In other words, there was reasoning such as previous connections, success on offense (both rushing and passing) under that particular offensive line coach, or it was a candidate that we identified that we felt Gundy would be attracted to.
Now here is our starting point information. Gundy is looking for two coaches, both on the offensive side of the football.
He needs to hire an offensive line coach and then based on conversations we had with the Cowboys head coach he was considering hiring a second coach to coach either tight ends and offensive tackles and share in the offensive line duties as "junior" offensive line coach. More or less, a second coach that would coach tight ends and fullbacks and be involved some with offensive line play and some with skill position coaching, or a second coach to assist entirely with the skill players such as inside and wide receivers and running backs.
That last option could be a catch-all type of coach or a coach that works on one position and one phase to assist the offensive staff. Where he stands on the job description with that second coach as of right now is unknown.
The offensive line coach is most important, although you want both coaches hired soon as spring football commences on Monday, March 9.
We know that if you are keeping to a strict budget, which OSU athletics director Mike Holder is known to do, then former offensive line coach Bob Connelly, who left for Southern Cal, was making $275,000 total salary. We know that Jason Ray, who was coaching inside receivers, was making $157,500 total pay. That gives Gundy, on a strict budget, $432,500 to work with.
We know that for various reasons, including contract buyouts and raises given to keep them in their current positions that candidates that Gundy is rumored to have contacted or even offered the offensive line job to include Vance Vice at Memphis ($208,075), Greg Fry of Indiana ($307,000), Chris Kapilovic at North Carolina ($250,000), Sam Pittman of Arkansas ($500,000), and Shawn Elliott from South Carolina ($430,000).
That list may be entirely correct or may have a wrong name in it, but we'll stand by the fact that these guys were contacted. In each case there was a substantial raise or a substantial buyout in play.
For instance, we were told Memphis, knowing that Vice was a teammate of Gundy's in college at Oklahoma State, immediately began working on beefing up his deal when it was learned Connelly was leaving.
We don't know of any candidates yet for the second coach opening and it would make all the sense in the world to make the first hire before completely deciding which way you would go with the second. The new offensive line coach, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, and the staff would likely have an opinion on how to address that position before Gundy made the decision. Our guess would be that might go to a younger coach that shows great veracity on the road in recruiting.
In looking for candidates at this stage we took into account people we knew that would be a fit. We certainly looked at the success of the offense they were involved in coaching, the offensive line and its success, total offense, rushing, passing, scoring points, sacks against, and lost yardage plays.
One coach with a previous connection to Oklahoma State would be Arkansas State co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee ($200,000). Elarbee was a graduate assistant under Joe Wickline and a very good one. Wickline said he was one of the best he'd ever worked with.
Elarbee went on to coach the offensive line at Houston and Middle Tennessee State before recently landing at Arkansas State. He is young but has packed some very good experience into a short career thus far.
Another possible candidate with OSU connections would be Rice offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek. We don't know Vinklarek's salary as Rice is a private school, but we know he can coach and is a solid recruiter. He has an incredible story of how while still in high school he raised his younger brothers with the help of their community after their parents both died. Vinklarek is a class act who also has NFL coaching experience.
John Reagan is a former offensive line graduate assistant to Vinklarek at Oklahoma State and he coached with him at Rice and was most recently named offensive coordinator at Penn after serving in the same capacity at Kansas. He made $265,000 at Kansas but I'm sure he is not making that at Penn. He also might not want to immediately depart Penn or give up offensive coordinator and play-calling duties.
Here are two names that might be out of the "pipe dream" category and both would be poaching a coach from within the conference. There is no doubt in my mind that Charlie Dickey ($360,000) at Kansas State is one of the best offensive line coaches out there. He has produced time and time again with players that other school don't even recruit and he has turned those players into a strong blocking unit and individually into NFL-caliber players such as center B.J. Finney and senior-to-be offensive lineman Cody Whitehair.
Ron Crook ($251,000) stepped in and replaced Bill Bedenbaugh, who left for Oklahoma, at West Virginia and the Mountaineers offense never skipped a beat. Crook came from coaching smaller schools such as Clarion and West Virginia Tech after doing some graduate assistant duty at places like Illinois and Stanford.
Now here are seven younger candidates that have some fairly wide ranging backgrounds. But the primary reason I found them was the success they have had in producing good offensive line units that help formulate productive offenses with balanced success running and passing and a lack of negative plays.
Gundy has always said that there are a lot of "really good coaches out there and they can be found at all levels." I agree and to be fair I went in alphabetical order.
Brad Bedell is the offensive line coach at Texas State and previously served as offensive line coach at Arkansas State. He played in the NFL for six season (Houston, Green Bay, Miami, and Cleveland) after playing collegiately at Colorado. He has also coached at New Mexico State and Northern Colorado.
Mike Bennefield ($95,000) may currently be looking for a job as he was the offensive line coach at Alabama-Birmingham, where the Cowboys recruited one of his starters Victor Salako. UAB was good on offense and Salako certainly came in with good fundamentals and technique. Bennefield is a high school coaching and military product as he was honored for serving in Desert Storm.
Brian Callahan ($75,000) may be one of the older of these candidates as he is in his 40s. He is currently the offensive line coach at Western Michigan, joining the Bronchos from his alma mater Eastern Illinois. He has coached at Louisville, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, UTEP, and Akron. In many of those places he was a graduate assistant or quality control coach.
Brad Davis ($120,000) is the current offensive line coach at East Carolina, coming from James Madison where he helped them to great success in FCS playoffs. Priot to James Madison he was offensive line coach at Portland State, and has served graduate assistant roles at UNC and on the defensive line (I love that) at Texas A&M. Davis started on the offensive line for Bob Stoops in his first few years as head coach at OU, including the national championship season.
Brandon Jones ($120,890) is now the offensive line coach at Cal for Sonny Dykes. His salary is reflected from East Carolina where he most recently served as offensive line coach before joining Dykes with the Golden Bears. Jones also coached tight ends and fullbacks at Sam Houston State. He was a three-year starter at center when Dykes was on staff at Texas Tech.
Tom Manning ($182,110) is the offensive line coach at Toledo and that offense has produced excellent results. He is a Midwestern guy that has coached in that area primarily.
Joe Tripoldi ($88,002) is young as he is a 2006 graduate of Northwestern, but that is a good thing as it is a solid school and a solid football program. He coached some as a graduate assistant there and moved onto the high school ranks and then on to Northern Illinois which has had outstanding success on offense.
If you are wondering any further about this story, just understand when I have a free morning this is the kind of stuff that I do. I have no idea if Mike Gundy has any of these last seven on his radar for this job, but if I were sitting in his desk these are some guys I would notice.