January 20, 2009

Whispers: Will Bellotti coach? Look to Spring

Many continue to speculate about whether Oregon offensive coordinator/coach-in-waiting Chip Kelly will take over the Ducks for the 2009 season.

Oregon's staff is experiencing some turnover, which is fueling speculation that Ducks coach Mike Bellotti will slide into the athletic director's chair sooner rather than later.

I am told the key indicator will be spring practice: If Bellotti still is coach during spring drills, then he will coach in the fall. So, if Kelly is going to take over in 2009, we should know by March.

Vols staff not full after all?
Word is that former Syracuse and Minnesota offensive coordinator Mitch Browning is weighing an offer to join Tennessee's staff.

The kicker: Browning would have to come on board as a graduate assistant because there are no full-time spots left.

Browning would be paid by Syracuse, which signed him to a multiyear deal when he came aboard before this past season.

For now, Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney doubles as the line coach. If the Vols can lure Browning, it would be a huge coup. He is a veteran line coach who built some powerful offenses at Minnesota under Glen Mason.

Minnesota still searching
East Carolina co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Todd Fitch has pulled out of the Minnesota offensive coordinator "race."

Jeff Horton, a former Nevada (1993) and UNLV head coach (1994-98) and Wisconsin assistant who spent the past three years as an offensive assistant with the St. Louis Rams, and Gunter Brewer, who was co-coordinator at Oklahoma State this past season, were targets but no longer are part of the process.

Dallas Cowboys tight ends coach John Garrett recently rejected an offer to be Minnesota's offensive coordinator. He is the brother of Jason Garrett, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator.

UM's Shannon to finish interviews
Miami coach Randy Shannon likely will wrap up his interviews for an offensive coordinator at the Senior Bowl this week.

It is believed he wants a coach with NFL experience who will emphasize the running game. Former Cleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer is among the candidates, as is Philadelphia Eagles offensive assistant Mark Whipple.

A few college coaches remain in the mix, including former San Diego State coach Chuck Long and former Kansas State boss Ron Prince. Prince also could end up with an NFL job. A possible destination: the Kansas City Chiefs.

UCLA, TCU could promote from within
Don't be shocked if UCLA promotes linebackers coach Chuck Bullough to defensive coordinator to take over for departed DeWayne Walker, who became coach at New Mexico State.

And it is looking likely that TCU coach Gary Patterson will promote someone from his staff to take over for departed offensive coordinator Mike Schultz, who took the OC job at Illinois. If TCU goes outside its staff, SMU offensive coordinator Rusty Burns could be the guy.

Numerous candidates at Alabama
Alabama is in the market for two assistants with Kevin Steele (Clemson) and Lance Thompson (Tennessee) gone. The Tide filled one spot when Sal Sunseri was hired from the Carolina Panthers to coach inside linebackers. Among the candidates for Thompson's outside linebacker spot are UCF linebacker coach Geoff Collins, New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Travis Jones and Alabama director of player development Jeremy Pruitt. Jones worked with Nick Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins, while Collins spent the 2007 season under Saban at Alabama in an off-field role as director of player personnel.

Long-shot targets are Iowa co-linebacker coach Eric Johnson and former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, another former Saban assistant.

Rodriguez continues his search
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez continues to scout for a defensive coordinator. Word is he has talked to former Syracuse coach Greg Robinson. Another possibility is Florida cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, who served two stints as a Michigan assistant under Lloyd Carr. Bedford also is a former Chicago Bears secondary coach and Oklahoma State defensive coordinator.

Auburn has one job left
Colorado offensive line coach Jeff Grimes will coach the O-line at Auburn under new coach Gene Chizik, leaving Chizik with one opening: secondary coach. Georgia State defensive coordinator John Thompson and UCF's Collins are said to be the top targets.

What will BC do?
If Boston College stays in-house to hire an offensive coordinator to replace Steve Logan, wide receivers coach Ryan Day or offensive line coach Jack Bicknell may be the guy. Still, there's a good chance the Eagles will hire someone from outside the staff. And look for Logan to be a man in demand. He did an excellent job in two seasons at BC and is a former head coach at East Carolina. But Logan may retire.

Zook still has jobs to fill
Illinois tabbed Houston's Joe Gilbert as offensive line coach, which is a good hire. But Illini coach Ron Zook still must find a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator.

It looks likely that Curt Mallory will be the defensive coordinator after the Illini flirted with Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Mallory served as co-coordinator this past season. Cincinnati defensive line coach Keith Gilmore looks likely to sign on to coach the defensive line at Illinois.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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