Despite what some soi disant authorities may proclaim, nobody truly knows Kirby Hocutt's innermost thoughts regarding Texas Tech's search for a new football coach. During Saturday's press conference, however, the Tech athletic director did drop a few very clear hints.
First and foremost is the requirement that the new coach be acquainted with the state of Texas. And if he is intimately familiar with Lubbock and Texas Tech, all the better.
Hocutt mentioned this trait no less than three times. In his opening statement he said "[I] want to find someone who knows the fabric of west Texas."
When asked to elaborate, Hocutt stated, "Well, I think it's important to find somebody who embraces the west Texas community, the west Texas lifestyle. This is a great place to live. It's a great place to raise a family. It's a great place to build a football program. And we want somebody who is familiar with the state of Texas. We want somebody who is familiar with the values that we hold dearly in west Texas in Lubbock and I'm confident that we'll be able to find that person."
And again, when queried about his strongest gut feeling at the moment, Hocutt mentioned west Texas: "[I feel] a sense of determination, a sense of determination to get a leader in here who is committed to Texas Tech University, who wants to be engrained with the fabric of Lubbock, with west Texas, and a winner."
From the above, two things are reasonably clear. First, familiarity with Texas is important from a recruiting standpoint. Second, Hocutt wants the new head coach to know what he's getting into. Lubbock and west Texas are not for everybody. It is a stark and in some ways harsh environment. It takes a special breed, a tough and hearty soul to find happiness here. Either that, or it takes a native. Quite possibly, Tommy Tuberville did not fit that mold. The next coach will.
Hocutt also, perhaps surprisingly, indicated his preference for a defensive-minded coach, and one who believes in the run as much as the pass.
"I think a lot of times your defensive minded coaches have a better understanding philosophically for offensive systems and going out and finding that right offensive coordinator for a program. I believe it's important to have a balanced attack. I believe it's important to be able to run the ball. At the same time I think you have to pass the ball as well. We want somebody who is going to have a balanced attack…."
Note what Hocutt did not say. He didn't say offensive-minded coaches have a better understanding of defensive systems, and that they find the right defensive coordinator for the program.
And finally, Hocutt let it be known that he will not confine the search to candidates with previous head coaching experience.
"We're going to find the best candidate for Texas Tech. If that individual is a head coach, great. If that individual is a coordinator, somewhere in this country, great."
With the above in mind, below is a list of possible candidates, ranked in order of greatest likelihood to be hired. But there is no single candidate who is both defensive-minded and deeply acquainted with Texas, let alone Texas Tech. That being the case, Hocutt will have to make do with a coach who falls somewhat short of his ideal.
1. Brent Venables: The current defensive coordinator at Clemson doesn't have intimate Texas ties, but given his long stint as Oklahoma's defensive coordinator, his recruiting connections in the Lone Star State are strong. Venables also hales from the central Kansas town of Salina, which culturally and climatically, is similar to Lubbock. Venables was also a Kansas State teammate of Kirby Hocutt's in 1991 and 1992. The "fit" that Hocutt mentioned in his press conference would certainly be there with Venables.
2. Chad Morris: It seems likely that Tech's new head coach will come from the Clemson staff—Morris is the Tigers' offensive coordinator. Morris, age 44, has deep Texas roots. He was born in Edgewood, 380 miles east of Lubbock, and was a head coach in the Texas high school ranks (including a stop in Stephenville) 16 years. Morris is widely regarded as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game today, and his offenses are the very definition of "balanced."
3. Kliff Kingsbury: This is the sexy hire, and it would make Hocutt an overnight hero in west Texas. But would Hocutt still have a job three years from now? Kingsbury, a New Braunfels native and record-setting quarterback for Texas Tech, is only 33 and has never been a head coach. He has been an extremely successful offensive coordinator for four seasons, and his offensive system would synch up seamlessly with Tech's current personnel and experience. This hire would either be a grand slam or a royal strike out.
4. Mike MacIntyre: The current head coach at San Jose State is an up-and-comer with ties to Texas and a strong defensive background. Age 47, MacIntyre has resurrected the Spartan program in three seasons after serving as a defensive coordinator at various locales for nine years. The Miami native, who has spent most of coaching career in the south, and was defensive backs coach of the Dallas Cowboys for three seasons.
5. Tim DeRuyter: The former defensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2010-1) and current Fresno State boss has a similar resume to MacIntyre's. He has the Bulldog program headed in a positive direction, has an extensive background as a defensive coordinator (11 years), and has familiarity with Texas and Texas Tech from his days in College Station. DeRuyter is an intense coach, and at age 49, is in the prime of his career.
6. Art Briles: In many ways, Briles would be the ideal hire. He is a proven winner in the Big 12, having worked wonders in a difficult situation at Baylor, and his ties to Texas and Texas Tech are nonpareil. Briles has coached 26 years of Texas high school football (including stints in Sundown, Sweetwater, Hamlin and Stephenville), he was born in Rule, Texas 140 miles east of Lubbock, graduated from Tech and coached at Tech in 2000 through 2002.
But there are two huge obstacles. First, Briles would cost a fortune, and second, there's no guarantee he would leave Baylor. He's poised to become an institution in Waco like Grant Teaff before him and Gary Patterson currently at TCU. Still, if Hocutt could find the money and the words to persuade him, Briles would be an almost sure-fire smash hit for the Red Raiders.