Hearing Kurt Roper interviewing for UGA OC job early this week. Western Kentucky's Tyson Heton also a possibility
— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) January 4, 2015
This tweet from Mark Schlabach is about the closest anyone has come to saying who they think might actually be in the running for the job Mike Bobo left behind, rather than simply pointing out the people who make sense for the job.
How good Schlabach's information may be is anyone's guess. I will say that Schlabach, a UGA grad himself, has generally been judicious about reporting things attributable to his Butts-Mehre sources. If he's saying Kurt Roper will interview for the job, there's a good chance someone who knows about such things has told him that Roper will interview.
Does this mean Roper's the front-runner? Not necessarily, even if he does interview. He could just be the first guy available of several who have been identified as eligible candidates. It's also quite possible that some with a say in the process are enamored with Roper, while others with more pull have other candidates in mind. Again, allow me to make clear that there are caveats to each proviso for which a contingency may yet be identified. Are we clear?
With that out of the way, I think Roper would be an outstanding hire.
For one thing, he studied under David Cutcliffe at Duke, and very few coaches in modern SEC history habe been as consistently successful offensively (and in QB development) as Cutcliffe. In 2010 Roper's Blue Devil offense averaged 381 yards of offense per game. That was the most since 1989, when some jackass in a visor was slingin' the ball around the place.And then they got better from there. Roper's 2012 and 2013 units each finished in the top 5 in the ACC in scoring offense and total offense. At Duke. Duke.
Roper's QB development credentials include molding Eli Manning while serving as Cutcliffe's offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, turning Thad Lewis into an All-ACC (and eventually NFL) signal caller, and turning Sean Renfree from a guy many major programs passed on to a 3,000 yard passer drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. In short, we could do much worse.
I wouldn't pay too much attention to his one disastrous season in Gainesville. For one, he was asked to take a dreadful offensive line, shell-shocked quarterback, and thin receiving corps and implement a wide open offense. It was never going to work. For anyone. Not in one season, and definitely not if (as has been rumored) Will Muschamp couldn't be dissuaded from meddling in the offense.
Tyson Helton is a bit of a rising star. He was Neil Callaway's quarterbacks coach at UAB, then Tommy Tuberville's tight ends coach on his inaugural Cincinnati staff. In his first year at the helm of Western Kentucky's offense this season the Hilltoppers averaged 44.4 points per game, sixth highest in the nation. Essentially, Helton is the only realistic candidate whose 2014 numbers don't pale in comparison to the Bobo-led UGA attack. He's also served as a special teams coordinator for Tubs, and has a reputation as a young, energetic recruiter. In short, it would be hard to second-guess Coach Richt on hiring him, either.
Don't be surprised to hear a couple of more names come out early this week as candidates make their cases. If all goes well we could have an offensive coordinator by Friday. So stay tuned.