Wednesday Football Notebook

With reports emerging Wednesday that Mike Leach had verbally agreed to become the head coach at Washington State, that means the list of candidates at the University of Kansas is due some shuffling. Phog.net takes a refreshed look at some of those likely to be considered.

The new top dog?

Larry Fedora

Current Position: Head Coach, Southern Mississippi

Salary: $704,500

History: The 49-year-old Fedora has enjoyed an impressive rise through the coaching ranks. After getting his start in 1986 as a graduate assistant at Austin College, he took over as the head coach of Garland (TX) High School - one of the top programs in the state of Texas - for three years. In 1991 he was hired at Baylor, where he would serve as the coach of the receivers, tight ends and running backs at various points during his five year tenure.

In 1999 he left Waco, Texas for Middle Tennessee, where he was promoted to offensive coordinator. After a successful run, he was then hired as the offensive coordinator at Florida from 2002-2004, and then headed back to the Big 12 from 2005-2007 - as the OC at Oklahoma State. In December of 2007 he signed a four-year contract with Southern Miss, his stint as a D-1 head coach.

Fedora has thus far compiled a 31-19 record in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Golden Eagles are currently 10-2 in 2011, and in the midst of their best season yet under his reign.

It makes sense because...

Speculation was that Fedora was a candidate during the last coaching search, and that he wanted the job. After four years as a head coach - with his teams showing improvement every year - he's seasoned enough that most would probably view his hiring with approval and not as risky as taking a high-level assistant from a traditional power.

Fedora knows the Big 12, and more importantly he knows the most fertile recruiting ground of University of Kansas - the state of Texas. His abilities as a recruiting helped him bring a five-star prospect to Southern Miss, in the form of wide receiver DeAndre Brown. Gill recruited well during his two years in Lawrence, and Fedora is a coach capable of building upon that momentum.

Financially, he makes sense as well. With his comparatively low salary, the Jayhawks wouldn't have to break the bank to give him a substantial raise - which would come as a relief to an athletic department not really in a position to casually throw staggering sums at a candidate.

Recently, Phog.net learned that Fedora definitely has interest in the job. With athletics director Sheahon Zenger now officially out on the road to meet with candidates, it's tough to see Hattiesburg, Miss. not being one of the first stops.

It doesn't make sense because...

Notoriety.

Put simply, is Fedora the splashy candidate Kansas fans and alumni - or, more importantly, the boosters helping foot the bill for Gill's buyout - want to see? Though he has produced more consistently at Southern Miss than Gill did at Buffalo, Southern Miss is also a much better job. Will another coach from the mid-major ranks suffice?

Some outlets have reported that an offer is on the table to Ole Miss, and have mentioned Fedora with a handful of other jobs. If true, Kansas will need to move quickly to lock him up. He's a hot candidate with lot working in his favor.

New names for your consideration

Sonny Dykes

Current Position: Head Coach, Louisiana Tech

Salary: $460,500

History: The son of legendary Texas Tech head coach Spike Dykes, the 42-year-old Sonny Dykes was long regarded as one of the top assistant coaches and recruiters in the game during a seven-year tenure with Texas Tech - from 2000 to 2006, and then at Arizona as the offensive coordinator for Mike Stoops from 2007-2009.

Currently the head coach at Louisiana Tech, Dykes took the Bulldogs to a 5-7 record in his first season at the helm, and has them standing at 8-4 thus far in 2011 with an invite to the Poinsettia Bowl already signed, sealed and delivered.

It makes sense because...

For several reasons, really. One, Dykes has the ever-critical recruiting ties to the state of Texas, after having spent so much of his life living and coaching in the Lone Star State.

He's also viewed as a protege of Mike Leach, meaning a quality offensive mind in his own right, and he's got the Louisiana Tech program - a notoriously tough job - moving in the right direction.

And finally, he'd likely come cheap. Kansas would have to quadruple his pay in order to bring him to the level of Turner Gill - and they wouldn't need to approach that figure to get Dykes to Lawrence, Kan.

It doesn't make sense because...

The Jayhawks have been here before, very recently. They took a chance on a MAC coach with limited experience and some success in Gill, and the experiment absolutely crashed and burned.

To be fair, the situations aren't perfectly analogous. Dykes was a coordinator at a major D-1 program for three seasons before accepting his first head coaching gig, and he looks to be acquitting himself well thus far.

But there's always an element of the unknown when hiring a coach from the mid-major ranks, and if notoriety is an issue with Fedora it's even more of one with Dykes. Because he's relatively unknown to Kansas fans, his hiring would do little to put apathetic fans in Memorial Stadium come the 2012 season opener.

Mark Stoops

Current Position: Defensive Coordinator, Florida State

Salary: Unavailable

History: Another of the Fabulous Stoops Boys (cinematic reference, sorry), the 44-year-old Mark Stoops has forged his own path away from the shadow of his brothers, Bob and Mike, and is now regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in all of college football.

Hired in 1996 by former Kansas State assistant Jim Leavitt to be his defensive backs coach at South Florida, Stoops left for Cheyenne, Wyo. and the University of Wyoming a year later, where he coached defensive backs from 1997-1999. After that it was a one-year stint at Houston (Co-DC), then on to the University of Miami where he once again coached defensive backs for three seasons, from 2001-2003.

When Mike was hired at Arizona, he brought Mark with him - where he served as defensive coordinator and DB coach from 2004-2009. Following the 2009 season, he took the DC position at Florida State - where he is currently employed.

It makes sense because...

The Stoops name has a ton of cache in the football world, and Mark has certainly earned his fair share. Despite their lack of offensive firepower, the Seminoles currently rank sixth nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 274.6 yards per game.

Some may feel the Jayhawks need a tough, defensive-minded coach, and those are all qualities Stoops possesses.

It doesn't make sense because...

The prevailing notion is that Zenger wants someone with head coaching experience, and as of yet Stoops has none to his name. Plus, there's reason to question his ability to recruit the area, as he has no known ties to the Big 12 region and the state of Texas...beyond his brothers.

June Jones

Current Position: Head Coach, Southern Methodist

Salary: $1.7 million annually (Source: USA Today)

History: The 58-year-old Jones broke into coaching in 1983 as the quarterbacks coach at the University of Hawaii - one of three collegiate programs for which he suited up during his own playing days. After one season in Honolulu, he spent the next three seasons at stops in the USFL and the CFL, before landing his first NFL job - the quarterbacks position with the Houston Oilers. From 1987-1996 he coached for the Oilers, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, and after a year break he spent a year with the San Diego Chargers in 1998.

In 1999 he was hired as the head coach at Hawaii, a position which he held until 1997. While at the helm of the Warriors, he compiled a 76-41 record and took the WAC program to a BCS appearance in 2007 - a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs - and a Top 20 ranking in both polls.

Jones left Hawaii to take over the rebuilding effort at SMU in 2008, signing an eye-opening 5-year contract worth almost $2 million per year. In his first season the Mustangs went 1-11, but have shown massive improvement since. In 2009, SMU went 8-5 and defeated Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl, the program's first bowl game since the 1984 Aloha Bowl. Last season, they posted a 7-7 record (6-2 in Conference USA), falling to Army in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.

Thus far in 2011, SMU is currently 7-5 and bowl-bound once again.

It makes sense because...

If it's experience and success as a head coach Zenger wants, Jones is the perfect fit. He's an innovative offensive mind who knows how to develop QBs, knows how to win with comparatively little talent and knows rebuilding jobs.

From a pure coaching perspective, there really aren't many negatives. The guy is a proven winner.

It doesn't make sense because...

Right off the bat, one has to wonder what makes Kansas more obviously attractive to Jones than SMU.

BCS status? Sure.

Big-time conference affiliation? Okay.

Better facilities? Probably (We haven't really evaluated SMU's facilities, but KU's are pretty stinkin' good)

That's all well and good, but the truth is the situation he'd walk into at Kansas would be almost as tough a rebuilding job as the one he faced when he took over in Dallas. The Big 12 is brutal today - absolutely brutal - with the 10 team format, and is only going to get tougher with the addition of TCU and West Virginia as replacements for Texas A&M and Missouri.

Additionally, it's unlikely Kansas can offer him much more monetarily than he is currently making at Southern Methodist. Jones very nearly makes as much as Gill did during his brief tenure on Mount Oread. This is just an assumption, but somewhere in the realm of $2 million is likely the ceiling.

Jones has a good thing going at SMU. He's well on his way to turning a derelict program into something respectable, and he's making a great deal of money in the process. It feels like it would take a pretty heavy sell job to uproot him again.

Others To Consider

Manny Diaz

Current Position: Defensive Coordinator, Texas

Just 37 years old, Diaz is one of the hottest young coordinators in the college game, after helping revitalize the Mississippi State program in 2010 and helming one of the nation's top defense at the University of Texas this season. He doesn't have head coach experience, but he's young, charismatic and a brilliant defensive mind.

Could he get it done with the level of recruits he's likely to attract to Kansas? His brief stint at Mississippi State shows he knows how to coach when overmatched talent-wise on paper, but his Texas defense is loaded.

Mike Stoops

Current Position: Unemployed

Fired mid-season by the University of Arizona after a 1-5 start to 2011, the younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops spent much of his eight-year sojourn in Tucson seemingly on the hot seat, typically by managing to defeat highly ranked teams. In 2005, the Wildcats bested No. 7 UCLA and in 2007 they defeated No. 2 Oregon. Last season, it was No. 9 Iowa who fell prey to Arizona in the desert.

His record as a head coach isn't overwhelming (41-49), but he knows the area. He spent nine years as an assistant at Kansas State under Bill Snyder, before joining his brother in Norman, Okla. from 1999-2003.

Gus Malzahn

Current Position: Offensive Coordinator, Auburn

This is a bit of a pie-in-the-sky choice, but the talented OC will get his shot as a head coach somewhere. Why not Kansas?

Since making the leap from the high school ranks of Springdale (AR) High to an offensive coordinator position in the SEC with the University of Arkansas, Malzahn's offenses have almost always ranked as one of the tops in the country. He helped guide Cam Newton and Auburn to a national championship last season, and is typically viewed as one of the most innovative offensive minds in the sport.

At 46-years-old, however, Malzahn is young enough to wait. And if his offenses keep producing at such a high rate, he'll likely be a candidate for an upper-tier head coaching position in the years ahead - much like Will Muschamp went from defensive coordinator at Texas to head coach at Florida.

Brent Venables

Current Position: Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

Venables' name is one that seems to come up every time a Big 12 coaching position becomes available - and yet he always stays firmly rooted in Norman, Okla.

His qualifications are undeniable. After a decade as an assistant at Kansas State and Oklahoma, he was promoted to DC under Bob Stoops in 2004 and has proven his worth as both a recruiter and a coach in the years since. Just 40 years old, he's definitely young enough to be the face of a program for a long, long time, and he knows Kansas football.

Still, one has to wonder...what's holding him back? It's not as if the opportunities haven't been there, but Venables has always either passed or the search committees have decided to go another direction on their own.

If Sheahon Zenger and the Kansas administration decide to go with a coordinator, he'd be a great choice. But history would suggest it's unlikely.

Dave Doeren

Current Position: Head Coach, Northern Illinois

Salary: $371,000

A native of the Kansas City area, Doeren got his first college coaching gig at his alma mater - Drake University - in 1995 as the linebackers coach. He held the position with the Bulldogs until 1998, when he took a spot as a graduate assistant at Southern California during the 1998 and 1999 seasons. From there it was on to Montana for two seasons - also as linebackers coach - before he landed in Lawrence, Kan. For three seasons, from 2002-2005, he coached linebackers under Mark Mangino and earned a reputation as not just a great coach but a great recruiter, helping bring much of the talent to the program that would later go on to finish in the top 10 nationally and win an Orange Bowl.

In 2006, he was hired by Wisconsin, where he served as the defensive coordinator until 2010. In December of last year, he was hired by Northern Illinois to be the head coach of the Huskies. He is currently 9-3 in his first season at the helm.


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