Note: all records and stats referenced are current as of September 13, 2017.
Almost three years ago to the day, I wrote a post outlining some candidates for who should replace Charlie Weis as KU football coach. Current head coach David Beaty didn’t make the list, and it is starting to look like it is for good reason. Let’s be honest, other than being able to hire a couple of really good assistants (Doug Meacham and Tony Hull come to mind) and improving recruiting, is Beaty really all that different from Turner Gill? (Other than the fact Gill has been consistently successful as an FCS head coach and has a better win at KU than Beaty has, of course.)
It’s pretty clear after watching Kansas look lost, especially defensively, it’s time for a change. Again.
I suppose we should lay down the case for keeping Beaty before we get to the candidates: he is still learning on the job. Recruiting has picked up a bit. He’s identified talented assistants. The main problem seems to be on defense, so maybe just firing Clint Bowen is the answer.
My rebuttals: he clearly isn’t learning fast enough. It clearly isn’t helping. He doesn’t let those talented assistants do their job without meddling. He won’t fire Clint Bowen.
Now that that’s settled, the candidates:
Dave Doeren - Head Coach, NC State
Doeren is 26-27 at NC State, and just 9-23 in the ACC, never finishing above 4th in his division. It’s also worth noting Doeren has beaten a total of 0 ranked teams at NC State. He was great at Northern Illinois, although I am a little skeptical of the fact he only spent two years there and also had a Heisman candidate to help him beat up on MAC opponents. It seems like the main argument around Doeren is he was an assistant at Kansas for awhile, and I want to avoid situations where that is the main reason to hire a guy.
Kevin Sumlin - Head Coach, Texas A&M
It’s been a rough year so far for Sumlin, and he’s developed a well earned reputation for winning a lot in September and then tailing off. Still, he’s 80-39 as a head coach, hasn’t missed a bowl game at A&M, and has been an ace recruiter in Texas, something the KU head coach pretty much absolutely needs to do. He’s obviously never coming unless he gets fired from A&M, and if he does get fired will he want to take the job from his former wide receivers coach?
Chip Kelly - Unemployed
Kelly hasn’t been coaching in college since he left Oregon for the NFL, and while he was definitely a flop in the pros, there’s no denying his success in college. He went to 4 straight BCS games at Oregon, his players went to the national title game after he left, and he was 44-5 overall. He also never finished worse than a tie for 1st in the Pac 12 North. Although Kelly’s offense wasn’t anything the world hadn’t seen before, he still brought unprecedented offensive success to both New Hampshire and Oregon, and although he doesn’t have any Texas ties, or ties to the area, it’s obvious kids would love to play in that system. Personally I think it’s a no brainer hire; the issue is if he would want to come (probably not).
Current FBS head coaches
Paul Johnson - Georgia Tech
The first three on this list should be familiar to the first three we had last time. And for good reason. Georgia Tech has finished 44th, 56th, 4th, 22nd, 15th in offensive S&P the last 5 seasons running the triple option, and have done so while having to face the recruiting challenges that come with working at a school that doesn’t offer a ton of easy majors. Time of possession is an overrated stat, and one that doesn’t in and of itself lead to a lot of victories, but I do think there is some value in having an offense that can get you a few 8 minute long touchdown drives to keep a horrific defense off the field as much as possible (although in fairness that is sort of what the air raid can do as well, and Johnson’s defenses at Georgia Tech lately have not been great).
Ken Niumatalolo - Navy
Coach Letters, as I have come to affectionately know him as, didn’t leave Navy for BYU, even though he is LDS, so he probably won’t be coming here (although BYU supposedly wouldn’t let him run his offense, so it’s hard to blame him). Still, in his 10 years at Navy, they’ve been to 9 bowl games and have won their division in the AAC every year they’ve been in the conference (twice). They’ve ranked 17th, 23rd, 37th, 59th, and 59th in offensive S&P the last 5 years, so naturally they can move the ball well. (for more you can read this very informative post by 11 Warriors).
Jeff Monken - Army
Seriously, just hire a triple option coach. You don’t need to get insanely good recruits, and the turnarounds can be swift. Monken took Army, who had 6 FBS wins and 0 P5 wins in the three years before Monken took over, to a bowl game last year. Army. In a bowl game. Before that he went to 3 consecutive FCS semifinals with Georgia Southern.
Willie Fritz - Tulane
This rounds out the option type offense portion of program, though he played at Pittsburg State and coached at Central Missouri, so he certainly has some local ties the other three don’t. Fritz also went to back to back FCS title games with Sam Houston State, and was 17-7 in two years at Georgia Southern. He hasn’t had the top level success Johnson, Niumatalolo, and Monken have had, and is just 5-9 in two years at Tulane, and only 2 of those wins have been FBS wins. Unlike the other three, Fritz has adapted his offense a bit over the years, running a lot of spread option stuff, but at this point probably makes more sense as a low cost gamble, even though I think he will be able to consistently get to .500 at Tulane, which is impressive enough in its own right.
FCS Head Coaches
Chris Klieman - North Dakota State
Klieman won back to back FCS titles in his first two years in Fargo, and was the defensive backs coach for the Jayhawks in 1997. He also coached under Terry Allen at Northern Iowa. However, NDSU has gotten worse each year under Klieman (even if the records don’t show it yet) and his schemes are woefully inadequate for the FBS level. He certainly won’t have the same level of success when he can’t pick and choose his recruits.
Bubba Schweigert - North Dakota
In just three years, Schweigert took a moribund North Dakota program from 3-8 and 10th place in the Big Sky to a Big Sky title and first round bye in the FCS playoffs. Defensively his teams at North Dakota have been among the best in the country, and his staff has done a good job recruiting, both in terms of finding diamonds in the rough (such as John Santiago, who went from wide receiver in high school to 1st team all american as a running back as a freshman) and expanding their recruiting areas. Offensively North Dakota has generally been on the conservative side, as he prefers to win defensive style games (although that has been changing recently), and he would have to get a new offensive coordinator. Still, with how hard he can get players to play, I think he’d be successful. He likely is happy where he is, though, as he’s a North Dakota native.
Bob Stitt - Montana
Stitt was a hot candidate the last time we did this, though the shine has faded a bit. He missed the playoffs last year with Montana, although it would be unfair to shut him out of the job just because of one rough season. He still has all the same things going for him that he did last time: an ability to pile up points even with players outmatched physically by the opposition, and he's still one of the most creative minds in football. He'd need help recruiting, but he could also probably win 5 games with the current roster.
Adam Dorrel - Abilene Christian
Dorrel is in his first season at Abilene Christian, and spent 2011-2016 as the head coach at Northwest Missouri State. He won 3 D2 national titles there, and only lost 8 games in 6 seasons.
Clint Bowen - Defensive Coordinator, Kansas
Doug Meacham - Offensive Coordinator, Kansas
Meacham has impressed me with his playcalling, other than the goalline fades, and I think he’s done a good job putting Peyton Bender in spots to succeed. He also was in charge of one of the best offenses in America at TCU. His last three stops before KU were TCU, Houston, and Oklahoma State, so he has ties to the area. He could probably also retain Tony Hull to help recruiting. He also probably wouldn’t need a pay raise. He’s never been a head coach before, but he seems like he has the temperament for it and is good at utlizing the talent around him.
Beau Baldwin - Offensive Coordinator, Cal
Baldwin is in his first year at Cal after being the head coach at Eastern Washington. At Eastern he won the 2010 national title, defeated a ranked FBS team, and oversaw one of the best offenses in America. Currently Cal is 2-0, and has scored 34 points per game. At Eastern, Baldwin was the QB coach and/or head coach of 3 FCS players of the year, so he’d certainly be a step up from the crew who has been working with our QBs. The only downside? No Texas ties.
Ed Warinner, Offensive Line Coach, Minnesota
Warinner was the playcaller of the heyday of the Kansas offense, and called plays for Ohio State in 2016 when they made the College Football Playoff. He also was the co-offensive coordinator in 2015 when they won the Fiesta Bowl, and in 2014 when they won the National Championship. He also is a two time offensive line coach of the year, and was named one of the top recruiters in the country by Rivals in 2014. Warinner is currently the only offensive coordinator Urban Meyer has ever had who hasn’t become a head coach, and it might be time to fix that.
Joe Moorhead - Offensive Coordinator, Penn State
Moorhead went 38-13 in four seasons as Fordham’s head coach, and also was the offensive coordinator of the UConn team that went to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010. Moorhead’s first Penn State team averaged roughly 450 yards per game, and went to the Rose Bowl. His coaching experience is entirely in the northeastern part of the country, so who knows if he would want to come to the midwest, but a power 5 head coaching job could be attractive, and it seems pretty clear he’d be successful.
Jeremy Pruitt - Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
There’s no doubt Pruitt has learned some stuff working for Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban. Pruitt was the defensive backs coach for Alabama’s 2011 and 2012 national title teams, and then the defensive coordinator for Florida State’s 2013 title team.
Lower Level Head Coaches
Vince Kehres - Mount Union (D3)
Hiring a D3 coach is certainly a gamble. Just ask Buffalo, who hired Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Lance Leipold, who has gone just 7-19 in 2 seasons and 2 games there. Kehres, who is 55-4 at Mount Union, certainly would be an out of the box hire, but given that Mount Union’s history of success lets them get some talented kids who would likely be playing up a level, and the fact that they can mostly pick and choose their recruits in a level that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, means Kehres is a stay away.
Mike Grossner - Baker (NAIA)
Grossner is 98-50 in 14 seasons at Baker, and the 2016 team made it to the national title game and was quarterbacked by the national player of the year. It would obviously be a huge jump, but Grossner obviously knows the area. Ultimately it seems recruiting would be his downfall.
Kevin Kelley - Pulaski Academy
This selection is probably the most farfetched, but Kelley has the sort of outside the box thinking that Kansas needs. He does two things that I really like: always goes for it on 4th down and always onside kicks. His offense also incorporates a lot of downfield laterals. I certainly think the onside kick thing wouldn't work as well in college football, especially at the P5 level, because players are much more coordinated, but certainly teams would benefit from onside kicking more. And we know teams would benefit for going for it on 4th down more and punting/kicking field goals less. I can say this with certainty: he'd be the most fun coach on this list to have as our next coach.
Of all the names on this list, the only ones I am not 100% confident would be better than Beaty are Doeren, Klieman, Bowen, Kehres, and Grossner. Other than that, basically take your pick. Chip Kelly would be the dream hire, even if he'd only last 3 years or so before another school hired him away. He'd get the team on track and his recruiting would likely leave KU in a good spot for the next guy.
My runners up, before we get to the winner, would be any of the first four listed (though Monken is my preferred choice). I don't think the option would hurt recruiting, except maybe at quarterback, but it would open up recruiting to the plethora of high school running QBs whom college coaches turn into running backs, receivers, and safeties. Furthermore, the different look would definitely allow Kansas to take more teams by surprise and be difficult to prepare for. And, as I said last time we did this, I'd rather do something different than be 8th best in the Big 12 at running the spread.
If you're looking for a longterm hire, though, sign me up for Ed Warinner. The guy who should have gotten the job last time is an expert in the most important position group in football, and has been a playcaller/offensive coordinator for some of the best offenses of the last decade, including the glory days of KU football. Recruiting to Kansas is a bit different than recruiting to Ohio State, but there's no doubt in my mind he'd be able to mold what he has into a competitive team, and he wants the gig and I think would want to stay. It's time to bring him back.