Florida State’s hiring of Mike Norvell looks like it could lead to some major changes at Auburn.
First, multiple outlets reported Monday morning that Kenny Dillingham is leaving Auburn to reunite with Norvell in Tallahassee; Norvell “discovered” the 29-year-old Dillingham while at Arizona State and brought him along to Memphis, so the move is anything but a surprise.
Furthermore, though, Dillingham’s departure could lead to Chad Morris‘s hiring on the Plains. According to Auburn Undercover, the former Arkansas head coach is the leading candidate, and a deal could be done this week.
Morris and head Tiger Gus Malzahn go back years, to when Morris, then a high school head coach struggling to fill Art Briles‘s shoes at Stephenville High School, trekked to Arkansas to sit at the feet of Malzahn, then building his reputation as a guru in Northwest Arkansas. The two have maintained a relationship ever since, and now that relationship could turn professional.
If and when Morris is hired, it will come with two interesting dynamics.
The first is recruiting, where Chad’s son Chandler Morris is a 4-star quarterback in the class of 2020. Auburn recruited Morris before he committed to Arkansas, then continued recruiting him when Chandler re-opened his recruitment following Dad’s firing. Chad accompanied Chandler during his first recruiting trip to Auburn, including a sit-down with the head coach — just like any dad would on a recruiting trip, only this dad was the head coach of one of Auburn’s direct competitor.
“You go in and you sit down and you get straight to the chase,” Chad Morris told ESPN over the summer. “A lot of it is roster talk more than anything. You talk about injuries and how they handle kids that get hurt, and how does that work. You deal with their trainers. It’s more, from my standpoint, how they go about the strength and conditioning, how they specialize in their quarterbacks and looking at the overall development of the coach. Is he an offensive-minded coach? Is he a defensive-minded coach? You talk strategy, you talk scheme, you talk offense with him. I don’t do a whole lot of talking. I do a lot of listening and let Chandler do a lot of the talking.”
Chandler visited Auburn during the Iron Bowl, and Auburn Undercover reported Chad accompanied him on that visit.
The second prong here is play-calling. The push-pull of the play sheet has been a constant source of palace intrigue during Malzahn’s seven seasons at Auburn, as it seems he’s always relinquishing or reclaiming play-calling duties depending on the results of the last drive.
Malzahn called plays during Dillingham’s one season on staff, which made sense because Dillingham is still in his 20s and had never coached in the SEC before, while Gus Malzahn is Gus Malzahn. But Chad Morris is not Kenny Dillingham. Remember, it was the hiring of Morris (and Brent Venables) that served as the turning point in Clemson’s rise from pretty good program to the nationally elite.
Would Gus keep play calling with Morris on staff or would he hand it over? It could be months before we know that answer, but we could know the answer of if Morris will join the Auburn staff within days.