Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pipe Dream: Randy Shannon as a defensive coordinator

image When Arkansas forced out defensive coordinator Willy Robinson earlier this month, reports quickly surfaced that former Miami Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon had moved to the top of the “wish list.” There were even reports that he had interviewed for the job and “insider” claims that the deal was done.

Arkansas instead announced that it had hired Ohio State’s Paul Haynes.

Not surprisingly, Shannon’s name has also been connected with other high profile defensive coordinator positions, including the now vacant Ohio State job, the Auburn job vacated by Ted Roof’s dismissal and expected openings at Texas A&M, North Carolina and UCLA. While getting such a credentialed coach as Shannon to run your defense would be a home run hire, it’s more likely than not that Shannon has his sights set much higher. He wants to return as a head coach.

In an interview last month with the Associated Press, Shannon made it very clear that since his firing from his alma mater, he’s been on whirlwind tour of college programs across the country, learning more about the business of being a head coach in college football. He’s spent time at Alabama, TCU, North Carolina, UNLV, Oregon, Iowa State and Minnesota.

"I needed this year to sit out. I needed to learn something new. And I think I've done that.

"I spent my money and went to college," he said. "I met with the strength coaches, the policemen who are around some teams, compliance people, athletic directors, support staff. It wasn't just football. It was very little football. I needed to see other things, see a lot of ways to do different things, and it made me a whole lot better."

That doesn’t sound like the itinerary of a guy looking to take a step down from head coaching and serve a stint as an assistant, even if it’s a big time program. Shannon said he has interviewed at a few programs looking for head coaches, but said none were the “right fit.” He did not say whether he’d discussed any open or pending defensive coordinator positions.

Part of the lure of linking Shannon to these jobs—particularly Arkansas and Auburn—is that Shannon’s base defense is a 4-3 cover two, very similar in scheme and philosophy to what those two programs had run under Robinson and Roof. The sense is that Shannon could come in, make very few tweaks to scheme and personnel, and reverse some of the misfortunes those two programs suffered defensively and cost the two coordinators their jobs. That’s reasonable and good for discussion.

It’s more likely that Shannon lands at one of the many still open head coaching jobs on the spinning carousel. There are still several good positions yet to be filled, including Texas A&M, Arizona State, UCLA, Southern Miss and any of the positions left open should one of those programs hire a sitting head coach. Shannon has taken the year off to learn how to be a better head coach, and this year will likely present several opportunities for him to use what he’s learned.

At least for now, it doesn’t seem likely that Randy Shannon takes second chair.

[ed note: at publish time, both the Texas A&M and UCLA jobs were open. Texas A&M has apparently hired Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, and UCLA has hired Jim Mora, Jr.]

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