When a coaching job like Texas comes open, it has the ability to change the entire landscape of college football.
The list of names currently associated with the opening at Texas looks like a future hall of fame ballot. Names like Jim Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin and David Shaw have been thrown out there, but none of those names are a realistic option for the Longhorns.
It’s more likely that Texas will have to go with a name from their “B list”, which could land their search squarely in the SEC.
A couple of more realistic names for Texas are Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Florida’s Will Muschamp.
Muschamp was named the coach in waiting at Texas in 2008. Back then he was the defensive coordinator for the Longhorns and had been there less than a season when Texas made that announcement. He told Sports Illustrated in 2008 that he viewed the coaching job at Texas as “the elite job in the country”.
Florida came calling in 2011 and Muschamp, a former Georgia Bulldog, left Austin to return to the SEC.
There were rumblings that Muschamp might be let go at Florida, after a miserable four-win season in 2013.
But Muschamp received a vote of confidence from Florida AD Jeremy Foley.
Foley probably remembered that Muschamp was only a year removed from an 11 win season and the Gators suffered an inordinate amount of injuries in 2013. Plus the defense — obviously Muschamp’s area of expertise — wasn’t the issue in Gainesville. If Muschamp stays and the offense gets sorted out, there’s no denying that Florida will be back in the top 15 soon.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Texas went back to their “coach in waiting”. Longhorn fans likely look upon Muschamp with fondness. During his first two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Texas, the team lost only two games.
If Texas doesn’t consider Muschamp, or if Muschamp wants to remain in the SEC, then the Longhorns could look at Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.
Franklin doesn’t necessarily meet the “extensive college experience” requirement that Texas AD Steve Patterson set forth, but he appears to be a legitimate candidate for the job.
The Vanderbilt coach was recently asked about the Texas job and gave a typical non-denial, while using the quintessential “coach-speak” that is often associated with these types of things.
From The Tennessean:
“Really excited about the program-development period that we’re in right now and working with these young guys,” Franklin said. “Really excited about playing Houston. We’ve watched them on film. I think they’re really talented. I think it’s going to be a challenge for us.
“That’s what our focus is. Any of those other things, you know, we don’t talk about that are outside of our area of control or focus or concern. We’re focused on getting better as an organization and then getting ready for Houston.”
Franklin’s response is what we’ve become accustomed to hearing. Even if coaches don’t plan to leave, they typically won’t even address the rumors, which is maddening for fans.
Muschamp and Franklin are both very likely candidates for the Texas job. If either of them ends up at Texas, it could have a major effect on the SEC’s coaching landscape.
Any time the Florida job is open, it’s going to attract big time candidates. The job would appeal to several current coaches and coordinators in the SEC.
Dan Mullen, who’s led the Mississippi State Bulldogs to four straight bowl appearances, has a history at Florida, serving as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator for four seasons. Mullen would certainly have some interest in coaching the Gators.
Another — and perhaps more logical — name to succeed Muschamp at Florida would be Alabama’s defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Smart has been linked with several coaching searches in the past and the narrative of another Saban-ite, defensive coordinator, Georgia grad taking over at Florida would make for an easy transition in Gainesville
The Vanderbilt job, on the other hand, wouldn’t attract the same big time candidates, but it is an SEC job, nonetheless. It’s doubtful that anyone in the SEC would leave their current position to take the Vanderbilt job, but it might appeal to Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Nussmeier has no ties to the SEC and is a native of the pacific northwest. His eventual goal will probably be to get back to the Washington area as a head coach. Taking the job at Vanderbilt would help to build his resume’ if anything in the pacific northwest opens up again.
Who knows which direction Texas will end up going. They may end up shocking us all and hiring someone with no head-coaching experience (I think Texas fans would be just fine with Clemson OC Chad Morris coming to town).
Regardless of who is hired at Texas, there’s a very good chance it will affect the SEC in some way.