'Outside the box' head coaching candidates at Auburn
Posted by: Pete Roussel on November 29, 2012
The Auburn football coaching search has entered Day 5.
The program needs a fresh start and new brand. Amazing, eh? Just two season ago, the Tigers were crowned BCS National Champions.
After going 11-14 including 4-12 against SEC opponents since the national championship, Auburn decided to part ways with fourth-year head coach Gene Chizik.
Throughout college football, coaches wonder on who is calling the shots at Auburn. Coaches also wonder about the status of an NCAA investigation, first reported by YAHOO Sports' reporter Pat Forde.
How will that affect the next head coach and his ability to recruit and win?
Am I walking into a situation similar to the one Al Golden found himself in at Miami (FL), where Golden accepted the job without the understanding of what was really happening behind the scenes with the NCAA in regards to the Miami (FL) football program?
Leaders at Auburn (I haven't confirmed there are any) will have to answer these questions during head coaching interviews.
Of course, the names associated with the opening are Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino. Charlie Strong vehemently denied a report that he interviewed for the job at Wednesday night.
My feeling is that Auburn should start anew.
The number one criteria for the new head coach is the ability to win head-to-head against Nick Saban, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, and Mark Richt in recruiting. As one Southeastern Conference offensive coordinator told me on Wednesday, there are a ton of great X and O coaches. Some of the best are at smaller schools, even the D1-AA level.
But at Auburn, you had better have a figure that it's a big deal to recruits when they get to visit with the head coach.
Outside of names like Jimbo, Kirby, and Petrino, here's a list of 'outside the box' candidates that could be successful at Auburn.
Rich Rodriguez (Arizona - head coach): Rodriguez would bring a totally different philosophy and schemes that Auburn's rival, Alabama. That would give Auburn a leg up on certain recruits that believe they 'fit' more into what Rodriguez does with a spread offense and 3-3 stack defense. Rodriguez came close to taking the Alabama job when he was enjoying a great run at West Virginia. His ability to recruit Louisiana and Florida would be an advantage.
Greg Roman (San Francisco 49ers - offensive coordinator): A coordinator in the NFL told me last week that he has no doubt that Roman will soon have NFL head coaching opportunities. Jim Harbaugh has publicly stated that Roman was the true architect of the Stanford offensive philosophy and schemes. Roman wants to be a head coach and if Auburn called, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't listen. He is sharp, real sharp. He has a great presence and the Auburn fan base would really like him. The 49ers are likely to make a run in the NFL playoffs, but that didn't discourage Penn State a year ago from hiring Bill O'Brien. It didn't discourage Tulane from hiring former New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson. (Read how Tulane AD Rick Dickson told CoachingSearch.com he handled hiring an NFL coach)
Manny Diaz (Texas - defensive coordinator): It's not just about the head coach. It's about 9 quality assistants and because of his personality and professionalism, great assistant coaches would be lining up to work under Diaz. He experienced great success at FSU, NC State, and as the coordinator at MTSU and Mississippi State. At Texas, his defense has struggled this season somewhat, but most college coaches that I talk to believe part of the reason is out of Manny's control. Diaz would give Auburn a fresh start, a new personality.
Willie Taggart (Western Kentucky - head coach): Taggart has experienced success at Western Kentucky despite losing a number of assistant coaches due to significant pay raises. He has the 'Jim Harbaugh blue-print,' having worked for Harbaugh at Stanford. The one thing about Willie Taggart is that he does not back down to anybody in recruiting. He's extremely persistent. He has a totally different style than Nick Saban, which could appeal to certain recruits. After a 2-10 first season, he has posted consecutive 7-5 seasons at Western Kentucky.
None of these coaches may get involved with the Auburn coaching search. Or maybe they will. Sometimes these searches end up with coaches that people don't expect.
I do know that likeability is underrated to many athletic directors. Auburn fans, for the most part, didn't 'like' Gene Chizik. Some of them didn't give him a chance from the beginning. Roman, Diaz, and Taggart are extremely likeable people. Rich Rod, maybe not so much, but he's been there and done it.
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