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Texas Tech Head Coaching Candidates

When we consider coaching options, I think it's imperative that we as fans consider the entire body of work rather than just one or two games. Anything that I've missed, please feel free to add your own comments, and please don't recommend that Texas Tech reinstate Mike Leach.  I hate that he's gone too, but that pirate ship has sailed.

Serious Candidates

Ruffin McNeill

Pros: I'd be lying if I didn't say that McNeill is near and dear to my heart. As mentioned above, McNeill doesn't deserve a one-game audition and the results of Saturday's win shouldn't reflect too poorly or too favorably on his record. What McNeill does bring to the table is an ability to recruit, connect with the players, and continuity on the field.

This year's defense was supposed to take a step back, but that hasn't happened. McNeill lost three-fourths of his secondary, two all-conference defensive ends and improved the total defense, 348.8 in 2009 to 382.6 in 2008. Not only that, the scoring defense improved, from 21.8 in 2009 to 27.8 in 2008. TR's dedfischer (I can't find the actual link, but he wrote it somewhere) mentioned this in one of his posts, but the truth of the matter is that Leach was supposed to have the offense on track, but this year it's been slightly off. Leach chose Potts and decided he was the best quarterback for the job. That wasn't necessarily the case. Both units suffered losses, whether it be from graduation or injury, but at the end of the day, I think I was more impressed with how the defense performed considering the fact that McNeill hasn't had that long of a time to put the defense together.

I think it would be an understatement to say that the players absolutely love McNeill. This, in itself, isn't necessarily a reason for McNeill to get the job, but if McNeill does return, I think you'll see at least 90% of the current commitments continue with this program. And not only will you have continuity with the program, but you'll also have continuity of staff. I don't think it's out of the realm to consider that Lincoln Riley steps into the offensive coordinator position nicely as he's been here in some capacity since 2002 where he's had the opportunity to learn this system from the best. On the field, Sonny Cumbie takes a larger role with the team, becomes the team's quarterback coach. I also wouldn't at all be surprised to see offensive line coach Matt Moore take a greater role in the offense, which could include a co-offensive coordinator role.  On the defensive side of the ball, I think Ruffin hires a bona fide defensive coordinator and McNeill becomes that father-figure that he so good at and lets someone else coordinate the X's and O's.

Cons: Despite having on-the-field and off-the-field success at Texas Tech, McNeill has struggled to have the same sort of success throughout his career. McNeill's best coaching years prior to Texas Tech were at Appalachian St., where he was the defensive coordinator. From Appalachian St., McNeill went to UNLV, which probably set back his career because that was just an awful team, something I don't think he could have changed if he were the best defensive coordinator ever. McNeill then was picked up by Leach (I do not recall how they know each other) and McNeill has slowly but surely climbed up the ranks.

The long and short of it is that McNeill has about as much head coaching experience as the coordinators listed below.  The same thing could be said about McNeill as I said about Sonny Dykes, the only reason that McNeill's name is being touted is because of his relationship with the program.

There's this thought that if McNeill doesn't get the head coaching job, that he's be perfectly happy taking the defensive coordinator role. I'm not convinced that's the case. Maybe I'm mis-reading McNeill, but I see him as a proud man, and he may be offered the coordinator position by any new coach, but I think he'd find other employment if that happens. Again, this is based on my hunch, but I just can't see Ruffin sitting by and watching as someone else gets the job that he obviously covets.

Join me after the jump for a look at Tommy Tuberville, Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn and Sonny Dykes.

Tommy Tuberville

First and foremost, thanks a ton to the guys over at Track Em Tigers, the SB Nation Auburn blog. Most, if not all of my information comes from these guys. I emailed them after the bowl game and had a response later that afternoon. Much appreciated.

Pros: If you've ever wanted conformity and a polished face to Texas Tech football, then Tommy Tuberville is your guy. I've only watched Tuberville from afar, but my general perception is that he's more Mack Brown than Mike Leach. That's not to say that he's not a defensive whiz, but I do see Tuberville as being a manager and CEO type rather than a Mike Leach type of coach who will simply manage one side of the ball. There's something to be said for this type of coach, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that having this type of coach is appealing. In fact, I might think that this would be an upgrade over Leach in that Tuberville could do a lot of the things that Leach never wanted to do, which included meeting with boosters, shaking hands and being a true face of the program.

And do not discount this as a serious reason why Tuberville could be hired.  I have no idea who pays a head football coach's salary, but if the big-money boosters like the coach then they are more likely to give money.  And this isn't rocket science, but if the big-money boosters didn't like Leach then they didn't have to give any money, which sounds like it had reached that point with Jim Sowell.  With a coach like Tuberville,  Having a head coach do the things that Leach refused to do, keep the same offense, improve the defnse, and as a result propel this program even further than when Leach was in charge.  That's a lot of if's, but the key is to highlight the importance of a head coach like Tuberville.

Cons: There's been a lot of talk about how Tuberville is a great recruiter, gambled on the field (he was known as the "Riverboat Gambler" for some time) and fielded great teams. Acid Reign stated the following regarding some of these perceived pluses:

When he was first at Auburn, he had a rep as a great recruiter, with progressive schemes. They called him "the Riverboat Gambler." As time went on, the risky play calls went away, and we became pretty vanilla-conservative on both sides of the ball. His rep as a recruiter also took some hits in recent times. We still were getting Top 25 recruiting classes, but there were increasing high-profile "busts." In the past five seasons, you could fill out a whole squad of blue-chip players that didn't make it at Auburn. Whether this is due to signing the wrong kinds of guys, desperation, or just bad luck is anyone's guess. In any event, Tuberville's recruiting over the past 5 seasons left us with two healthy scholarship linebackers for the Outback Bowl. We are thin on both lines, too. Defensive end Antonio Coleman, linebackers Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes, and corner Neiko Thorpe all played 116 defensive snaps in the game, because there was no one left to send in.

Not only that, it appeared that in 2004, the Auburn machine started to unravel:

Since 2004, the talent level at Auburn has steadily declined. Al's innovative offense devolved into "5-yard hitch and run it to the short side of the field-boring." Tuberville ran through defensive coordinators (David Gibbs, Will Muschamp, and Paul Rhodes.) who all seemed to have problems meshing. 2005 was a decent rebuilding season at 9-2, but we put on an absolute stinker of a performance against Wisconsin in the Cap One Bowl, and defensive coordinator Gibbs ducked out of the game without speaking to the press. Auburn was pretty good on defense, anemic on offense in 2006. Eeeked out wins in most games, but there were embarrassing melt-downs at home against Arkansas (27-10 loss), and Georgia (37-15; it was 30-7 at half!). Auburn finished 11-2.

I think it's also important to add that the guys over at TET really don't have a dog in the fight. If you go back and look at what was being said a year ago, it was a travesty that Tuberville resigned, but I think that they feel in hindsight that Tuberville may have left the program in not the best position.

Kevin Sumlin

Pros: Perhaps Sumlin's biggest positive is that he's been able to keep a good thing going at Houston. Sumlin took over for Art Biles, who took the job at Baylor, and has continued the success that Briles started. Briles is known as an offensive wizard, continuing the offensive success that Briles started. Sumlin was smart enough to hire Dana Holgorsen to run the offense, which I think is a huge part of Sumlin's success. That's not to say that Sumlin doesn't know what he's doing, but I do think that it says something about Sumlin's ability to determine which coordinators know what they're doing and which ones do not. Much like any offensive coordinator, Sumlin has worked his way up the coaching ladder, with a stop at Texas A&M prior to OU. I believe that the fact that Sumlin has been in and around the Big 12 for the past decade is a huge consideration in his candidacy for the Texas Tech job.

Cons: Sumlin was the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and his offenses weren't off the charts by any means. In 2007 the OU offense was 7th in the conference and in 2006 8th in the conference. That's not to say that these offenses were bad, but they certainly weren't elite. There's lots of talk that Sumlin will bring Holgorsen with him, but I'm not so sure that's the case. And before you claim that you're in favor of Sumlin, consider that he would probably be coming by himself as I could envision Houston asking Holgorsen to step in as head coach and continue what they've started. I know, Texas Tech is a step-up, but I get the feeling that unless Holgorsen is given a head coaching job, I don't see him going back to Lubbock again. I have no reason to base this thought other that a hunch, but if Texas Tech nabs Sumlin, I could envision a situation where Houston then retains Holgorsen as their head coach.  At that poing Sumlin is going to have to bring in two coordinators, and I'm not real sure that the Houston defensive coordinator, John Skladany, really has the resume for the defensive coordinator position at Texas Tech (i.e. I think McNeill has had more success than Skladany).  Then you have to consider whether or not Sumlin's success was his (i.e. see his time at OU) or the Holgorsen's success.

Gus Malzahn

Pros: Offensive genius. At all of Malzahn's previous stops, he's been an offensive guru. When you think of Malzahn please don't think of the Air Raid offense. Malzahn's offense is much more balanced than anything that Leach has run. Chris Brown at Smart Football has a great look at what Malzahn does and just think . . . speed:

There are a few differences here between Malzahn's offense and what Franklin and Tuberville tried to do (or said they were trying to do). The biggest, I'd say, is that Malzahn's spread is not exactly like other spreads, whether pass-first ones like the Airraid or run-heavy spreads like Urban Meyer's or Rich Rodriguez's. That's because the schemes are simple - very, very simple - and the core of the offense is not even about schemes: it's about tempo. . . .

[N]obody does what Malzahn does. If some no-huddle teams, like Franklin's, are light-speed, then Malzahn wants to spend the entire game in something akin to "ludicrous speed."

Cons: Auburn and Arkansas, in 2006, are Malzahn's only big-time gigs. Malzahn did spend a year between the Arkansas job in 2006 and the Auburn job in Tulsa, but the truth of the matter is that Malzahn's track record is great, but references are short. The lack of true experience is scary and right now, Malzahn's resume is that he's spent more time coaching in the high school ranks than at the collegiate level. I'm convinced that Malzahn would love to take over at Texas Tech, but he would have to put together a staff, something very similar to what Leach did when he first arrived at the scene at Texas Tech. I think Texas Tech is past the idea of just hiring a coordinator that's never put together a staff, not to mention, Malzahn doesn't have a reputation in Texas. Again, Acid Reign had this to say about Malzahn:

Malzahn is a bona-fide offensive genius, and Auburn fans will hate it if he's hired away from us! He's never been a college head coach, and has only been a college assistant for 4 seasons. Is he ready to deal with all of the handshaking and baggage that a head coaching position brings? No way to tell.

Sounds as if Malzahns pros and cons are somewhat accurate. He's great at what he does, but he just hasn't been great for a long period of time.

Sonny Dykes

Pros: Again, I don't think it's fair to base the Arizona offenses struggles against Nebraksa against Dykes. That same Nebraska defense just about hut out every opponent and the talent level at Arizona isn't close to where it would be at Texas, who only managed 13 points. What Dykes has done is completely revamp the Arizona offense since he arrived, although it would also be safe to say that the Arizona offense hasn't been elite either (more on that below). Dykes has been at Arizona for the past three years and dramatically improved the offense. Prior to Dykes' arrival at Arizona, the Wildcats managed only 252 yards a game in 2006 and in 2007 the Arizona offense ramped it up, averaging 385.2 yards a game. In 2008, with a veteran quarterback, the Wildcats averaged over 400 yards a game and have had to come back down to earth a bit in 2009 with a freshman quarterback, averaging only 384 yards a game. The Dykes family name is obviously a good fit for Texas Tech. Despite the situation with Leach, the Dykes family name is revered amongst a number of Red Raider alums, and rightfully so. Spike was and is a tremendous spokesperson for Texas Tech and I would imagine that you'd be getting a solid person if Sonny was hired at Texas Tech.

Cons: As I try to figure out who is the best candidate, I think that despite the Dykes name, if I had to choose right now, I think that Malzahn is the better offensive coordinator and the only reason that Dykes is being mentioned is because of his family name. That's not to say that Dykes doesn't have a good resume, he does, but you don't hear Dykes name come up in any other coaching search and there's probably a reason for that. Dykes may someday make a great head coach, but it may be a bit soon. Much like Malzahn, Dykes would most likely have to hire an entirely new staff, although his footprint in the state of Texas would make it easier for him to find suitable coordinators. I'd also imagine that current Arizona running backs coach Seth Littrell might take a coordinator position at Texas Tech and he was always a pretty good recruiter while at Texas Tech.

Pipe Dreams

Chris Peterson

I'm sure I'll catch a lot of flack for this, but I think the only difference between Boise St. and Texas Tech, at least right now, is that Texas Tech plays in a BCS conference and Boise St. does not. Last year, it was reported that Peterson turned down the UCLA job to continue what he was doing at Boise St. I think that speaks volumes about where Peterson thinks he has already in place. Essentially, I think Peterson would view a move to Texas Tech as a lateral move. Not only that, Peterson signed a new five year deal this week and has already played in a BCS game. Just cross him off of your list.

Kyle Whittingham

I tend to believe the same about Whittingham as I do Peterson in that Texas Tech may not be a huge step-up from Utah and Whittingham may be his dream job. Whittingham has been at Utah since 1994 and had opportunities to coach at other places, but at the end of the day, Whittingham has already coached the Utes to a BCS bowl and the fact that he's got a program that's already on the right path makes me think that unless Texas Tech money-whips Whittingham, he's not even going to look at Texas Tech. I don't think Texas Tech is going to money-whip any coach given the litigation that's about to start.

Gary Patterson


Patterson is about in the same boat as Peterson and Whittingham. Patterson has already signed a new extension after being mentioned for the Notre Dame job, but decided that TCU was where he wants to be. Again, Texas Tech fans may think that the Texas Tech job is an upgrade, but in this day in age, other than the fact that Texas Tech is a BCS job, there's not much that I would think would convince me to think that he wants to leave Ft. Worth.