Chad Morris

James Franklin made the Vanderbilt coaching vacancy more appetizing


With James Franklin being hired away by Penn State, the search for a new head coach to continue the momentum at Vanderbilt is officially underway. Fortunately for the program, Franklin helped make the job a more attractive one to the next coach.

“There is no question that James Franklin’s outstanding work has helped put Vanderbilt football on the national stage,” Vanderbilt vice chancellor and director of athletics David Williams said in a statement released following Franklin’s departure. “Because of James, Fumi, Shola and Addy Franklin, our program is stronger in every way than it was just a few short years ago.”

Vanderbilt had compiled back-to-back 2-10 seasons before prying Franklin away from Maryland, where he was considered the coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen. Maryland’s loss may have turned out to be Vanderbilt’s gain. Franklin had an immediate impact on the Commodores, winning six games in his first season in Nashville and leading them to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in program history.

“We have every expectation to hire an outstanding new football coach to build upon the progress that has been made in recent years,” Williams said. He will certainly have some attractive options to consider.

Will Vanderbilt be able to sway a head coach away from their current school to guide their program? The one name to keep a close eye on in this discussion would be Mark Hudspeth, the current head coach of Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudspeth has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to three consecutive 9-4 seasons and has ended the year with a bowl victory each year. If Vanderbilt is looking for a head coach who is ready to take the next step, Hudspeth should be the name at the top of the list.

Hiring a top assistant coach is certainly a path likely to be explored by Vanderbilt.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has the SEC pedigree down and has been mentioned as a potential future head coach when the right opportunity comes along. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is currently one of the hottest names in the assistant coaching world. So is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Vanderbilt could do worse than any of those names of course. Morris would probably be the best fit among the potential assistant coaching candidates.

Whether the next head coach succeeds to the level Franklin managed to do at Vanderbilt or not, or whether the next head coach can build upon the foundation laid by Franklin, remains to be seen. Perhaps the next coach will see Vanderbilt take a step back. Whatever happens, the position is a much more desirable one worthy of consideration by a number of top candidates that may not have given the job much thought four or five years ago. It is still likely to be a stepping stone position as opposed to a destination position, but it is not as slippery as a stepping stone it once was.

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney
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When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.

Win or lose, Dabo Swinney throwing pizza party for Clemson on Sunday

Dabo Swinney, Jim Brown
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Clemson’s 12-0 regular season will be celebrated Sunday, whether or not the Tigers win Saturday night’s ACC Championship.

“We’re gonna have a pizza party on Sunday. That’s gonna happen,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pledged Tuesday to the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier, following through on an off-hand comment made a few weeks back. “It’s kind of hard to plan for a pizza party when you don’t know the outcome. We’re not going to know that until midnight — that’s a lot of dough.”

It’s unclear if Swinney’s last statement was meant literally or figuratively or both.

Either way, Clemson said it will provide at least 2,500 Papa John’s pizzas, which will be distributed for free upon admittance to Memorial Stadium. Assuming a Tigers win over North Carolina, gates will open at 11 a.m. in advance of the noon ET College Football Playoff selection show.

But the party will go on regardless of Saturday night’s result.

“Regardless of whether we win or lose the game Saturday night, this team deserves to be celebrated.”

Report: Temple’s Matt Rhule stops talking to Missouri

Matt Rhule

The search for a new coach at Missouri continues, and apparently one candidate has backed away from the pursuit. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Temple head coach Matt Rhule has turned taken himself out of the mix for the job at Missouri, which likely means Rhule will stay put in South Philly during this coaching carousel cycle.

According to the report, Temple is also in the process of negotiating a new contract for Rhule. Rhule has already signed a contract extension with Temple that runs through 2021. Rhule’s Owls are also preparing to take on Houston in this week’s American Athletic Conference championship game. Rhule does not believe this will serve as a distraction to his team as they prepare for the Cougars.

“I think our team is way too strong to be distracted about anything with me,” Rhule said. “I am honest with our players and tell them everything.”

Ironically, Houston also received some encouraging news this week when head coach Tom Herman said he has an agreement in principle to stay at Houston. Not only is that good news for Houston and Temple, but that is outstanding news for the conference as a whole, although Memphis did lose Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech.

For Temple, this should be encouraging news as a program. The two coaches before Rhule took the job each left to take on power conference opportunities once they came along. Al Golden took an offer to coach Miami (that, uh, didn’t exactly pan out nicely) and Steve Addazio bolted for Boston College. Who knows if Rhule will stick around for the long haul, but it would seem just being able to get him to return in 2016 would be a major step in the right direction for Temple.

Texas Tech fires three defensive assistants

Kliff Kingsbury

Texas Tech may be getting ready for a bowl game, but they will do so without three defensive assistant coaches. Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Smith, cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis and outside linebackers coach Trey Haverty have been cut from the coaching staff, head coach Kliff Kingsbury announced today.

“We appreciate all that Mike, Kevin and Trey have done at Texas Tech over the last three seasons,” Kingsbury said in a released statement. “All three are great Red Raiders and we wish them the very best.”

Texas Tech had the Big 12’s ninth-ranked total defense after allowing 540.2 yards per game. That was nearly 100 yards more per game than Iowa State’s eighth-ranked defense. Only Kansas had a worst defense, allowing 560.8 yards per game. Texas Tech’s defense ranked 126th in the nation out of 128 schools. The Red Raiders were torched through the air, allowing 268.3 yards per game through the air, which was ranked 113th in the nation.

Offense appears to be the key to success in the Big 12 and defense has tended to be a hurdle for the Red Raider program. This much appears to be clear though. Kingsbury is making moves with his roster to find a way to improve defensively and become a more well-rounded threat in the Big 12.