Three popular candidates, three more likely ones, and one wild card
Despite what some Oklahoma State fans believe, the Cowboys have been blessed to keep offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich in Stillwater for as long as they have. But all good things must come to an end and now Mike Gundy is in the market for a new man to run his offense.
After six seasons on the sidelines in Stillwater, Yurcich has left for the Ohio State to coach quarterbacks and co-run the offense.
Now, Mike Gundy begins the search for the next guy. Based on comments Coach Gundy has made before where the next OSU OC could likely come from; someone with an OSU connection.
Gundy says the next coordinator likely will be someone currently on his staff, someone with previous experience on his staff or someone who played for Gundy. “We have quality (assistants) now,” Gundy said. “I wouldn’t hesitate moving them into the coordinator role.”
Using that statement as a starting point, there are a LOT of possibilities. Let’s break down seven possible candidates who each check at least one of those boxes.
Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way, as many national experts will connect his name to the opening as much as hopeful fans will.
It would seem like a great move to bring back the man that ran Oklahoma State’s offense during its greatest season ever, and ran the 3rd best offense in the nation a year later. Along with working as OC in 2011 and 2012, Monken also served as OSU’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach from 2002-2004.
The problem is, Monken seems to enjoy coaching in the NFL more than in college. After his most successful season as the head coach at Southern Miss, he quit to become an NFL offensive coordinator. It’s very possible Monken decided he just liked the NFL, it’s lack of recruiting and pure focus on football, better than coaching in college. If he did take the OSU job, how long would it be before he decided he wanted back with the pros.
While he lost his job in Tampa Bay, the New York Jets are reportedly looking at him to coach their team and help quarterback Sam Darnold. It’s likely if he doesn’t land the job, he’ll find landing spot somewhere in the league.
I really don’t see Monken returning to Stillwater. For one thing, he’s already bailed on college for the NFL once. There’s no reason to think he wants to rejoin the college ranks. Two, Gundy is likely looking for another Yurcich; someone who will want to stick around Stillwater for a while. I’m not sure Monken fits that.
Let’s also go ahead and get this one out of the way, because it’s the one a lot of fans are going to be clamoring for. Could you imagine OSU’s recruiting with Josh Henson and Marcus Arroyo in Stillwater? Be still my heart.
Arroyo did a fantastic job recruiting running backs at Oklahoma State, landing guys like Justice Hill, Chuba Hubbard, and J.D. King.
But there are plenty of reasons to think this won’t happen.
For one, he would be expensive. He made $750,000 this season, then will earn $825,000 in 2019 and $850,000 in 2020. For comparison, Mike Yurcich currently makes $800,000. Oh, and he would owe 20% of his guaranteed salary at the time of his departure if leaves for any job that is not an FBS head coach.
And similar to Josh Henson, his previous track record when serving as at least a co-OC isn’t great.
Here are the Total Offense rankings for Marcus Arroyo when he held atleast Co-OC title and called plays at FBS level. If anyone wants to correct me on if he called plays elsewhere, please do.
2009 Wyoming - #107
2010 Wyoming - #116
2013 Southern Miss - #114
2018 Oregon - #31
— Adam Lunt (@AdamLunt817) December 31, 2018
Unless Oklahoma State wanted to open up the bank and offer Arroyo something around a million dollars or more, I don’t see any reason for him to leave his current job. OSU ain’t paying that much, and his track record as an OC doesn’t justify it, even if his recruiting prowess does.
The guy that checks all three boxes; former player, former coach, and currently on the roster. I already predicted he would take over the reins of the offense, primarily because I think he’s the most obvious candidate.
“Oklahoma State is my alma mater and will always have a special place in my heart. The opportunity to come back and be part of Cowboy football is special to me,” Henson said after he was hired back in 2017 to coach OSU’s offensive line.
Henson feels like the kind of candidate who would stick around Stillwater for longer than a couple of years, he’s a guy that knows Stillwater, and he has proven he can recruit to it. All that combined makes him a likely hire.
That said, there are a couple of reasons not to promote Henson. For one, his previous stint at offensive coordinator didn’t end all that well. His first season the team finished ranked 13th nationally and averaged 39.1 ppg. But it dropped to 27.8 and 73rd nationally in year two, then 13.6 ppg and 127th nationally in his final season.
Also, if Henson does take over the offense will he still run the offensive line? Gundy would already have to bring someone in to coach quarterbacks (and a grad assistant ain’t going to work). Adding a new offensive line coach as well would put them one assistant coach over.
There are questions to answer but I still feel like this is the most likely pick just because of the relationship between Henson and Oklahoma State and the fact he would likely stick around for a while.
With Seth Littrell sticking around North Texas, that means now might be the time to swipe his offensive coordinator.
He was an Oklahoma State quality control coach in 2009 which gives him the connection to OSU. Other than that? He’s been pretty dang good at North Texas. He and Littrell have turned around a terrible program.
North Texas went from averaging 24.8 points in year one to 35.5 ppg last season and 34.6 ppg in 2018.
Harrell also helped to discover and develop quarterback Mason Fine who has increased his completion percentage and QBR and cut down on interceptions each season.
Now, while Harrell did spend a year in Stillwater, his connection isn’t as strong as other candidates. Also, Harrell is young at 33, and likely someone who wouldn’t stick around Oklahoma State for too long. If Gundy is looking for another Yucich, who won’t be gone after a couple of seasons, Harrell likely doesn’t fit what he’s looking for.
That said, Harrell would be a great and exciting hire.
The former Oklahoma State running back and assistant coach is currently co-running the offense and coaching the running backs and wide receivers for conference rival TCU. He fits the former player and former coaching requirements Gundy listed as he coached running backs in Stillwater — and served as associate head coach — during Gundy’s first four seasons as head coach.
Luper is a fantastic recruiter, and was actually hired by Auburn in 2009 to be Gene Chizic’s lead recruiter. In 2010, Luper was recognized by Rivals as one of the top-25 recruiters in the nation. In 2011, ESPN selected Luper as one of the best recruiters in the SEC.
He did a great job at OSU landing and coaching guys like Kendall Hunter, Keith Tosten, and Mike Hamilton.
Luper has been at TCU since 2013 and received the co-offensive coordinator title in 2017 after Doug Meacham left for Kansas.
He would be a great coach to bring back to Stillwater not only for his player development, but for the recruiting tandem he would make with Josh Henson.
There is the question of just how much say he has in the TCU offense. It is Sunny Cumbie’s show in Fort Worth no matter what the titles say. And while Luper is a great recruiter and great at developing playmakers (look at some of the running backs and wide receivers to come out of TCU since 2013), there is the question of how well he could run an offense. That said, the TCU offense was much improved in 2017, and only suffered in 2018 from poor quarterback play, an inexperienced offensive line, and a long list of injuries.
It’s not a perfect hire, because of his lack of actual play calling experience, but bringing Luper back to Stillwater could be good for the offense and great for recruiting.
Here’s a guy you’ve probably never heard of, and I hadn’t either until Travis Burns brought him up. Then I started doing some digging, and I liked the idea.
If MY is gone, my darkhorse name outside of Henson is Bodie Reeder, OC at Eastern Washington. Worked with QBs under MY including developing Mason Rudolph and is the current OC at Eastern Washington who is in the FCS championship game.
— Travis Burns (@TravisB06052015) December 31, 2018
After spending three years at OSU coaching quarterbacks — including Mason Rudolph — and working as a quality control coach, Reeder went to FCS program Eastern Washington where he has served as QB coach and offensive coordinator the last two years.
This year, EWU has averaged 44.5 points-per-game (3rd in FCS) and 540.4 yards-per-game (2nd in FCS), and has helped the Eagles to the National Championship game where they will face FCS power North Dakota State this Saturday.
Before his stint in Stillwater, Reeder was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at D-III Wisconsin-Stout from 2011-14.
Reeder is young, as he graduated from college in 2010, and would be the youngest position coach on the staff. There would also be questions about his abilities as a recruiter, as he has never had to recruit at a D-1 level. That said, it would be a very similar hire to Yurcich, and would mean OSU would run a very similar offense to what they already run.
This might seem like my most out-there pick, but follow me for a minute. The former Oklahoma State star and San Francisco 49er is currently the head coach at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. He took over the program in 2013 with the team coming off an 0-10 season. It took him only two seasons to turn things around. After a couple of solid seasons, Woods finally won it all in 2017.
2014: 8-3 - first round of playoffs
2015: 10-2 - second round of playoffs
2016: 12-2 - playoff semifinals
2017: 14-1 - 3A State Champions
Winning in high school doesn’t guarantee success in college, especially when you’re coaching 3A in Oklahoma, not 5A or 6A. But has worked before. But we’re not asking him to take over the team, we’re asking him to become the offensive coordinator. He could bring along his current offensive coordinator to help coach quarterbacks; fellow OSU alum Aso Pogi.