The Golden Goose
Right now, it’s BOOM or bust for Coach Muschamp. The Aggies seem to be in an all-out bidding war with Auburn for his services and have reportedly offered him $1.5M/yr. If a deal is inked at or above this price, he would become the highest paid defensive coordinator in the nation. But Auburn has claimed that they will match or exceed any offer that Muschamp gets.
Will Muschamp was a graduate student at Auburn and even served as defensive coordinator from 2006-2007. His familiarity with the school and that particular region will most likely keep him from Aggieland. However, nothing is final until the contract is signed. Auburn still has to pay $2.2M for Ellis Johnson’s buyout and there are still some staffing issues to be ironed out before a deal is done. But if Auburn can foot the bill, Muschamp will join forces with Malzahn to make arguably the best 1-2 coaching duo in the SEC.
If Muschamp doesn’t pan out, Aggie fans everywhere are throwing out candidates such as Brent Venables (Clemson DC), Pat Narduzzi (Michigan St DC), Bob Shoop (Penn St DC), and Bud Foster (Virginia Tech DC). All of these guys are very accomplished defensive coordinators with several years of experience. However, history dictates that they are much more likely to stay put until an opportune head coaching position becomes available. Even though A&M could supply each of these guys with a pay raise, it makes more sense for them to leverage an offer into a pay raise at their current school while waiting for the right head coaching gig. If the Aggies are able to lure away an experienced defensive coordinator, Venables and Foster make the most sense.
With Brent Venables, Coach Sumlin would be able to dip into his coaching circle. The two worked at Oklahoma on opposite sides of the ball for a number of years. However, the price tag would be steep as Venables already commands a $1M salary at Clemson. To get him to leave, the Aggies would probably have to offer a similar $1.5M that they offered to Muschamp. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities, but it is probably unlikely for A&M to overpay for a candidate like Venables.
Bud Foster has led Virginia Tech to many successful seasons on the defensive front and most recently a top 10 finish in 2011. With his current salary just north of $800K, the Aggies could offer a substantial raise without making him the highest paid DC in the country. However, it may not be enough to lure away the defensive coordinator who has coached at Virginia Tech since 1987.
Some of the most intriguing DC prospects did not even coach this past season while another just got fired. If Sumlin is turned away by the likes of Will Muschamp, Brent Venables, and Bud Foster, it might be best for him to consider the unemployed.
Gene Chizik is considered by many to be one of the premier defensive minds in the game. After getting fired by Auburn in 2012, he sat around on his buyout money and is currently working as an analyst on the SEC Network. This is a similar move to Urban Meyer’s famous sabbatical from college football after coaching Florida. If Chizik is interested in returning to the coaching ranks, A&M should give him a long look. With coaching stints at Texas and Auburn, he would give the Aggies a DC that has SEC experience and recruiting ties in Texas.
Another coach that is currently looking for his next opportunity is Ed Orgeron. The former interim USC head coach took over in 2013 after Lane Kiffin was fired. Despite having a very successful interim period, he was passed over for the permanent head coaching position and chose to resign. With former coaching stints at Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Tennessee, Ed Orgeron has a great deal of SEC experience to bring to the table. He has expressed his interest in getting back into coaching and might be convinced to come on as DC.
Finally, there is Bo Pelini who was just fired from head coach at Nebraska. Personally, I believe an experienced head coach like Pelini would have no interest in taking a step back from head coach to defensive coordinator. The man was 62-27 over 7 seasons at Nebraska and never lost more than 4 games in a season. Most programs would kill for that kind of success. However, Pelini and Sumlin coached together at Oklahoma in 2004. Furthermore, the fiery coach served as the LSU DC from 2005-2007. His SEC experience and familiarity with Sumlin make him an intriguing prospect. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that he would take anything less than a head coaching position.
The All Too Familiar
When all is said and done, the Aggies national search for a defensive coordinator might go down an all too familiar path. Just like the Aggies snagged Sumlin away from University of Houston, Sumlin could choose to do the same with defensive coordinator David Gibbs. The 46-year-old defensive mind had coaching stints at Minnesota, Auburn, and various NFL positions before arriving at Houston. As a senior in college, he led the Colorado Buffaloes to a National Championship in 1990. His defense at Auburn finished #6 nationally and his defense at Houston ranks #13 nationally this year. Granted the competition is inferior to the SEC, the results have been impressive nonetheless. He might not be a flashy hire, but Gibbs has had a nack for getting it done everywhere he has gone.