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KU Football Coaching Candidate Countdown: Part 1

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A Rundown of Kansas Football Coach Candidates outside the "Top 10" candidates.

Ed Zurga

Today we begin a series of articles where we take a closer look at available candidates for the position of Head Football Coach at the University of Kansas.  In discussions with the illuminati at RCT and the various sources at our disposal, we have come up with a top 10 list of coaching candidates.  This is not that list.

This first article will discuss candidates outside the top 10.  These candidates may or may not have been actually connected to the coaching search by a credible source, but at some point, they have been mentioned.  On an individual basis, the likelihood that one of the candidates you find in this article becoming the next football coach is about as high as drawing a Royal Fizzbin.

On to the list.  The following names have been mentioned and all but the first two have even been connected to the coaching search.  They're all interesting candidates, but as I said, none are very likely.  However, each time I finished researching one of these guys, I thought - let's hire him!  I guess in that sense I'm a lot like James Woods - "Ooo, piece of candy!"  Anyway, let's learn a little bit more about these men.

Ed Orgeron

Orgeron's specialty is defense, specifically defensive line.  He was a D-lineman in college and got his start in coaching as a D-line coach and strength and conditioning coach.  At Miami (FL) he was the position coach for players like Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland, and Warren Sapp.  He also recruited Dwayne Johnson (aka "The Rock").

Recruiting should be considered his second specialty.  In 2004, he won National Recruiter of the Year honors while at Southern Cal, and was then hired by Ole Miss as their head coach.  As I'm sure most of us are aware, his stint as the head man at Ole Miss did not go well.  He only lasted three seasons, going 3-8, 4-8, and 3-9 for a combined 10-25 record.

Orgeron is currently a "free agent" and not under contract anywhere at the time of this writing.  His strengths seem to fit what Kansas needs - defense and recruiting.  However, his biggest recruiting successes came at Southern Cal, a place that is much easier to recruit to than Kansas.  Orgeron has actually publicly mentioned the opening at Kansas, so it's pretty safe to assume he has measurable interest.  But so far as we can tell, the interest in Kansas doesn't seem to be mutual.

Dave Doeren

Doeren is a Kansas native, born and raised in Shawnee.  In 2002, Mark Mangino brought Doeren back to Kansas where he served as Linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator.  In 2005, Doeren added co-defensive coordinator to his responsibilities at Kansas.

Doeren moved upward and onward to Wisconsin, where he served as Linebackers coach defensive coordinator for five years.

Doeren got his first shot at a head coaching position with Northern Illinois, where he rode Jordan Lynch to consecutive 11-win seasons.  Doeren was only there for two years before N.C. State came calling in 2012, which is his current post.  After going 3-9 his first year at NC State, the Wolfpack are currently 5-4 (1-4 ACC) at the time of this writing.

Surely Doeren would be interested in a return to Kansas, but would he be the best man for the job?  He definitely fits the bill of being a "Kansas guy" and knows what it takes to build a competitive program in Lawrence.  Like Orgeron, Doeren's specialties are defense and recruiting.

Willie Fritz

Fritz, like Doeren, is also a native of Shawnee, KS.  Fritz was a four-year starter at Pittsburg State.  His head coaching career includes stints at Blinn Community College (1993-96), Central Missouri State (1997-2009), Sam Houston State (2010-13), and Georgia Southern (2014-present).  Fritz won two JUCO national titles while at Blinn, led CMSU to their first ever berth in the D-II playoffs, and led SMSU to back to back appearances in the FCS championship game.

His current squad at Georgia Southern is currently 7-2 at the time of this writing, with a one-point loss to Dave Doeren's NC State team, and a four-point setback to Georgia Tech.

Like Doeren, Fritz is a "Kansas guy" although not necessary a "Jayhawk" guy.  I personally think he is an extremely interesting candidate, and I hope that he gets more consideration than what we're hearing.  Frtiz's specialty is offense.

Bob Stitt

Born and raised in Tecumseh, Nebraska, Stitt has been the head man at Colorado School of the Mines for the past 15 years where he has only had two losing seasons.  It should also be noted that he has only won his conference twice as well.  CSotM is the only place where Stitt has been the head man.  In spite of the difficulty of recruiting to an institution like CSotM, Stitt is quite used to working against more talented teams which is something he would probably have to do at Kansas should he happen to get a call.  Stitt's teams just keep scoring tons and tons of points and coming away with win after win.

His name keeps popping up increasingly as Division 1 jobs open up, and Stitt is on record as saying that he is open to moving up to D1 as an offensive coordinator, but only if he had total control of the offense.  If Zenger doesn't call Stitt and should Clint Bowen be named KU's next head coach, I would hope Bowen's first call would be to Stitt.  For those who are unaware, Stitt's specialty is offense.  In fact, Dana Holgorsen credited Stitt with creating the fly sweep and lauded him on air during postgame interviews after West Virginia smoked Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Jim McElwain

McElwain was born and raised in Montana and played quarterback at Eastern Washington - before they had the red turf, of course.  McElwain has been an assistant head coach at Michigan State (2003-05) and has been the offensive coordinator at Fresno State (2007) and Alabama (2008-11).  Obviously he picked up something good from Nick Saban, as he almost instantly turned Colorado State into a winner.  His first game at CSU was a come-from-behind win over Colorado, and while the Rams finished 4-8 that first year, definite progress was made.  Last year, the Rams went 8-6 and won the New Mexico Bowl.  This year, as of this writing, the Rams are 8-1, their sole loss on the blue turf of Boise by only 13 points.  McElwain's specialty is, you guessed it, offense.

Justin Fuente

Fuente was born and raised in Oklahoma and spent his first three years (including a redshirt year) at OU.  He finished his college career at Murray State.  After seeing limited action in the Arena Football League, Fuente began his coaching career at Illinois State coaching quarterbacks.  He was eventually promoted to offensive coordinator.  Fuente spent two years at TCU coaching running backs, and was promoted to co-offensive coordinator for Gary Patterson.  After three years as the offensive coordinator at TCU, Fuente became the head man at Memphis.

Progress at Memphis been slow but steady.  In his first two years, Memphis went 4-8 and 3-9, however so far this year, the Tigers are 5-3.  All three losses have been close games, to UCLA, Ole Miss, and Houston.  There's something to be said for that, as Memphis had been pretty awful for several years before Fuente's arrival.  Fuente's specialty is offense.

Tom Herman

Herman was born in Ohio but raised in California.  Herman is currently the co-offensive coordinator (along with Ed Warriner) at Ohio State University.  He got there in 2012 after stints coordinating offenses at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08), and Iowa State (2009-11).  His Texas State offenses led the Southland Conference in total offense each season under his direction.  At Rice, his offenses broke over 40 school records and in his second season the Owls won 10 games and went to a bowl for the first time since 1954.  Rice ranked in the Top 10 nationally in 2008 in passing offense (5th; 327.8), scoring offense (T8th; 41.6) and total offense (10th; 472.3).

He is considered a young up-and-comer in the coaching ranks, and expect to hear his name mentioned for other coaching vacancies.  A member of Mensa International, he is well regarded in coaching circles.  Obviously, his specialty is offense.

Pete Lembo

Lembo is in his fourth year as the head football coach at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana (The More You Know, amirite?).  Lembo played college ball at Georgetown and was a four year starter on the offensive line.  He has experience turning around downtrodden programs with his prior stops at Lehigh (2001-05) and Elon (2006-10).  Elon had gone 14-42 in the five years prior to Lembo's arrival; in his five years there he went 35-22.  At Lehigh before that, he led his program to an overall 44-14 record.  When he took over Ball State, the program had been 6-18 in the two seasons prior to his arrival.  Since then, the Cardinals have gone 19-7, including wins over Indiana (twice), South Florida, and Virginia.

As of this writing, Ball State is 3-5 in 2014, with a close loss to Iowa and no margin of defeat greater than 11 points.

This concludes our "most likely unlikely candidates" list, if that makes any sense. Other names that you won't find in our yet-to-be-revealed Top 10 include Ken Niumatololo (sorry fetch), Paul Johnson, Jeff Monken, Mark Mangino, Mike Leach, Bob Stoops, and Nick Saban.  I just can't find anything at all connecting them to the coaching search (other than wishful thinking of course).

To borrow something from everyone's favorite beat writer over at the LJW, Matt Tait, it seems like the people enjoy a good "percentage wheel."  So, we'll get one started here.  In my estimation, the names listed above all combined equal a 5% chance of being the next football coach at Kansas.  So our percentage wheel starts off looking like this.

5% - Outside the Top 10

95% - Yet to be revealed

And as Mr. Tait would say, stay tuned!  As the countdown continues, we'll take a look at the top ten candidates and examine candidates 7 through 10.

Check out the rest of our countdown:

Outside the top 10 (Current selection)

Candidates 7-10

Candidates 4-6

Candidates 1-3