10 Guys I Want to Coach the Red Raiders in 2018
I like Kliff Kingsbury. I do. But there hasn’t been a high level of success during his tenure.
It’s not really his fault, though. The Texas Tech administration hired Kliff Kingsbury five years too early.
Kingsbury has a very good offensive mind, but quickly proved he was out of his depth as a head coach in his first year at Texas Tech. Still, optimism pushed forward into Kingsbury’s second season, which continued a disappointing reign. The offense hasn’t lacked, proving his prowess as an offensive coordinator, but the defense has only gotten worse over the last four years. That has a direct correlation with his head coaching ability.
Kliff Kingsbury, going into year five as head coach at Texas Tech, is entering his 10th season in coaching. That’s nine total years of experience. He was a quality control assistant at the University of Houston for two years before getting an opportunity as the co-offensive coordinator for one season at Houston under Kevin Sumlin before going to Texas A&M with Sumlin as the offensive coordinator for one season. That was all before coming to Texas Tech.
That’s the depth of Kingsbury’s experience. One season as a primary assistant and three seasons as a secondary assistant. He’s now been a head coach longer than he was an assistant.
Kingsbury has gotten very valuable experience in the past four years at Texas Tech, and it’s my hope that that experience manifests into success this season so he can blossom into the coach he was becoming before he was rushed into an impossible job with a staff with the same amount of experience.
Even Lincoln Riley, who is four years younger than Kingsbury, has been coaching for 15 years and has been at least a primary assistant since 2010, with associate head coach experience and time at three different schools under three different head coaches.
Kingsbury only previously coached under Kevin Sumlin.
Something that will come up over and over in this list is pedigree. Who has the guy coached with? Who has he coached for? Who has he learned from and who will he emulate? Those are all questions that weigh heavily, and the answers to those questions in Kingsbury’s case are pretty weak.
Kingsbury still has a chance to overcome his inexperience; that’s how talented I believe he is. But if it doesn’t happen this season, there will be pressure to find a new guy. I’ve put together a list of 10 candidates.
Yes, there are several defensive coordinators on this list.
You’re welcome, Kirby.
Like I said, I like Kliff. I’m encouraged by this off-season in which several disgruntled players have left and some strong defensive talent has come back to Texas Tech.
I’m encouraged because, at least to the public, Kingsbury is showing growth by admitting the defense is a drastic problem and it needs his attention. He spent time with both the offense and defense this spring, which is a departure from his style in the first four seasons when he was just an offensive coach.
That growth, along with the experience Kingsbury has gathered in his time here in Lubbock as a coach, to me makes this a make a break year for him.
If he can put together a year that shows improvement, he will still be the coach in 2018 and will be on a positive trajectory.
Dave Aranda’s first job at a major program was at Texas Tech as a grad assistant from 1999-2001. He’s also been at Houston, Hawaii and Wisconsin, among other schools, with 10 years of experience as a defensive coordinator.
Aranda has a great track record with having great defenses under his tutelage. He’s had a top 10 defense since 2013 with both LSU and Wisconsin. Yes, those are historically great defensive programs, I agree.
Aranda had the 15th best defense at Utah State and 73rd at Hawaii, which is a great comparison to what he could do at Texas Tech.
Aranda was a name that Texas Tech bounced around in 2012 before they hired Kliff Kingsbury, so it’s likely that Kirby Hocutt is still interested in Aranda. After being a DC in the SEC, an HC coaching job in the Big 12 is a logical step up for a coach who wants to move up the ladder. And that’s what Aranda wants.
He’s not a guy that would stay in Lubbock for 10 years, but he would put in a solid three years and turn the defense around. That’s what’s important in the long run.
Brent Venables has plenty of experience in the Big 12. He played and then coached under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. After Kansas State, Venables went to Oklahoma to coach with Bob Stoops as the Co-DC until 2003, and then the DC from 2004 through 2011.
In 2011, the Sooners held the opposition to just 22 points per game. He’s been at Clemson since 2012 and is well-rooted in that community.
Under Venables’ watch, the Clemson Tigers’ defense has posted three top 10 finishes, including the number one defense in 2014 after a 64th best defense in his first season in 2012.
Venables does have strong ties to Texas Tech, though. His workout partner on the K-state team? Red Raider AD Kirby Hocutt. Maybe Hocutt calls in the big favor Venables owes him to come save the Texas Tech defense.
There’s no reason to think Venables wants to leave his gig winning National Championships in Clemson, but the head coaching job does come with a pay bump that may be enough to entice him away from Clemson, South Carolina.
Venables also has pedigree coaching under both Bob Stoops and Dabo Swinney.
Satterfield has been the head coach at Appalachian State since 2013 and he’s already gotten two double-digit win seasons and almost took down Tennessee last season.
Satterfield has spent most of his career at App State, but has also spent time at Temple and FIU. He’s been in the game since 1998 after playing quarterback at App State in the 90s.
He’s ready to make the jump to a bigger school and it seems like Texas Tech could get a future coaching star here who seems like a loyal guy. If he could make his new home in Lubbock, Satterfield could be the guy.
Of course, with all the guys who would be taking first-time Power 5 jobs, you’d have to worry about coaches using Texas Tech as a stepping stone to the next big job.
In addition to his duties as the OC, Drevno is also the offensive line coach at Michigan. Drevno has actually been an assistant to Jim Harbaugh since 2004.
The Harbaugh connection makes this intriguing. Maybe Drevno is a lifelong Harbaugh assistant, but his name has been attached to every mid-major job opening the last two seasons. Why not give Drevno a shot? He’s got plenty of experience — not as a head coach, but he’s been in the coaching ranks since 1991 and has coached at Stanford, USC and Michigan.
His USC stint was his one year away from Harbaugh in 2014.
In his latest season as the Michigan OC, Drevno led the Michigan offense to the 11th ranked scoring offense, putting up 40.9 points per game. That’s within three points of Texas Tech’s top 5 finish.
Drevno would bring a dynamic that hasn’t been seen at Texas Tech since Spike Dykes. A commitment to the running game, defense and maybe even Harbaugh’s affinity for cheap khakis.
Mostly, hiring someone like Drevno is hoping that a little but of that Harbaugh magic has rubbed off on the guy.
This name is very similar to Drevno.
The success of the Drevno hire would hinge on Harbaugh’s success rubbing off on Drevno.
In Kwiatkowski’s case, it’s the Chris Peterson effect you’d be banking on.
Peterson and Kwiatkowski joined together in Peterson’s first year as the head coach at Boise State in 2006. In 2010, Kwiatkowski was promoted to defensive coordinator and followed Peterson to Washington in 2014.
Boise State had the second ranked defense in 2010, the same year that the offense was in the top two in scoring offense. From 2008 to 2012, Boise State’s defense was ranked in the top 20 in the nation, including several top 12 finishes.
He has had continued success in Washington, where he took the 80th ranked Washington defense in 2014 to the 12th spot in the 2016 rankings.
That’s what we call improvement.
It’s the loyalty of Venables, Drevno and Kwiatowski that also show how important continuity is within a coaching staff. Something Texas Tech hasn’t had on defense since Lyle Setencich.
Collins has been coaching since 1996, with his last six seasons as a defensive coordinator in the SEC. His most recent stint was with Florida in 2015 and 2016. Collins’ first head coaching job has just begun at Temple where he replaces current Baylor coach Matt Rhule.
At Florida, Collins posted back-to-back top 10 finishes in total defense.
Collins comes from Florida, where he coached and Jim McElwain. Before that, Collins coached under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State.
Neither of those names demand the respect like Harbaugh, Stoops or Swinney, but they are respected names in the coaching profession. McElwain in particular, who is one of the hottest coaches in the nation right now after winning MWC and SEC Coach of the Year awards back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.
Collins is getting head coaching experience this season, which only makes him more attractive of a prospect…depending on what he does with Temple this season.
The natural progression of a successful coach generally is: assistant, coordinator, small school head coach, big school head coach. That isn’t the case for everyone, but it’s generally the way it goes.
It also happens to be the trajectory of Seth Littrell.
Littrell has moved from RB coach to Co-OC to OC to associate HC to head coach at North Texas.
He’s got experience at Indiana and North Carolina, as well as a four-year stretch under Mike Leach at Texas Tech as the running backs coach from 2005 to 2008.
Returning to the Mike Leach coaching staff may well be a deal breaker to the Texas Tech administration, who seemingly wants to put as much distance between them and the former Red Raider as possible. But Littrell has proven he’s a solid recruiter and a coach that has a big future.
In his first season at North Texas, Littrell went 5-7, improving from the 1-11 mark of his predecessor.
Littrell might also bring his coaching staff with him to Lubbock, which includes offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, so the offense wouldn’t dip in the production it has seen under Kliff Kingsbury. The North Texas staff also includes Joel Filani as the outside receivers coach.
If Seth Littrell is dipping into the Mike Leach well, then Ruffin McNeill is diving in head first.
When the Mike Leach saga culminated in the firing of Mike Leach, a considerable amount of the fanbase wanted McNeill to replace coach Leach in 2010 — especially after he led the team to an exciting victory as the head coach in the bowl game connected to the 2009 season.
Ruffin was denied the opportunity, which instead went to Tommy Tuberville.
In the next three seasons, Tuberville would take the Texas Tech program from its highest point to a very low one, while McNeill would go to East Carolina and begin to build that program from the ground up.
Ruffin enjoyed a 42-34 record before being relieved of his duties at ECU in 2016 after a 5-7 season.
Tuberville made it one more season as a head coach before he was axed after a 4-8 season.
I don’t know if Ruffin McNeill would be asked to return or if he would even entertain the question, but I do believe Ruffin McNeill is the type of man you want at the top of your program.
Let’s just pretend that Chip Kelly never went to the NFL.
Chip Kelly only has four years of head coaching experience — all at Oregon, where he started as the OC in 2007. From 2009 to 2012, he went 46-7, going to the Rose Bowl twice, the Fiesta Bowl once and playing for the National Title once.
He’s only known incredible success at the collegiate level.
Prior to 2012, there’s no way he’d come to Lubbock, Texas.
Now , back to reality. Maybe after he suffered an embarrassing NFL coaching stint would Kelly return to the college ranks, specifically at Texas Tech to repair his coaching legacy.
He wouldn’t stay long (if he was successful) before moving to a bigger program, but it would be a fun ride.