New head coach Mike Elko is in the early stages of filling out his staff at Texas A&M, and the biggest piece of the puzzle looming is who he will bring in as his offensive coordinator. Everyone assumes that Elko will ensure the defensive side is locked down (and Elijah Robinson certainly feels like the odd-on favorite to land the coordinator position). But the OC job is much more of an unknown, and A&M’s offensive struggles under Jimbo Fisher magnify the importance of getting this hire right even more.
So who should the candidates be? As always, I have absolutely zero inside information, but I put together a list of some guys who make sense to be on Elko’s radar to hand over the reigns to what should be a very talented offensive roster next fall.
Kevin Johns (OC, Duke)
This is the obvious one. Johns served as Elko’s OC for the past two seasons at Duke, so there’s a built-in comfort level there. If anything, the only thing that may stop this from happening is if Johns is in the running to be the next Blue Devils head coach.
Casey Woods (OC, SMU)
Woods replaced Garrett Riley as SMU’s OC two years ago and hasn’t missed a beat. The Mustangs finished with the No. 12 scoring offense in 2022 and have the No. 4 scoring offense in the country in 2023, averaging 41.8 points per game. Woods played WR at Tennessee and has had assistant/coaching stops at Tennessee, Auburn and Missouri, so he’s more than familiar with the SEC landscape. He certainly feels like a candidate who could hit the ground running.
SMU plays in the AAC Championship Game this weekend, so if this were to be the move, it seems like it wouldn’t happen until after that.
Will Stein (OC, Oregon)
Stein’s name first popped up when his former boss, UTSA’s Jeff Traylor, was a popular candidate for the Texas A&M job. But even with Elko at the helm, Stein would make a lot of sense. Oregon has the No. 2 offense in the country. Add in his Texas ties (QC at Texas, OC at Lake Travis HS, OC at UTSA) and he feels like a slam dunk hire.
The only things holding Stein back may be salary and timing. Stein already makes $800,000 at Oregon, so it would likely take a substantial raise to lure him to College Station. That’s not outside of the realm of possibility, but I’m sure it’s on the upper range of A&M’s options. Timing-wise, it likely depends on what happens this weekend. If Oregon beats Washington to win the Pac 12, they almost certainly earn a College Football Playoff Spot. If that happens, Stein won’t be going anywhere until January, and the Aggies may look for other options.
Ryan Grubb (OC, Washington)
Grubb reportedly interviewed for several OC job openings last offseason before ultimately staying at Washington. But with the looming departure of QB Michael Penix, he may decide to strike while the iron is hot. Washington had the No. 7 scoring offense in 2022 and the No. 11 offense in 2023. Though their very pass-heavy attack (UW’s passing yards nearly triple their rushing yards) may not be what Elko is looking for.
Like Stein, Grubb’s candidacy may hinge on whether his current team makes the College Football Playoff.
Jerrod Johnson (QB Coach, Houston Texans)
Obviously Aggies know Jerrod, being a former Texas A&M QB himself. He has worked his way up in NFL circles and has drawn rave reviews for the work he has done with rookie QB C.J. Stroud this season. While we’d all love to see him back on the sidelines at Kyle Field, the only question with Jerrod is if he is ready to take the reins of an offense.
A.J. Milwee (Co-OC/QB Coach, Texas)
Milwee may have the Co-OC title at Texas, but we all know Steve Sarkisian is the one who runs that offense. Given that, he may be willing to listen if another school comes calling and wants to give him full control. Milwee played college ball at Alabama and then North Alabama and was an offensive coordinator at Akron for (admittedly awful) six seasons before becoming an analyst at Alabama and then following Sark to Austin. While his Akron tenure was not fruitful, perhaps the tutelage of Sarkisian has him ready to take on the OC role successfully this time around.
Mack Leftwich (OC, Texas State)
Leftwich followed Head Coach GJ Kinne from Incarnate Word to Texas State, and after having the top FCS offense in the country in 2022, they made the transition to FBS with ease, leading the Bobcats to the No. 16 offense in the country this season. While it’s a pass-heavy attack, it’s not quite AS pass-heavy as Washington’s.
Leftwich played his college ball at UTEP (where his dad was the OL Coach), and his entire coaching career has been in the Lone Star State, starting with a GA position at UTEP, OC at Lehman HS, five years at UIW and now one in San Marcos. The only critique of Leftwich is whether he can replicate his success without Kinne as head coach.
Clint Killough (HC, Incarnate Word)
Speaking of Incarnate Word, Killough is a little bit more a wildcard. His only coaching experience is the past six years at UIW, rising from a QC in 2018 now to head coach. They currently have the No. 12 offense in FCS, averaging 33.4 points per game, and are No. 10 in total offense with 298.2 yards per game.
While Incarnate Word is far from a recruiting hotbed, the fact that Killough played HS football in Texas himself (San Antonio MacArthur) and has been in the state for several years would give him a level of familiarity with high school coaches around the state.
Will any of these guys make Elko’s list? We should find out soon enough.
Who would you hire as Texas A&M’s OC?
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