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Coaching Carousel – Rumors, Gossip, and Covert Meetings

By on December 14th, 2011 in Football Comments Off

For the fanatical college football fan, there are three seasons: the regular season, the recruiting season, and the coaching carousel season. What fuels interest in the latter two are the wide spread rumors, message board gossip, and (in the case of coaching hires) covert meetings between schools and possible new coaches.

The last few days of the third season have had Auburn fans captivated by possible coaching moves. After Auburn Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof resigned a week ago today to take the same job at Central Florida; Tiger Head Coach Gene Chizik said he would not be in any hurry to replace Roof. 

Chizik announced he would serve as the DC for the Tigers’ bowl game against Virginia on New Year’s eve. When pressed by the media he said there would be no deadline for hiring a replacement. “We’re always going to take our time and do our due diligence when it comes to finding the right fit for Auburn,”

However, despite those remarks, indications are that Chizik has been moving rapidly to get the position filled.

In the seven days since the job came open, most fans have read or heard the rumor mill of names being tossed around. At least five names are prominent in all the speculation.

According to multiple media reports the top two on the wish list are Everett Withers of North Carolina and Florida State’s Mark Stoops; which begs the question, “What should Chizik be looking for in a new DC besides ‘the right fit’?”

Well the one thing that Auburn seems to have been good at the last couple of years (with a couple of exceptions) was being able to stop the run. Last year’s unit in particular was 1st in the SEC and ninth in the nation against the run. But the Tigers’ Achilles heal has been a porous secondary, giving up an average of over 200 yards per game. It almost seemed at times that if an opponent had any semblance of a passing game, then Auburn struggled.

That fact is reflective in the coaches that Chizik appears to be going after. All of the names being mentioned are either secondary coaches are have run defenses that have had success defending the passing game.

The first choice may have been Everett Withers but rumor has it that he is also being courted by new Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer.

That fact and media reports of the Auburn plane being seen at the Tallahassee Airport twice in four days are pretty good indications that Stoops is the main target for Chizik.

Question is, could Stoops be lured away with a promises of doubling his $440,000 salary or will he use Auburn’s interest in him to get a raise at FSU? A practice that is very common during every coaching carousel season.

Lost on a lot of fans who follow the drama of coaching switches, “Is what does mama have to say about it?” These guys have wives and families that are rightfully a big part of their consideration. So even if a man might want to take a new opportunity and double his salary, he could change his mind if the wife is cool to the idea. Faced with an unhappy wife, a candidate might choose to turn down the money, probably get a hefty raise, stay put, and stay happy at home.

Of course at this point it’s all speculation and there may be coaches that are high on Chizik’s list that the press doesn’t know anything about. Covert meetings produce new hires every year. But the main thing Tiger fans want to know at this point is will Stoops leave FSU or will he stay? And if he stays could Auburn’s new Defensive Coordinator come from one of the other prominently rumored candidates? Enquiring minds want to know.

A list of five potential DC candidates and their upsides and downsides after the jump.

(Editors Note: News broke late last night that Auburn will also be looking to replace Gus Malzahn, who has taken the head Coaching job at Arkansas State. – Let the rumors begin).

Mark Stoops is in his second year as Florida State’s Defensive Coordinator. He is in his 21st year of coaching and also coaches the secondary at FSU.

Upside:

Stoops’ pass defenses have excelled at takeaways. He has turned FSU’s defense from being one of the worst in the nation to a unit that’s ranked sixth in total defense and second in stopping the run. Before FSU, Stoops was the DC at Arizona State for six seasons where his defenses were one of the top defenses in the Pac-10. He spent three seasons at Miami as a secondary coach. While at Miami his secondary led the nation in pass defense and his ’01 secondary led the nation in scoring defense and turnover margins.

Downside:

How long would he stay at Auburn? Stoops appears to be on the cusp of becoming a head coach. Would he want to leave a secure job in Tallahassee for what would essentially be a lateral move?

Everett Withers was appointed North Carolina’s interim head coach this season after the firing of Butch Davis just days before the season began. Prior to that he was the Tar heal’s Defensive Coordinator and Defensive backs coach for two years. His resume includes stints at Texas and with the Tennessee Titans. He also has been a DC at Minnesota and Louisville.

Upside:

Has overseen one of the best defenses in the ACC. In 2009 his defense was ranked sixth nationally in total defense and was the only defense in the nation to rank in the top 15 in scoring defense, in run defense, in pass defense, in pass efficiency defense, in third down defense, in tackles for losses, and in total yards allowed.

Downside:

None except the possibility of a 24 year veteran jumping at a chance to leave to be a head coach.

Ellis Johnson, fourth year Defensive Coordinator at South Carolina. He also serves as the Linebackers coach. A veteran SEC coach with DC stints at Mississippi State, Alabama, Clemson, and South Carolina..

Upside:

Despite coaching on a team that utilizes a no huddle offense, his defenses have been some of the best in the SEC.

Downside:

Presently holds the title of Assistant Head Coach at SC. Both he and his wife are native South Carolinians and he is already making $700,000.00 a year. Probably a long shot due to his age and the fact he is close to being vested in the South Carolina pension plan.

Charlie Harbison Co-defensive Coordinator and Defensive backs coach at Clemson. Has had coaching stops at Mississippi State, Alabama, and LSU.

Upside:

Knows the SEC West having coached at three Western Division schools and been part of championship teams at Alabama in 1999 and LSU in 2001.

He helped State rank seventh in the nation in pass defense in 2007 and 21st in total defense. At Clemson, the Tigers were in the top 25 in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2009 and 2010. Rivals.com has named him one of top-25 recruiters in the nation.

Downside:

Has only one season as a defensive coordinator (Miss State) and two as a co-defensive coordinator at Clemson.

Joe Whitt, Jr. Fifth year NFL coach. Presently coaching secondary/cornerbacks for the Green Bay Packers. Coached five years on the college level with Louisville and at The Citadel.

Upside:

A former Tiger player and assistant, he is the son of Joe Whit,Sr. longtime defensive coach at Auburn. His coaching helped get the Packers in to the Super bowl and in 2009 helped the Packers have the No. 2 defense in the league. He knows the region for recruiting and his recruiting at Louisville helped bring the Cardinals a top 25 class in 2005.

Downside:

Never been a defensive coordinator and only has five years experience at the college level.

Other names in the rumor mill have included Green Bay Packers Outside Line backers Coach- Kevin Greene, Texas A&M Interim Coach- Tim DeRuyter, and Former Florida and Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook. And a late addition just addded to list today is LSU Secondary Coach Ron Cooper.

While the DC hire is important to this year’s recruiting season and more importantly to the future of the program, Chizik has a more pressing matter to be concerned with at present, like the preparation of his team for the December 31st date in Atlanta with the Virginia Cavilers.

So the fans may have to wait till after all the candidates are through with their bowl games to know who will be Auburn’s next Defensive Coordinator.

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