The Way Too Early Short List

CLEMSON - While the coaching change happened just yesterday, it's never too early to break the top coaching candidates down. Terry Don Phillips himself suggested a "national coaching search" is underway.

Keep in mind, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said Monday this would be a "national search" that would include current Clemson interim coach Dabo Swinney, who will be given a chance to formally interview for the position after the season.

He also suggested there would be names that appear on his "short list," that are currently not there.

With that in mind, here's a good starting point for our own short list, which includes some names that are already under consideration, and some that are not:

#1. Will Muschamp [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Defensive coordinator - Texas

QUICK NOTES: Muschamp is considered one of the nation's top defensive coordinators and was a 2007 Broyles Award Finalist (the award that honors the nation's top assistant coach). He joined the Texas staff after spending the previous two years as defensive coordinator at Auburn and seven of the last eight years as a defensive coordinator in college and the NFL. Played college football at Georgia.

THE STATS: In his five years as a coordinator at Auburn and LSU, Muschamp's defenses have ranked among the nation's top 10 in total defense five times and scoring defense three times, while ranking in the top 15 in scoring defense the other two. Simply put, the guy has a proven track record in the toughest conference in college football. Imagine what he could do in the ACC?

WHY MUSCHAMP IN CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's a defensive coach that is as intense as you'll find on the sideline and he wants the opportunity to become a head coach ... soon. At Clemson, he would inherit a team that many would expect to be talented enough to win the league in 2009. Insiders already are suggesting he would indeed be interested if the Tigers come knocking on his door.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: Should be at top of Terry Don Phillips' list. An impeccable resume with ties all over the south. His passion and determination to succeed would be unmatched. If you are looking for the young "up and comer" Muschamp is as good as you'll find.

#2. Tommy Tuberville [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Head coach - Auburn

QUICK NOTES: Since 2000, entering the 2008 season, Auburn was tied for the best conference record among SEC teams with a mark of 47-17 (.734). Tuberville has directed Auburn to eight consecutive bowl appearances, including five New Year's Day bowl berths and three consecutive January 1 bowl games from 2005-07. In the last four seasons, Tuberville has directed the Tigers to 42 wins and an .824 winning percentage (42-9) which is fifth best in the country in both categories.

THE STATS: Tuberville led Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004, capturing the SEC Championship and also winning the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech. Before this season Tuberville and the Tigers from the Plains had won nine of their previous 11 games against top 10 opponents.

WHY TUBERVILLE IN CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's a defensive coach that has won big game after big game during his career at Auburn, including running the table in 2004 when his team won the SEC and a BCS game and should have played for the National Championship. Insiders also suggest he'd be willing to look at other jobs in the southeast considering the events that ocurred a few years ago when Auburn's athletic director tried to hire Louisville's Bobby Petrino.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: He would have to rank right up there, close to Muschamp. Arguably one of the top head coaching candidates the Tigers may be able to land. Any time you go 13-0 playing in the SEC and win nine of 11 games against top 10 competition, you know you are doing something right. He also was rumored to be interested in the Florida State job before Jimbo Fisher was named "head coach in waiting." Surely he'd consider moving north of Tallahassee in the same conference? Wouldn't he?

#3. Dabo Swinney [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Interim head coach - Clemson

THE STATS: To be determined- for the most part. As Clemson's interim head man, Swinney will coach the Tigers in their six games and will have the opportunity to showcase his ability, for the first time, as a head coach. As a wide receivers coach at Clemson since 2003, Swinney has coached a number of league leaders in receptions. He's also coached a number of draft picks dating back to his days at Alabama and is one of the top young recruiters in the nation.

WHY SWINNEY AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's young. He's energetic and he's already won over the fan base with a passionate opening press conference. Now all he has to do in the next six games is win which is easier said than done. Make no mistake, Swinney is among the contenders for the position, but he'll have to pull off a minor miracle the rest of this season and get his team to play at an unbelievably high level. Also an established recruiter who knows how to motivate his players.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: This is a big opportunity for Dabo Swinney - a chance to prove he can coach with the big boys. His goal the next seven weeks? Win games - win as many games as he can. Truthfully, we don't know what Swinney is capable of. Nobody does. If he were to win the majority of Clemson's remaining games, having been shoved into the head coaching position- wouldn't that speak volumes about he brings to the table? The good news is we get to find out just what he can during these next six games.

#4. Jim Grobe [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Head coach - Wake Forest

THE STATS: All you need to know here is Jim Grobe won an ACC Championship ... at Wake Forest. In the last two seasons, his teams have won 20 games and he now has his team positioned to win another ACC Championship this year ... again at Wake Forest. The old saying of "nobody has done more with less" applies here, because truly nobody has done more in terms of building a program with less talent than Jim Grobe.

WHY GROBE AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's familiar with the ACC and was actually on Terry Don Phillips' short list a year ago when Tommy Bowden had one foot out the door to Arkansas. He also has a proven track record of taking undiscovered talent and turning it into a proven winner. Also he seems to fit the, "Clemson man" mold as a head coach who fit in with the community and become the face of the program.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: If Grobe can win a conference championship at Wake Forest, what could he do at Clemson? There was heavy interest here a year ago so it makes sense there would be again this time around.

#5. Lane Kiffin [LINK]

CURRENT JOB: Unemployed

THE STATS: Before his time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Kiffin controled the offensive attack at the University of Southern California that featured a long, medium and short-range passing game coupled with a power running attack. His tutoring helped the Trojans capture back-to-back National College Football Championships in 2003 and 2004. Kiffin's play-calling, structure and offensive design also helped the Trojans produce two Heisman Trophy winners (Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart). He was also the recruiting coordinator at Southern California for three seasons- capturing the nation's top-ranked class in each of those years.

WHY KIFFIN AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's a young coach who obviously has a knack for recruiting and calling plays. While his time in in the NFL wasn't successful, the Raiders did improve overall as a team in number of areas. As a west coast guy, he'd be somewhat of a different hire, but his track record at Southern California was awfully impressive and impossible to ignore in a coaching search like this.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: He's on the radar, even if he's a west coast guy but his resume as an assistant from his days with the Trojans is unmatched from an offensive perspective. The inside word also suggests he would be interested.

#6. Bobby Johnson [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Head coach - Vanderbilt

THE STATS: The Commodores, long considered the doormat of the SEC, have been brought to respectability under Johnson's watch and already 5-1 this season. Johnson's coaching career, which covers 31 years, began in 1976 as defensive ends coach at Furman. By 1983, he was elevated to Furman's defensive coordinator, serving a decade in that role. After one year as the defensive coordinator at Clemson, Johnson returned to Furman to accept the head coaching job. He took the Paladins to the Division I-AA National Championship game in 2001 before taking the Vanderbilt job shortly thereafter.

WHY JOHNSON AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's a "Clemson man," having lettered three years as a receiver and cornerback, before graduating in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in management. He's also built a solid program at a school where nobody thought he could win.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: He's a solid coach with a resume that includes playing for a national championship. He would also likely jump at the chance to return to his home state and alma mater.

#7. Brent Venables [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Associate head coach/linebackers coach - Oklahoma

THE STATS: One of five finalists for the 2006 Broyles Award and has been a part of a coaching staff that consistently produces one of the top defensive units in the Big 12 and the nation.

WHY VENEABLES AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He was rumored to be on Terry Don Phillips' short list a year ago and is another young, energetic candidate with a defensive background. It's only a matter of time until he's a head coach.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: An intriguing option who will be a head coach at some point in the very near future. Was rumored to be a candidate at Arkansas last year and has all the tools to succeed at the next level. Has also learned from the best in Bob Stoops and was part of the National Championship team in Norman, Okla. earlier this decade.

#8. Bill Cowher [LINK TO BIO]


THE STATS: In Cowher's 15 seasons as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he captured eight division titles, earned 10 postseason playoff berths, played in 21 playoff games, advanced to six AFC Championship games and made two Super Bowl appearances (including winning a World Championship in Feb. 2006]. He is one of only six coaches in NFL history to claim at least seven division titles. Cowher's record as a head coach is 149-90-1.

WHY COWHER AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's a proven winner at the highest level of football possible in the NFL. He's been rumored to be interested in returning to the game at the college level - wouldn't he want to do it a school where he could win and compete for a National Championship?


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: The Cowher name would open doors in recruiting and he obviously knows how to get the job done on game day considering he won a Super Bowl and almost 150 games in the NFL.

#9. Bud Foster [LINK TO BIO]

CURRENT JOB: Defensive coordinator - Virginia Tech

THE STATS: Won the 2006 Broyles Award honoring the nation's top assistant coach that year. Now in his 22nd season at Virginia Tech, has helped mold nationally ranked defenses on a yearly basis during his 13 years as a coordinator.

WHY FOSTER AT CLEMSON MAKES SENSE: He's a defensive coach with a proven track record of success during his tenure in Blacksburg.


CUTIGERS INSIGHT: A defensive-minded coach who deserves the opportunity to become a head coach in the very near future. In addition, the transition from Tech to Clemson shouldn't be too bad across a number of fronts. Top Stories