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Five candidates Georgia Southern should look at for head coaching vacancy

To option or not to option: that is the question.

Jacksonville State v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

With Georgia Southern’s firing of Tyson Summers yesterday, names immediately starting cropping up as to who should be the Eagles’ third head coach since 2014.

After suffering a nightmare pair of seasons under a guy who barely had experience running one side of the ball, I hope the Eagles make a safer choice this time around and don’t look to make a “splash hire” after the season ends.

Here’s my top-five in no particular order...

Mike Houston

NCAA Football: D1 Football Championship
Mike Houston has been a head coach for seven years with stops at Lenoir-Rhyme, The Citadel, and James Madison. His overall record as a head coach is 62-20.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Houston would be my first choice easily. Just look at what he’s done for James Madison’s football program.

Houston took over for Everett Withers in 2016 after Withers opted to take the Texas State coaching job, and kept the Dukes rolling all the way to a national championship season last year.

JMU is currently 7-0 this season and should be favorites to repeat as FCS National Champions.

The offense may be one drawback for hardcore fans of the option (whichever you prefer) as James Madison runs a pretty balanced offense, averaging 231 yards per game passing and 239 rushing.

Georgia Southern undoubtedly needs a winner badly, regardless of what type of offense the head coach prefers to run. Houston brings that pedigree.

John Grass

Grass is currently the head coach of Jacksonville State University, another power player at the FCS level of football.

JSU was eliminated by national runner-up Youngstown State in the FCS playoffs last season, but advanced to the national championship in 2015, when it was beaten by North Dakota State.

Grass has accumulated a record of 37-7 since the coach took over in 2014, and the Gamecocks are currently 6-1 in the FCS with its only loss this season coming against Georgia Tech.

Much like Houston, Grass prefers his teams to rely on a balanced attack, but does lean a bit more towards the run than the Dukes do.

JSU is averaging 206 yards per game on the ground, and 167 through the air through seven games, and the style does not appear to be too much of a departure from what Georgia Southern employed under Willie Fritz.

He also appears to be more obtainable than Houston. Houston’s name value and reputation as a champion may have some low-rung Power Five teams come knocking, but Grass should be more easily accessible (and affordable) should the Eagles want him.

Brian Bohannon

Here’s where things start getting interesting.

Bohannon is the head coach of the Kennesaw State Owls, a team that was literally brought to prominence from day one by its current head coach.

KSU had never fielded a football team prior to 2015, but Bohannon has already turned the Owls into a team to be reckoned with.

Oh, and did I mention he runs a flexbone triple-option? That would make fans of the Eagles who long for the Jeff Monken days extremely happy.

Kennesaw is currently 6-1 with its only loss coming to Sanford in week one of this season.

One caveat I will add is a rumor that keeps coming up when Bohannon’s name is linked to Georgia Southern.

Although unsubstantiated by any real source, there is some sort of rift between Bohannon and current Georgia Southern athletic director Tom Kleinlein. Kleinlein is already having to eat plenty of crow for his disastrous Tyson Summers hire, why not throw a couple more wings on to that plate?

Doug Ruse

While there still may be some unease going back to the Willie Fritz tenure of Georgia Southern football and his subsequent move to Tulane, I think Doug Ruse would be a very good fit for the Eagles.

Ruse was the offensive coordinator under Fritz that helped lead some of the most dynamic runners in the country in 2014 and ‘15, and probably should have gotten a shot to be a head football coach sometime before this point.

Tulane has made several strides in a short span of time under Ruse, taking a No. 16 ranked South Florida team down to the wire just last Saturday.

Ruse would probably be the safest hire by Georgia Southern standards, having already been ingratiated into the Eagles’ culture as a part of teams that won the Sun Belt and went on to win a bowl game.

Georgia Southern averaged 36 points per game in its final season under Ruse’s coordination, and could bring that winning mentality back to Statesboro.

Ivin Jasper

Jasper is currently both the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Navy, another team that knows a thing or two about running the option and winning football games.

Much like Ruse, Jasper worked under former Georgia Southern coach Paul Johnson for the Eagles from 1999-2000 before moving with Johnson to Navy.

Jasper knows the culture around the Eagles’ football program and knows how much fans want to both win and run the football.

Having done that for 18 seasons at Navy, and with the style of offense that would be conducive to what Georgia Southern fans want to see, Jasper looks like a solid candidate on paper, and I think Eagle fans would welcome him back to Statesboro with open arms, having come from the Paul Johnson coaching tree.

However, Ivin Jasper has had to deal with more pressing matters this year due to his son needing a heart transplant. Jasper might be against uprooting at this time and should be considered a serious long shot.