College football’s crazy season has begun as the coaching carousel is spinning faster than any fan can stomach. College Station has the latest vacancy as Texas A&M announced Kevin Sumlin would no longer be the coach of the Aggies. KPRC-TV Sports Director Randy McIlvoy reported there is already a deal in place to bring Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M.
As we have seen with the Florida coaching search, nothing is a done deal until a contract is signed. Chip Kelly was widely reported to be the Gators next coach, but Kelly ultimately chose the UCLA job. With that in mind, we are going to explore some of the top candidates to replace Sumlin including the case for Fisher to head to the Lone Star State.
We are not that far removed from Sumlin being a hot name in NFL circles. In a tweet listing Sumlin’s accomplishments, Texas A&M indirectly pointed out why the move away from Sumlin is puzzling. Sumlin had 51 wins, 12 victories over ranked opponents, seven players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and five national awards.
For all his accomplishments, the Aggies were not consistently competing with the top teams in the SEC West, and his firing shows just how high the expectations are in College Station.
Here’s a look at the top Texas A&M coaching candidates.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach
McIlvoy’s report notes Fisher has already agreed to a five-year deal with an annual salary of $7.5 million. Personally, I am not convinced the Texas A&M job is a better one than the one Fisher currently has in Tallahassee. Given where Texas A&M was when Sumlin took over, he did a lot to turn the program around, yet ended up getting fired.
USA Today’s Dan Wolken did not refute the Fisher report, but didn’t offer any confirmation that a deal is in place.
Fisher does have experience in the SEC, spending time as an assistant at Auburn and LSU. While Florida State is having a down year, Fisher has a good situation. He is able to recruit the state of Florida while competing the ACC, which historically is a more manageable conference to compete than the SEC. If Fisher leaves, he could just want a change of scenery, or is looking to get back into the SEC if he ends up taking the Texas A&M job.
Chad Morris, SMU Head Coach
As SB Nation’s Bill Connelly puts it, Chad Morris is “on schedule” at SMU. Morris has not pulled off a complete makeover in Dallas, but the program is on its way to transformation. SMU was in dire straights when Morris took over, and Morris has had his best season yet with the Mustangs going bowling.
Morris is not the sexy name of a coach like Fisher, but already has made inroads in a fertile Texas recruiting hotbed. Morris helped transform Clemson’s offense as offensive coordinator before taking the SMU head coaching gig. Morris is from Texas, and spent decades as a Texas high school coach before jumping to the college ranks.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah Head Coach
Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported Kyle Whittingham may be a person Texas A&M would consider given his connection with Texas A&M president Michael K. Young during their time together at Utah. Whittingham likely does not do much to move the needle for Aggies fans, but has built Utah into a respectable program with far less resources than he would have in College Station.
Whittingham has spent 13 seasons at Utah as the successor to Urban Meyer. Whittingham has a remarkable 110-56 record, including four 10-win seasons during his tenure.
Gary Patterson, TCU Head Coach
Gary Patterson has long been pursued by brand-name programs, but Patterson has continuously opted to stay in Ft. Worth. Now that TCU is in a major conference, it has become even harder for prospective schools to lure Peterson away from TCU. Peterson gets to recruit Texas, without the pressure of a bigger program like Texas or Texas A&M. TCU’s presence in the Big 12 gives Patterson a clearer path to the College Football Playoff than he would have in the SEC.
For all the challenges just mentioned, do not be surprised if Texas A&M looks to at least meet with Patterson. Just don’t be surprised if they have the same results as the other brand-name schools have had.
Scott Frost, UCF Head Coach
With Chip Kelly off the market, Frost is the hottest name in college football for school’s looking to hire a coach. USA Today’s Dan Wolken reported Frost declined to meet with Florida about their head coaching vacancy. Frost has been very vocal about the state of Florida being the perfect location for his brand of football. Like Florida, Texas also has plenty of athletes that Frost could utilize in his revised Oregon offense.
If Frost did indeed turn down Florida, Frost could stay at UCF for another season, if the pull to return to Nebraska does not lure him away. Frost is an up-and-coming coach, but the Aggies may opt to go a different direction given Sumlin was in a similar situation when he was hired away from Houston.
Why is Frost listed as a candidate for almost every major job in college football? In just two seasons, Frost transformed UCF from a win-less team to one of two undefeated teams in the country with the nation’s top offense. Frost has NFL playing experience, and his coaching mentors include Bill Walsh, Chip Kelly, Mike Tomlin and Tom Osborne.