Let’s review how we got here.
Honestly, it all started with a college kid pretending to pee like a dog in the end zone after scoring in a college football game.
Elijah Moore was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, his teammate missed the ensuing extra point, and Ole Miss lost the Egg Bowl to Mississippi State. Ole Miss alum and head coach Matt Luke has only days before gotten a contract extension. A day later he was fired. One could argue that extension and higher buyout was just Ole Miss folks taking care of Ole Miss folks and that Luke was going to get fired anyway. But I think we can all agree for purposes of written history and posterity that it’s way funnier if it was the dog peeing bit.
Anyhow, Ole Miss quickly set its sights on Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic head coach, connoisseur of fine seaside watering holes, and general bon vivant. Kiffin had already been targeted by Arkansas, which had a head coaching vacancy after firing Chad Morris. Chad Morris went 0-14 in the SEC in two years. That’ll get you fired every time you don’t have compromising pictures of the AD. And the University President.
Lane Kiffin took stock of the options available for his return to the SEC: Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Missouri*. He decided that Ole Miss was his best option. It has booster support, at least average recruiting prospects, a laissez faire approach to rules enforcement. Lane Kiffin likes all of these things. Lane Kiffin took the Ole Miss job.
Arkansas, it now appears, has been contacted weeks ago when their job came open by an old friend, Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman. The Pitt Boss served as the offensive line coach under Bret Bielema at Arkansas. He was very popular there, and if anything is more popular now.
That’s because Bret Bielema’s teams got decidedly worse after Pittman left. One can quibble with the chain of causality here. But Sam Pittman brings back pleasant associations of a better time for the Razorback faithful. Cotton candy makes you think of going to the county fair with your beloved grandfather. Sam Pittman makes Hawg fans think about 2015 when they won eight games and a Liberty Bowl. That kind of thing is very comforting after you’ve lost at home to San Jose State and Western Kentucky.
Bottom line, Arkansas hired Sam Pittman. He’s not a proven head coaching commodity. But Arkansas wasn’t going to get a proven head coaching commodity to take that job. They needed someone who can come in and restock the cupboard for a reasonable price while they finish paying off their other buyouts.
I’m not saying I don’t want Sam Pittman to succeed at Arkansas, nor am I saying he won’t. For values of “success” that equal “seven wins and a trip to the Liberty Bowl” Sam Pittman is a pretty good bet. Sadly, three years from now that will no longer be good enough and Sam Pittman, phenomenal offensive line coach, will be Sam Pittman, embattled head coach. It’s the circle of life. I wish him luck, happiness, and a good buyout.
Sam Pittman’s gain is our loss. Kirby Smart must now go out and replace the highest paid, best recruiting offensive line coach in college football. He’s got to integrate that replacement into an offensive coaching staff that fans were clamoring for him to change even before Sunday’s rapid series of events. This is no small feat.
How will he do it? Well, as usual, the personnel directors of the college football internet have suggestions. I’d like to take the ones I’ve read so far and dissect them one at a time to determine their likelihood. Ideally, this will become the place for such speculation over the next couple of days/weeks/months as this plays out. Coaching rumors are like Labrador retriever puppies. You have to pen them in or they’ll just run all over the place.
So with no further ado, let’s get into some rumors.
Matt Luke to Athens as offensive line coach. Likelihood? Not that far-fetched. Luke put players in the NFL as the offensive line coach at Ole Miss. He’s won some recruiting battles against the big boys. I would actually be surprised if Kirby didn’t at least think about calling him.
Matt Luke to Athens along with his now former offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez. Likelihood? Quite unlikely. Rodriguez did some good things at Ole Miss, including turning former UGA commit John Rhys-Plumlee into a solid SEC quarterback as a true freshman. But if Kirby Smart decides to go to the Rich Rod spread I’ll be utterly gobsmacked.
Hey wait a minute....why are we talking about offensive coordinators anyway? Don’t we already have one of those?
FAU needs to hire a great Coordinator just like that did with Lane Kiffin.— (@CoachCodiVick) December 8, 2019
James Coley- from South Florida and a realistic option
Anyone at Clemson but seems unrealistic
Kentucky OC- great coach and has coached in Florida
Oh that’s right. Florida Atlantic needs to replace Lane Kiffin. And James Coley is from south Florida and already recruits the area. And, this is key, Bulldog fans really want him to leave and harbor no illusions that Kirby Smart is about to fire him. Okay, now we’re back on track. Let’s carry on.
Matt Luke to Athens as offensive line coach and Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator. Likelihood? Only slightly better than the Rich Rod business.
Mike Bobo is Bulldog Nation’s Sam Pittman. Many of us groused about him while he was here and would now personally contribute to bring him back. Because it turns out scoring 40 points a game in the SEC isn’t as easy as one would think.
But Mike Bobo is about to be the offensive coordinator at South Carolina, a job he’s taking over from his former player and colleague, Bryan McClendon. Yes, a plane left Athens headed to Fort Collins, Colorado yesterday. But what “sources” I have tell me that Bobo has been in Georgia for the past week, except when he was spotted in Columbia, South Carolina. I’m betting he’s negotiating contracts for assistants he wants to bring with him to Columbia. That process could hit a snag. It’s not a deal until everyone signs on the line which is dotted (except that an alarming number of coaches actually work for months under memos of understanding, but let me have my movie quote).
Anyway, all rumors on this page which include “Coach X to Athens as offensive coordinator” should be treated with heavy suspicion. Injuries and suspensions and dismissals and defections left James Coley with plenty of cover for the Dawgs’ “offense” this season. If Coley gets the head coaching job at FAU or elsewhere replacing him becomes a necessity. But otherwise I don’t expect him to go anywhere. Now back to our knitting.
Bryan McClendon to Athens as wide receiver coach and/or offensive coordinator and/or passing game coordinator. Likelihood? Not crazy, but not likely. I should also mention at this point that many Bulldog fans aren’t terribly pleased with the 2019 UGA wide receivers’ performance. Naturally they’ve focused that perturbance on WR coach Cortez Hankton. Hankton recruited Lawrence Cager, George Pickens, and Dominick Blaylock. His recruiting chops should not be in question. But Bulldog fans have a sneaking suspicion that his ability to develop players may not be that great.
No, pay no attention to the Mecole Hardman who just scored on that screen! Or former three star recruit Juice Wims or Riley Ridley or Terry Godwin. Such logic holds no traction in CoachingSearchville.
At any rate, McClendon helped engineer one of two offenses that beat Georgia this season. He is a former Bulldog, a former Bulldog coach, one of the best recruiters in the nation, and by all accounts a pretty good play caller when he’s not doing so with a rotating cast of players. Still, Will Muschamp was under pressure this year in Columbia, he had to make changes, and he wasn’t going to fire himself. So he shook up his offensive staff and appears set to bring in his former UGA teammate Bobo to help.
I’m not saying Cortez Hankton is going anywhere. In fact, I’d put the odds below 50%. But it’s always possible that he is presented an opportunity he can’t pass up elsewhere. If that happens I’d be thrilled for McClendon to rejoin the Bulldog staff rather than go down with the USS Boom in Columbia.
Dell McGee to Arkansas as offensive coordinator. Likelihood? I don’t think so, but.... Sam Pittman’s going to need someone to run his offense in Fayetteville. That offense will presumably rely on running backs. Dell McGee coaches running backs. He recruits them very well, too. Dell McGee will likely go down in history as the only head coach in Georgia Southern Eagle history to retire with a perfect record. That record is 1-0, but my statement stands.
McGee has received interest from other schools more than once during his time in Athens, and it’s likely that at some point he’s moving up to a coordinator spot either in Athens or somewhere else. He and Pittman have worked together for four seasons now, usually with good results. In short, this one kind of makes sense even if I haven’t seen credible evidence it’s actually in the works.
James Coley to Arkansas as offensive coordinator. Likelihood? Look, just put it on your wish list to Santa with the dirt bike and Malibu Barbie.
Hugh Freeze to Athens as offensive coordinator. Likelihood? Saw one guy post this on Twitter. Reported him for abusive/vulgar behavior.
Someone you’re not thinking of to Athens as offensive line coach, James Coley to the vending machine to grab a pack of crackers. Likelihood? Maybe your you best bet.
We say this every time in coaching searches, but following planes and taking tips from friends with uncles in the local real estate business just isn’t reliable, especially not now. Few actual coaching interviews take place on campus anymore. If you want to know who’s meeting hit up the hotels around Hartsfield or DFW. An in-person interview may not even happen except as a pro forma matter to satisfy state law and University policy.
Also remember that Kirby Smart is likely hiring someone he’s known for years and whose name has been on a mental list of his for some time. As Mr. Sanchez widely pointed out last night, there are two former NFL offensive linemen and former Bulldogs already on staff in Jonas Jennings and Fernando Velasco. Either could go with Pittman or get promoted. They already know the current roster and are likely familiar with recruits. This wouldn’t really be surprising.
The hire may or may not be splashy, and we won’t really know for months or even years if it was a good one. That one I can assign 100% likelihood. Until later...
*Missouri isn’t really relevant to our narrative. 358 days of the year you are entitled not to think about Missouri football, and this is one of them.