Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hiring frenzy

I can barely keep up with all the noteworthy coordinators shifting allegiances, but a quick recap:

* Auburn hired Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Roof to fill the spot vacated by Paul Rhoads, who took over as head coach at Iowa State. You may look at Minnesota's stats this year and say, "Meh, those numbers aren't that impressive." But look at the numbers from two years ago, then look again at what Roof did in his first year with the Gophers. He did the same thing at Duke when he took over as coach, although it didn't make much of a difference in the win-loss column. But all things considered, he's one of the best D-coordinators in the country and is another outstanding hire by Gene Chizik, who picked up Tulsa's Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator last week.

* Washington coach Steve Sarkisian lured defensive coordinator Nick Holt away from USC, apparently by showing him a briefcase with $100 billion in it (or $2.1 million, give or take $99.998 billion). It's not clear exactly how much authority Holt had in terms of playcalling, as Pete Carroll clearly had a hand (or an arm) in USC's defense, but Holt has been highly thought of for a few years now. After serving as linebackers coach at USC from 2000-03, he was head coach at Idaho for two years before resigning to take a position with the St. Louis Rams (although he never made it to St. Louis, as Carroll lured him back to USC with more money and the D-coordinator title). With Sarkisian being the supposed offensive mastermind, he did well to find a respected defensive coordinator to join him in Seattle, even if he did have to pay him handsomely (again, $2.1 million over three years). Of course, it never hurts to rip one of the top assistants away from a conference rival, either.

* Carroll wasted no time reconfiguring his staff, naming former assistant Carl Smith the QB coach and passing game coordinator and receivers coach Johnnie Morton the new offensive coordinator. It sounds as though they'll split play-calling and gameplanning duties, much like Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin did when they were on the Trojans' staff. Nothing has been announced yet regarding a replacement for Holt, but secondary coach Rocky Seto is believed to be a leading candidate. Carroll has never been one to go hunting for big-name coordinators, preferring to maintain continuity by promoting from within (and it's hard to argue with the results).

There should be a bit of a lull in this area in the next few weeks, as teams are typically hesitant to make too many staff changes with National Signing Day quickly approaching.

One big vacancy still out there is Michigan's defensive coordinator spot, which I'll be keeping a close eye on (obviously). While it's been surprisingly quiet on the names front, Rich Rodriguez did state in a radio interview on Monday that he intends to stick with a 4-3 or 3-4 base defense, which is in disagreement with the general consensus that Rodriguez is seeking a 3-3-5 disciple. Another interesting note from that interview is Rodriguez's admission that the NFL playoffs and the late bowl games have been a factor in the hiring delay -- considering that I had yet to hear an NFL assistant mentioned as a serious candidate, this brings an entirely new group into the fold.

I'm not sure who Rodriguez is planning on interviewing -- let alone hiring -- but he seems dead set on waiting for someone (or maybe a couple of someones) who either is still involved in the playoffs or has been involved with a late bowl game. If this person is an unspoken favorite, a sudden announcement wouldn't be surprising. But if Rodriguez is as undecided as he sounds to be, an extensive interview process is definitely possible, meaning it might be a while before we know anything.

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