Whether you were a Les Koenning fan or not, the reality is that the MSU offensive coordinator and QBs coach is now the former MSU offensive coordinator and QBs coach, and that means MSU must begin its search to replace him. Now it is unknown to us, John Q. Public, how much the search has advanced already behind closed doors, so we're left to speculate among ourselves. Fortunately in the age of the internet, it is easy to speculate, so using the power of crowd-sourcing and best guesses, let us discuss some potential candidates for the MSU OC job, as well as possible scenarios as to how the hiring and re-positioning of coaches will play out.
Candidates (this is a list of assumed candidates. none are confirmed)
These times can be confusing for many laymen college football fans, so it is nice that we have sites like CoachingSearch and FootballScoop, along with an array of national CFB analysts, to help us understand who the candidates for our particular school's vacancy might be. On the matter of MSU's open OC position, CoachingSearch reported yesterday that two likely candidates to get a look were UL-Lafayette's Jay Johnson and Jacksonville Jaguars QBs coach Frank Sceflo. Johnson has been the offensive coordinator for former MSU assistant Mark Hudspeth's Ragin Cajuns since Hud landed in Lafayette in 2011. Prior to that, Johnson was a QBs coach at Central Michigan, a Tight Ends Coach at Louisville, and he was also the OC for Southern Miss from 2003 to 2007 under Jeff Bower. Under Johnson's direction, the Ragin Cajuns finished 33rd in the nation in scoring offense (33.8 points per game), 26th in rushing offense (205 yards per game), and 82nd in passing offense (212 yards per game). The offensive numbers for 2012 and 2011 are somewhat similar, with passing stats up a bit in those previous seasons.
Sceflo, who was hired last year by the Jaguars to coach Quarterbacks, had previous stints in the college game at Arizona (QBs, 2010-11), Louisiana Tech (OC, 2007-09), and Tulane (OC, 1999-2006). Prior to that, Sceflo was a coach in the high school ranks of Louisiana. His most notable achievement seems to be his development of several NFL quarterbacks in his time at the collegiate level, including 2013 fantasy football savior Nick Foles while at Arizona, and QBs Patrick Ramsey, J.P. Losman, and Shaun King while he was in New Orleans at Tulane.
Taking a look at both of these listed potential candidates, you can quickly see that they both have experience coaching QBs, as well as time served as OCs on various staffs. Sceflo's development of Foles is especially enticing, and Johnson's offensive numbers running the football lead you to believe that he would be a good fit under Mullen, as well.
While those two are the only "on the record candidates" we've seen listed so far, there seem to be many others that have been floated around on the internet in the first 24 hours. One name that I saw mentioned yesterday that was intriguing to me was Northern Illinois' offensive coordinator Bob Cole. Cole does not have the experience at a school larger than NIU, but his power QB running-styled offense landed his mid-major Quarterback, Jordan Lynch, a seat in New York as a Heisman finalist this past year. Lynch's numbers were gaudy (2,892 yards passing, 1,920 yards rushing, 47 total TDs), and even if you attribute much of that to his own skill set, some of his production has to be attributed to Cole's offense built around a power running QB. Lynch's build and similarities to Dak Prescott would make Cole and intriguing candidate, even though he will likely not get a look.
Another name that I've seen thrown out there as a guy who should get a look is Utah QBs coach and co-OC Brian Johnson. Johnson is super young -- as in, 26 years of age young -- but he is already a quick-rising name in the coaching ranks. He also has some familiarity with Dan Mullen, as he was recruited to Utah by Mullen and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer before Meyer, Mullen and company left for Florida in 2005. Johnson also is a part of the Urban Meyer coaching tree, as his current head coach, Kyle Willingham, was the DC under Meyer at Utah before being named head coach in 2005.
Scenarios (highly speculative, and based on nothing)
Now that we know some but definitely not all of the candidates to replace Les Koenning, let's look at some likely scenarios for how this will play out.
Scenario 1 - A quick hire
Mullen quickly hires one of the guys listed above to fill the position, and the staff goes on about its business recruiting and preparing for spring ball. All of the names listed above seem like a good fit because none are OC's at major schools right now, which means they should be okay with Mullen still calling plays. With this group you also get a lot of experience developing Quarterbacks, which will be the priority focus for Les' replacement, I would imagine.
Scenario 2 - From within
Another potential scenario is that Dan Mullen simply promotes someone already on his coaching staff. There have been message board rumblings about the possibility of Dan moving up Billy to the OC role. That scenario probably would leave Dan still calling plays, and likely still with a large say-so in the offense. Gonzales has some coordinator experience as he was the co-OC at Illinois, and the passing game coordinator at LSU prior to that. If Gonzales is promoted, Mullen would likely hire an outside candidate to take the QBs coaching position, and the staff would be complete again.
Scenario 3 - Outside the box
Yet another potential scenario that has been floated around already by some (such as Croom Diaries) is that Mullen keeps the full offensive duties to himself, keeps the remaining staff as it is, and uses the OC money to both give Geoff Collins a raise and to hire a special teams coordinator. Mullen has acted as the special teams coach for the past few seasons, and recently there have been plenty of grumblings about special teams after a poor showing in the kicking game this past season. While I do think that this is the least likely of all scenarios, it does make some sense, seeing that Mullen will control the offense for the most part anyways, and there is an immediate need to get Geoff Collins a pay raise to avoid him being snatched up by lurking schools.
So what do we know for a fact right now? Very little, other than we need a new OC, and we need one fast. We don't know who the next guy in will be; the list we've provided should soon prove woefully inadequate. We also don't know when this will be resolved, but we hope it is soon. National Signing Day is just around the corner, and soon after that spring football will follow. It is important that State make the right hire for the situation, but time is of the essence, as well. While it is nerve-wracking anytime a major coach on the staff needs replacing, I feel confident that the offense next year will not skip a beat, regardless of who is hired. That confidence is mostly due to Mullen's role in successful offenses in the two previous seasons. Hopefully MSU can bring in someone with experience mentoring and developing QBs, and someone with some recruiting talent. We need both, and we need them fast.