Ross Bjork has a tough decision to make this month. And he will have to look at variables for each candidate that are far more damning than wins and losses and how well you can run a room full of boosters. There are recruiting concerns, temperament when surrounded by the big wigs, age, and how well you can put together a staff.
But there are a few variables that are quite simple when deciding on a coach. And that’s taking a look at where their defenses and offenses rank. Recruiting and staff makeup is all well and good, but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform on the field.
Cup correspondent Nick Carr was kind enough to put together some data for us that breaks down every candidate that has been mentioned during the search and where they rank this season on both sides of the football. The colors help to differentiate between the data, the greener the cell the better and the more red the cell the worse.
Let’s get weird with numbers, shall we?
Taking a look at our first chart, the numbers are quite intriguing for multiple candidates. Mike Bobo is a name that has not been mentioned as of late, but his offense seems to be thriving in the Mountain West. They are now 6-3 and will have a chance to win their division if they can beat Boise State in a few weeks.
We also see a few candidates that a lot of us are extremely high on that are down at the bottom (Frank Wilson, Jeff Brohm, and Matt Campbell). Granted 31.1 points per game (UTSA) and 32.4 points per game (Iowa State) is not bad, but we can see these candidates aren’t lighting the scoreboard up like Scott Frost, Jason Candle, and Mike Norvell.
According to Bill C.’s ratings, Frost is tops on this list with his new-school spread option attack at UCF. In just two years, he has created a monster down in Orlando that would make Jared Zabransky quiver. Chad Morris and Norvell follow close behind in the top 10 and then you see the MACtion Man Candle and Bobo close behind in the top 15.
In terms of doing the most with limited talent, there are plenty of overachievers sitting above Matt Luke. Morris, for example, hasn’t hauled in a recruiting class ranked higher than 75th according to 247Sports over the past three years. That’s a fairly consistent pattern with the top names on the board. Aside from turning Tennessee transfer Riley Ferguson into a stud at Memphis, Norvell deserves credit for immediately making his Tiger offenses bear the same big-play potential that he became known for at Arizona State.
Notable names to also look at: Frank Wilson and Bill Clark. Both are in Conference USA and working with Group of 5 rosters that are not exactly filled with blue chips. But, both are ranked in the top 100 and they both have posted respectable rushing numbers. Wilson is even ranked 50th in the country in Rushing S&P+, all of that with a team that has only been in existence for six years.
The clear leader in this category is Pruitt because he’s essentially coordinating an NFL minor league team. But, right behind him, nipping on his heels is Roadrunner head man Frank the Tank. Brent Venables is right there with Wilson but he would be behind Pruitt in the pecking order when it comes to coordinators.
Interesting that aside from Matt Luke (lol) the worst defense when it comes to points per game is Norvell’s, the man whom most believe is in Bjork’s top three. Naturally, things could change when he takes a Power 5 job with Power 5 resources, but I and other Ole Miss fans would want a coach who has proven he can put a salty defense on the field.
The top two candidates in this category are both coordinators at two of the top five programs in the country. Now, not to take anything away from them, but they have a pretty cushy gig because of that. And I think Bjork is wanting to hire someone with Power 5 HEAD coaching experience.
Right behind them is another Group of 5 name in Neal Brown at Troy. Following him are notable hot names on the board like Campbell, Wilson, Clark, and Candle who outside of Campbell at Iowa State are other Group of 5 names. This is where Bjork has to decide does he want Power 5 name recognition or the right fit?
When it comes to having both big program experience and a knack for overachieving, Charlie Strong may be the most balanced guy on this list. He’s quickly redeemed himself as a defensive mind at USF, and he’s not working with world-beating recruiting classes, despite whatever the geography may suggest.
If we scroll down and look at the bottom, names like Norvell, Bobo, and Morris are a bit concerning when it comes to wanting a defensive-minded coach who will put a product on the field that is better than last place Luke.
Numbers are fun and they add even more layers to the coaching search that gives us things to toss and turn about at night when trying to peg the newest Ole Miss coach for next year. So imagine what it does to Bjork when he is the one who has to actually make the call to who replaces the interim Matt Luke.
The overall records are important and the impact that candidates make on the recruiting trail is imperative as well, but it’s always sobering to take a look at the hard numbers on the field and see the truth behind nosy boosters and folks that own combo fast food franchises.