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Coaching Carousel 2009: Offensive Line Candidates

We still haven't heard official word that Eric Wolford is leaving, but I expect we'll get that tomorrow or Wednesday. There is a little talk this evening about Coach Spurrier trying to talk Wolford into staying and making him a counteroffer, so we can keep our fingers crossed that he might stay. However, I don't like our chances; it just seems that there's too much going against us on this one.

If Wolford does indeed leave, it'll be  time to think more about who our next line coach will be. In addition to Robbie Caldwell, who I mentioned yesterday, I'm hearing three other names that seem reasonable to me: Mississippi State's J. B. Grimes, Syracuse's Greg Adkins, and South Alabama's Mitch Rodrigue. This is all very preliminary at this point, especially considering that Wolford to YSU isn't official yet, but it's fun to wonder about, and since we don't have much else to talk about right now, let's take a closer look at these guys.

J. B. Grimes

Grimes last coached the line for Sylvester Croom's Mississippi State Bulldogs. Now, before you say "Wait a damn minute, didn't their offenses suck?", you should know that State was known for having a physical, effective line during Grimes's tenure. This line paved the way for many solid rushing seasons under Croom's watch; unfortunately, though, State tended to lack any semblance of a passing game during these years, leading to overall bad offenses. Prior to coaching for Croom, Grimes had solid tenures coaching for more successful programs at Arkansas, Virginia Tech, and Texas A & M.

The positives on Grimes are that he is a solid tutor of fundamentals and toughness. His State lines were known for playing hard and smart, and Grimes got the most out of a relatively untalented group. The negatives on Grimes are that he's a bit older than what I think we'd like. Grimes is supposedly a decent recruiter, but it's no mystery that what the recruits like about Wolford is that he's young and personable in addition to being a great, intense coach. Now, I'm sure Grimes is personable, as well, but there's something about youth that goes a long way in empathizing with high school guys. I'm not sure if Grimes still has that.

Greg Adkins

Adkins is currently the line coach at Syracuse, where his offense has had a pretty average year. However, what Adkins is known for is his tenure as Phil Fulmer's line coach at Tennessee, a position he held for six years. Adkins also coached at Georgia. Adkins helped coach many fine offenses at these schools and has placed many a great lineman in the NFL. He can be excused for the bad year at the 'Cuse.

Adkins is certainly known for being a good coach, but he's most famous for his recruiting prowess. He was a major player in Fulmer's recruiting machine at Tennessee, which means that he has the recruiting acumen to help us bring in players that can help compete and that he has pipelines to SEC prep talent.

Of course, maybe without those hostesses... (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Mitch Rodrigue

Rodrigue currently coaches the line at South Alabama, which just finished its inaugural year of football. Why woud we be going after a guy in a position like that? Well, before he went to USA, Rodrigue was a nationally recognized line coach for many years under Jeff Bower at Southern Mississippi, leaving that program when Bower was surprisingly let go last year. Rodrigue was known for loading the All-CUSA team with his linemen and for helping lead prolific offenses during these years.

Rodrigue's pluses, like Adkin's, mainly concern his recruiting prowess. He was known for bringing lots of talent to Hattiesburg during his time at USM. His minuses, though, are probably the other side of that coin. Recruiting for USM and for an SEC school are two different bags, and it would remain to be seen if Rodrigue was up to the task.

Summing Up

If Wolford goes, I would think we have a good chance at landing any of these guys. One thing all have in common is that each is a good coach that is in exile because they lost their old job along with an ousted head coach. That means that each would probably love a chance at the USC job. Each is also familiar with blocking schemes that in various ways would mesh with what Spurrier wants to do here at USC.

If I had my pick, I'd take Adkins. (Well, other than Wolford.) Adkins has had plenty of success as an SEC line coach, having coached in multiple SEC title games and major bowl games. He has a good pedigree: he has coached with offensive genius David Cutcliffe, and he learned to recruit under Philip Fulmer. Well. Maybe that last one isn't such a great thing, but anyways. Adkins looks like a good coach, so I hope we make a strong push for him or Vandy's Robbie Caldwell if Wolford doesn't pan out.