He was among the first names that popped out of everybody’s mouths when the job was announced, and it still looks like Kansas defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux will be the one to watch for Oklahoma.
The Sooners are forced for the second February in a row to find another defensive line coach after Diron Reynolds left following one season to take the same job at Stanford less than two weeks ago.
Before Reynolds was hired, some mentioned Thibodeaux as a potential candidate for the job. The consensus then was he just didn’t quite have the experience.
After three years at Tulsa, Thibodeaux spent last season coaching the defensive line at Kansas, trying to help rebuild the program under David Beaty.
A year in a Power 5 conference, though, might be enough to demonstrate he can handle a big-time job and opportunity like the Sooners would be.
Sources close to the situation spoke to Sooners Illustrated on Saturday, saying ideally OU would like to make the hire this week, and that ideally, Thibodeaux would be the guy.
The Sooners don’t have to make a hasty decision since spring football starts in two weeks, but obviously the quicker the decision is made, the better for all parties involved.
Thibodeaux isn’t the only target, but he feels like the most realistic target. Add in the fact he made $166,000 in 2015, and OU would be able to increase that pretty dramatically.
Reynolds, during his one year in Norman, made $275,000. If OU merely set the same mark, that’s a bump of $109,000 for Thibodeaux to come “home” to the Sooners where he was once a star at defensive line.
There have certainly been other quality defensive line coach candidates out there, but it doesn’t appear like the Sooners have the pocketbook to really compete.
At one point, it looked like Michigan State’s Ron Burton was going to be the one to circle. He makes more than $300,000 so the money is in the ballpark, but the feeling around the program is the Spartans will do what is necessary to keep Burton.
Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer has been talked about, too, since he was such a prime candidate for the Sooners at this time last year.
The problem with Spencer would be his lack of any sort of ties to the recruiting area or OU program, but you could have said the same with Reynolds as well.
Another name thrown around this week is new Syracuse defensive line coach Vinson Reynolds. He would be making the jump from Western Michigan to Syracuse to OU in the span of just a few months.
He made $95,000 last year so no matter where he ends up, he’s setting himself up for a nice pay raise.
A name OU fans threw out was C.J. Ah You. Makes sense, but give it some time to marinate. Ah You left OU as a quality control coach to become Vanderbilt’s defensive line coach last month.
If the knock on Thibodeaux was no major league experience, then the same would have to ring true for Ah You who hasn’t coached one year as a full-time recruiter and shown what he can do.
But if it looks like Thibodeaux is the clear winner, he’s not. OU would love to lure, according to sources, Mississippi State defensive line coach David Turner.
Turner’s salary is a bit higher than the other mentioned at $350,000, and he also seems to be pretty ingrained with Dan Mullen. OU would have to really open up its wallet to get in the door with Turner, and it’s tough to see that occurring right now.
So to recap:
*Calvin Thibodeaux (KU) – No. 1 choice, expected to interview this week.
*Ron Burton (MSU) – Spartans will do what they can to make sure he doesn’t leave East Lansing.
*Sean Spencer (PSU) – Would be ideal coach but seems like he’ll stick with James Franklin.
*Vinson Reynolds (Syracuse) – Too big of a jump to go from Western Michigan to OU?
*C.J. Ah You (Vanderbilt) – Must show he can bring the goods at a Power 5 school first.
*David Turner (Miss State) – Is OU going to be willing to compete with the Bulldogs in terms of salary and title?