We enter the weekend with very few details about how the 8th annual search for an offensive coordinator for Rutgers Football is transpiring. Let’s sort through all of the latest speculation that has been out there and what could develop in the next few days.
On Thursday night, the sports director for a Minneapolis TV station tweeted that former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill interviewed at Rutgers earlier that day.
Former #Gophers coach Jerry Kill was at Rutgers today interviewing for the Offensive Coordinator job. He's in MN tomorrow for book sign.— Joe Schmit (@JoeSchmitKSTP) December 16, 2016
I wrote on Kill as a possible candidate here, soon after this report surfaced. It certainly would be a departure for Rutgers head coach Chris Ash, after hiring the 28 year old Drew Mehringer last year. However, it could be looked at as a correction in his thought process to hire a former head coach, instead of a rising star. Interestingly enough, Kill was last an OC over two decades ago and actually had co-coordinators run his offense for him at Minnesota.
Yesterday, another TV reporter from Minnesota actually disputed Schmit’s report on Kill interviewing with Rutgers.
Will offer clarity on one thing non-#Gophers related: Rutgers has interest in Jerry Kill. But he didn't actually interview yesterday there.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) December 16, 2016
As the great Stewie Griffin would say, “What the deuce, man?” If you really want to dissect the tweet, it could mean a few things. Wolfson said in another reply here that he spoke with Kill last week, who told him “never say never” about returning to coaching and that the right job would appeal to him. So perhaps Kill met with Ash to find out more about the position?
Another theory is that Kill isn’t a potential candidate at all and perhaps is acting as a consultant for Ash in this search. That seems a bit of a stretch in my opinion, unless Kill is giving advice on a specific candidate who once was his former co-coordinator. That could be Matt Limegrover, who is the current offensive line coach at Penn State. He is credited with Kill for establishing a strong run game at Minnesota, but was let go when head coach Tracy Claeys took over for Kill. He landed at Penn State and according to this ESPN article from last spring, Limegrover was happy to have less responsibility in his new role.
So was Kill recommending Limegrover? Is Limegrover even interested, despite having a solid job with the current Big Ten champion? Was the Wolfson tweet a classic misdirection move, in order to quell talk about Kill being a candidate at Rutgers? Is Kill healthy enough to work such a demanding job, barely a year later after resigning as head coach at Minnesota because of health issues? So many questions and no answers at the moment.
Word of Kill being considered sparked passionate debate online, with a fair amount of Rutgers fans expressing approval IF Kill was a consultant type or co-coordinator to pair with a younger coach who can be groomed by him. It’s an interesting idea, but also requires another coaching spot available. That’s something that has been mentioned in the past for next year, but nothing was officially announced. Perhaps this could result in Ash deciding on co-coordinators, with Kill or an elder statesman coupled with an up and coming coach to work together. Personally, I’d prefer one stand alone offensive coordinator who is proven in some capacity and committed to building the program with Ash.
The other thing to consider with Kill is he has never been a quarterbacks coach, which Mehringer was and held the dual role. So if Kill was the OC, Rutgers would need to hire someone else to coach the quarterbacks. Those thinking Kill is Ralph Friedgen 2.0, this just isn’t true. Again, more questions and no answers. Hiring Kill, while highly respected, seems like a complicated fit for offensive coordinator. He would be a home run as an advisor or associate head coach in my opinion, but running the offense on his own is something I’d be less excited about.
Brian Wright is a candidate that Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advance Media reported was “gaining steam”, but didn’t offer other details. I initially dismissed Wright here, based on the fact that he was fired last year by Ash’s friend Charlie Partridge at Florida Atlantic. However, I learned that Partridge let Wright go due to philosophical reasons, as he decided to drop the spread offense in favor of a pro style system. That decision didn’t pay off for Partridge, who was fired after this season.
Wright on the other hand, has flourished in assembling a top 5 offense nationally at MAC school Toledo. Wright leads the high powered Rockets in their bowl game later Saturday in the Camellia Bowl against Appalachian State. Perhaps his name will surface more in the coming days once his season at Toledo is over.
Another name mentioned by Dunleavy was Texas A&M coordinator Noel Mazzone. He is a run heavy, spread master that has mentored his son Taylor for over a decade. While it seems unlikely the current OC would leave a cushy SEC job, perhaps Rutgers would consider his son, who is a quality control coach working for his father. This article details their relationship and how they implemented their spread offense at Texas A&M. Taylor was the quarterbacks coach at UCLA under his father, but took a lesser position with the Aggies to follow him there. He has worked with a lot of great quarterbacks over the years, which Dunleavy details here.
One name that is also intriguing is Dan Werner, the recently fired QB coach and co-offensive from Ole Miss. He was just replaced by Phil Longo, who I discussed as a potential candidate for the Rutgers job previously. Werner was fired after a disappointing season for Ole Miss, but he is extremely qualified and was nominated for the Broyles Award just last year, given to the top assistant in college football each season. He also worked for years at Miami in the nineties and early 2000’s. In Coral Gables he mentored several top signal callers, including Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta. His full bio is here. Werner was quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator in his second stint at Ole Miss, so he could serve as both OC and QB coach for Ash’s staff. Of course, money could be an issue, but it seems likely Rutgers is prepared to spend more than the 450K they spent last season for Mehringer for a more seasoned coordinator. I have no knowledge of if he is a candidate on Ash’s radar, but based on his successful career, I think he is an interesting candidate to consider.
In terms of other names that have been mentioned previously, like Louisiana Tech OC Todd Fitch & former Temple OC Glenn Thomas, both of whom I discuss here, they haven’t been mentioned anywhere of late. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything though, as details of this search have been very tight. Honestly, that’s a good thing and welcomed changed from the many leaks within the athletic department in years past BH (Before Hobbs). I personally like the idea of Thomas. Another name, Ryan Carty from New Hampshire, has been mentioned by some online, but I still would be surprised if Ash went with a FCS coordinator without any other experience.
The search is ongoing and for Rutgers fans, the wait continues. Just remember, there is no perfect candidate. The important thing to focus on is whoever Ash does choose to be the offensive coordinator, they will have a major impact on the future of the program. Their ability to run the power spread offense with the current personnel, as well as be able to recruit better talent to the banks will be essential in their success. There are a lot of opinions on who that should be and whether a second mentor/consultant or even co-coordinator will be part of the equation? For now we wait and ponder WWCAD, which stands for “what will Chris Ash do”? If you hoped to read more answers to already established questions, instead of more questions and less answers, I’m sorry to disappoint.
UODATE: A report states Jerry Kill is expected to be named the OC for Rutgers. Read about it here.