Success is a double-edged sword in the realm of keeping top assistants.
Put it this way: if Chad Morris or Brent Venables (or both) are holding a press conference introducing themselves as new head coaches somewhere else within the next year, it probably means Clemson had a wonderful 2013 football season.
Morris is on Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart’s level as one of the country’s hottest head coaching prospects, and Venables isn’t far behind, wrote Travis Haney on Friday for ESPN Insider. Haney’s a former Post & Courier beat writer, with experience covering Clemson and South Carolina.
Here’s what Haney wrote about Morris Friday, in dignifying the Tigers’ offensive coordinator as Smart’s equal as the top coordinator on athletic director’s minds:
“Morris, when I met with him in April, felt as if Clemson was not far off the championship pace. Really, that has only been the case since he arrived … the Texas Tech job would have been ideal if Kliff Kingsbury were not available or interested. So, let’s say Texas goes after Art Briles or Gary Patterson when Mack Brown retires, whenever that happens. Baylor or TCU — or the like — would be pretty logical spots for Morris, a native Texan.”
As for Venables, Haney ranks him eighth on the list of coordinators soon to be sitting in the big man’s chair. Writes Haney: “His name was hotter a few years back when he was at Oklahoma, and that’s one reason some people close to Venables told me he ultimately left OU for Clemson … The personable, energetic Venables is a dogged recruiter. He loves it. That is attractive to ADs (it helped get Dave Doeren the NC State job). He’s proving himself on the field, too.”
Of the 13 coordinators Haney identified, they represented powerhouses Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State and Texas – which have combined for seven of the 15 BCS Championship Game victories.
But there was only one school who saw BOTH their coordinators identified: Clemson.
For kicks, let’s check out a baker’s dozen former coordinators who capitalized on their assistant tenure to earn head coaching jobs:
Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh. Took him a while for everything to click, but a remarkable seven-year run in his native Madison culminated in a couple of Rose Bowl appearances for Wisconsin.
David Cutcliffe, Duke. Being tight with Peyton Manning has its spoils. Reviving Tennessee’s offense again with Erik Ainge a decade after guiding Manning proves his ability.
Dave Doeren, North Carolina State. He capitalized on a couple of Rose Bowl appearances leading Wisconsin’s defense, and then rewarded Northern Illinois with a BCS berth last year before moving to Raleigh.
Larry Fedora, North Carolina. His spread offense evolved Oklahoma State into the high-octane attack it remains today.
Mike London, Virginia. Picked up where Al Golden left off with the Cavaliers’ defense the middle of last decade, and now both guys are at the helm of ACC Coastal programs.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State. Look, you produce back-to-back stingy defenses at Ohio State (including a championship), other schools start to notice. Like Cincinnati and the Spartans.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech. See: Manziel, Johnny.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn. See: Newton, Cameron.
Todd Monken, Southern Miss. He isn’t starting in the most lavish locale, but his fine work with the Oklahoma State offense speaks for itself.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State. Tim Tebow’s offensive coordinator at Florida, Tebow scored two BCS Championship rings with the Gators. The guy who supplanted Mullen, Steve Addazio, also qualifies on this list as he’s now at Boston College.
Will Muschamp, Florida. The ultimate laundry-list-of-accomplishments coordinator: LSU, Auburn and Texas convinced the Longhorns to designate him Mack Brown’s successor, but the chance to replace Urban Meyer allowed Muschamp not to have to wait that long.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky. From the plum gig in Florida State to a fixer-upper in Lexington.
Gene Chizik, formerly Iowa State & Auburn. For all his bumblings as a head coach (you know, except that 2010 Cam-paign), people forget Chizik led defenses to undefeated seasons at Auburn and Texas – in back-to-back years (2004-05.)
If you’re someone like, say, Jimbo Fisher (Florida State) or Bret Bielema (then-Wisconsin), you can be named head-coach-in-waiting. Or like Scott Shafer (Syracuse), David Shaw (Stanford) and Mark Helfrich (Oregon), wait until your stud boss flees for the NFL.