Just one year after re-hiring Liam Coen from the NFL, a deal that was supposed to be more permanent, the Kentucky Wildcats are once again looking to replace their best offensive coordinator in years.
It’s a tricky situation to hire a replacement this late in the process, and it will be a tall task for Kentucky. Though difficult, it’s not impossible. Here are five candidates that Kentucky should consider to replace Coen.
Top Candidates To Replace Liam Coen at Kentucky
There are a few criteria that Kentucky will keep at the top of mind when hiring a replacement for Coen.
The trickiest part is that Kentucky signed a strong offensive portal class largely by selling a system and proven coordinator. While the coordinator is gone, the system can be replicated, and that’s likely where the Wildcats will focus their efforts.
Quarterback Brock Vandergriff is key to Kentucky’s plans, and the graduate is free to transfer whenever he pleases if he is unsatisfied with the new system. There was nearly an offensive exodus early in the portal, so to keep a strong unit together, the Wildcats will need to hit a home run with this hire.
Kentucky will likely look for a pro-style coordinator with experience. Importantly, money will not be an obstacle. Coen was the 12th-highest-paid assistant in college sports last year and will have to reimburse the program $500,000 as part of his buyout.
Tommy Rees, Former Alabama and Notre Dame OC
Tommy Rees is only 31 and one of the youngest offensive coordinators in college football last season. But unlike many other young guys, he coached at Alabama and Notre Dame, two powerhouses. He was limited by poor offensive line play and one-dimensional receivers in Tuscaloosa, two things he won’t have to deal with at Kentucky.
As for the pro-style aspect, Rees had his Notre Dame quarterbacks under center at a higher rate than most other Power Five teams and excels at getting talented receivers in one-on-one matchups. Vandergriff, in particular, would benefit from Rees’ coaching.
Tyson Helton, Western Kentucky Head Coach
Tyson Helton has been the head coach of the high-flying Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for five years, but as the gap between the SEC, Big Ten, and the rest of the country widens, he may pop up as a potential name at Kentucky. His base salary is $900,000, and it’s possible he will become the third sitting head coach in the last few weeks to depart for an SEC coordinator position.
Helton’s offenses have consistently been some of the best in college football, and Mark Stoops should probably call to at least gauge his interest.
James Coley, South Carolina Wide Receivers Coach
James Coley just recently moved to Columbia to be the receivers coach for South Carolina. Still, with a wealth of offensive coordinator experience and some overlap with Mark Stoops at Florida State when they were coordinators together, it would make sense for Coley to get a call.
Coley is well-respected in the recruiting and coaching industries and has much-needed connections to the Florida area.
Bryan McClendon, Georgia Wide Receivers Coach
Although Bryan McClendon doesn’t have a similar preexisting relationship with coach Stoops, he is an extremely talented recruiter and teacher with former coordinator experience. McClendon’s time at South Carolina was marred by poor head coaching philosophy and injuries, but his units since have been excellent.
Currently, at Georgia, the Kentucky staff is very familiar with McClendon, his relationship with new quarterback Vandergriff is a bonus. The system he ran at South Carolina was mostly pro-style with a few spread wrinkles, which likely appeals to Stoops and the rest of the offensive coaching staff.
Tee Martin, Baltimore Ravens Quarterbacks Coach
Martin has previous coaching experience at Kentucky, though not with Stoops. He’s widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in football and could be looking to return to the college game. He’s worked with Lamar Jackson for the last year and has experience as both a quarterbacks coach and a receivers coach.
Stoops loves getting guys on his staff with NFL experience, but Martin is a guy who also has extensive recruiting experience and has worked under excellent offensive minds. The pro-style system might not be there, but if Kentucky is looking long-term, he would be a smart hire.
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