June 5, 2010

Which assistants are ready to move up?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a topic in the sport. We will have two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Which current college assistant are you confident will have a head-coaching job next season at an FBS school?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Everywhere Gus Malzahn goes, the offense excels. Last season at Auburn, he took over a unit that ranked 104th in total offense and averaged just 17.3 points per game in 2008. Under Malzahn's direction, the Tigers almost doubled their scoring output (33.3 ppg) and ranked 16th in total offense. He directed successful offenses at Tulsa, too. Any program in need of a new coach with an offensive background would have to be interested in Malzahn, especially if Auburn has another good season offensively. I think the Tigers will.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I think the time finally will come for Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson to score a head-coaching job. He has come close in the past, particularly when the Mississippi State job opened after the 2008 season. Wilson has proven to be an innovative mind who has built some of the nation's most prolific attacks during his run in Norman, which began in 2002. Wilson won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant in 2008, when his offense set NCAA records by scoring at least 60 points in five consecutive games and 716 for the season. Before joining Bob Stoops, Wilson was the architect of some high-flying Northwestern offenses. The guy can coach, and his time will come.

David Fox's answer:
Alabama's coordinators probably will get looks once again, but I'm going to pick a candidate who might be under the radar. North Carolina is poised for a breakout season, with most of the credit going to the defense. Coordinator Everett Withers isn't the best recruiter on the staff (those honors would go to Sam Pittman and John Blake), but Withers has a resume to impress athletic directors. He spent five seasons with the Tennessee Titans and three at Texas, so he knows how to work under the microscope. Withers has worked for Mack Brown, Jeff Fisher and now Butch Davis, so he will have some quality references. If North Carolina has the big season many are expecting, Withers should be a candidate for at least a Conference USA job or perhaps a few more high-profile destinations.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
All things being equal, I think athletic directors would prefer to hire offense-minded guys as head coaches over defense-minded guys. That's why I think Auburn's Gus Malzahn will be a head coach next year at this time. Malzahn has done good work at Arkansas, Tulsa and Auburn as a coordinator after a sterling high school head-coaching run in Arkansas. His offenses are innovative and productive; he also has an SEC pedigree, which I think appeals to a lot of athletic directors.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn figures to get a head-coaching opportunity. His record shows he can put together prolific offenses that can either focus on the run or the pass. In his lone season as Arkansas' offensive coordinator, the Razorbacks ranked fourth in the nation in rushing and won the SEC Western Division title. His 2008 Tulsa offense ranked in the top 10 in the nation in rushing and passing while averaging 47.2 points per game. And he may have done his best work last season at Auburn, as the Tigers averaged nearly twice as many points as they had a year earlier. Auburn ranked 17th in the nation in scoring last season after placing 111th in that category the year before his arrival. Malzahn already has plenty of successful head-coaching experience at the high school level, where he won three Arkansas state titles and reached the state championship game four other times in 14 seasons. It's only a matter of time before he takes over a college program.



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