Despite what some soi disant authorities may proclaim, nobody truly knows
Kirby Hocutt’s innermost thoughts regarding Texas Tech’s search for a new football coach. During Saturday’s press conference,
however, the Tech athletic director did drop a few very clear hints.
First and foremost is the requirement that the new coach be
acquainted with the state of Texas. And if he is intimately familiar with
Lubbock and Texas Tech, all the better.
Hocutt mentioned this trait no
less than three times. In his opening statement he said
“[I] want to find someone who knows the fabric of west Texas.”
When asked to elaborate, Hocutt
stated, “Well, I think it's important to find somebody who embraces the west
Texas community, the west Texas lifestyle. This is a great place to live. It's
a great place to raise a family. It's a great place to build a football
program. And we want somebody who is familiar with the state of Texas. We want
somebody who is familiar with the values that we hold dearly in west Texas in
Lubbock and I'm confident that we'll be able to find that person.”
And again, when queried about his strongest gut feeling at
the moment, Hocutt mentioned west Texas: “[I feel] a
sense of determination, a sense of determination to get a leader in here who is
committed to Texas Tech University, who wants to be engrained with the fabric
of Lubbock, with west Texas, and a winner.”
From the above, two things are reasonably clear. First,
familiarity with Texas is important from a recruiting standpoint. Second, Hocutt wants the new head coach to know what he’s getting
into. Lubbock and west Texas are not for everybody. It is a stark and in some
ways harsh environment. It takes a special breed, a tough and hearty soul to
find happiness here. Either that, or it takes a native. Quite possibly, Tommy Tuberville did not fit that mold. The next coach will.
Hocutt also, perhaps surprisingly,
indicated his preference for a defensive-minded coach, and one who believes in
the run as much as the pass.
“I think a lot of times your defensive minded coaches have a
better understanding philosophically for offensive systems and going out and
finding that right offensive coordinator for a program. I believe it's
important to have a balanced attack. I believe it's important to be able to run
the ball. At the same time I think you have to pass the ball as well. We want
somebody who is going to have a balanced attack….”
Note what Hocutt did not say. He didn’t say offensive-minded
coaches have a better understanding of defensive systems, and that they find
the right defensive coordinator for the program.
And finally, Hocutt let it be known
that he will not confine the search to candidates with previous head coaching
“We're going to find the best candidate for Texas Tech. If that individual is a head coach, great. If that
individual is a coordinator, somewhere in this country, great.”
With the above in mind, below is a list of possible
candidates, ranked in order of greatest likelihood to be hired. But there is no
single candidate who is both defensive-minded and deeply acquainted with Texas,
let alone Texas Tech. That being the case, Hocutt
will have to make do with a coach who falls somewhat short of his ideal.
1. Brent Venables: The
current defensive coordinator at Clemson doesn’t have intimate Texas ties, but
given his long stint as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator, his recruiting
connections in the Lone Star State are strong. Venables
also hales from the central Kansas town of Salina, which culturally and
climatically, is similar to Lubbock. Venables was
also a Kansas State teammate of Kirby Hocutt’s in
1991 and 1992. The “fit” that Hocutt mentioned in his
press conference would certainly be there with Venables.
2. Chad Morris: It seems likely that
Tech’s new head coach will come from the Clemson staff—Morris is the
Tigers’ offensive coordinator. Morris, age 44, has deep Texas roots. He was
born in Edgewood, 380 miles east of Lubbock, and was a head coach in the Texas
high school ranks (including a stop in Stephenville) 16 years. Morris is widely
regarded as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game today, and
his offenses are the very definition of “balanced.”
3. Kliff Kingsbury: This is the sexy hire, and
it would make Hocutt an overnight hero in west Texas.
But would Hocutt still have a job three years from
now? Kingsbury, a New Braunfels native and record-setting quarterback for Texas
Tech, is only 33 and has never been a head coach. He has been an extremely
successful offensive coordinator for four seasons, and his offensive system
would synch up seamlessly with Tech’s current personnel and experience. This
hire would either be a grand slam or a royal strike out.
4. Mike MacIntyre: The
current head coach at San Jose State is an up-and-comer with ties to Texas and
a strong defensive background. Age 47, MacIntyre has
resurrected the Spartan program in three seasons after serving as a defensive
coordinator at various locales for nine years. The Miami native, who has spent
most of coaching career in the south, and was defensive backs coach of the
Dallas Cowboys for three seasons.
5. Tim DeRuyter: The
former defensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2010-1) and current Fresno State
boss has a similar resume to MacIntyre’s. He has the
Bulldog program headed in a positive direction, has an extensive background as
a defensive coordinator (11 years), and has familiarity with Texas and Texas
Tech from his days in College Station. DeRuyter is an
intense coach, and at age 49, is in the prime of his career.
6. Art Briles: In
many ways, Briles would be the ideal hire. He is a
proven winner in the Big 12, having worked wonders in a difficult situation at
Baylor, and his ties to Texas and Texas Tech are nonpareil. Briles
has coached 26 years of Texas high school football (including stints in
Sundown, Sweetwater, Hamlin and Stephenville), he was born in Rule, Texas 140
miles east of Lubbock, graduated from Tech and coached at Tech in 2000 through
But there are two huge obstacles. First, Briles would cost a fortune, and second, there’s no
guarantee he would leave Baylor. He’s poised to become an institution in Waco
like Grant Teaff before him and Gary Patterson currently
at TCU. Still, if Hocutt could find the money and the
words to persuade him, Briles would be an almost
sure-fire smash hit for the Red Raiders.