With Strong gone, who’s next for the Cards?
The Cards are set to begin a new era as they join the ACC this July and now they will have to do it with a new head football coach. Former coach Charlie Strong was named the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns. At Louisville, Strong went 37-15 & 22-3 the last two years. He certainly left the program in better shape than he found it, both on the field and in the classroom. Despite it not seemingly to be the right fit for Texas we wish Strong well and hope he succeeds at his dream job. Go Stronghorns!
With his departure Louisville AD Tom Jurich will need to find Strongs replacement in a hurry with the recruiting dead period coming to an end soon. So far a vast majority of the Cards commitments are staying with the Cards but decision time is rapidly approaching. Jurich is known to be well prepared in his coaching searches but this time around it will be different. This time his pool of candidates will be larger with the additional draw and resources that comes with the ACC. There has been dozens of names thrown out by the media but only Jurich knows who’s on his list. Lets take a look at the probable favorites.
Vance Bedford: the Cards current DC. He has said that he will follow Strong unless he gets the job. During his time here the Cards defense has been solid, top ranked in the nation this season. He is the players favorite for the job. He is a more dynamic personality than Strong and a proven recruiter with ties to both Florida and Texas. His lack of HC experience though makes him a risky hire.
Shawn Watson: currently the Cards OC. You can not deny his work with QB Teddy Bridgewater. He is well respected by Jurich and the players. Fans have blamed him however for the lack of fire power from the offense this season but he followed Strongs philosophy and game plan. He struggles in recruiting and went 11-22 at Southern Ill as head coach.
Hiring in house would help build stabiility and continuity within the program which it has lacked for decades. Since 1968 only Howard Schnellenberger has stayed longer than 5 years as head coach. Hiring in house would allow the program to continue to build on Strongs success.
Bobby Petrino: Western Ky HC. It seems shocking to see this name on a Louisville short list of coaches but he is the overwhelming favorite of the fans and former players. Petrino is an offensive genius and holds a 41-9 record at Louisville. While this seems to be the safiest hire you can not forget the baggage that comes with him although it seems that he has mended the fences with Jurich.
Chad Morris: Clemson OC. Morris, like Bobby, knows offense. Clemson was top 20 in both passing yards and total offense. He is one of the top assistant coaches in college football today. He also possesses knowledge of ACC teams which would be beneficial for a first year conference member. Jurich has said that he has free reign over the ACC until July 1. Morris is said to be one of THE favorites.
Pat Narduzzi: Michigan St DC. He is another top assistant and plays a similar defensive style as the Cards so his system would fit the current personel. This season his defense finished second in the nation, behind the Cards. Since he has turned down other HC offeres, one has to wonder if he would be willing to leave.
Maybe Cards fans like the abuse but Petrino would bring back the excitment and energy that it has lacked since, well, Petrino. Since he has already tried the NFL and coached in the SEC, he may be more inclined to stay here than an up and coming assistant coach.
Why isnt Vanderbilts Franklin on the list? He isnt deemed to be a favorite since he doesnt appear to be a long term option. He is interviewing for NFL jobs.
Rich Rodriguez of Arizona was never a fan favorite after his failure at Michigan but seemed to be a top candidate of Jurich. With Arizona poised to renew his contract, he is all but gone from the long list.
Other top assistants who may likely get a look from Jurich are Alabamas DC Kirby Smart and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Smart is another of who doesnt appear to be a long term option and Mason defensive style differs a little to much from the Cards . Mason remains a dark horse in this race.
With ties to U of L and Jurich, Jim McElwin of Colorado St is another dark horse with his $4 million buyout. That seems absurdly high for a Colorado St coach.
Since a coaching search isnt complete without the Grudan name we can include the Cincinnati OC Jay Grudan. Jay is a former U of L QB but he is being interviewed by other NFL teams.
A local paper has started an online poll for fans to vote on who should be the Cards next coach. Petrino is the top vote getter at 44% . Kirby Smart is second with 14%. Others include Dukes Cutcliffe with 7% and the Cards Watson & Bedford tieing at 6%.
My bet is that Bedford, Morris, Petrino and Narduzzi are Jurichs short list, in no particular order. Jurich may hire one of these excellent coaches mentioned or he may pull a rabbit out of his hat and surprise everyone. Who knows who has called him. Bedford reportedly shined in his interview on Monday. Expect this search to be handled far greater than the one at Texas. Jurich will make his hire quickly, I expect it within a week. What are your thoughts?