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Miami coaching search update: Strong interested?

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Looking at rumors and a couple pieces of personal opinion on the Hurricanes coaching search

Could Charlie Strong be interested in leaving Texas for The U?
Could Charlie Strong be interested in leaving Texas for The U?
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

So, as you know, the Miami Hurricanes are in the midst of a coaching search after firing Al Golden. There are rumors. Here's your rumor update.

RUMORS

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported last week that Texas Head Coach Charlie Strong has interest in the Miami coaching vacancy. Today, Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman reported the same thing.

So, to this point, we've had reports that Charlie Strong has interest in the Miami job (from 2 separate, yet equally important journalists), and we all know the great lengths to which former UM and UNC coach Butch Davis has gone to make his candidacy and interest known.

One thing giving people pause about Strong is his record at Texas (10-13 in 2 years; 4-6 this year and likely headed to 4-8). While you obviously want to win games, the fit for Strong at Texas has been poor from the outset. It's possible that a change of scenery could revitalize his career and winning success. That, obviously, remains to be seen.

UPDATE: It seems Mr. Strong is irritated that people are talking about his interest in Miami.

Not like Charlie Strong slipped up and randomly said "Miami" out of the blue in a post game interview 2 weeks ago. OH HEY WAIT......

The other big news/rumor/development is that, according to the aforementioned Barry Jackson, Butch Davis is not a primary target at this time. The salient part of the linked blog is as follows:

"...an associate of (Athletic Director Blake) James said his understanding is that Davis remains simply a fallback option, if several more appealing options don't materialize."

Rankings

With many head coaching jobs open, there has been much talk comparing jobs and ranking the vacancies. I've long held that Miami is the CLEAR #2 job opening behind USC. Not that Miami is the 2nd best job in America (it's not), but of the open jobs, it's 2nd.

Several of the national writers from SBNation compiled a list where they agreed with me. It's the first list that, in my estimation, finally gets this right. Miami is a better job than Virginia Tech. And South Carolina. And (insert every other job not named USC). I've given my reasons why many times. You can click the insert at the right to read the reasons of the national SBNation guys.

Other thoughts

I've had some conversations about the Canes' coaching search on Twitter. But, that medium is a bit too short for me to flesh out my thoughts. So, here they are.

What's the timeline?

In my mind, you're looking at early to mid-December for when Miami will probably hire the next coach. People want instant gratification. People want us to hire the new coach, the perfect coach RIGHT NOW. To do that, you're going to eschew all candidates who are currently employed. That means no Lane Kiffin. No Justin Fuente. No Charlie Strong. No Tom Herman. No Mario Cristobal. Pretty much everybody we've written a coaching candidate profile about gets eliminated in this scenario.

Except Butch Davis.

I know there are some of you who want Butch Davis back. I do not share that opinion. To do that, to hire Davis RIGHT NOW, that means we're not going through a comprehensive process, and we're just hiring him because he's available. That's not good enough. Period. There are many other (BETTER IMO) options, but they're currently employed. Which means they can't interview until Miami 1. gets permission and 2. the regular season is over. And I, for one, am willing to wait for the right guy rather than rushing back to a guy who hasn't had a job in years, and has openly campaigned (that's the only purpose his segments/appearances on Miami sports radio serve, as propaganda for his campaign for this job) since the summer, and probably longer.

So, since we're NOT going to hire Davis (at least right now, and I hope not at all), don't expect this process to pick up until after Conference Championship games in December.

The Assistant Coach Conundrum

While a new coach will be a great thing for this program and is sorely needed, there's a bigger thing that will impact their success:

The Assistant Coaching staff.

This has been the major sticking point with Randy Shannon and Al Golden's staffs. The assistants, mainly coordinators but some other coaches as well, have quite simply not been up to snuff. I'll touch more on this with specificity in a moment, I assure you.

Let's look at some coordinators who were, well, emblematic of Miami being cheap on the coaching staff: Patrick Nix (who was so bad the only job he could get now is coaching High School. Yeah). Mark Whipple (who was alright, but not great). Tim Walton (2007, which saw Miami go 5-7 and allow 26.0 points per game and more than 4,000 yards). And, of course, Mark D'Onofrio (who, again, we'll get to shortly).

But, in general, Miami has to be willing to spend REAL MONEY for quality coordinators. If we're not, we'll be in this same place in another 4 to 5 years, writing and talking about who's going to come in next, and wondering where we went wrong.

Retaining Current Assistants

People have asked me who, if anyone, on this current staff I would keep moving forward. The list is simple to me. They are:

  1. Interim HC/TE Coach Larry Scott - He's GREAT with recruiting and player development (just look at the TEs since he's been here); one of the best X's and O's coaches on staff; passionate; great job keeping the team from completely taking after the Clemson loss
  2. RB coach Tim "Ice" Harris - incredibly plugged in to Dade County/SoFLA recruiting; also good with player development
  3. WR coach Kevin Beard - Just look at the play of the WRs; another home grown South Floridian who is quietly already one of the best recruiters on staff; stepped in and made a HUGE impact on the staff in his first year, starting out a great coaching career
  4. LB coach Hurlie Brown - Look at his track record; Development of Grace and Trent Harris;
  5. assistant LB coach Kareem Brown - Hard worker; super passionate; works well with Brown

(Notice how most of the guys I want to keep are offensive coaches. That's not by coincidence)

There's one coach who I'm on the fence about: OC James Coley. Here's what I mean: I would ABSOLUTELY keep Coley on the staff....as QB coach and ace recruiter. Yes, I'm talking about a demotion. Coley is FANTASTIC when given the ability to write a script. His opening game scripts are among the best in the Nation. It's the rest of the game that is a problem.

When needing to make adjustments, Coley has simply been outmatched. Far too often the Offense starts strong but fades over time when the defense can adjust to what the Canes are doing (evidence: see FSU 2014, Nebraska 2015). The "check with me" system doesn't work. The faux Oregon spread offense doesn't work because Coley has eliminated the one thing that makes Oregon's offense work: THE TEMPO. And, the offense has no counters or "constraints". You see defense jump on our plays because they're predictable. What you see on film is what you see in game. There isn't a constraint where the Canes add a new wrinkle and score a long touchdown on a variation of one of our staple plays. In the spread offense, or any offense really, if you have no constraints, no counters, you won't have sustainable success. And that's what you're seeing from Miami right now.

But, Coley is great at identifying QB talent and recruiting it to campus. Look at Brad Kaaya for the only example you need. If he wants to stay on the staff as QB coach and recruiting ace, I'm with it. Otherwise, we can go a different way.

D'Onofrio and others who should probably be gone

Yes, it's time to talk about the pink elephant in the room: DC Mark D'Onofrio. You know and I know that he has to go. Just....not right now.

Yes, Miami continues to struggle on defense, and it's become clear that this isn't just because of what Al Golden's paradigm was. We're not good on defense and that starts with the coordinator. But, right now, making a move to fire him isn't feasible.

The new coach, whoever he is, will want to bring in several of his own assistants, particularly at the coordinator level. So, you can rest assured that D'Onofrio is on his way out. But at this moment, with a short-handed staff, firing him makes little to no sense. We need all the coaches we can have on staff right now to finish out this year, and that includes the embattled DC.

I'll keep it real: D'Onofrio should have been fired last offseason. But, his friend Al Golden wouldn't turn his back on him, and that ended up costing Golden his job before it cost D'Onofrio his. Crazy world.

Along with D'Onofrio, I firmly believe it's time for OL coach Art Kehoe and DB coach Paul Williams to be gone from Coral Gables. They're simply not getting the job done (although the DB group has elite level talent this year and has been playing well, I still want to see a change from Williams) and I'm not willing to give either gentleman more time to figure things out.

Conclusion

Miami is in a tough spot because the recent performance has been poor. But, with one of the best available jobs, and the location in the hottest recruiting area in America, there is hope...with the right coach. I wrote about how Blake James absolutely has to get this hire right, and I stand by those words.

Miami is a great school, and has a tradition of excellence on the football field. But, unless we do something we haven't done in the last 20 years, hire the right coach for this program where it is right now, then we'll continue to be also-rans in the world of College Football.