Who Fills the Void?

NORMAN, Okla. — Brent Venables is out, which means another one must come in to coach the linebackers. So, who will that be? Sooners Illustrated breaks down the likely candidates inside.

Candidate: Tim Kish

Current Position: Interim head coach (until Rich Rodriguez's hiring)/defensive coordinator at Arizona

Breakdown: There are some serious connections that could make this thing happen. He served as co-defensive coordinator and sole DC for the final two years OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was head coach there. Throw in six years as linebackers coach for the Wildcats, three of which he was assistant head coach as well. Before that, Kish served notable college coaching stints at Purdue, Ball State, Army, Northwester, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. He was defensive coordinator in addition to linebackers coach at the last three. So, he's got a decorated resume, but he's also a masterful recruiter and could really help OU with its western pipeline it's starting to open up. In fact, in 2004, 2005 and 2006, Kish was named a Top 25 national recruiter.

Candidate: Jim Leavitt

Current Position: San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach

Breakdown: Leavitt, like Kish, has strong connections to the Sooner coaching staff. Head coach Bob Stoops and Leavitt coached together under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. First, Stoops coached up the defensive backs while Leavitt worked with the linebackers. Then, Stoops was promoted to co-defensive coordinator and Leavitt worked alongside him from 1992-95 before Stoops left for Florida. And the rest is history. Stoops came to OU while Leavitt beefed up his resume in the meantime. He became the head coach for South Florida and had that position for 13 seasons from 1997 to 2009 where he compiled a 95-57 overall record before getting fired after an investigation at USF. Jim Harbaugh then hired him on this season as linebackers coach, and they've made a run to the NFC Championship Game. Would Leavitt leave that for a similar position at OU? It's possible.

Candidate: Randy Shannon

Current Position: None

Breakdown: This guy is probably the best recruiter out of all the possible candidates, and he's entrenched in an area the Sooners could really use some talent from: Florida. Shannon has done all his coaching at Miami after playing there in the mid-to-late 80s. He started off as a graduate assistant in 1991 before a promotion to defensive line coach in 1992. Then, he worked with the linebackers from 1993-97, became an assistant head coach in 1998, coached linebackers again in 2000, before he was named defensive coordinator in 2001. Shannon held the role of sole defensive coordinator until 2005, coached linebackers while also being the defensive coordinator in 2006 and subsequently became head coach in 2007. He coached the Hurricanes to a 28-22 record in four seasons minus the bowl game the fourth year. Shannon was fired in late 2010 immediately after Miami lost 23-20 to South Florida. He's sat out a year and now says he wants to return to coaching. Maybe OU could be that spot.

Candidate: Tyrone Nix

Current Position: None

Breakdown: The youngest of the most serious candidates, 39-year-old Nix also has some connections that might make him an attractive option. For the first three years of Steve Spurrier's current career at South Carolina, Nix served as his defensive coordinator. Of course, Bob was defensive coordinator under Spurrier at Florida, so it's safe to say philosophically they could be similar defensively. On top of that, Nix played linebacker while he was in college at Southern Mississippi. Prior to his stint at South Carolina, Nix was defensive coordinator at his alma mater for four seasons. He left South Carolina to go to Ole Miss, but lost his job when head coach Houston Nutt resigned and he was dismissed.

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