Joker Phillips and the Kentucky seniors got to leave Commonwealth Stadium for the final time as…
Coach Search Pros & Cons, Part II
Another week has come and gone since the announcement that Kentucky will be seeking a new football coach for 2013. While no concrete leads have emerged in the search and UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart remains mum on the subject, that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from working overtime. In Part II of our Coach Search Pros & Cons feature, here are some of the latest names being bantered about : BUTCH JONES: Current Position: Head Coach, University of Cincinnati. Pros: The 44-year-old Jones has come up under some outstanding coaches, including Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia and Chip Kelly at Central Michigan. As an assistant with the Mountaineers, he helped coach an offense that averaged 32.1 points per game in WVU's 11-1 campaign in 2005. In his first head-coaching gig at CMU, he took the Chippewas to three consecutive bowl games from 2007-09. That helped him earn the head coaching position at Cincinnati after his old boss, Brian Kelly, left for the Notre Dame job. The Bearcats feature one of the better offenses in the country this season at 34.2 points and 455.6 yards per game. Jones' overall head coaching record is now an impressive 48-26. His previous experience in the MAC and now at UC would be an asset in recruiting Ohio, a fertile area in which the Wildcats have long struggled to be a consistent player. Cons: He's not a "big name" that a lot of UK fans would automatically recognize and instantly spark a much-needed surge in ticket sales and donations. Many mistakenly reference former Miami/Cleveland Browns/North Carolina coach Butch Davis when his name is mentioned. That being said, that's an "Us problem" and not his doing. Jones has an impressive track record, and if low profile is his only "con," he may be an ideal candidate for the position. GARY ANDERSEN: Current Position: Head Coach, Utah State University. Pros: Now in his fourth season at Utah State, Andersen has led the Aggies to an 8-2 record and a 4-0 mark in the WAC. Utah State, which has a marquee matchup with another potential UK candidate Sonny Dykes and Louisiana Tech this weekend, is currently ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense (13.5) and 12th in the nation in total defense (303 ypg). His teams aren't one-dimensional, either, sporting an offense that averages 32 points and 462 yards per game with a balanced attack. If that's not enough to get your attention, Andersen was defensive coordinator at Utah in 2008 when the Utes went 13-0, beat Nick Saban's Alabama squad 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl, and finished No. 2 in the final rankings. Utah was 8-0 in bowl games during his time there. His teams are consistently tough against the run, something the Wildcats have always struggled to do in the rugged SEC. Cons: People are going to always misspell his name – see the "sic crew" that includes Guy (Hal) Morris, Mitch (Dale) Barnhardt and Billy (shouldn't that really be an ‘e'?) Gillispie. On a serious note, though, Andersen would likely be greeted with a resounding "Huh?" by the Big Blue masses. You're going to have a tough sell convincing UK fans that the answer to the program's problems is going to come from the state of Utah and the wickity wickity WAC, but much like Jones above, that's not his fault. One legitimate concern may be recruiting ties to the southeast. He's never coached at any level east of the Mississippi, and if we don't recognize his name, will the talented players in this part of the country? Probably not, at least initially, and UK will require a quick infusion of talented if it wants to avoid a couple more seasons like the one it just had. JAY GRUDEN: Current Position: Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals. Pros: The brother of former Super Bowl winning coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, he would bring instant name-recognition to the UK program. Kentucky's coaches for years have stressed the importance of getting into the Cincinnati area for recruiting, and who better to accomplish that than a member of the Bengals' staff. Under his direction, the Cincinnati offense currently ranks 12th in the NFL in points per game (24.4) and has shown good balance between the running and passing game. Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green have emerged as one of the league's best passing connections. At 45, he's an ideal age for the challenge that awaits in Lexington. Cons: Bengal backlash? Folks around this area know the "Bungles" have long brought pain and suffering to their loyal fan base. Every time Cincinnati seems to take a step forward, it's two steps back. Gruden also has no college football coaching experience at any level. The last time he was involved in recruiting, it was getting signed out of high school by the University of Louisville. KLIFF KINGSBURY: Current Position: Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M. Pros: When you help orchestrate an offensive gameplan that dismantles Nick Saban's vaunted Alabama defense and potentially derails the Crimson Tides' hopes of back-to-back national titles, you're going to become a hot coaching commodity overnight. Kingsbury, who starred as a quarterback at Texas Tech under former UK assistant and "Air Raid" expert Mike Leach, helped make Case Keenum a Heisman finalist during his time as Houston's offensive coordinator and has now developed Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel as one of the most exciting players in the NCAA this season. A&M is currently fourth in the nation in scoring (43.1) and fifth in total offense (545.4 ypg) despite playing against an SEC schedule that includes the nation's No. 2 (Alabama), No. 3 (LSU) and No. 5 (Florida) defenses. Hiring Kinsbury, who was named FootballScoop.com's Offensive Coordinator of the Year in 2011, could carry some strong name recognition in recruiting the Lone Star State for the Wildcats. Cons: Kingsbury is only 32 years old and has only three years of college coaching under his belt. Does he have the entire base of knowledge, organizational skills and leadership qualities needed to run an SEC program? Would Barnhart be willing to turn the program over to such a greenhorn at this fragile stage for UK football? It might be the biggest risk/reward option out there. Before you decide, remember that the Pittsburgh Steelers turned over the reins to one of the premier organizations in the NFL to Bill Cowher at 34 and later Mike Tomlin at 35. Both won Super Bowls. Maybe age really isn't anything but a number. Is this really a "con?" MIKE BELOTTI: Current Position: ABC/ESPN Analyst. Pros: When Rich Brooks left the University of Oregon for the St. Louis Rams in 1994, he handed the program over to Belotti, who helped the Ducks build on the success his predecessor had introduced to long-downtrodden Eugene. Belotti had seven seasons of nine or more wins in 14 years on the Oregon sideline before his surprising move to the AD's position following the 2008 season. That gig didn't last long. He's been working in TV the last three years, and at 62, may have some gas left in the tank. Could Mitch Barnhart call upon another Duck legend to breathe life back into the UK program? This could be the kind of name that would get fans buying season tickets again. And perhaps Belotti could lean on Nike's Phil Knight for a bit of that shoe-company love for which he showers on Oregon. Cons: Age could be a deterrent… for both sides. Does UK want another veteran coach who likely won't be on the job for more than seven or eight years (max), and does Belotti have any interest at all in taking on such a daunting task at this stage in his career? This one is certainly intriguing, but when you stop and think about it, sounds pretty far-fetched all the way around. MIKE MaCINTYRE: Current Position: Head Coach, San Jose State University. Pros: MacIntyre, 47, has a wealth of coaching experience at both the college and pro ranks. He has spent time at college programs in the South like Georgia, Ole Miss and Duke prior to landing the head coach's position at San Jose State. He has also worked on the NFL level with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets. While in Dallas, he worked under Bill Parcells, who we all know was Barnhart's swing for the fences back in 2003 prior to hiring Brooks. MacInyre also worked under another Barnhart associate, Duke's David Cutcliffe, and reportedly comes with a glowing recommendation from his old boss. He knows the South and has been a successful recruiter in the past, helping land All-Everything linebacker Patrick Wilis at Ole Miss and landing what Scout ranked as the top class in the WAC last year. MacIntyre has led a quick turnaround at San Jose State, going from 1-12 his first season to 8-2 in his third year with a chance to win the conference title. The Spartans have put up good numbers on both sides of the ball, ranking No. 9 in passing (325.8 ypg), No. 36 nationally in total offense (447 ypg), No. 20 in scoring defense (20.0 ppg) and No. 21 in total defense (325.4 ypg). San Jose State's 34 sacks rank No. 7 nationally. Cons: Another tough sell for UK fans as far as name recognition and early excitement goes. Fair or not, the Big Blue Nation won't be overly thrilled with any coach from the WAC, especially one with a 14-21 career mark. And just how should we interpret his team's numbers given they came against a schedule currently rated No. 111 nationally in the Sagarin Ratings? It would take a lot of faith on Barnhart's part to make this move. Hard to see donors and fans stepping up without a "prove it" phase of at least couple of years.
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