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The Purdue Football Coaching Search: H&R Top Picks

Let the search to replace Danny Hope begin now.


I think at this point it is quite obvious that Danny Hope's tenure is coming to a close. The man might be a nice guy, but this season he and his staff have failed miserably as Purdue has gone from Big Ten title contender to Big Ten basement with a team that he has hyped endlessly. I don't even think it is so much the losing, but the fact this team has been blown out in four of the last five games and looked completely ill-prepared to do anything.

Even Morgan Burke, who has done a lot of good for the university, has taken a number of shots for his slowness to make a move and for hiring Hope in the first place. With each passing week it looks more and more likely that the Indiana game on November 24th will be Hope's last because new of him returning would severely cut into ticket sales and fan interest for the 2013 season.

So, we're likely in a coaching search for the second time in five years. Kentucky has fired Joker Phillips in the midst of a dismal 1-9 season (but at least they are the only team that beat Kent State!), so we're not even the first in line to get our picks in. It does look like we'll be the only Big Ten program to make a chance barring something unexpected, so that will help.

I'll try to break this down to a few different levels, so bear with me.

Level 1: The Morgan Burke Safe Hire We All Expect

Brock Spack - Head Coach, Illinois State - We all know this is going to be the guy that is right in Burke's wheelhouse given his history of hires. He even has a dashing Purdue ‘stache that fits the mold of Tiller and Hope and seems to be a requirement for the position. Spack is an alumnus and I would argue that the complete collapse of his defenses beginning with the 2005 season prevented him from already being our head coach. He was long believed to be Tiller's replacement-in-waiting, but that 2005 defense was so awful and showed little-to-no improvement over the 2006 and 2007 seasons that it forced Burke to look elsewhere.

Spack has been at Illinois State since the 2009 season with the following results:

2009: 6-5, 5-3 MVC (Third Place)

2010: 6-5, 4-4 MVC (Third Place)

2011: 7-4, 5-3 MVC (Third Place)

2012: 8-2, 5-2 MVC (1/2 game out of first place with one game remaining against leader North Dakota State)

That's a respectable 27-16 record in four seasons and the Redbirds are likely to make the FCS playoffs this season for the first time in six years. The MVC is one of the better FCS conferences with North Dakota State winning last year's National title and teams like NDSU, South Dakota State, and Indiana State likely to make this year's playoffs. Youngstown State is also in the league and they beat Pittsburgh by 14 points, who just pushed great and mighty Notre Dame.

Unfortunately, this is a very Hope-esque hire. Through four seasons at Eastern Kentucky Hope was 26-19 with no playoff appearances before making the FCS playoffs at 9-3 and 8-0 in the conference in his final year.

I hate to say it, but Spack will be the next head coach at Purdue unless Burke breaks against every trend he has shown as athletic director and looks elsewhere. Spack wanted the job five years ago and Burke let him get away. This is the safe hire, and I don't think anyone likes it. Spack did at least build a pretty good defense from 2000-2004 at Purdue and could shore up that unit, but I don't think anyone would be printing Rose Bowl T-shirts if he's hired.

Level 2: The Opposite of A Nordfense

The offense is nothing less than an absolute mess at the moment and Gary Nord continues to protest that as fans we simply cannot understand his genius. Well, mercifully he'll soon be gone or even I won't buy season tickets next year. The Boiled Sports guys compiled a nice list of offensive-minded coaches I'd like for Burke to at least look at:

Dave Doeren - Head Coach, Northern Illinois - The Huskies are 9-1 and would possibly be contending for a BCS bowl if they had not lost 18-17 in the season opener against Iowa. They beat the offensive genius Charlie Weis in Kansas and we'll have to contend with him next season on September 28th for Homecoming (By the way, thanks for the lame Homecoming, Morgan!). At NIU Doeren is 20-4 in his second season and was 11-3 last year.

Iowa is the only team to hold his offense under 30 points. Yes, it is against a MAC schedule but he coached an NFL draft pick at QB last year (Chandler Harnish and is taking over with a new guy this season in Jordan Lynch who has 2,175 yards and 19 TDs against three interceptions. His only losses were to Kansas last season, Wisconsin, Central Michigan, and Iowa this year.

His defenses are awful either, giving up 17.9 points per game this season, good for 18th nationally. Lynch has also rushed for 1,342 yards and 16 TDs. As a team Purdue has rushed for 1,377 yards and 11 scores.

Sonny Dykes - Head Coach, Louisiana Tech - The Bulldogs are another team that if unbeaten, they would be contending for a BCS bowl. They might do so anyway since they are 20th in the BCS standings as of right now and they only need to move up four spots while finishing ahead of a major conference champion to get an automatic bid. Their won loss was a fun shootout against Texas A&M 57-55 and an OMG TOTALLY AWESOME SEC defense.

Dykes is 21-13 as a head coach and cut his teeth under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. His first year as a coach was slow at 5-7, but the next year La Tech was 8-5 and in a bowl game. This year they are 8-1 with the second best offense in the country at 52.4 per game, only behind Oregon. LaTech has been over 50 points in every game except a 28-14 win at New Mexico State. Colby Cameron, a senior he developed, has 2,946 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception this year.

Read that again. This guy is coaching a quarterback with zero interceptions in 358 attempts. He completes 71% of his passes. Again, this is a quarterback that Dykes molded and developed.

The defense isn't that great, giving up 34 points per game, but I actually like Tibesar somewhat. Besides, if we recruit someone in the Cradle capable of running Dykes' offenses who cares if we give up 34 points per game as long as we're scoring 50.

Kyle Flood - Head Coach, Rutgers - This one is a bit iffy since Flood is in his first year at a BCS conference school, but the Scarlet Knights are 7-1 under him losing only to a pretty good Kent State team from the MAC. He goes the opposite way, in that his team is stout defensively at only 14.3 points per game. There is no excuse for a Purdue offense to ever score less than 20 points per game (except for the Nordfense), so a stout defense like that would be nice to see.

Flood was the offensive line coach for Rutgers before Greg Schiano left for the NFL. I don't see us going after him, but it would be interesting if we did.

Kliff Kingsbury - Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M - For awhile Texas Tech was one of the few teams that loved the pass more than we did. At least we tried to have some sort of a running game with Edwin Watson, Montrell Lowe, Joey Harris, etc. Kingsbury followed Kevin Sumlin from Houston to Texas A&M and can be seen this coming weekend when he takes on the No. 1 defense in America. If he can figure out a way to crack the Crimson Tide I'll be very impressed.

Texas A&M is 7-2 with the No. 4 rated offense in the country at 44.7 points per game. Both losses were at home in close games to Florida and LSU. Do far it seems as if his offenses do struggle against good defenses, so that makes me a little concerned. They are playing with freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel who has thrown for 2,527 yards and 16 TDs against six picks.

Mark Helfrich - Offensive Coordinator, Oregon - Oh my! The engineer of the No. 1 rated offense and one that scored 45 points in a half while barely breaking a sweat and run by a freshman? Yes, please! Helfrich has created a self-sustaining monster because his offense is so good that the backups are getting significant reps in real game situations this year because Oregon has such huge leads. that only makes them more prepared in case of injury and for for future seasons. He would get to come in with the Florida speed players that Hope recruited and gets tomold them? I think I would pass out with joy.

Level 3: Wild rumors and dreams

Let me preface this final section by saying that I would absolutely be stunned, in fact, I'd be beyond stunned, if any of these guys were even contacted, let alone higher. I think I will be more shocked if Purdue hired one of these names than I would if I were named the next person to walk on the moon as I accepted a Pulitzer for Hammer & Rails. Still, let's have some fun.

Tony Dungy - This is only based on the following Twitter exchange:

Joshua Winrotte@coachrotte

@HammerAndRails any truth to the Dungy rumors?

20h Travis Miller@HammerAndRails

@coachrotte dungy rumors?

20h Joshua Winrotte@coachrotte

@HammerAndRails Family was on campus today and heard Dungy for Hope rumors several times. Didn't know if any truth.

20h Travis Miller@HammerAndRails

@coachrotte I would be elated if it happened. That said, I would be absolutely stunned if Burke made it happen.

20h Joshua Winrotte@coachrotte

@HammerAndRails Maybe Daniels makes the change others have been calling for and convinces Burke that his time is past. Would be a great hire

This seems about as likely as Bobby Knight returning to Indiana as tom Crean's assistant this season. It's not happening.

John Gruden - It's not happening, but why not at least give him a call since he is connected to every NFL rumor out there. Bonus that it would royally piss off Notre Dame fans that have wanted him for years.

Bill Cowher - See Gruden above.

Joe Tiller - There have been calls to bring him out of retirement, but given how worn down he was when he left I don't see it. Cowboy Joe is happy in retirement and we should let him be there. We owe him that much.

Nick Saban - Given his history we only have to beat Alabama's salary by $1.