In 2007 when Tomlin would become the head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he would recruit Fichtner away from Memphis to the NFL where Fichtner would first serve as Wide Receivers coach and now QB coach.
The big question for Memphis, though, is what would make Fichtner want to leave the NFL to come back to Memphis?
Fichtner's name usually does not come up for open college head coaching positions. It could be he is happy and content where he is, as a position coach in the NFL. However, if Memphis can make the right offer, there is no question Fichtner would at least have an exciting offense for Memphis as he rebuilds their program.
Hugh Freeze- Arkansas State Head Coach
The only reason Hugh Freeze is not listed higher on the list simply because I personally feel Memphis has missed the boat on hiring him.
Freeze was really interested in the Memphis job in 2009 before they hired Larry Porter and the rumor is Memphis would not even give him an interview. Which is why many think when Arkansas State destroyed Memphis this year, 47-3, it was Freeze's way of saying, "so, you didn't want me, huh?"
Granted RC Johnson, the Memphis Athletic Director who allegedly snubbed Freeze in 2009 will have no say so in the next hire, that does give Memphis a chance to beg for forgiveness with Freeze but it will cost the Tigers more then it would have in 2009.
Freeze is now a rock star. Even the New York Times is writing puff pieces on him. The odds are Freeze can now hold out for a much better job opening then Memphis. In fact, he is considered a strong candidate for the Ole Miss job.
But Freeze would be a good candidate for Memphis. He coached high school in Memphis and knows the area in terms of recruiting. Likewise, he has proven this year he can take a sub-par team and turn them around in one season. Arkansas State has more wins in one season this year then in the history of the program as a Division One school.
Also on Freeze's resume is a two year stint as head coach at the now defunct, Lambuth College and before that, Recruiting Coordinator for Ole Miss for then head coach, Ed Oregon.
Jeff Monken- Georgia Southern Head Coach
Sometimes in order to be successful you have to set yourself apart from your competition. C-USA is a spread conference. Schools in the C-USA are about offense and in most cases passing the ball. What if Memphis went the triple option route? Based their offense on being totally different then any school in the C-USA or for that matter, any of the SEC or Sun Belt competitors that recruit the city of Memphis?
Jeff Monken is the head coach for Georgia Southern, the program that Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson first started from before going to Navy.
Monken has been a protégé of Johnson for years. First serving on his staff at Georgia Southern, then the slotback and special teams coordinator at Navy and then served on Georgia Tech staff until taking the Georgia Southern head coaching job in 2010
After re-introducing the option offense at Georgia Southern in 2010, Monken took a team that was build around a pass heavy offense that finished 5-6 under former head coach Chris Hatcher, to a 10-5 team build around the option offense. This year the Golden Eagles are 9-2 as they get ready for FCS playoffs.
Also, Monken sees education just as important as football. For the 2010-2011 season, Georgia Southern has the highest-ever team grade point average for the football program
For those Tiger fans skeptical that an option offense would work in C-USA, consider this: Monken's Golden Eagles played Alabama two weeks ago and racked up 302 yards of rushing offense against arguably the best defense in college football. If Monken can run it against Alabama, I don't think he will have much of an issue with the right players when he plays Tulane, East Carolina or UAB.
Ralph Friedgen- Former Maryland Head Coach
Ralph Friedgen is laughing right now; Maryland is hating life. They fired Friedgen after a 9-4 season last year and now are officially the worst team in the ACC now, even below Duke with a 2-10 season.
Friedgen was the head coach for ten years at Maryland, with a 75-50 record and a 43-37 ACC conference record. Maryland was 5-2 in bowl games under Friedgen as well.
What makes Friedgen a good candidate for Memphis is that Maryland is a basketball school and its very hard to generate interest in football. Friedgen was able to deal with that, something facing him at Memphis as well.
Also, Freidgen is a high profile coach, who if hired by Memphis would generate lots of media attention from ESPN.
In the ten years with Maryland, Friedgen had a spotless NCAA record of no violations or sanctions, so he runs a clean program.
Also Freidgen is an excellent developer of assistant coaches. James Franklin, the current head coach at Vanderbilt was Friedgen's Offensive Coordinator. Bill O'Brien, the New England Patriots QB coach and offensive assistant once served as Freidgen's running back coach at Maryland. Chris Cosh- the current co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State served under Friedgen in the same job from 2006 to 2008.
The knock against Friedgen is that he is 64 years old but to that argument all one has to point out that Steve Spurrier is currently 66 and still charging.
Jason Phillips- Houston Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach
Behind Kevin Sumlin's Air Raid Offense at Houston is Jason Phillips, the Offensive Coordinator. Phillips is a graduate of the University of Houston however he seems to be interested in head coaching jobs. It was announced the other day, Phillips will interview at Florida Atlantic to replace the retiring Howard Schnellenberger.
Houston this year is 10-0 and is first in the nation in scoring, passing and total yards. However, Houston's offense has been for years been shredding C-USA defenses. Not only has he mentored QB Case Keenum but over the years, some prolific wide receivers, such as Brandon Middleton, Vincent Marshall, Donnie Avery and others.
Phillips has been selected in the last few years by the 2008 NCAA Coaches Academy Program and the 2010 NCAA Champions Forum, organizations which promote minority assistant coaches to become head coaches.
However, Phillips boss, Kevin Sumlin is going to be a hot commodity for some job openings this year and if Sumlin were to go, Houston may, more then likely, promote Phillips as head coach. Phillips may be in a holding pattern on leaving Houston just yet