The Garrick McGee era in Birmingham ended after two seasons on Thursday, when it was announced that McGee had resigned to accept the position of offensive coordinator under former boss Bobby Petrino at Louisville.
McGee’s tenure at UAB was supposed to be one of revitalization, since the Blazers were in the midst of seven straight losing seasons upon his arrival. Instead, his tenure looked like it may end before it had barely began, as rumors quickly connected him to the Arkansas job once Petrino was fired in the spring of 2012. Give credit to McGee, who decided to stick with the Blazers, but he never got the situation under control. The Blazers went 5-19 in his two seasons as head coach, including a 2-10 record with just one C-USA victory in 2013.
The move by McGee caught me off guard in the beginning, but once I put more thought into the situation, the decision makes sense. McGee has four years of coaching experience under Petrino (QB coach and later offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011), and it did not appear as if UAB was ready for a breakout season in 2014, meaning that McGee could have been coaching for his job with a team that was probably looking at four wins at the maximum. With this and the fact that Louisville is paying him approximately $100,000 more than he was prepared to make with the Blazers, McGee decided to take a step down to the offensive coordinator level for a proven winner in a position that he should safely possess for at least two seasons, a move that no one can really fault him for.
Now that McGee has left for Louisville, who will be the next head coach of the UAB Blazers? Here are five candidates that I believe the athletic department should consider giving a call:
Joey Jones, South Alabama HC – The former standout wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide has done a commendable job building the Jaguars program, and after five seasons he holds a 31-21 record with the team. The Jaguars were 6-6 in 2013 and nearly upset the Tennessee Volunters in Neyland Stadium, which is quite an accomplishment for a team that has only been in existence since 2009. Jones may decide he is not willing to leave a team that he has practically built on his own from the ground up, but if he is interested in moving up to the C-USA level of play, UAB would be foolish not to go after him.
Tim Horton, Auburn RB Coach – Horton’s name may prove to be a hot commodity thanks to the Tigers’ success on the ground this season. A former assistant under Petrino at Arkansas, Horton’s Tigers led the nation in yards on the ground, garnering 328 per game en route to the National Championship game. Now with seven years of coaching in the SEC under his belt with running backs like Darren McFadden and Tre Mason, is the timing right for Horton to step out and run his own team?
Major Applewhite, former Texas offensive coordinator – A former quarterback for the Texas Longhorns, the thirty-five year old already has an impressive résumé, which includes stops at Alabama and Texas, both of which saw Applewhite serve as offensive coordinator. Now looking for a job due to Brown’s resignation, it seems doubtful that new Texas head coach Charlie Strong will keep Applewhite on board in the same capacity, meaning that he could very well be in the hunt for a head coaching position.
Ed Orgeron, former USC DC – Orgeron seems to be open to taking a head coaching job now that his second tenure with the Trojans is over with. Many people surrounding the USC program felt that Orgeron was deserving of replacing Lane Kiffin full-time after posting a 6-2 record as the interim head coach, and his exit following Steve Sarkisian’s hire made one of the most respected recruiters in the nation readily available. Will Orgeron take a head coaching job, an assistant coaching position, or take a year off? It remains to be seen, but the fiery Cajun could bring the amount of toughness and drive that the Blazers are in desperate need of.
Houston Nutt, former Ole Miss HC – Nutt’s name has bounced around several different coaching vacancies this offseason, but so far the three-time SEC Coach of the Year has yet to land another gig. Nutt, who posted a 99-74 record over the course of fourteen seasons with the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Ole Miss Rebels, has been lampooned by some due to the recent success of Gus Malzahn, who he famously ran off after one season as Nutt’s offensive coordinator. Nutt may not ever land another significant FBS coaching position, but Nutt’s past success could be just what the doctor ordered for UAB, which is not exactly a heralded C-USA program. Consider the fact that Nutt has four bowl victories while UAB only has one bowl appearance, and it sure makes it look like hiring Nutt would not be such a bad move as far as publicity and recruiting is concerned.