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Let’s Talk About Candidates

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Let’s look at some of the prospective candidates!

Georgia v Georgia Tech
Geoff doing the Gator Chomp = Dan Mullen to Georgia Tech confirmed!
Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images

In case you missed it, Georgia Tech announced that it had dismissed Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach Dave Patenaude, Co-Defensive Coordinator/S Coach Nate Burton, and Special Teams Coordinator/CB Coach Jeff Popovich, this past weekend. As you can expect, people (the FTRS staff included) started speculating about who Tech would hire/who they wanted Tech to hire, so I wanted to take some time and take a look at some of these candidates.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be looking at the offensive and defensive coordinator positions. While it appears that Andrew Thacker will stay on staff for the time being, there have been several rumors that it will be in a reduced role, so I anticipate someone else will be carrying the defensive coordinator moniker next season.

Now, let’s get to it!

Promote from within?

Running Backs Coach Tashard Choice

Ben: Of the guys on staff, I think Choice is the only one that I would even consider promoting. I think Choice has done an excellent job coaching up the running backs and on the recruiting trail. Ideally, I would like to bring in someone who is not on staff, just to get some fresh blood. But if for some reason, Georgia Tech has to promote from within, this is the only one they should promote.

Robert: Choice doesn’t have play-calling experience, but his position group seems the most prepared and best at execution week in and week out. It would probably necessitate a Jeff Scott/Tony Elliott type relationship for Choice to move into this role so soon, but I think he has the potential for it.

Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Brent Key

Ben: Travel back in time with me, won’t you? The year is 2015, and after three years of being nominated for the Broyles Award at UCF, Brent Key is promoted to offensive coordinator. The future looks bright for UCF! And then in 2015, all hell broke loose. UCF’s offense fumbled its way through the schedule, winning 0 games and scoring more than 16 points just twice. George O’Leary unceremoniously retired and nobody on staff was retained. I think I’ll pass.

Robert: “Most prepared and best at execution” does not describe Coach Key’s position group.

Defensive Ends Coach Marco Coleman

Ben: On the defensive side of the ball, things were not great, but the defensive ends, for whom Coleman is responsible, were arguably the best unit. If nothing else, they have a lot of potential. I don’t think I’m ready to hand Coleman the keys to the defense at this point, though. Could he do a good job? Maybe, but he’s still a pretty young coach. This coming season will just be his fifth season of coaching.

Robert: This is similar to Choice in a lot of ways. Again, the defensive ends (namely, Domineck and Ivey) were probably the most consistent position on this side of the ball. Coleman has extensive playing experience, time on an NFL staff, solid wins as a recruiter, and a developing track record of developing players. But there’s probably not enough here to merit a Coordinator position, yet.

The Good Ol’ Boys (Georgia Tech alumni)

Miami Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach George Godsey

Ben: Any time coaching changes are talked about, people always bring up George Godsey, and for the life of me, I don’t know why. Well, I do, and it’s because he’s a Georgia Tech alum, but that is the only reason. Since the New England Patriots hired him in 2011, Godsey has been in the NFL. And I wouldn’t really say he’s done an absolutely superb job. I don’t think he’s a bad coach, but I don’t see why he would drop his dreams of coaching in the NFL to come coach here. Also, if he wasn’t a Tech alum, nobody would even think about hiring him. And that should tell you something.

Robert: The Dolphins had a terrible start to the year, but Tua is actually up to 8th in the NFL in QBR and seems to be actually developing. Quarterback development has to be at the very top of the list for any potential OC for Georgia Tech, and Godsey does seem to be showing some evidence of that. But...why in the world would he come back?

Ohio State Quarterbacks Coach Corey Dennis

Ben: While I think this is more likely than Godsey, I’m kinda good without hiring a Tech alum for the sake of having a Tech alum. I wasn’t a fan of it when there was talk of Ken Whisenhunt getting the head coaching job, and I don’t really like it here. Sure, Dennis might do a good job, but would he be a legitimate candidate if he wasn’t a Tech alum? As of right now, Dennis has benefitted a lot from a good situation. He’s the QB coach for one of the best teams in the country that was already well-established by the time he got there. Personally, I would like to see him be an OC at an FCS or G5 school before giving him a real shot here.

Robert: Corey Dennis has coached a never-ending stream of 5 Star receivers and quarterbacks. More power to him! But I’m not sure how this translates to GT - either from an effectiveness nor attractiveness standpoint. Let’s be honest - the step down from OSU to GT is large.

Former Head Coaches looking for a new job

Former Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen

Ben: Now, we get into the fun ones! I think this might be one of the least likely options I’ve gone through so far, but I think it would be a lot of fun. We could conceivably get Mullen at a discount since he’s receiving a buyout from Florida. Unfortunately for us, I think Mullen is probably headed for another head coaching job. Further, although it’s not entirely clear, I don’t think he and Geoff Collins have the best relationship. When Collins left Mississippi State for Florida, Mullen talked about how Collins was making a lateral move, and it didn’t seem like he was super upset about the departure. So with that being said, I can’t imagine that Mullen would now want to come work for the guy.

If it happened, though, it’d be a lot of fun! Dan Mullen is a really good offensive coordinator. Florida’s problems were not its offense, as they regularly ranked in the top of the league. He also runs a more option-based spread offense that would suit the personnel that Tech has.

Robert: Dan Mullen will not work under Geoff Collins, of that I am confident. Could he be a darkhorse future HC at GT as a bounce back? That doesn’t seem impossible.

Former Troy Head Coach Chip Lindsey

Ben: Of the options I’ve gone into, I think this is the most likely one so far, or at least the one I would most like to see. Before being hired as Troy’s head coach, Lindsey served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Auburn under Gus Malzahn. At Southern Miss a few years before, Lindsey and the Southern Miss offense finished 12th in the nation in total offense. In his lone season at Arizona State, the team only won five games, but they finished by averaging 33 points a game and 11th in redzone offense (a place where Tech struggled mightily). It should also be noted that he has experience working at a high school in the area, as he served as the head coach of Lassiter High School in Marietta from 2008 to 2009.

Robert: Lindsey didn’t particularly work out as a head coach, but he does seem to have a promising track record on offense. My main hesitancy is the lack of proven QB development.

Former Texas Tech Head Coach Matt Wells

Ben: This is a name that actually caught me a little off guard when I saw it, just because I didn’t really expect it. While he was at Utah State, the offense was pretty up and down, and it was about the same at Texas Tech, though it seems like a lot of Texas Tech fans were pretty happy to be rid of Wells. I think my main issue with Wells is that I don’t know that he’s a great offensive coordinator. He might do fine, but with the inconsistencies that varied with his coordinators, it seems like he wasn’t the guy calling the shots on offense, so I don’t know that he would succeed in that role at this point.

Rober: No thanks.

Former Washington Head Coach Jimmy Lake

Ben: I’m gonna go ahead and say my main issue here is the baggage. Lake was fired from Washington this past season after shoving a player during the team’s loss to Oregon. If you take away the baggage, this would probably be one of the best hires you could make. Lake was an excellent defensive coordinator at Boise State and Washington.

Robert: Seriously, no thanks. That baggage is heavy.

The Best of FCS and G5

Coastal Carolina Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Willy Korn

Ben: Coastal Carolina has been known recently for their high-powered offense, and Willy Korn is the guy behind it. Some could argue that Jamey Chadwell is the reason for the Chanticleer’s success on offense, and I think that’s a valid point. Chadwell took over as the offensive coordinator in 2017 before being named the head coach in 2019. Korn worked with the wide receivers before Chadwell’s promotion but has been with Chadwell for pretty much his entire career. I think this could be a successful hire, but it would be far from a sure one.

Robert: This is my favorite option. Grayson McCall became an excellent quarterback under Chadwell and Korn. CCU put up some of the absolute best efficiency and explosiveness numbers the past two years, even as McCall missed some time this year with injury. I’ve also heard Willy Korn do some pretty in-depth talking about offensive strategy with Seth Galina and Diante Lee on the Two High Podcast, and he knows his stuff. I’d do this in a heartbeat.

Western Kentucky Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Zach Kittley

Ben: Kittley is another young up-and-coming offensive coordinator who just finished up his first season at the FBS level. Prior to coming to Western Kentucky, Kittley served in the same position at Houston Baptist, where he developed a high-powered air raid offense. When he came to Western Kentucky, he brought quarterback Bailey Zappe and a couple receivers with him, which helped set up the Hilltoppers’ offense to be really good this season. While, I would love to see Tech run something akin to an air raid offense, I don’t think the personnel is there right now, unless Kittley is able to get a legit quarterback in the room to help boost the offense. It also doesn’t help that Tech’s strength on offense is in its running game, which doesn’t bode well for an air raid offense.

Eastern Washington Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Ian Shoemaker

Ben: I think Shoemaker is a bit of a wildcard. He’s a lesser known name, but his offense at Eastern Washington was incredibly successful. He’s also developed quarterback Eric Barriere into one of the best quarterbacks in FCS. In 2019, Barriere threw just four interceptions in 438 attempts (0.009 interceptions per pass). In addition, Shoemaker’s offense isn’t necessarily lacking in rushing. They averaged 162 rushing yards a game, and their leading rusher at 14 touchdowns. What is a bit odd, though, is that he resigned following EWU’s two losses this season, with the only reason given being a “personnel issue.” It seems like an odd situation, but from what I saw, I liked what he brought to EWU’s offense.

SMU Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Garrett Riley

Ben: The younger brother of Oklahoma USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley, Garrett Riley helped Shane Buechele find new life, passing for a hair over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in the Covid-shortened 2020 season. This year, Tanner Mordecai did a more-than-admirable job taking over the QB job, passing for 3,600 yards and 39 touchdowns. I personally don’t see this happening since SMU Head Coach Sonny Dykes just accepted the job at TCU and will likely bring Riley with him, if his older brother doesn’t call on him to join him in LA.

Kent State Offensive Coordinator Andrew Sowder

Ben: While Kent State as a whole hasn’t been terrific this year, the offense was certainly not at fault. Sowder’s offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Dustin Crum, averaged 33 points per game, and they had two players score more than 11 touchdowns on the ground. Given Tech’s personnel, I like that Sowder has had success in the running game. Crum was also pretty efficient passing the ball (65 percent completion), though he isn’t going to blow anyone away.

Appalachian State Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Frank Ponce

Ben: In his second stint with App State, Ponce hasn’t missed a beat. He reinvigorated Chase Brice’s career and helped him put together a solid season to bolster the Mountaineer’s strong rushing attack. Running backs Nate Noel and Camerun Peoples combined for 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground this year. In between stints at App State, Ponce joined Scott Satterfield’s staff at Louisville as the quarterbacks coach and helped Malik Cunningham put together a particularly efficient season in 2019, where he averaged 11.5 yards per attempt.

Robert: David Cutcliffe is known as a quarterback whisperer, but Ponce developed Chase Brice in a way that Cutcliffe couldn’t touch. I watched App State several times in weeknight action this year and consistently came away impressed. Nate Woody didn’t get much time at GT to prove himself, but this would be another hire off of the App tree that I like.

Nevada Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Matt Mumme

Ben: If the last name Mumme sounds familiar, it should. Matt Mumme is the son of the father of the air raid offense, Hal Mumme. Does that make them brothers? Anyway, Mumme the younger has put together quite the formidable offense at Nevada. Quarterback Carson Strong has become one of the most revered quarterbacks in the Mountain West. He’s an air raid guy through and through, so the running game isn’t as much of a focus.

Robert: This one is compelling to me but would require some significant personnel changes at QB and WR to be viable. The Nevada offense is fantastic, but we don’t have the slinger for it right now.

Cincinnati Defensive Analyst Jon Tenuta

Ben: This is another name that people always bring up whenever there’s a coaching search. He was successful 14 years ago, so that means he can still be successful now, even though he hasn’t been remotely successful since.

Robet: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Liberty Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Scott Symons

Ben: Symons was part of Hugh Freeze’s initial staff to help Liberty transition to FBS, and they were immediately pretty solid. If nothing else, Symons’ defense has done a good job of limiting passes (6.7 yards per attempt) and rushes (3.5 yards per attempt). And at this point, pretty much anyone is an improvement.

Troy Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach Brandon Hall

Ben: Following Chip Lindsey’s dismissal as head coach at Troy, Brandon Hall took over at the helm. What I like about Hall is that he is a more experienced coach, having around 20 years of experience. I also liked this line from his bio on Troy’s website:

The Trojans improved 63 spots nationally in scoring defense from 2019 to 2020 and 38 spots in total defense. Troy led the country with four defensive scores and the Trojans finished the season ranked as the nation’s No. 15 defense per PFF. Troy ended the season holding four of its final six opponents to 20 points of fewer.

That kind of improvement is exactly what Tech needs.

Robert: I’m not familiar with Hall, but I sure like the sound of the numbers Ben shared. “Improvement” is not a word that could describe much of anything around these parts recently. An experienced, proven builder who even has the management experience that comes from being an interim sounds promising.

Coastal Carolina Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach Chad Staggs

Ben: When Georgia Tech hired Geoff Collins, we all thought we would be getting the Minister of Mayhem. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. The defense is particularly poor at causing any kind of havoc. You know who’s good at causing havoc though? Chad Staggs’ defense at Coastal Carolina. Check out this line from 2020:

In 2020, the Chants led the Sun Belt in fumble recoveries (9) and was second in interceptions (16), which also ranked third nationally. CCU led the Sun Belt in turnovers forced (25) and in turnover margin (+13), which both ranked among the nation’s best at the end of the 2020 season.

That’s all pretty good and would be a welcome addition to Georgia Tech’s defense. Unfortunately, this probably won’t happen as he has spent a large majority of his career with Chadwell. With Chadwell poised to take a better job this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Staggs follow him.

Robert: They’ve also taken quite a big step back this year on defense. I’m not sure that his underlying metrics really stand up.

Houston Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach Doug Belk

Ben: Speaking of havoc, Doug Belk is also really good at producing havoc-heavy defenses. A couple notes:

• The 2018 season saw Belk’s cornerbacks play a pivotal role in West Virginia ranking second in the Big 12 and No. 20 nationally with 15 interceptions. Cornerback Keith Washington Jr. tied for fifth in the Big 12 with three interceptions on the year.

• In Big 12 play, WVU hauled in 12 interceptions, ranking No. 1 in the conference

• The 2017 defense ranked No. 16 nationally in most defensive three-and-outs per game and No. 24 in best third-down defense.

If Tech wants Belk, though, they better hop on it. There is a report that new Florida coach Billy Napier is targeting Doug Belk as his new defensive coordinator.

Robert: Belk has his pick of jobs. He won’t be picking us, unfortunately.

Everyone Else

Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks Coach Doug Nussmeier

Ben: This was a name that I didn’t expect to see when I went searching for who fans were talking about. He’s got a host of experience as an offensive coordinator at the college level, having worked for Alabama, Washington, Florida and Fresno State. Now, however, Nussmeier is working for the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t follow the NFL much, but a quick Google search tells me that the Cowboys are in first in their division, so I don’t think they plan on firing anyone, and I don’t think Tech can compete with the salary for Nussmeier with the Cowboys.

Alabama Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach Charles Kelly

Ben: And bringing up the rear is another name that always gets brought up when a coaching search happens. It’s Charles Kelly. Since leaving Georgia Tech, Kelly has had his fair share of success, specifically at his current stop. Although, I imagine it is difficult not to be a good coach at Alabama at this point.

Conclusion

Ben: As I write this, news broke that Jahmyr Gibbs is entering his name in the transfer portal. With him and Jordan Mason both leaving (Mason walked at senior day), I think Tech still has a solid stable of running backs, but not the stable they would have had. With that being said, I’m talking myself into going full air raid next year. If Tech does that, they will need to bring in a quarterback to compete with Sims and Yates. Here is the list of my preferred coaches:

  1. Ian Shoemaker
  2. Zach Kittley
  3. Matt Mumme
  4. Chip Lindsey (this was my first choice before Gibbs’ announcement)
  5. Willy Korn

And now, on defense, here’s what I’d like to see:

  1. Doug Belk
  2. Chad Staggs
  3. Brandon Hall

Robert: Willy Korn or Frank Ponce on offense, and go get a QB from the portal. Brandon Hall on defense.