Ordinarily, this is when I would begin offering my predictions for the coming weekend of college football action, but, frankly, no one in Bulldog Nation cares which team I pick to win Friday night’s Connecticut-Rutgers game, and I don’t have the heart to declare Saturday’s tilt between Georgia and Tennessee to be the national game of disinterest, so, this week, we are shelving "Don’t Bet On It!" and focusing instead on the topic occupying everyone’s thoughts.
Ere we begin, I wish to state: I believe Mark Richt should be and will be the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011; I believe Mike Bobo, like Willie Martinez before him, was and is a capable position coach who was promoted past his level of competence; I believe Coach Bobo should be retained as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach, and, even if he keeps the title of offensive coordinator (a post Neil Callaway also nominally held), Coach Richt should take over the play calling duties again. No one should mistake this posting, or those that follow, as an indication that this is the sports weblog equivalent of Lyndon Johnson losing Walter Cronkite on Vietnam.
This is what Bulldog Nation is discussing, though, so let’s have the discussion. If the time has come to bring in a new offensive coordinator, which coach is the best choice for the job? We’ve heard from rbarnes and Afghan Dawg, so here are my suggestions:
Mark Helfrich (Offensive Coordinator, Oregon). The "quack attack" overseen by Coach Helfrich has the Ducks ranked first in the nation in scoring offense, first in total offense, and second in rushing offense. His offenses are innovative and by no means are one-dimensional, as his quarterbacks put up impressive passing numbers in earlier stints at Boise State and Arizona State. Despite his established credentials, Coach Helfrich is young; when first hired for his present post in Eugene, he was the country’s youngest offensive coordinator at a BCS program. Unfortunately, as an Oregon native, he might not be willing to leave the Pacific Northwest, and Phil Knight certainly has the money to keep Coach Helfrich in the fold if he so desires, but a coach this good is worth the long-distance phone call.
Dana Holgorsen (Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma State). Unlike Coach Helfrich, Coach Holgorsen has only limited ties to his present billet, having arrived in Stillwater just last January. Prior to that, he served as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2007 and at Houston in 2008 and 2009. Coach Holgorsen’s Cowboys currently rank second in the land in scoring offense, and his previous six attacks finished ranked eighth, fourth, 13th, seventh, tenth, and first, respectively, in that category between 2004 and 2009. Coach Holgorsen has ties not only to the Southeast (he coached at Mississippi College and Wingate), but also to the Peach State: he coached quarterbacks and wide receivers at Valdosta State from 1993 to 1995 while earning a master’s degree from the South Georgia institution. Although Oklahoma State, like Oregon, has a benefactor who is willing to pony up for his alma mater’s football program, I’m more confident of Bulldog Nation’s collective ability to outspend T. Boone Pickens than to shell out more dough than Phil Knight, and Coach Holgorsen’s roots in Stillwater do not run deep. I would prefer Coach Helfrich, but I like our chances better with Coach Holgorsen.
Mike Markuson (Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ole Miss). When Mark Richt plucked Brian VanGorder from obscurity in 2001, he justified his choice by saying that Florida State had played a paycheck game against Coach VanGorder’s team, which had frustrated the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator with its scheme. I decided to take a similar approach; since the Bulldogs’ ability to play for championships hinges on their ability to beat Florida, I looked to see which offensive coordinator had scored the most points on the Gators’ defense since Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville in 2005. Unfortunately, that honor goes to . . . Mike Bobo, whose Georgia offense hung 42 points on the Sunshine State Saurians in 2007. Since that season, however, the only offenses to have put up more than 30 points on Florida are Alabama’s the last two seasons and Mississippi’s in 2008. Since I’m done trying to convince Crimson Tide coordinators to make lateral moves to Athens, I looked to Oxford but was dismayed to learn that the Rebels’ then-offensive coordinator, Kent Austin, since had become the head coach at Cornell. When Coach Austin headed to Ithaca, Houston Nutt promoted Coach Markuson to co-offensive coordinator. Coach Markuson has served as Coach Nutt’s offensive line coach for more than fifteen years, and he coordinated the Ole Miss running game in the two seasons prior to this one. The Rebels currently rank 16th in the country in rushing offense, one notch ahead of Alabama, and Mississippi ranked in the top 30 nationally in that category in 2008 and 2009 after finishing 83rd in the nation in 2007, the year before Coach Markuson’s arrival in Oxford. The Rebels currently boast the country’s 19th-best scoring offense, one notch ahead of Auburn. With previous coaching stops in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, Coach Markuson ought to have no trouble making the transition to Georgia.
To repeat, I think Mike Bobo should stick to coaching quarterbacks and Mark Richt should go back to calling plays. If, however, a new offensive coordinator is to be brought in from outside, I want it to be one of those three guys, in that order of preference. Your thoughts, of course, are welcome in the comments below.
Coming soon: Possible head coaching candidates, in case we have to replace Mark Richt.