Let’s pretend you are Dave Heeke for a day and in charge of picking the Arizona Wildcats’ next head football coach.
Who would be your top candidates?
Our staff discussed that below. Make sure to leave your answer in the comment section!
Gabe Encinas — I want Kevin Sumlin, Les Miles, or Frank Wilson in that order.
Sumlin makes so much sense on so many levels. Some people say he couldn’t win at Texas A&M, but he only finished worse than 8-5 once. I get A&M has a bunch of resources, and he could only go down from his 11-2 record in year one, but the school was still in transition from the Big 12 to the SEC and I’m able to look past his 8-5 seasons for his offense, recruiting, and potential staff continuity since he has previous ties with Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates.
If it’s not Sumlin, then I’d want another former SEC guy, Les Miles, who has coached his team to national title games. Some people will bring up the age of 64 as a big risk of him leaving soon, but if he can come in and recruit a couple of classes, get this program to some nine-win seasons and build something for the next guy, I’m willing to use him as a bridge for four to five years.
Frank Wilson at UTSA is a name that keeps coming up, and out of all the guys who are still out there getting their name thrown around (Mark Helfrich, Dino Babers, Mike Norvell), I’m actually most okay with Wilson. Not banging my fist on the table for him, but I think that’s a good hire and a step in the right direction.
Maybe Arizona goes the coordinator direction, and while that’s a risk in it’s own, there are a few like Tee Martin and Clancy Pendergast who I’m also down for.
Did I just list all of the biggest names? Yeah, probably. But the pool is big right now, and Arizona is the only job, so it really comes down to how badly they want to get on the field and build something up with some pretty decent pieces here and there. Right now we really have no idea who is interested but speculation is fun.
Here are two candidates I don’t want: Marcel Yates and Joe Salave’a.
All of the players seem to love the thought of Yates becoming head coach, and he’s probably awesome with all of the guys, but I just don’t see enough from him to know that he’s a solid coaching candidate. In the case of Kevin Sumlin, you probably retain Yates as the DC anyways, so it’s a win-win.
Now Joe Salave’a, who has never been a coordinator. I can see why people would want a UA alumnus to take over, but Arizona just doesn’t have that much relevance to make that a selling factor.
Make Salave’a a defensive line coach, Ricky Hunley a linebackers coach, Chuck Cecil a safety coach, sure, but that’s it’s just such a wild card to thrust them into a head role simply because they graduated from the school. It doesn’t do Arizona justice to settle on a guy like that.
Christopher Boan — My go-to if I’m Dave Heeke would be Kevin Sumlin, followed by Derek Mason of Vanderbilt and Joe Salave’a. Sumlin “only” won 66 percent of his games at Texas A&M, and 67 percent at Houston. If he did that in Tucson, he’d get a damn parade and a building named after him. Mason, meanwhile, is an up-and-coming coach, and has roots in Arizona, playing at NAU after graduating from Phoenix’s Camelback High School. Those two would be my go-to options if I’m Heeke, with Salave’a being my fallback plan, as it’d appease the homer crowd that wants a “true” Arizonan in the head coaching position.
Brandon Combs — I like Kevin Sumlin, Jeff Tedford, Frank Wilson, and Troy Walters.
With Sumlin, Arizona will be able to keep Yates at DC and B.J. Denker can get the nod for QB coach. I think Sumlin will be able to recruit to Tucson and bring a good energy and atmosphere back into the program.
I know a lot of people aren’t thrilled about this but Tedford would run a good program, too. He isn’t flashy or that big of a name, but he has turned around Fresno State in one season — that says something. But I really don’t think he’ll leave Fresno anytime soon.
As for Wilson, he is actually a solid candidate. Yes, he hasn’t had success at UTSA but that is UTSA. He is a solid recruiter and will do nothing but improve Arizona in that area.
Walters, Scott Frost’s offensive coordinator at UCF and Nebraska, is a dark horse for me. He played college football in the Pac at Stanford, he has NFL experience, and he led an extremely successful offense down in Orlando. He’s young (41 years old), and could bring fresh energy. He has great West Coast ties and could be a great recruiter.
A couple other names I want to talk about are Yates and Joe Salave’a. I personally wouldn’t be upset if they were named HC, however, I wouldn’t be upset if they weren’t. I do think they need to be on the staff in some way, shape, or form.
I don’t think we’ve seen everything Yates can do. Salave’a is a good d-line coach and an alumnus who still loves Tucson, and can help re-establish the Polynesian Pipeline.
Alec Sills-Trausch — Well, if we’re going the alumni route, Gabe has some competition as I also want to throw my hat into the ring. I’ve got experience as a defensive coordinator from my high school’s Powder Puff game. Our swarming defense was just too much for those junior girls.
Back on topic. Les Miles, I want him and I’ve wanted him since he was fired for winning nine games in Baton Rouge. People keep saying he doesn’t develop quarterbacks or doesn’t know the west coast. Pfft. He’s won a title, he’s had many, many years (seven to be exact) of double digit wins and it’ll excite the fans and rev up season ticket sales — giving Arizona the cash flow it needs to continue upgrading/paying off projects.
Plus, surround Miles with some good young coordinators and we’ve got the foundation to build. If not Les, then Sumlin is 1A on my list. If we don’t land them, and after I recover from my heartbreak, I’ll have to mull over other names.
However, I’m slightly surprised we haven’t seen a lot of Mack Brown suggestions. I’m not sure if he even wants to coach but he’s not that old and he’s a winner and I’ve heard he knows how to recruit Texas.
Ronnie Stoffle —There is only one coach that I desperately want and his name is Kevin Sumlin. He makes too much sense for many reasons; the biggest being his relationship with Marcel Yates. I was pretty surprised by the outpour of support by the locker room for Yates.
It feels that no matter who is hired as head coach, he has no option but to keep Yates as the defensive coordinator. This makes Sumlin the man who can make the most seamless transition.
Les Miles is a fun option just given his resume and there likely hasn't been a hire as decorated as him in UA football history. But he is 64 and by the time his recruiting classes takes over the majority of playing time he will be in his late 60’s. One has to wonder how long will he be around once he approaches the big 70.
Recently-surfaced reports suggested that Butch Jones will not be considered for the job. This may not be the worst decision given his recent struggles at Tennessee but man he can recruit.
There are of course many other names circulating the Twitterverse such as Mark Helfrich and Jeff Tedford. All I can say about those is they would be incredibly underwhelming compared to Sumlin or even Miles.
Sumlin has to be guy and I trust Dave Heeke understands the urgency there.
Jason Bartel — Who I want? Nick Saban. I’d also be okay with Mark Richt, Chip Kelly, and Pete Carroll.
They’re probably unavailable though, so I’m going to go with Kevin Sumlin and hopefully that’s what actually happens. I’m ready to go to the Arizona/Houston game and see Sumlin coach against his original school.
I’m guessing Arizona will wait until after the National Championship Game, since Sumlin is set to be on the coaches film room channel of the Megacast.
Ryan Kelapire — I want Mike Leach to be Arizona’s head coach for two reasons. One, his Air Raid offense is a blast to watch and he is a good coach who was able to make Washington State relevant.
Two, his interviews are the best (this is the real reason, to be honest):
Mike Leach. Goths. #Pac12AfterDark pic.twitter.com/cFpBLzpEMY— Stephen Osentoski (@StephenToski) October 22, 2017
But Leach just signed an extension at Washington State so my hopes are dreams are going to be shattered soon enough.