By Reid Bankston
After five years marred by offensive inefficiency, Sylvester Croom resigned as Mississippi State head coach after a 45-0 shelling in last week’s Egg Bowl against arch rival Ole Miss. Croom, the SEC’s first African American coach, struggled to put points on the board, which proved to be the catalyst for unrest in the Bulldog fan base.
The Bulldogs, ranked 113th nationally in total offense, scored 14 points or less in seven games en route to a 4-8 record in 2008. Croom finished 21-38 in Starkville, the lone successful season coming in 2007 as the Bulldogs went 8-5 with dramatic wins over Alabama, Auburn, and Ole Miss and a Liberty Bowl victory over Central Florida.
The second year coach for the Golden Hurricanes of Tulsa is a name that has been mentioned in nearly every circle as a leading candidate to take over in Starkville. Graham has only been a head coach for three years, but has taken both Rice and Tulsa to bowls each year. In his lone year as the head coach at Rice, Graham led the Owls to a 7-6 record and the school’s first bowl bid in 45 years.
Graham took over at Tulsa the following season and has since posted a 20-6 record, including back to back bowl game appearances and Conference USA championship game appearances. In Graham’s two seasons, the Golden Hurricanes have averaged 44.9 points per game, a far cry from Mississippi State’s 15.3 in 2008.
No offense in America is hotter than Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators. Since following head coach Urban Meyer to Gainesville from Utah in 2005, Mullen’s offense has averaged 37.9 points per game on the way to a BCS National Title, and two appearances in the SEC Championship game. Mullen is a proven coordinator, and his spread offense has been hugely successful in the nation’s toughest conference. Hiring Mullen should be a huge step forward for a stagnate offense and the lackluster quarterbacks that plagued the Bulldogs in Croom’s tenure. In his four seasons in Gainesville, Mullen has also played a huge role in signing some of the nation’s top recruiting classes for the Gators. Mullen is very familiar with recruiting the southeast, including Mississippi State commitment Montrell Connor, a four star running back from Louisiana, and the Bulldogs top remaining target Chad Bumphis, a four star wide receiver from Tupelo that has game breaking ability.
Former Head Coach
Although Bowden is a long shot, as there has been no contact made to the former Clemson Tiger head coach as of yet, I wouldn’t rule him out just yet. As there is with any coaching search, there are many “candidates” being lined up, but Bowden seems to be one of the more logical ones. There is no bigger name in college football than the Bowden’s, and Tommy has a good track record to go along with it. Bowden was 72-45 at Clemson with eight bowl appearances, the lone bowl miss coming as a punishment for an on the field brawl between Tiger and South Carolina players in 2004.
Whether or not Bowden becomes a serious candidate remains to be seen, but there is rumored interest in the State job from the 54 year old. Bowden built Clemson into a balanced offensive team, powered by strong rushing attacks, and a playmaking defense.
As well as providing a big name and a proven track record at a high profiled job, Bowden is a dynamite recruiter, known for pulling in several high profile players from all across the country.