The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders completed their season less than a month ago. Since then, all hell has broken loose on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive coaching staff is down three coaches after the recent move of offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner to Sun Belt program Arkansas State.
His departure is the most significant for MTSU as he took the same position at a program in a lower prestige conference. Along with Faulkner, offensive line coach Geep Wade (ECU) and wide receivers coach Kodi Burns (Arizona State) took off for greener pastures once the season ended.
Those losses leave only offensive tackles/tight ends coach Rick Mallory and running backs/special teams coordinator Mike Polly on the offensive side of the staff. Both are heading into their fourth season with the Blue Raiders and should be safe with the program for the coming season.
Is it the program, the head coach, or something else that is sending these offensive coaches to other programs?
It seems to be a combination of success and money that has allowed these three coaches to find new homes. Wade and Burns used their roles in a record setting offense to find their way into new positions. Wade's new job is a bump up to the AAC with East Carolina, a coaching position that will pay more than Middle Tennessee. Burns is getting the chance to coach for a Power Five conference program with an opportunity to make a name for himself nationally.
Both of those coaching losses are understandable and something that MTSU has experienced on many occasions in the past. Success on the field results in bigger programs poaching talented coaches.
Faulkner's loss does hurt a bit more due to the fact that he is moving to a Sun Belt program from MTSU. The Blue Raiders fan base has always been on the fence about Faulkner, but losing him to a (high quality) Sun Belt program is seen as a bit embarrassing.
Where do the Blue Raiders go from here?
The two lost positional coaches should be easy enough to replace from other programs, but it is incredibly hard to speculate who a program will target for a wide receivers or offensive line coach. Many times, a new position coach comes from the FCS level. There is also a belief that the current offensive coaches could be shuffled a bit to different roles than in 2015. None of those rumors have been confirmed by Rick Stockstill and company.
What we can speculate a bit about is the open offensive coordinator spot.
Three names pop up immediately, though my best guess is that the new offensive coordinator will be a name that has not come out yet. The three coordinator potentials that come to mind for me are Joe Craddock, Kodi Burns, and G.A. Mangus.
Joe Craddock: The 30-year old is currently the offensive coordinator at Southern Methodist. He has ties to the Blue Raiders as a quarterback from 2004-2008. Craddock was a graduate assistant at Clemson in 2014 before leaving for SMU with Chad Morris. In a surprising move, Craddock was immediately given the offensive coordinator position.
The positives for Craddock include his knowledge of the area, his experience with the program, and he is a player that the fan base will fall in love with. The negatives are his youth and his lack of play calling. Morris called the plays at SMU, but Craddock would most likely be in charge of play calling for the Blue Raiders.
Kodi Burns: The former Auburn quarterback was a part of the Middle Tennessee coaching staff in 2015. He coached a group that included senior star Ed Batties and redshirt freshman star Richie James. Burns took a job offer to coach running backs for Arizona State less than a week ago. He could be tempted to spurn Arizona State if he is offered the offensive coordinator position.
His ability to continue to add plays inspired by his time at Auburn into the MTSU offense and his experience in coaching the current wide receiver corps work in his favor. His age (27) and his lack of experience at running an offense are worries.
G.A. Mangus: This would be a very long shot hire for the Blue Raiders. Mangus was the offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee for three years before moving on to South Carolina. His coaching career stalled a bit during his time at South Carolina and he was not retained by new head coach Will Muschamp for the 2016 season.
He is there for the taking, but moving back to MTSU would seem like a step back after running an offense in the SEC. There are some openings that Mangus could end up at, but I do not see Middle Tennessee as a viable option.
This could be Stockstill's most important hire as head coach. The Blue Raiders return the majority of one of Conference USA's best offenses and should be among the favorites to win the conference in 2016. The correct hire could catapult them into a dream season, but a poor hire could drag them to the bottom.
I would expect an offensive coordinator to be in place before national signing day.