In a way, it resembled the 2017 AAC Championship Game. That is to say that reports were streaming in before the game finished that the coach who would go onto win the game had been hired by a P5 job. Back then it was Scott Frost, and now it is Mike Norvell.
Both coaches were even asked about the reports following the game, and neither had any interest in doing anything but celebrating with their team.
It made one of, if not the best, moment in Memphis football history bittersweet.
The Memphis Tigers have a lot to look forward to now. They’ll be moving onto the Cotton Bowl, against a highly ranked P5 opponent. It will be the greatest showcase game in their program’s existence.
Not to be overlooked, they also have early signing day. That comes on December 18, 2019. This has become the more important of the two signing periods, as most teams use it to fill the bulk of their spots. The second signing period is now about filling gaps in your class.
No one will sign with Memphis unless they have a coach in place, and a coach who has had a week (or two if possible) to go out an re-recruit all of the program’s verbally committed players.
In other words, Memphis needs to find their new coach quickly. They’ll likely follow the model they’ve found success with in recent years; a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach. So, here are some likely candidates:
Will Hall, Tulane offensive coordinator
The Tulane offensive coordinator has only had one year in the role, and only two seasons in total as a FBS coordinator. However, he does have all the experience in the world and knows the Memphis program. Hall was the tight ends coach for Memphis during their 2018 season.
Before Hall made it to the FBS he spent six seasons coaching division II football. He spent three seasons with West Georgia and West Alabama respectively. In those six seasons he posted a career 56-20 record, 3 conference titles, and 4 playoff appearances.
Hall is breathes, sleeps, and eats the south. He’s been all over the south, giving him great recruiting ties. He is young, draws people’s attention, and has a goal of becoming a FBS head coach. His creative offense, which still loves to run, will keep Memphis from having to transition too much in terms of style.
He should be Memphis’ top choice.
Rich Rodriguez, Ole Miss offensive coordinator (most recently)
Since 1988, there have only been eight seasons in which Rich Rodriguez was not a head coach. The past two years he was out of football, and the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss respectively.
As a head coach, his best years were with Pat White at West Virginia. The success he hit there launched him into the Michigan job. Since then, he was never able to replicate that success. His best seasons since then was 2014’s PAC 12 South title.
He’s going to need a new job. He’s a famed offensive mind. Yeah, he’s not a young man anymore, but he can recruit and bring energy to Memphis.
Chip Long, Notre Dame offensive coordinator
Here’s another former Memphis offensive assistant. Long served as offensive coordinator in Norvell’s first season as head coach, 2016. In the three seasons since then Long has served as the Notre Dame offensive coordinator.
Long is known for his RPOs, which Notre Dame has run to mixed results during his time in South Bend. Under both Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book the quarterback likes to run in Long’s offense. They also rely on talent at the skills positions to move the ball downfield.
Long is young, energetic, and knows the program. Those are all positives. One negative is that not many Notre Dame fans would lose sleep about replacing him.
Billy Napier, Louisiana Lafayette head coach
Willie Fritz is proof enough that even more challenging AAC jobs are better than even a good Sun Belt job. A bit more money, a new challenge, and more visibility could lure away the up and coming head coach.
Napier has only been in Lafayette for two seasons, but has managed to take the Ragin’ Cajuns to two Sun Belt Championship Games and two bowls in that time frame. The year before he got there they were 5-7.
Before Louisiana Napier was at Arizona State as the offensive coordinator, and before that he was Nick Saban’s wide receivers coach. That time period overlapped with guys like Amari Cooper.
Joe Brady, LSU passing game coordinator
Ignore that Brady just said his future is “absolutely” with LSU. He’s a perfect model of a modern head coach.
Brady is young, having only graduated from college in 2012. Since then he’s had a couple of stops, in the NFL and college. Those stops have mostly been on the offensive side of the ball, but he did spend time as a linebackers coach at William & Mary.
Most importantly, Brady is currently being credited as the first strategist to figure out how to turn LSU into a great offense, pretty much ever. Don’t believe the difference with Brady at LSU? Watch any LSU footage, even from when they competed for National titles under Les Miles and Nick Saban. Then, watch footage from under Brady. It’s worlds apart.
The one knock? At 30 years old is Brady too young?