As you may have heard, Texas A&M has a coaching vacancy to fill. Everyone is wondering who will be the man to replace Jimbo Fisher, and suggestions are flying in left, right, and center. If you're like me, you probably aren't intimately familiar with most of the candidates being tossed around. Fret not, dear reader! I've done my utmost best to review the candidates and build a statistics-based profile of each one. I'll be presenting my findings in a multi-part series, starting right here!
Some quick ground rules: I haven't profiled anyone who has explicitly said no to the job or who I consider an unlikely candidate. This includes Dan Lanning, Deion Sanders, Dan Campbell, Dabo Swinney, and Urban Meyer. Also, comparing coaching histories is an inherently apples-to-oranges comparison. I've done my best to flatten out the numbers and compare coaches on an even footing, but it breaks down a bit when comparing someone who's been a long-time head coach to someone who's never been one. Lastly, I'm writing this before any games are played Saturday, 11/18. Let's get to it!
In this part, I'll be profiling the guys getting their first shot at a P5 head coaching job. This includes some coaching assistants and head coaches at non-P5 schools. First up is a name most readers of Good Bull Hunting should recognize...
Elijah Robinson - Interim HC, DL Coach, and Co-DC at Texas A&M
Elijah Robinson was named interim head coach for the Aggies following Jimbo's dismissal, and he's impressed many of the Aggie faithful over the last week. Fisher brough Coach Robinson onto the A&M staff back in 2018, where he's primarily been serving as A&M's D-line coach alongside the late great Terry Price. He's also served stints as the run game coordinator and was promoted to defensive co-coordinator this year alongside DJ Durkin. Prior to Aggieland, Robinson has been a DL coach at Baylor and Temple under Matt Rhule.
Coach Robinson has never served as a head coach or even a coordinator until this year. This makes his performance somewhat hard to track on a statistical basis. I've researched the performances of Robinson's D-lines back to his last year at Temple (2016). I tracked the team's national rank in sack percentage, rushing yards per game allowed, and how the RYPGA ranks nationally.
Setting aside one year at Baylor and last year at A&M (when we were breaking in extremely talented underclassmen), Coach Robinson's D-lines have been good to great against both the pass and the run. Temple in 2016, A&M in 2018, and A&M this year really stand out.
The Case For: Coach Robinson seems to be a coach on the rise. His results as a D-line coach have been excellent. His history of working under Rhule, Durkin, and Mike Elko gives him a theoretically strong pedigree on the defensive side. His handful of press conferences have been enough to convince some Aggies that he's the man for the job. It's notable that he was selected for the interim job over both Durkin and Bobby Petrino, two long-time coordinators with previous P5 head coaching experience. He's been around A&M long enough to know the politics that come with the athletic department and the boosters. He has a reputation as a recruiter who has built good relationships with current players and recruits. Outside of poaching a slam dunk hire from another P5 school, Coach Robinson might be the best bet of keeping a talented team and recruiting class together. Even if he doesn't get the head job, the next coach might do well to retain him.
The Case Against: Coach Robinson is by far the greenest candidate for the job, making this a huge gamble. He has only been a co-coordinator for one year. Nobody knows what kind of coaching staff he'd be able to put together, what his coaching philosophies are, etc. It's hard to tell how much of his success has been a product of his work vs. Terry Price or the A&M recruiting machine.
The Verdict: I like Coach Robinson better than some of the other dart throw coaches, but he's still a dart throw. Two weeks in the spotlight doesn't quite make up the ground between him and some of the other candidates. If A&M carries the form they found against Miss State through the end of the year, then maybe Coach Robinson will have enough momentum for us to roll the dice on him. Whether he pays off or not is anyone's guess.
Glenn Schumann - Defensive Co-Coordinator, Georgia
Glenn Schumann has been following Kirby Smart around since his days at Alabama. When Mel Tucker left Georgia for the Colorado job at the end of 2018, Schumann was named defensive co-coordinator alongside Dan Lanning, who is now the head coach at Oregon. Prior to that, Schumann has only ever served as a defensive assistant under Smart at Georgia and Bama.
I've tracked Georgia's defensive performances back to 2016, three years before Schumann and Lanning were promoted to coordinators. The years prior to his promotion are included in the greyed-out area of the table below for reference. I tracked team wins and losses, points per game allowed, yards per game allowed, defensive efficiency rating (per ESPN statistics), and the team's 247 recruiting class rankings.
As expected, Georgia's defense has been the cream of the crop year over year. Things did improve after Schumann was promoted in 2019, but that could just be when the Georgia machine started running full steam.
The Case For: If you like what Lanning has done at Oregon, he and Schumann are cut from the same cloth. Best case scenario, Schumann does for the Ags what Lanning has done for the Ducks and what Smart did for the Dawgs. He's had plenty of time to learn both X's and O's and recruiting at one of the best programs in both the SEC and the nation. All indications are that Schumann is a top candidate from the coordinator ranks to get a nod for the head job somewhere.
The Case Against: We've all seen enough bad apples fall off the Saban tree to know that hiring the hottest SEC coordinator is no sure thing. The aforementioned Mel Tucker has cratered Michigan State and was fired early this season under allegations of sexual harassment. Could this be a case where the head man's expertise is making the coordinator look better than he actually is?
The Verdict: Seeing what Lanning has done, I'd feel pretty good about giving Coach Schumann a shot. If we can't land a sure thing, we could do a lot worse.
Jeff Traylor - Head Coach, UTSA
Jeff Traylor has been head coach for the Roadrunners for the last 4 years (counting this year). Reports are that he's already interviewed for the A&M job, so there seems to be some mutual interest. Before taking the helm in San Antonio, he was offensive coordinator under Chad Morris at Arkansas and SMU. Before that, he was a high school coach right here in Texas.
I've tracked UTSA's team performances back to 2017, three years before Traylor became the head man. The years prior to his hiring are included in the greyed-out area of the table below for reference. I tracked team wins and losses, point differential, and team FPI ranking. I've also tracked points and yards per game (both scored and allowed), as well as offensive and defensive efficiency. Lastly, I've tracked the team's 247 recruiting class rankings (these do not include the stats from the recent game against Southern Florida).
Since taking the helm, Traylor has notably improved the team over his predecessor. Offense is clearly the strength of the team, but the defense has been steadily improving too. There's also been an uptick in recruiting as the team has gained traction. All signs are pointing up in San Antonio.
The Case For: Traylor has been undeniably successful at UTSA, and he has the Roadrunners improving year over year. It seems he's getting the most out of the offense, which would be a welcome change for anyone who's followed Jimbo's Aggies. The uptick in recruiting shows that he may be making inroads in the crowded talent hotbed we all know and love.
The Case Against: It's hard not to compare Traylor to his former boss, Chad Morris. Coach Morris was also a former Texas high school coach who found success at SMU, largely off the strength of his offense. Morris was in the running for the A&M job last time around, but when we took Jimbo, he took the job at Arkansas. Morris went a combined 4-18 for the Hogs and was fired just 10 games into his second year. Could Traylor suffer the same fate at A&M?
The Verdict: Maybe it's just me, but I have my reservations about Traylor. He's been more successful than Morris ever was, but the profiles are close enough to make me nervous. I'm not sure how his recruiting acumen will translate when he's fighting over the blue chips. He'll probably need to win some games to show that what he was doing at UTSA will work in the SEC.
Willie Fritz - Head Coach, Tulane
Willie Fritz has been head coach at Tulane for the last 8 years (including this year), and the Green Wave have been showing out the last two years. I've tracked the team's performance back to 2016, when Fritz was hired, using all the same metrics tracked for Traylor above.
The results are something of a mixed bag. Until the last two years, Fritz was under 0.500 in New Orleans. The clear high point was last year, when his team was top 30 on both sides of the ball. Recruiting has not been a strong point and has yet to see a bump from the impressive 2022 campaign.
The Case For: Coach Fritz has found recent success neighboring Aggieland, and he's been a head coach long enough to feel like a stabilizing presence.
The Case Against: Prior to last year, Fritz was nothing to get excited about. I'm surprised he wasn't fired after 2021, when Tulane went an abysmal 2 and 10. It's hard to find anything exceptional about Fritz's program, other than last year. This year is good as far as wins and losses, but the team has notably regressed, particularly on offense. Aggie fans couldn't wait 6 whole years for a national title winner to get the team rolling. Would they show patience if Fritz doesn't click right away?
The Verdict: I don't think Fritz would be the right hire for A&M. He's just as risky as any of the other candidates on this list, but in my opinion, he offers less upside. There's also the question of whether he'd leave a program he's molded for almost a decade to jump into the pressure cooker that is Aggie football.
Jon Sumrall - Head Coach, Troy
Jon Sumrall is a bit of a dark horse candidate, but if he keeps winning the way he has at Troy, then he won't be anonymous for much longer. Since taking the head job for the Trojans two years ago, he's gone 20 and 4, with losses against K-State and an undefeated James Madison this year and losses against Ole Miss and App State last year. Before coming to Troy, he was linebackers coach and defensive co-coordinator at Kentucky under Mark Stoops.
I've tracked Troy's performance back to 2019, three years before Coach Sumrall was hired, using all the same metrics tracked for Traylor above. The years prior to his hiring are included in the greyed-out area of the table below for reference.
Sumrall has quickly established Troy as a contender in the Sun Belt Conference, thanks mainly to a salty defense. The Trojans won the conference last year and are in the mix to repeat if JMU stumbles. Coach Sumrall has also notched a win head-to-head against Jeff Traylor, when the Trojans throttled the Roadrunners in last year's Cure Bowl. The offense and recruiting leave something to be desired.
The Case For: Sumrall is knocking it out of the park at Troy. His two teams have been built around a strong defensive mindset that's performing far above the program's historical norms. Combine that coaching acumen with the A&M talent pipeline, and we might never get scored on again. His time at Kentucky gives him at least a few years of SEC experience.
The Case Against: The offense really is a problem. We've seen plenty of coaches at Sumrall's level come up with innovative offensive schemes to maximize their talent. Sumrall clearly hasn't found that yet. Also, recruiting under Sumrall is questionable. Despite improving results on the field, Troy's recruiting has actually gotten worse since Sumrall took charge.
The Verdict: To me, Sumrall is an intriguing candidate. He's improved Troy at a faster clip than either Fritz at Tulane or Traylor at UTSA. Hook him up with a good offensive staff and some good recruiters in Aggieland, and he might have something going. On the flipside, the 12th Man might not have much more patience for watching great defensive performances wasted by a plodding offense.
Any of the coaches in this bunch would be a crapshoot. No one knows for sure which of these guys (if any) will leap to a P5 head coaching gig and find success. My personal rankings of this group would go:
You could rearrange 2-4 depending on what's most important to you: defense, offense, or recruiting. Sumrall gets the edge from me because he's been the most impressive over a short period of time at Troy, but I'm curious to know what y'all think.
If you found this guide useful, I plan to post another covering some of the other candidates. Next article will focus on some of the P5 coaches that have been mentioned as potential successors to the Jimbo era. Thanks for reading!