Numbers don't lie. When you're doing good, opportunity presents itself! S/o to Bobo!— Damian Swann ™ (@D_Swann) December 23, 2014
Now that the other shoe has dropped and Mike Bobo does appear to in fact be headed to Colorado State to become the Rams' new head coach, it's time to start thinking about where Mark Richt might look to replace him.
First, let's talk about what Richt will likely be looking for in a replacement. For one, I doubt seriously that it will be Mark Richt. The head Bulldog has repeatedly noted how much better a head coach he is now that he's not bogged down in play calling. While i wouldn't be surprised to see Evil Richt put on the play calling hat for the Belk Bowl (and look forward to it, to be honest) that's not going to be the longterm solution.
I also would not expect him to go with the newest, hottest spread guy out there. Mark Richt has gone on record many times about the importance of running the ball. And I'd be very surprised to see someone who isn't committed to Richt's pro-style theory of offense. While Bobo's playbook has been more or less pass-happy depending on what he had to work with (one reason I think he's such a good coach), Georgia isn't about to stop handing the ball to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and Keith Marshall and whatever other man-beast tailbacks Bryan McClendon can get his hands on and develop.
And if recent hires are any indication Richt will also be looking for someone with solid recruiting skills. If there's one area where Bobo's departure could really hurt the 'Dawgs it's in recruiting, where bluechip offensive commitments like Jacob Eason, Terry Godwin, and Van Jefferson will now be recruited even harder by teams who know who'll be calling their plays in 2015. Look for Richt to go after someone who'll build excitement and be as strong as the coaches around him when it comes to bringing in talent. Who might that be? Well, here are a few names to consider.
Some Obvious Suspects
One of the current offensive assistants. Bryan McClendon is an ace recruiter who's played in Richt's offense and understands what the head man wants to do. Will Friend already has the title of Running Game Coordinator. Tight ends coach John Lilly was at FSU with Richt in there 1990's and also knows what he wants done. But none has ever been a play caller, and that's a little unsettling. I will say that if Bobo brought any of them with him as an assistant head coach or offensive coordinator it would actually be as big a blow as losing the world's most productive play calling Michael Stipe impersonator himself.
Friend in particular is interesting because there's a real chance that Bobo tries to bring him along to Fort Collins as offensive coordinator. That would be a big blow to Georgia, as Friend has turned around the Bulldog front 5 from a recurring liability to a consistent strength over the past two seasons.
Doug Nussmeier. The former Alabama offensive coordinator spent 2013 at Michigan with Brady Hoke, where things obviously didn't go very well. Nick Saban implied earlier this season that Nussmeier might not have thrown the dang ball as much as he'd have liked, which is unlikely to be an issue in the short term at Georgia, and wasn't really a problem for an Alabama team that won a national title under Nussmeier. It's also worth noting that A.J. McCarron set the Alabama single season record for touchdown passes while under Nussmeier's tutelage. Finally, Nussmeier would join Jeremy Pruitt and recently hired strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Hocke in helping Coach Richt reassemble the 2012 Alabama staff. If you're looking to signal to recruits that you're serious by hiring a big name, Nussmeier would make sense.
Lawrence Dawsey. The co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Florida State is known as an ace recruiter, was at FSU as a player during Richt's early years as a graduate assistant there, and has NFL experience. Jimbo Fisher
Randy Sanders. Dawsey's fellow co-offensive coordinator in Tallahassee is also the Noles' QB coach, so bringing the former Tennessee and Kentucky offensive coordinator back to the SEC would create less dislocation on the Georgia staff. Sanders can also claim that he's helped develop Jameis Winston who, despite his personal shortcomings, is clearly one heck of a college quarterback.
Rhett Lashlee. The current Auburn offensive coordinator would be making a lateral move to come to Athens. Why would he even consider it? Because Lashlee has spent his entire career playing and coaching for Gus Malzahn. Lashlee got some consideration for head coaching positions this offseason, but if he wants to prove that he's more than Malzahn's right hand man going to another SEC school and running things his way would be a good career move.
Tee Martin. The former Tennessee QB is currently serving as the receivers coach and passing game coordinator at USC. Previously he was involved with the Elite 11 quarterback camps, Nike football training camps, and once ran a quarterback camp in Atlanta (where he also coached at North Cobb and North Atlanta High Schools). Martin is also known as an excellent recruiter, whose ties to Atlanta and the southeast wouldn't hurt at all.
The Guys From Left Field, and Beyond . . .
Doug Ruse. The current Georgia Southern offensive coordinator came with Willie Fritz from Sam Houston State where his offenses put up points by the bucketful. He also served as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State. In 2014 his offense in Statesboro averaged 39.1 points per game (10th nationally) and 487.1 yards (17th nationally) in his first season along the banks of Eagle Creek. While there's not a connection to the Richt regime, Ruse is a proven quantity at lower levels who could be ready for a promotion to the big time.
Mike Sanford. The Boise State offensive coordinator is another guy in his first year in his current locale. Sanford however is also a former Bronco quarterback. He previously served on the staff at Stanford where he variously coached running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks, also serving as recruiting coordinator during his final two seasons. Sanford has only one year of experience as an OC, but it was a good one (his unit was 9th nationally in scoring offense and 13th in total offense). If Greg McGarity is pushing for a young coordinator at a reasonable price, luring Sanford away from his alma mater might be worth considering.
Thomas Brown. The former Wisconsin assistant is another young coach who doesn't have play calling experience. I list him less because I think he's likely to be the new offensive coordinator at Georgia, but because if Bobo does try to take McClendon with him Brown seems like a natural replacement.
Bob Stitt. Stitt may be the most famous football coach most fans have never heard of. The longtime head coach at the Colorado School of Mines has been hailed as an offensive innovator, including by guys like Dana Holgorsen. Stitt recently accepted the head coaching position at the University of Montana, but has candidly said that he'd love to see what his scheme could do at the Power 5 level. I tend to think however that this might be stepping too far outside of Mark Richt's comfort zone.
Two final points. One, Mark Richt's going to have a lot of resumes to wade through. The Georgia job is going to be in high demand because whoever takes over gets to work for a guy in Richt who has a reputation as a great man to work for, gets to command a great deal of talent already on campus, and gets to recruit in a perennial hotbed of talent. That leads to point two: I wouldn't expect an official hire until after the Belk Bowl, and quite possibly until several days into January. Unfortunately Richt will have to contend with coaches finishing their own bowl seasons (and even playoff games). And that's before we even consider possible candidates coaching in the NFL, of which there are clearly many (enough for another whole article, hint, hint). So get comfy. We're going to be in this waiting game for a while. Until later . . .