Kliff Kingsbury was let go Sunday afternoon after a disappointing 5-7 season. In just a short matter of time, Texas Tech has been a buzz in regards to the potential coaches. Kirby Hocutt has made this look like a premiere job and might currently be the hottest job in the country. Reports have come out with some potential names that we may hear called as the next Texas Tech head coach.
Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables
I'll be very surprised if Kliff Kingsbury survives this season at Texas Tech. Source tells me if he's fired, Tech will look seriously at Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.— Kirk Bohls (@kbohls) November 22, 2018
Venables has been the hot name in coaching circle for years now. After orchestrating a daunting Oklahoma defense in the 2000s and then escaping to coach Clemson on its way to a national championship, Venables name has garnered some notoriety. After winning the Defensive Coordinator of the Year Award in 2015 and the Broyles Award for top assistant in 2016, Venables has been a top name for open coaching vacancies for the past few years now but has consistently turned down those offers because of how comfortable he is at Clemson.
What makes many believe he could take the Texas Tech job is Kirby Hocutt. Hocutt and Venables were not just teammates at K-State, but also played the same position and were roommates. They are truly great friends and still talk constantly. The relationship a head coach and athletic director share must be a good and strong one and many times that explains why Brett Bielema leaves Wisconsin for Arkansas or why Mike Guundy threatens to leave Oklahoma State every year. Though Venables has consistently turn down jobs, it’d be tougher for him to do so in this situation.
Venables’ knowledge of Texas recruiting and familiarity with the Big 12 makes him a top candidate for this job.
* Update *
Venables confirms that Hocutt has contacted him and though this sounds like he’s turning the job down for now, I still wouldn’t cross his name off the list just yet.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was asked if there was any truth to a report of him being in contact with Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt.— Sanders Sullivan (@SandersSullivan) November 26, 2018
His full response, including him asking, “who am I to be a hypocrite?” pic.twitter.com/1H0XWFArNR
West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen
Have confirmed with a source that Texas Tech also is interested in bringing WVU coach Dana Holgorsen back to Lubbock. Think Tech folks wanted to keep this quiet, but it's out there already, and the interest is real.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 25, 2018
Kirby Hocutt was able to lure one of Lubbock’s favorite sons home, will he be able to take on a taller task and lure another? Holgorsen spent eight years at Texas Tech coaching under Mike Leach, Holgorsen’s family spent a good portion of their lives in Lubbock and he still has many west Texas connections. This all sounds eerily similar to Chris Beard who spurned UNLV to come to Texas Tech. Holgorsen has spent the last eight seasons coaching West Virginia and presiding over their move to the Big 12 and attempting to make West Virginia a national brand once again.
Why would Holgorsen make such a move? Besides his ties to Texas Tech, Holgorsen hasn’t exactly been well received at West Virginia. Holgorsen didn’t quite get along with Bill Stewart who was the well loved head coach directly before Holgorsen. Stewart went into an administrative role once Holgorsen was hired and from then on tension between Holgorson and administration grew. Not only that but the fan base is fractured and divided similar to the Texas Tech fanbase’s relationship with Tommy Tuberville. This turmoil may be enough for Holgorsen to come back home where he belongs.
Oregon Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt
Two of the leading candidates to replace Kliff Kingsbury, according to sources, are Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and Utah State coach Matt Wells. Three sources -- 1 last year, 2 in past week -- say Hocutt has strong interest in Leavitt, his former KSU LBs coach.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 25, 2018
This is an outside hire right out of the gate. Leavitt was Hocutt’s linebacker coach at Kansas State and the two remain close today. I’m sure Hocutt would love to get his dear friend back into the head coaching ranks, however there’s a big issue surrounding Leavitt. Leavitt was fired for player abuse and for a program that fired their coach almost a decade ago for allegedly abusing a player, hiring one would seem very hypocritical.
Not only that, but Leavitt’s career hasn’t exactlty been one to be excited about. Leavitt started up the South Florida football program and did a decent job with the Bulls. He went 95-57 but never finished higher than third in Conference USA or the revamped Big East. Leavitt has been the Oregon DC for the past two seasons and has the Ducks currently ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in scoring defense after they were ranked eighth last year.
Utah State Head Coach Matt Wells
Wells’ name has become increasingly popular as he joined the Utah State staff as a QB coach in 2011 and since then, the Aggies have been to a bowl game in six of the last seven years after going to only six in the previous 108 years. Wells knows how to coach quarterbacks and that alone may be exciting to hear for people who still will put a value on Alan Bowman’s future development.
The major drawback to Wells is his coaching inexperience as he’s only been a head coach for five years and has never coached at the power five level. Can someone who’s only been familiar with the WAC & Mountain West be able to make it work in the Big 12?
Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell
Clemson DC Brent Venables, Hocutt's KSU teammate, and Memphis coach Mike Norvell, who grew up in the D-FW Metroplex, are in the next tier of candidates.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 25, 2018
Mike Norvell is a name that’s going to garner attraction across the country. He’s being mentioned for the Colorado, Maryland and Louisville jobs as well as Tech’s. Norvell has now led the Memphis Tigers to back to back AAC championship games and has helped make Memphis one of the top Group of 5 teams in the country. Before Memphis, Norvell was the offensive coordinator at both Pittsburgh and Arizona State. While at ASU, he had the offense humming as the team was consistently ranked.
Norvell’s biggest issue is that he currently has zero ties to Texas recruiting. At Texas Tech, you have to know how to recruit in Texas and he simply isn’t familiar with any of it. That being said, it’s not difficult for a head coach to hire people that do. Matt Rhule made a similar jump just two years ago and he has already done a decent job at Baylor.
North Texas Head Coach Seth Littrell
Troy Head Coach Neal Brown
Two sources have told me, that in the search for Kliff Kingsbury's replacement, Texas Tech does not plan to go after UNT coach Seth Littrell or Troy coach Neal Brown. They could be looked at, but are not front-runners.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 25, 2018
Speculation about these two have been rampant the entire year. Have to believe that both would be pretty good worst-case scenarios for Hocutt. Littrell is a former Oklahoma running back who coached at Texas Tech for three years and has had Power 5 success as the OC at Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina. Littrell’s staff would also likely consist of former Texas Tech quarterback legend Graham Harrell which would mean the air raid would remain a Texas Tech staple. Littrell has undertaken quite the turnaround job at UNT as he took over a team that had gone 1-11 the year before and now has just finished back to back nine-win seasons for the first time since 1978.
Many may remember Neal Brown for his time as OC during the Tommy Tuberville era. Though many fans may not welcome Brown, there’s no doubt he had the Tech offense moving as Tech was consistently top 15 in the country with Brown calling the shots on offense. Brown has been at Troy since 2015 and is one win away from his third straight 10-win season. Before Brown, Troy hadn’t had a double digit win season in their history, nor had Troy gone to a bowl game since 2010. Under Brown’s regime, Troy also came close to defeating a Clemson team that went on to win the National Championship, and went on to defeat traditional powerhouses like LSU in 2017 and Nebraska in 2018. Brown has found major success and will be rewarded for it very soon.
The problem for both of these coaches is that a move from Conference USA or the Sun Belt to the Big 12 is a major move and one that neither coach may be ready for. That being said, there’s no doubt that both of them have garnered success.
Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach
Two sources have told me in the past few hours that Mike Leach, the Pirate of the South Plains-turned-Palouse is open to returning to #TexasTech, and a number of big-$ supporters will push for it. But does Kirby Hocutt want to go down that road? https://t.co/cGCAQVjdQj— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 26, 2018
We all know Mike Leach’s credentials. We all know how great of a coach he is, but this ain’t happening people. Leach is doing what he does every off-season after a successful year. He’s done it at Washington State he past few years and he did it at Texas Tech as well. He’s leveraging his current situation and even if it’s not him personally doing it, it’s definitely his agent.
Other names that haven’t been reported, but have come up as potential replacements in media:
Houston Head Coach Major Applewhite
Applewhite is familiar with the Big 12, Texas state recruiting and used to be an OC with Texas. However, I’d personally advise against hiring a guy that may be coaching for his own job in the next year or so.
LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda
Was linked to Tech last year had Kingsbury been let go then. I’m curious if head coaching gigs are like presidential elections to where if you run once, we forget about you going forward. Either way, Aranda is still the nation’s highest paid assistant and used to be Tech graduate assistant. He would check off many boxes for the head coaching candidacy.
Texas Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando
Orlando has done a pretty good job getting the Longhorn defense ready top play on a weekly basis and has already helped UT make the Big 12 championship game in just his second year there. Not to mention Houston had one of the best defenses in the country during his tenure. That being said, Orlando has zero head coaching experience and Texas is his first taste of being on a Power 5 team. I’d rather not deal with another person learning how to be a head coach.
SMU Head Coach Sonny Dykes
Six year ago, this job could’ve been Dykes but he had just taken the Cal job and didn’t want to renege. Since then, he had quite the tumultuous tenure at Cal and taken over an SMU job which seemed to be in petty good shape but still missed a bowl game this season. Many old school Tech fans would like this hire for last name nostalgia sake, but Dykes might’ve missed his opportunity six years ago.
Former Baylor Head Coach Art Briles
This is all I have to say about Briles.
There’s an article going around suggesting that Texas Tech should hire Art Briles. Don’t click it. Don’t give it the time of day. It’s idiotic and no one should feel that that disgrace should be a head coach anywhere let alone at OUR school— IN HOCUTT WE TRUST (@vivathematadors) November 26, 2018