The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Who Could Replace Kevin Sumlin?

Read this sentence and tell me how long ago this feels: Kevin Sumlin was hired after a bizarre Rich Rodriguez scandal when Khalil Tate tweeted his displeasure with the triple option offense of then coaching favorite Ken Niumatalolo.

That was less than two years ago!

Kevin Sumlin was supposed to inject the program with sizzle, sexiness, success and a brand name to make Arizona a brand name.

Instead, Sumlin has depressed the program with an odd tenure of lethargy, limited access, losing and Arizona remains a knock off brand on the discount rack of college football.

Regardless of the outcome of the Territorial Cup, questions are swirling around the program.

The most alarming part of Kevin Sumlin's tenure is the total lack of energy. Herm Edwards has transformed ASU's football program not with an influx of wins, he's basically Todd Graham in those regards, but with the sheer power of positivity.

Sumlin projects doom and gloom on the sideline. Its as if he's been preparing to fail at Arizona since he took the job having been well aware of its challenges but just wanted to get out of the house and get a paycheck anyway.

The swagcopter has been grounded and the sadcopter has taken its place.

It hasn't been ALL bad. Grant Gunell could be good. Did I mention Grant Gunnell?

Is it time for a change? Probably. Coaches need longer than two seasons to transform programs but when things are going decidedly backwards, more time probably isn't the answer.

Under Sumlin, the defense is a mess, the coaching staff is in disarray, the offense has never fully materialized and the recruiting has been embarrassingly stagnant, as detailed in an excellent article on The Athletic by Ari Wasserman.

You either fire Sumlin after this season or reaffirm your commitment for the next several years with a contract extension because making Sumlin a lame duck coach does no one any good whatsoever.

Finances could be a challenge. Because Arizona (and myself, amongst many others) thought Sumlin was here to finally take the program to unforeseen heights, his contract has a massive buyout that was intended to keep other programs from stealing him but now feels more like Sumlin stealing from Arizona.

Either way, its going to limit Arizona's ability to offer the kind of compensation that could generate immediate excitement. Sumlin is the lowest paid head coach in the conference by base salary and second lowest by total compensation, trailing only Jonathan Smith of Oregon State who is due for a big raise.

Some of the coaches who would be great fits like Mike Norvell of Memphis (who I believe is the perfect candidate) or Jeff Tedford of Fresno State or Luke Fickell of Cincinnato, are already making significantly more than what Sumlin is earning at Arizona.

So if you're going to fire Sumlin, odds are you're either going to have to find someone cheap or find someone with a real emotional attachment to the program.

Are there any Dick Tomey disciples or Arizona alums wanting to come and restore the luster of the Desert Swarm era? Dino Babers? Ken Niumatalolo? Tedy Bruschi pulling a Herm Edwards? Anyone?

How about a famous former player? Maybe Gronk can trade in his mock turtleneck and studio job for America's best college football party as head coach. Nick Foles inspires wherever he goes, maybe he's ready to step aside for Minshew Mania and take his leadership to his alma mater.

In all likelihood Arizona is going to either have to go to a small school head coach or an assistant.

The good news is the perfect candidate might be available.

If I were AD Dave Heeke, one of my first phone calls after I try and patch things up with Niumatalolo or pry Bruschi out of Bristol is to current USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

He's 34, turned third string and unheralded by USC standards quarterback Kedon Slovis into the fifth most prolific passing offense in the country. More importantly he's entrenched in the recruiting landscapes of both California in his role at USC and in Texas with his past as an All American QB and Heisman finalist at Texas Tech after starring in high school in the same state.

At his age, recruiting energy and effort should not be a question and whatever challenges Arizona systemically presents to a head coach should be buttressed by the motivation of having his entire coaching career in front of him with an opportunity to do everything he's ever wanted to do as a coach.

Yes, he's inexperienced and young. He's basically Kliff Kingsbury but for the Arizona Wildcats instead of the Arizona Cardinals.

That seems like a change worth making.

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