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FTRS (Hypothetical) Head Coach Mock Draft

In which we offer our free consulting services, just in case a school like Georgia Tech needs a coach anytime soon

2021 Cure Bowl - Northern Illinois v Coastal Carolina Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Georgia Tech is not currently looking for a new head coach. Currently. But if a school like Georgia Tech were looking for a new head coach, who would be at the top of the list?

A reader asked, and we are answering.

The caveat, considering Tech’s finances, is a good one, and we should probably add a few more as well. To the best of our ability, we will conduct our hypothetical coaching vacancy snake draft with an eye to budget, considerations, and recruiting considerations. In order to select a sitting P5 head coach, the group had to agree that Georgia Tech could clearly outbid the current employer or that the coach was very likely to get fired from his current job this season.

Seven members of our intrepid FTRS staff wanted to participate, so we’re about to deliver 21 prime candidates for a purely hypothetical coaching vacancy. Stay tuned for the all-important Meme Round as well. Order of selection was determined by a random number generator, and off we went.

The Picks

Round 1

1. Kieffer Milligan: Jamey Chadwell, HC at Coastal Carolina

If I were actually making this decision for Georgia Tech, I’d want to interview each candidate to determine their philosophy on personnel management. I’m going to talk about this some in my upcoming column (that will take 3 months to write at this rate), but in order for Tech to survive in the new NIL era, the decision-makers must utilize innovative, data-driven methods to find undervalued recruits and transfer targets. I don’t have much of a gauge for what any of these coaches think of that, but I can draw clues from what each coach has accomplished at his previous stops.

In the new NIL era, recruiting as we know it declined in importance. It’s all about free agency and the biggest NIL check. Coaching becomes more about identifying, developing, and deploying talent than recruiting and branding. Chadwell excels at development and deployment. His innovative offensive style has made waves in the college football landscape, and he has had great success without superior raw talent. He’s also a program-builder, which Tech desperately needs. He built the Coastal Carolina program from nothing to a ranked team with double-digit wins. He also had program building success at D2 North Greenville. It’s honestly criminal that South Carolina didn’t hire him when they fired Muschamp. There is some talk that Chadwell would not fit in with boosters and the administration here, but Tech needs to get over itself it ever hopes to win football games again. Finally, since we are taking money into account, Chadwell currently makes $900k/year.

2. Carter Templeton: Brian Bohannon, HC at Kennesaw State

Chadwell was also my #1 pick, so with him off the board, my choice came down to two people - and I’m guessing the one I didn’t choose isn’t far behind. Let’s get to it: Brian Bohannon is the first, last and only head coach in Kennesaw State history. He started the program from nothing and has never had a losing season — in fact, in seven seasons at KSU, Bohannon’s Owls have finished ranked in the FCS top 15 each of the past five years, making the FCS playoffs every year (except for the COVID shortened 2022 season), and winning three Big South championships to boot. None of this success was guaranteed, and you can look up the road to East Tennessee State, who (re-)started their program the same year, to see things can start out a lot rockier.

Bohannon knows the area because he’s already in the area, and he already has experience coaching at Georgia Tech, so he’s not unfamiliar with its restraints. Coaching in FCS means money is not an issue — if it is, there are bigger problems. Georgia Tech will never hire Brian Bohannon because the people orchestrating moves like this are too full of pride (and this applies in multiple ways), but I hold out hope that one day they will see where that pride has gotten them and finally swallow it, because a Paul Johnson-styled offense with a lot more flexibility (pun not intended) would be a sight to see on the Flats.

3. Joey Weaver: Dan Mullen, “Contributing Resource” for Lake Oconee Academy

First off, I really appreciate Robert including me here — I know I don’t write around here too much any more, but this sounded like a pretty fun exercise.

My personal philosophy for identifying candidates was based on a few criteria:

  • Someone with a history of successful head coaching experience (even if that’s not their most recent head coaching tenure)
  • Someone well-known for scheming and coaching ability
  • Ideally someone with some prior experience in the southeast (not necessarily in Atlanta or Georgia)

In general, I think the last few years have shown us that Georgia Tech has an inherent, built-in ceiling in recruiting, and I don’t see that ceiling rising as we move further into a deregulated pay-for-play world. I believe an average roster (by Georgia Tech’s standards) that’s well-coached will win more than a high-end roster that receives average coaching.

While Florida was 5-6 at the time of Dan Mullen’s firing late in 2021, that was unusual for a Mullen team, after he went 62-27 in the previous 7 years as a head coach dating to his time at Mississippi State. His firing was closely related to a perception that he wouldn’t get the job done on the recruiting trail. Keep in mind that context is key here — he was, indeed, being out-recruited by their divisional arch-nemesis and several other conference foes…and yet his worst-ever recruiting class was the one that signed within weeks of his hiring at Florida, and that class finished ranked 14th nationally. Recruiting top-end talent at Florida is obviously different (read: easier) than it is at Georgia Tech, but the point is that he wasn’t a horrible recruiter for his situation by any metric, with multiple top-10 classes during his tenure.

At Georgia Tech, even if Mullen is just an average recruiter and compiled an average roster by ACC standards, he’s still shown a propensity for elevating his talent on offense with scheme and play calling ability. His development of Dak Prescott and Kyle Trask get the most attention, but his track record for QB development goes much deeper than that. He also developed Nick Fitzgerald from a mostly-unknown recruit into a competent 3-year starter for Mississippi State. Going further back, he was also the OC and QB Coach for multiple national championship Florida teams (including Heisman-winning Tim Tebow) and also coached a former #1 overall NFL Draft pick in QB Alex Smith.

Mullen has a reputation for being hard to work with, and has seemed to struggle to find others in the coaching community that are willing to work with him. Even still, he’s one of the winningest coaches in Mississippi State history and had three top-15 finishes in four years at Florida. He’s currently barely employed at the high school ranks (read: he’s affordable and available), has 17 years of experience coaching in the southeast, and has a long track record of elevating his teams with his coaching. If I were Georgia Tech’s AD, he’d be a main candidate I’d target if I were trying for an upgrade in the win column.

4. Robert Binion: Bill Clark, HC at UAB

I echo Kieffer’s sentiments about the need for a program builder, so I look no further than the school two hours west of Atlanta. Bill Clark has built a program back from extinction. He took over in 2014 after the three previous seasons had yielded 8 total wins. That rebuilding job was hard enough, and he immediately won 6 games in his first year. Then, Paul Bryant Jr. and company successfully lobbied to have his program killed. Backlash was swift, but UAB would not field a team again until 2017. Clark has led the Blazers to an average of 8.5 wins per year since then, and managed four bowl appearances.

As part of this exercise, I ran some numbers to compare some key metrics during a coach’s tenure with the three year average before his arrival. Out of 365 total head coaches I had in my dataset, Clark ranks 10th in the net gain in PPA/play (an EPA style metric from collegefootballdata.com). He sits right above some guy name Saban on this list. With the most adversarial circumstances against him, Bill Clark has built something significant in Birmingham, and I would trust him to do the same in Atlanta. He has two more years left on his contract at about $1.5 million per year, so Georgia Tech could provide him a significant compensation upgrade.

5. Drew Gordon: Tyson Helton, HC at Western Kentucky

The case for Tyson Helton is that he is an innovative offensive mind who can bring a Decided Schematic Advantage™ to the Flats and has shown success as a head coach at the FBS level. He was the offensive coordinator when Jeff Brohm was the head coach, and the Hilltoppers were setting offensive records. He then moved to USC as the QB coach, where he coached Sam Darnold to much success. After one season at Tennessee, he came back to Bowling Green, KY to take the head coaching position for the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky had been fantastic under Brohm (and Helton), but the two seasons after he left were no bueno. The season before Helton joined they dropped to 3-9. But Helton turned them around immediately. They went 9-4 including a bowl win. They stumbled in the Covid 2020 season, but bounced back strong with a 9-5 season in 2021 where there were several very close losses to decent teams.

This is a combo that is tough to find for a team at the level of GT. Normally guys who are seen as expert schemers who have had success as an FBS head coach are hot commodities. Helton so far hasn’t been in the mix for the big name jobs, but a big season this year could change that.

Also yes, he is Clay Helton’s brother.

6. Nishant Prasadh: Mike Houston, HC at East Carolina

Initially I split my attention between Power 5 coordinators and Group of 5 head coaches, but I ended up zeroing in on the second group for my first-round pick. Something I was hoping to see was continuous improvement, and I found that once I landed on Houston.

He’s only been at East Carolina for three years, but in year three he got them to seven wins and bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014. This past season, ECU beat the teams they should have beaten and hung around in most of their games against better teams, taking Houston (the university) to overtime and holding fourth-quarter leads against South Carolina and UCF.

Almost as valuable is his track record prior to his arrival in Greenville. Houston showed clear upward trajectories at D-II Lenoir-Rhyne and (warning: bad memories inbound) The Citadel from 2011-15. His next stop, James Madison, dipped in his third season there... but it would have been hard not to, because they went 14-1 in each of his first two seasons, winning the 2016 FCS title and reaching the title game in 2017.

In terms of scheme, his teams ran the spread option at his earlier stops, but he switched to a more standard spread offense at JMU and ECU. He seems to be more of a “fit the personnel” type than a “fit my system” type on offense and defense, and his own description of his schematic approach is... quite the meaningless word salad. But his 2021 ECU team was fun and productive, so I’m willing to roll with him as a fairly proven program builder with a decade of HC experience.

The challenge here could be finances as much as anything. Raising ECU to 9+ wins next season would certainly be further evidence that he is worth pursuing. But significant improvement in year 4 would likely also lead to wider interest in Houston from Power 5 programs with openings... and most of those programs would be able to make more compelling monetary offers than Tech could.

7. Jake Grant: Kane Wommack, HC at South Alabama

I presume that I, of all the folks included on this draft, likely am the least qualified to participate. I am, after all, most experienced in the world of non-revenue sports, rather than football. However, it seemed like fun, I have some moderate opinions, and, well, it’s not as if this really is all that serious, either.

That being said, I would like to use my first round pick on Kane Wommack, current head coach at South Alabama. Of course, he is a coach with pretty minimal head coaching experience under his belt, but, if you continue reading to my follow-up pick below, you will quickly note that lack of experience did not deter me throughout this process.

In Wommack’s first year as the head coach at South Alabama, he led the Jaguars to their best season on the field since 2016, improving just slightly to 5-7. However, this is a program that has historically seen minimal success in their ten years at the FBS level, with 2014 and 2016 featuring 6-6 regular seasons that both ended in bowl game losses. Thus, a 5-7 mark is rather pedestrian in the grand scheme, but adjusted for context, a step forward for a historically middling program.

Improvement is an important theme of this pick, and I think it is in his previous stop that this becomes even more readily apparent. Despite being just a coordinator and position coach on Tom Allen’s Indiana staff, the stout defensive brand of football the team demonstrated over the three years Wommack spent in Bloomington was a major part behind Indiana’s first 8 win season since 1993 and their relative dominance in a COVID-shortened 2020 slate. Notably, the team did backslide in 2021 after his departure, but this can also be attributed to other player and personnel changes, as well.

I think that Wommack’s status as a young up-and-comer in the Sun Belt, particularly if Tech is able to act early and provided his teams keep improving, could make this particularly financially appealing, as well.

Round 2

8. Jake: Tashard Choice, RB Coach at Texas

Like I said, I was not terribly concerned about experience when making these picks. I have no stats to provide here, and I know nothing of scheme. What I do know is that the charismatic CEO-type leader for a football team seems to be en vogue, and who better to be the charismatic CEO-type leader for Georgia Tech football than one of the brightest stars and most recognizable faces to be associated with Tech football in coaching circles?

I won’t belabor my points here. I know you, dear reader, know exactly who he is, and that his running backs room over the past three years was the single best-regarded unit of any during the past three seasons. Besides leading the talented young men in his unit and overseeing the development of some incredibly talented young men, Choice is known for his ability to recruit, his candor, and his reputation as a player-friendly coach.

I feel like the next coaching cycle is highly likely to have some form of taking a chance or making a reach when hiring, and why not make that pick on a rising star, a known entity, and a local favorite whose Tech-specific bonafides are as strong as anyone.

With the second pick, it was an easy choice.

9. Nishant: Jeff Monken, HC at Army

First things first: (throws tomato at Jake for that awful pun)

One possible explanation for this pick is that I had about five minutes to come up with a name before my flight departed, and I had barely done any research beyond the first handful of names. Operating on about three hours of sleep after a very long day and week of work travel, and with Jake having scooped up Tashard Choice just before I could, and with me forgetting about Sean Lewis in my frantic rush as the clock ticked down to takeoff... I fell back on my natural tendency to embrace the most chaotic option out there. If nothing else, it certainly got a reaction from the other drafters in the moment.

The other explanation is that Monken is a ruthlessly competent coach who has built Army from a bottom-feeder into a very solid team. The former Tech QB/BB coach has led his current program to five bowl games, two 10-win seasons, and their first top-25 finish since 1996. We can be confident that he would field a competitive team in the ACC and win a respectable number of games every year. He may struggle to match Paul Johnson’s highest heights, but that’s mostly a reflection of the rule changes to downfield blocking and cut blocking that were implemented circa 2017. Even so, Monken has shown a willingness at Army to adapt and evolve his offensive formations and playcalls, and that suggests he’d be better suited to operate among the new(ish) rules than Johnson was in the final couple years of his career.

Off the field, the boosters wouldn’t need to break the bank in NIL funding to get offensive recruits who could succeed in his system. And on the field, Monken would raise the floor and field a fundamentally sound team on a weekly basis. After how the last few years have gone, I will never take that for granted again.

10. Drew: Curt Cignetti, HC at James Madison

Alright I have a confession. I was golfing during the draft and didn’t do a ton of homework beforehand. I found Cignetti and was confused why nobody was talking about this guy. I didn’t see the reason until right before I drafted. I’ll get to that later.

I’m a sucker for a guy that has performed great as a head coach, and Cignetti is that. He was solid at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in D2 for 6 seasons. Then Curt became a head coach at Elon (FCS) in 2017 following a 2-9 season. In his first year they went 8-4, finished ranked #20, and made the playoffs. This was easily their best season since 1999. In his second season, they took a step back but made the playoffs again. He then moved to one of the FCS powerhouses, James Madison. He didn’t have to rebuild James Madison, but he certainly kept them at their top level. In his first three seasons with the Dukes, they’ve made the final one season and the semifinals the other two, losing to the champions each time. They finished in the top 3 in the rankings each year. He’s just missing a championship.

He’s not just a lower-level guy either. He coached at NC State and then Alabama under Nick Saban.

But, and I didn’t see this immediately, he is 61. It’s unlikely that GT would bring in a 61-year old, no matter how qualified. And at 61 he might not even come. James Madison is moving up to FBS as well. At his age he could choose to oversee JMU’s transition and become a legend there if it goes well instead of trying to initiate a rebuild that he might not be around to enjoy much of the results.

In retrospect I flubbed this pick a bit. If he was 5 or 10 years younger then I think he would have been a great pick. I still wouldn’t be mad if Tech did decide to bring him in, I just think it’s unlikely.

11. Robert: Jeff Traylor, HC at UTSA

Continuing our theme of program builders, we turn to Meep Meep nation. Traylor was third on my big board (behind Chadwell and Clark), so I’m happy to get him with the 11th pick. The Roadrunners won 7 games combined in Frank Wilson’s final two seasons; Traylor matched that total in his first season on the job and then exploded for a 12 win season in 2021. In our twenty year dataset of head coach impact, Traylor comes in at a solid 24th in Net PPA/play gain. For context, that’s the same level of positive impact that Chris Petersen had at Washington.

The finances on this one do make it a lower probability, but I believe that UTSA has absolutely maxed out its potential outlay with the extension they gave Traylor at the end of 2021. He is owed an average of $2.8 million/year, which is probably about $1 million/year less than what GT will realistically pay its next coach. Traylor’s contract runs through 2031, but the buyout to get him away from UTSA is only a fraction of that total contract value, currently about $7 million. This would be at the very top end of what GT could feasibly pay in a coaching transition, but Traylor’s work so far says he just might be worth it.

12. Joey: Scott Frost, HC at Nebraska

I know, I know. “But Joey, he’s a sitting Power-5 head coach for a school that has WAY more money than Georgia Tech, and he’s 15-29 (10-25) in four years there! That’s a terrible pick!” You’re probably right, but hear me out on this.

Put to a vote, the staff agreed that Frost is eligible given the likelihood that he gets fired this year. Obviously if Nebraska goes 8-4, he won’t be fired, and this won’t even be an option by November.

This is a hypothetical draft though, so let’s say Nebraska hypothetically goes 4-8 or 5-7 this year. In that case, Frost would very likely be fired, would have finished his tenure at Nebraska with a winning percentage below .350, and would be in need of a rebound somewhere.

”So Joey, why should Georgia Tech consider hiring a coach coming off of such an underwhelming tenure?”

My opinion here is that Frost’s struggles are more Nebraska-related, not as much Frost-related. The Nebraska program has a long, proud history and three national titles since Georgia Tech’s most recent one. That success has completely vanished for the Cornhuskers since moving to the Big Ten, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Nebraska built some of their best teams historically by recruiting talent from Texas and Oklahoma, at least somewhat with the pitch of “we play several games in your home state each year”. That’s no longer true, and combining that downgrade with an upgrade in competition has led to sub-.500 finishes in 6 of the last 7 years.

Frost is a very capable schemer and coach, as we’ve seen when he was the OC who took Oregon to the National Championship Game in 2014, through his tenure at UCF that culminated with a Peach Bowl victory and National Championship* for the Knights.

* - citation needed

As head coach of an ACC program, Frost would be able to compile an average-at-worst roster using connections from his prior tenure in Florida, and would deploy an offense that could give opposing defenses fits as it did for several years prior to his arrival in Lincoln. He’d be able to rehabilitate his image after a disappointing stint at Nebraska, showing that the guy who needed two years to take UCF from 0-12 to 13-0 hasn’t completely forgotten how to coach. If I were Georgia Tech’s AD, I’d be willing to take a chance that Frost is a really good coach in a really difficult situation, and that my athletic department would be a better situation for him to get back to winning.

13. Carter: Gus Malzahn, HC at UCF

Between the Gailey and Collins years I believe we’ve collected enough data points to determine a pro-style offense (or “NFL pro-style spread”, as Collins has been calling it) is not an optimal option for Georgia Tech football now or going forward. The Yellow Jackets should look to adopt a spread style offense instead. (Or re-adopt it, depending on one’s perspective.) Not only is Malzahn the best available option to do so now, he was during the Paul Johnson years as well, and I distinctly recall several people clamoring for Georgia Tech to replace Johnson with him, ignoring the fact there is no way, in the twenty-first century, that Georgia Tech would be able to hire a head football coach away from Auburn, of all places. He is now at UCF after being fired at Auburn for very Auburn-y reasons, and being there makes him much more eligible to be picked up by Tech than he was before.

Malzahn’s resume should speak for itself, but for those unfamiliar, here’s a quick rundown:

  • an offense finishing first in the nation in YPG twice while OC at Tulsa
  • an offense finishing second in the nation in scoring and having the second highest coring offense in the history of major college football, also while OC at Tulsa
  • an offense leading the SEC in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency, first downs and third down conversions while OC at Auburn in 2010
  • a Broyles Award (honoring the best assistant coach in college football), also in 2010
  • several national coach of the year awards in 2013
  • a BCS title berth, also in 2013
  • an 86-42 record coaching across P5 and G5 programs

Despite what I said above, hiring Malzahn away from UCF wouldn’t be a slam dunk. Geoff Collins doesn’t make that much more than Malzahn at the moment — a little more than $3M for Collins vs. around $2.3M for Malzahn, according to the latest figures. The Knights have a very large, very loyal fanbase, and the school would fight tooth and nail to keep him. Plus, let’s be honest: UCF, presently, is a better program than Georgia Tech, and they’re trending upward, with a move to the Big 12 imminent. There’s a decent chance Malzahn would decline any overtures from Georgia Tech. But that’s no reason not to try.

14. Kieffer: Sean Lewis, HC at Kent State

Lewis is beginning a strong legacy of program building at Kent State, taking a 2 win team and reaching the MAC championship in his 3rd full season. The 7-7 record in 2021 may be underwhelming, but 3 of those losses were against Power 5 teams, one was the MAC Championship game, and 1 was the Bowl. Most losses were against strong competition. His time as OC at Syracuse was not the best, but his fantastic 2015 Bowling Green offense (6.7 YPP and almost 550 YPG) helped Dino Babers get the Syracuse job. Lewis is young and is an up and comer who is focused on the coaching aspect of the game. He’s built a program before age 40, and he’s a steal this late in the draft.

Round 3

Things might get a little wonky.

15. Kieffer: Tom Manning, OC at Iowa State

With the field thinning a bit at this junction I take a gamble on a coach who has no head coaching experience, but has experience with a wildly successful coaching staff. Georgia Tech can’t get Matt Campbell, but they can poach from his staff. Manning has been Cambell’s OC every year at Iowa State except 1. That one year Iowa State’s offense was the worst it’s been in the entire Campbell era. Since Manning returned to ISU in 2019 the offense has steadily improved. Being at Iowa State, Manning has experience doing more with less, and Campbell has trusted him every step of the way. It’d be great if he could get some HC experience in the lower levels, but in the 3rd round of this draft I’m willing to take some risk.

16. Carter: Lance Leipold, HC at Kansas

Being successful — even immensely, absurdly successful — at one level of football in no way means you’ll be immensely successful at another. But Lance Leipold, progenitor of the D-III dynasty that was Wisconsin-Whitewater (six national championships and one additional championship appearance in eight years, natch), jumped all the way up to D-I in 2015 to coach Buffalo, and his results there could certainly have been worse. Leipold finished his stint there with three straight winning seasons — something the Bulls haven’t done since restarting the program in 1977. He was 2-10 last year in his first year at Kansas.... but I’m willing to overlook that on account of it being, you know, Kansas. Something else Georgia Tech should be willing to overlook should they court Leipold is his salary. He got a major pay bump going to Kansas: from $625k to $2.8M, which isn’t too much under what Geoff Collins currently makes. But to reiterate an earlier point: if Georgia Tech can’t hire a coach away from Kansas, it has bigger problems. A hire like Leipold wouldn’t be without risks — outside of last year, he’s never coached at the P5 level, and none of the places he’s coached are anywhere near the southeast. But I’m willing to accept those risks for a third round pick.

17. Joey: Tom Herman, Cashing Them Checks

I’m not going to lie, part of this pick is for the sake of shock value, and the way that you just tilted your head when you realized how quickly you had completely forgotten this name as it relates to coaching college football.

Similar to Frost, Herman’s reputation took a bit of a tumble during his disappointing tenure at Texas, particularly after being the “hottest name in coaching” in his two years at Houston. That said, for as much as the media portrayed him as a disappointment in Austin, do you remember what his final record was in four years there before being fired?

Herman went 32-18 (22-13) in his time at Texas, including a 25-12 (17-9) stretch and finishing each season ranked in his final 3 years after taking over for Charlie Strong. At a program like Texas, it’s easy to understand how that qualifies as disappointing, but that’s another program (similar to Nebraska) that also clearly has some built-in issues that not just anyone seems capable of solving.

Herman had very successful tenures as an offensive coordinator at Iowa State and Ohio State, culminating with the 2014 National Championship win before he left to be Houston’s head coach. His first Houston team went 13-1, winning the Peach Bowl and finishing with a top-10 ranking. He’s 54-22 overall as a head coach and has overseen some impressive offenses over the past decade, not to mention that he has recruited very well historically going back to his days as a coordinator.

Similar to Mullen, Herman has a bit of an abrasive personality that won’t necessarily make him lots of friends within the athletic department, and his arrogance can even be a turnoff to the local fan base. It’s also worth mentioning that he has never coached within the southeast, meaning his connections with local high school coaches are limited.

Underneath it all, though, Herman was considered a hotshot, up-and-coming coach a few years ago for a good reason, and his track record as a head coach illustrates why. He’s unemployed for the time being and should be reasonably affordable. If I were Georgia Tech’s AD, this would feel like a hire that’s worth the risks, and one I would expect to pay dividends on the field in short order.

18. Robert: Alex Atkins, OC at FSU

Atkins might not be on the top of many P5 coaching lists right now, but this is a bet that he will be within the next 6 months. He’s only 37 years old but has shown enough to quickly rise up the ranks of the coaching world from OL Coach at Itawamba Community College to OC at Florida State. There’s certainly less data to evaluate with Atkins because of his relatively brief career compared to many of the other candidates we have considered. However, a few highlights jumped out at me and led me to think Georgia Tech could do well by scooping him up before his profile explodes.

Atkins got my attention as I looked at impact metrics for offensive coordinators. Out of 821 different OCs, Atkins put up the 24th best improvement for offensive PPA/play while serving as OC at Charlotte. They have seriously regressed after his departure as well. At FSU, Atkins was brought in to bring the offensive line group back from the dead. Looking at one of the solid metrics we have to evaluate OL play, he has brought significant improvements to the run stuff rate for the ‘Noles, and obviously has shown enough to earn a promotion to offensive coordinator for 2022. In the most recent recruiting cycle, 247 Sports rated him as the third best individual recruiter in all of the ACC.

Georgia Tech could get ahead of the curve by grabbing Atkins after a 2022 season that could see his stock rise significantly. Moreover, he would be the first black head coach in GT football history, which feels long overdue and could lead to more resonance for the program within the city of Atlanta itself.

19. Drew: Willie Simmons, HC at Florida A&M University

Alright, here we go with a true wildcard. Like my previous pick, Willie has success as head coach at 2 FCS schools. Unlike my previous pick he doesn’t qualify for the senior discount at Applebee’s.

Willie Simmons started as the head coach of Prairie View A&M. This HBCU had been mediocre for years (decades really) before Willie came to town. In his first season they went 9-2, tying their most wins since 1964. His second saw them go 7-4 (with 2 losses to FBS teams). He had them on an upward trajectory, but decided to leave for Florida A&M.

The Rattlers had been one of the powerhouses of the HBCU football world, but had fallen on hard times. Simmons once again turned them around immediately. His first season was modestly successful finishing at 6-5. Then things kept getting better. His second season they finished 9-2 (with one loss to an FBS team) and finished ranked in the top-25. If they didn’t have a postseason ban they likely would have won the MEAC and participated in the Celebration Bowl (the HBCU national title) . They took off the 2020 season due to Covid. In 2021 they joined a new conference (the SWAC) and took up right where they left off. They went 9-2 in the regular season (losing one to an FBS team) and finished ranked in the top-25 again. The Rattlers didn’t make the Celebration Bowl, but got a hell of a consolation prize. They became the first SWAC team to make the FCS playoffs since the SWAC gave up their autobid in 1999*.

He has a lot of success as a head coach, he’s young (42), and has FBS assistant experience. With HBCU football improving in both actuality and perception I really think that Georgia Tech should take a look at one of the most successful coaches here (even if he’s not Deion Sanders). I think there’s a good chance that Simmons is coaching at the FBS level or even P5 level soon. If GT has an opening, Willie should be on the list.

Also if you think his name sounds familiar, you might be remembering him as the starting quarterback at Clemson in 2002. He threw 18-31 for 176 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception in a win against the Yellow Jackets.

*The SWAC has had a complicated relationship with postseason football and the FCS playoffs. It’s possible that a team would have made the playoffs, but declined the offer, but I can’t find any teams that likely would have been invited except for Jackson State this season.

20. Nishant: Josh Gattis, OC at Miami (FL)

Truthfully, if I had a mulligan on this draft, I may very well have taken Gattis at 9. He’s a fascinating candidate and would absolutely have been near the top of my board if I had done anything resembling proper research.

Gattis is entering his first season running the offense at Miami after a three-year stint at Michigan, which culminated with him winning the 2021 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach for the playoff-bound Wolverines. His offense relied heavily on a bruising power run game led by Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, and a limited sample size suggests a willingness to adapt to lean on his team’s strengths. It’s unclear why exactly he made what appears to be a lateral move to Miami, but fallout from Jim Harbaugh’s flirtation with the Minnesota Vikings is a likely culprit, and Gattis almost certainly received a raise—which is significant, because his salary at Michigan was $900,000 and he’s now likely well into seven figures with the Hurricanes.

Apart from his new job, Gattis has some interesting ACC ties. He grew up in North Carolina and played safety for Wake Forest in the mid-2000’s, and he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UNC. And before he departed for Miami, he was reportedly a candidate for the head coaching job at Virginia.

As with Mike Houston, the challenge is likely to be finances. Tech may be able to outduel Virginia in a bidding war, but if Gattis is able to lead Tyler Van Dyke and the Miami offense to significant success in 2021, he’s likely to have far more lucrative offers on the table. Still, he’s not definitively outside Tech’s range and would absolutely be worth pursuing in the event that Tech has an opening.

21. Jake: Willie Fritz, HC at Tulane

I won’t say I got peer-pressured into this one, but I certainly was on the fence about Fritz. I want to like his teams and his results, but there’s just something that hasn’t quite clicked, at least at his Tulane stop. It is easy to look at the records and go, “nope, next.” But, as I voiced this in the FTRS Slack room, that it just didn’t seem to click enough, despite liking other results at his other stops - he was FCS runner-up twice with Sam Houston and won a Sun Belt title with Georgia Southern - and being a fan of his dynamic scheme, it was brought to my attention just how unlucky Fritz and his teams have been, particularly of late.

Yes, Tulane went 2-10 last year. Half of those losses, though, were one score affairs, and those came increasingly late in the season. Courtesy of Robert, it was also noted that both of his last two head coaching stops have seen a productive net Expected Points Added impact relative to his FBS peers, placing 8th and 55th in Net EPA impact out of 364 qualified candidates.

It would not be a stretch to say that Fritz would be at his highest profile gig yet, if hired, but the relative direct success he has imparted on his teams, combined with at least some past experience with the state given his time in Statesboro, seal the deal for me. Also, my draft board has long since been exhausted, so this is about all I need to push Fritz to the top.

Meme Round

22. Jake: Hologram John Heisman, Noted College Football Pioneer and Amateur Shakespearean Actor

I honestly didn’t realize until right now that From the Rumble Seat never actually released the Potential CPJ Replacements: Hologram John Heisman article, given that it was supposed to be published about an hour after it was announced Geoff Collins was the man for the job. Seeing as Akshay and I reference this a lot on the podcast, there’s no time like the present to bring back the greatest coach in Tech history, the man who invented half of the rules of modern football, and I N N O V A T E in the process.


The one name everyone is forgetting might be the best of them all. That’s right.

John mother-[Foreigner] Heisman.

“But how?” you might ask. “John Heisman’s been dead since 1936. How can we get him to coach our football team?”

Well, do I have news for you. Some crazy nerd science people The Institute’s School of Interactive Computing recently developed a new form of artificial intelligence like Halo’s Cortana that can walk and talk just like a human being. Unfortunately, its developers have kept the project super hush-hush and only trained the AI on STEM topics, hoping it would one day help solve the world’s most pressing issues.

But rumor has it that intrepid FTRS historian Jake Grant stumbled into the Interactive Computing lab a few months ago mistaking it for an ordinary computer lab and rushing to meet an urgent deadline on a John Heisman edition of Rearview Mirror. As he feverishly typed away on an innocent-looking computer screen — describing the daring exploits and the incredible successes of Georgia Tech’s most famous football coach — his words were not only published to the Internet for your public consumption and entertainment. No, they were put to use for a much greater cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you — hologram John Heisman.

Hologram Heisman in the flesh-err, display
Images courtesy of RamblinWreck.com and Georgia Tech Archives

Coaching History

  • Lifetime record: 186–70–18 (1917 National Champions; 1900, 1902–1903, 1915–1918 SIAA Champions)
  • 1892, 1894: Oberlin College (11-3-1)
  • 1893: Buchtel College (5-2)
  • 1895-1899: Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn) (12-4-2)
  • 1900-1903: Clemson University (19-3-2)
  • 1904-1919: Georgia School of Technology (102-29-7)
  • 1920-1922: University of Pennsylvania (16-10-2)
  • 1923: Washington and Jefferson College (7-1-1)
  • 1924-1927: Rice University (14–18–3)

Positives

  • Talk about an exciting hire. The dude is a hologram!
  • Innovation in the program? You got it! A pixel-perfect recreation of a historic figure in a hologram is one heck of an example of innovation.
  • You want explosive offense? This man blew out Cumberland 222-0.
  • You want stalwart defense? This man held Cumberland to 0 points in a 222-0 victory.
  • You want to beat the school out east? He went 7-4-1 to them.
  • You want a coach that will bring energy to the program? This man is (literally) pure energy.
  • You want a coach that will bring recruits to the Flats? This man not only helped built the Flats; he’s so well classically trained in Shakespeare he used to give rousing dramatic pregame speeches. Imagine hearing one of those in your living room as a recruit.
  • You don’t have to pay him a salary! The Institute already owns the intellectual property rights to his invention.

Negatives

Literally none. We may have to have an athletics staffer carry a battery and charging cable around to keep Coach Heisman online, but that’s about it.

Conclusion

John Heisman was Georgia Tech’s most successful football coach. He dominated the Southeast and the nation with his sharp football mind and tenacious ferocity for the sport. Early in this process, athletic director Todd Stansbury emphasized that he wanted to hire someone who understood the unique challenges that Georgia Tech faces and had a penchant for being an innovator. Given that, this hire is a no-brainer: we must do our duty and install hologram John Heisman as our football coach — only then can Georgia Tech reign supreme over the college football world.


23. Nishant:

“To the fans and everybody in Yellow Jacket Nation, I’m sorry, extremely sorry. We were hoping for a four-win season. That was my goal, something Georgia Tech’s never done since we ran the Satan’s Unholy Trinity offense. But I promise you one thing: a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any coach in the entire country coach as hard as I will coach the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. Dodd bless.”

Sincerely, Tim Tebow, former New York Mets minor league prospect

24. Drew: Steve Spurrier, on a golf course near you

Unable to resist the chance to humble the team from Athens one more time, Steve Spurrier comes out of retirement to take over the Yellow Jackets. The Old Ball Coach is tired of the studio and wants to bring his unique brand of visor-throwing, quick-quipping coaching to the Flats.

25: Robert: Brian VanGorder, HC of the American Heritage School

Why would GT be all over BVG?We all know how well it worked out the last time GT hired someone whose defense had recently been bowled over by the spread option, so we’re going to run that one back. Plus, we saw what he did for a rebuilding Georgia Southern who had transitioned away from the Triple in 2006, and now he gets that chance in Atlanta. Why would BVG undo his college coaching retirement? VanGorder just hasn’t been able to put 2018 behind him; he’s desperate for redemption. Georgia Tech gives him that shot.

26: Joey: Ken Whisenhunt, Former OC of the LA/SD Chargers

If there’s one thing we know about Whisenhunt, it’s that he’s a TECH MAN through-and-through. I can’t confirm that he’s been to a college football game since he left Vanderbilt for the NFL in 1996, but he was at Georgia Tech in the first half of the 1980s, so my man clearly knows what it takes to coach here in the 2020s. He ran what can only be labeled as “offenses” in the NFL, as he called pass plays, run plays, and occasionally even scored points! His Wikipedia tells me he’s been unemployed since being fired by the Chargers in 2019, but that just means he’s had plenty of time to rest up before getting back to recruiting for the first time in 25 years. When in doubt, always hire a TECH MAN.

(Obviously, this is a joke. Nothing against Whisenhunt, who has represented Georgia Tech well through his long tenure as an NFL player and coach over the past 35+ years. It’s just that his resume contains very little that leads me to believe he’s got what it takes to be a successful college head coach in 2023. Clearly, no Athletic Director worth his salt would pursue and hire Whisenhunt to be a college head coach at this point.)

(....let’s just ignore that it almost happened a few years ago.)

27. Carter: Qinu, Beluga Whale, Georgia Aquarium

We’ve long been searching for our white whale coach at Georgia Tech, so let’s just save ourselves a lot of time and heartache and hire an actual beluga whale. Qinu is one of several nearby at the Georgia Aquarium, so that’s already a lot of time and money saved on an expensive coaching search Georgia Tech won’t need to have. As Qinu communicates via echolocation, communication issues would be a problem at the start - but this is understandable, and we could count on this to improve over time. Plus, no one could ever steal Georgia Tech’s play calls.

You can count on Qinu never showing emotion on the sideline, as long as no one is waving a giant salmon around them. Other than that, nothing gets to them. Imagine being an opposing coach trying to figure out what Qinu is thinking when it just has this look the entire game? Infuriating. Salary is not an issue as Qinu has no concept of money; Georgia Tech simply needs to pay for enough fish to feed it and whatever loan fee the aquarium demands. It won’t be in the seven figures, that’s for sure. Recruiting poses a potential issue as Qinu cannot make in-home visits, but “come to Georgia Tech and be coached by a giant whale” sounds like one hell of a recruiting pitch to me.

In conclusion, #whalecoach4GT. Thank you.

28. Kieffer: Ted Roof, DC at Oklahoma

Only a TECH MAN can get us out of this mess, and who better than Ted Roof? He’s at Oklahoma, and all the hot programs are poaching from Oklahoma. Ted has head coaching experience and won a NATIONAL TITLE at Auburn based on his defense and definitely not the QB. He was the DC on Paul Johnson’s BEST team, and that also was not due to the offense at all. Hire the man.

Round Five: Staff Special

There was one name that just kept coming up; everyone wanted to pick him. No, not Saban, not Swinney, not Riley, not Day.

All those bowl games, wins, and otherwise competitive games don’t seem so bad now, do they?

Get this man out of retirement.

Concluding the Draft

Who’d everybody pick, who would everybody have picked first, and who has our favorite draft class?

Final Mock Draft Results

Round Kieffer Carter Joey Robert Drew Nishant Jake
Round Kieffer Carter Joey Robert Drew Nishant Jake
Coach Coach Coach Coach Coach Coach Coach
1 Jamey Chadwell Brian Bohannon Dan Mullen Bill Clark Tyson Helton Mike Houston Kane Wommack
2 Sean Lewis Gus Malzahn Scott Frost Jeff Traylor Curt Cignetti Jeff Monken Tashard Choice
3 Tom Manning Lance Leipold Tom Herman Alex Atkins Willie Simmons Josh Gattis Willie Fritz
MEMES Ted Roof Qinu Ken Whisenhunt Brian Van Gorder Steve Spurrier Tim Tebow Hologram John Heisman
First Choice Jamey Chadwell Jamey Chadwell Dan Mullen Jamey Chadwell Bill Clark Jamey Chadwell Jamey Chadwell
Best Staff Pick Robert Joey Nishant Kieffer Robert Kieffer Carter

With two votes each, Robert and Kieffer had to go to a tiebreaker; whose meme pick won the day?

Joey: BVG

Jake: ROOF

Carter: ROOF

So there it is. A draft for a position that isn’t open. Who’s your number one pick?