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Coaching search begins in earnest at Missouri

by Brandon Foster | November 29, 2015 at 4:45 a.m. | Updated May 16, 2016 at 10:04 p.m.
Missouri's Gary Pinkel, right, congratulates Arkansas' Bret Bielema, left, after an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas beat Missouri 28-3.

Update: Iowa State announced Matt Campbell as its head coach Sunday.

The Missouri football team's regular season came to an end Friday with a 28-3 loss at Arkansas. But with a head-coaching vancancy left by Gary Pinkel's resignation, the games are just beginning.

Multiple outlets reported Saturday that Pinkel, the program's all-time winningest coach, had stepped down from his position and that quarterbacks coach and associate head coach Andy Hill was named interim head coach. Pinkel announced earlier this month he would resign after the season because of health concerns.

One of the premier candidates to replace Pinkel came off the board Saturday when ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported Justin Fuente will be the next coach at Virginia Tech. Fuente's Memphis Tigers have won 19 games the last two years, and the Missouri athletic department has its share of connections to Memphis. Director of athletics Mack Rhoades hired deputy director of athletics Wren Baker and senior associate A.D. Ryan Bradley from Memphis after Rhoades took over this spring.

And, of course, defensive coordinator Barry Odom was hired before the season from Memphis, where he held the same position.

As the dominoes continue to fall in an offseason filled with high-profile vacancies, the main debate regarding the Missouri job seems to be whether to promote Odom or to look outside the program.

In his first season as Missouri's D.C., Odom's defense allowed an average of 4.4 yards per play, an improvement of 1.3 yards from last season, when the Tigers' defense wasn't exactly shabby under Dave Steckel.

Prior to this weekend's games, Missouri was a top-10 defense in yards per game and points per game. Odom also coaches the team's linebackers, and senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the nation in tackles. Odom played linebacker at Missouri, and coached there as an assistant for nine seasons before leaving for Memphis. His lone head-coaching experience came in two seasons at Rock Bridge in Columbia, where his teams went 14-8.

Missouri defensive players have expressed their desire to see Odom get the job, both on Twitter and in their comments after the Arkansas game. Offensive player J'Mon Moore said he'd support the hire as well. Odom is thought to be in the Pinkel mold, something the 39-year-old assistant considers a compliment.

The decision whether to promote Odom comes with an added weight, considering the likely possibility Odom will leave for the Memphis head-coaching job vacated by Fuente if he is not offered the same position at his alma mater.

Should Rhoades choose to go in a different direction, here are some coaches whose names have been tied to the MU job.

Tom Herman

Current position: Houston head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 1

Head-coaching record: 11-1

Age: 40

The breakdown: In a sense, Herman's candidacy at Missouri is similar to Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall's when the Tigers were in need of a basketball coach in 2014. Both have set off Missouri fans' salivary glands, as their success at smaller-scale schools have made them big names in the job market. But, like Marshall, Missouri might not be an appealing enough position for Herman.

Herman had his hands on the national championship last year as Ohio State's offensive coordinator. In his first year at Houston, the Cougars, who went 8-5 in 2014, are 11-1 with an American Athletic Conference West Division title under their belts.

Though he's been linked to other openings like South Carolina, Missouri does have an important tie to Herman. Rhoades hired him less than a year ago when he was the A.D. at Houston. This hire will be Rhoades' first major one at Missouri, and if he's able to snag Herman yet again, it'll be pretty clear Rhoades isn't messing around.

Houston has reportedly offered Herman an annual raise t0 $3 million to stay - though Memphis also gave Fuente a similar offer to stay, and it doesn't appear it worked. Herman, who spent 11 years as an assistant in the Lone Star State, could be tempted to hang around another year and see if the Texas or Texas A&M jobs become available.

What they're saying: Herman is the best choice "if he'll come," Andy Staples wrote for Sports Illustrated's Campus Rush. "Herman might actually be better off sitting out this coaching carousel, taking $3 million a year to stay at Houston and waiting to see if the Texas job opens after next season. But if Herman feels ready to make the jump, he might do it for Missouri's Mack Rhoades, the athletic director who hired him at Houston. Herman filled his Cougars staff with assistants who can recruit Texas. Missouri, after getting as many homegrown players as possible, found some gems in the Lone Star State under Gary Pinkel."

Matt Campbell

Current position: Toledo head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 5

Head-coaching record: 35-15

Age: 36

The breakdown: The last time Missouri hired a head football coach, he also came from Toledo. That worked out pretty well; Pinkel set Toledo's career wins mark before doing the same in Columbia.

But history might not have a chance to repeat itself, as Campbell could potentially be off the table as well.

Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel reported Saturday that Campbell is expected to sign a deal with Iowa State in the next 48 hours. Later that day, Nick Piotrowicz of the Toledo Blade reported Campbell had not informed Toledo he was leaving and that the Rockets are "prepared to give (Campbell) a giant pay increase." Power Mizzou and Football Scoop reported Saturday night Missouri would be meeting with Campbell by the end of the weekend.

Update: Campbell was announced as Iowa State's next coach Sunday.

What they're saying: "Campbell has fast-tracked professionally - he became the second-youngest FBS coordinator at 29 and the youngest FBS head coach at 32 - but he's still the type who prefers the local, not the express," ESPN's Adam Rittenberg wrote last month, when coaching rumors were beginning to surface. "He wasn't molded in big or flashy places but in football-obsessed Ohio towns like Massillon, Canton, Alliance, Bowling Green and now Toledo. He wasn't molded by famous men but by coaches who succeeded on smaller stages like Mount Union's Larry Kehres and Campbell's father, Rick, a former high school coach in Massillon."

Matt Rhule

Current position: Temple head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 3

Head-coaching record: 18-18

Age: 40

The breakdown: The Owls have improved every season under Rhule, from 2-10 in 2013 to 6-6 last year to 10-2 and a top-25 ranking this season.

Rhule has been both a defensive and offensive assistant in his career. He was an assistant offensive line coach for a year with the NFL's New York Giants before being hired back to Temple, where he was an assistant from 2006-11 under Al Golden, the recently fired Miami coach.

With Fuente and potentially Campbell out of the picture and Herman perhaps outside Missouri's reach, Rhule has become one of the more popular names thrown about to compete with Odom for the Tigers' job. Reports surfaced Saturday night Rhoades would meet with Rhule today.

Rhule's one year as a defensive-line coach at UCLA was his only coaching job further west than Western Carolina.

What they're saying: "One candidate who intrigues Rhoades is Temple coach Matt Rhule, who has been choosy about which jobs he's involved with," Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel wrote at Campus Rush. "Rhule is an odd geographic fit, but his success at Temple has been so strong that there is a belief his personality could fit anywhere."

Dino Babers

Current position: Bowling Green head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 4

Head-coaching record: 36-16

Age: 54

The breakdown: Babers has only been a head coach four seasons, but his teams have finished atop their divisions in every one of them. He went 19-7, 4-1 in conference, at Eastern Illinois before taking over at Bowling Green. His Falcons have nine wins this season with a game still on the schedule. Two of his losses came to Fuente's Tigers (by three points) and Campbell's Rockets (by 16).

Geographically, Babers coached coast to coast in his 27 years as an assistant, and his connections in the Midwest (Eastern Illinois) and Texas (Texas A&M and Baylor) could help him recruit at Missouri.

After a season in which some of the Missouri's black players boycotted team activities because of the handling of racist events on campus, Rhoades will likely be inclined to explore minority candidates - though he said he saw value in doing so during his past hires, as well. Babers, who is black, could be one of the more appealing minority candidates in the field.

What they're saying: "If Mizzou is looking for offense and more recruiting punch," ESPN's Chris Low tweeted, "Bowling Green's Dino Babers ought to be at or near the top of the list."

Brent Venables

Current position: Clemson defensive coordinator

Years of head-coaching experience: 0

Head-coaching record: N/A

Age: 44

The breakdown: Though Rhoades said he expected most of the candidates for the Missouri job to be current head coaches, he also said he wouldn't be opposed to hiring a coordinator if it was the right fit. Venables could be one assistant worth checking out.

His Tigers are currently No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and entered the weekend fifth in the country in yards per game allowed and 11th in points allowed per game. Missouri saw more than its fair share of Venables when he coached the Oklahoma defense from 2004-11.

Venables is from Salina, Kan., and played and coached at Kansas State. Having connections in both the Southeast and the Big 12 regions could be a plus for a team like Missouri.

Venables said last week he wasn't interested in other jobs, but the word of a coveted coach isn't exactly plated in gold this time of year.

What they're saying: "The former OU assistant has done a superb job rebuilding the Tigers defense after it lost a bunch of key guys to the NFL," Bruce Feldman wrote for FOX Sports. "Venables is a high-energy guy and also a terrific recruiter. He'd be a strong candidate at his alma mater, K-State, if Snyder retires. He also might be a decent option at Mizzou."

Troy Calhoun

Current position: Air Force head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 9

Head-coaching record: 67-47

Age: 49

The breakdown: The 2007 Mountain West coach of the year, Calhoun has had six seasons of eight or more wins at Air Force, despite facing the limitations that come with coaching at a military academy.

The Falcons' triple-option offense has turned some off to Calhoun - especially if true freshman Drew Lock is to return as Missouri's starter - but the results are hard to argue with. Air Force has beat Boise State the past two seasons, and Calhoun's 10-win season in 2014 was the first for Air Force in 16 years.

What they're saying: "Another name I've heard for Mizzou: Air Force's Troy Calhoun," ESPN's Travis Haney tweeted. "Admin said to be a fan of his. 8-3 in "15 means 8th bowl in 9 seasons for AF."

Lincoln Riley

Current position: Oklahoma offensive coordinator

Years of head-coaching experience: 0

Head-coaching record: N/A

Age: 32

The breakdown: Riley is one of three additional possibilities - along with Sonny Dykes and Jeff Brohm - to replace Pinkel named by FOX Sports' Feldman in his list of coaches to keep an eye on this offseason.

Riley is in his first year at Oklahoma, but the Sooners entered the weekend third in the nation in scoring, seventh in total offense and on the brink of a College Football Playoff spot.

The former Texas Tech quarterback coached as an assistant in Lubbock, Texas, his birthplace, for seven seasons before taking over as East Carolina's offensive coordinator, where he caught Oklahoma's attention with five seasons off success implementing a spread offense.

What they're saying: "A Mike Leach prot©g©, Riley's still very young at (32), but he's very sharp and very mature," Feldman wrote. "His offenses put up huge numbers at ECU before taking over the Sooners attack and sparking a return to the status of national title contender. What's more impressive is that OU is doing this with one of the most inexperienced O-lines in college football. Riley won't just take any FBS head-coaching job, but if Mizzou came after him, that'd probably be too much to turn down. (Remember new Mizzou AD Mack Rhoades tabbed up-and-comer Herman when he was the Houston AD.)"

Sonny Dykes

Current position: California head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 6

Head-coaching record: 34-38

Age: 46

The breakdown: Dykes still has a Pac-12 head-coaching job, but he hasn't exactly blown the doors off at Cal. The Bears are 12-23 under Dykes. He was the head coach at Louisiana Tech from 2010-12, going 22-15 and earning a Poinsetta Bowl berth in his second year.

He has been an assistant coach at Kentucky, Texas Tech and Arizona, among others.

What they're saying: "Did a good job at La. Tech and in Year Three at Cal, he's got the Bears bowl-bound, but the support around him at the school is shaky," Feldman wrote. "If Rodriguez left Arizona, Dykes might be a nice option to return to Tucson. Also, he probably will get some consideration for the Mizzou job."

Jeff Brohm

Current position: Western Kentucky head coach

Years of head-coaching experience: 2

Head-coaching record: 18-7

Age: 44

The breakdown: A former NFL quarterback, Brohm has coached Western Kentucky to 10 wins in his second year. He took the Hilltoppers to the Bahamas Bowl last year, an eight-win campaign. Brohm coached quarterbacks at Louisville, Florida Atlantic, Illinois, Alabama-Birmingham and Western Kentucky.

After a long string of success at the quarterback position, Missouri gunslingers have struggled mightily the last two seasons.

What they're saying: "The 44-year-old former Louisville QB who spent two seasons as the Illinois quarterbacks coach is having a strong year with a (10-2) record," Feldman wrote. "His style and background should help him get a look at Illinois, Mizzou, Maryland and maybe Iowa State."


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