10 candidates for Texas Tech coaching job: Where will Red Raiders turn next?

Yahoo Sports
The Texas Tech Red Raiders mascot ‘Masked Rider’ runs down the field before a game against West Virginia. (AP)
The Texas Tech Red Raiders mascot ‘Masked Rider’ runs down the field before a game against West Virginia. (AP)

As was first reported by The Athletic, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt will part ways with Kliff Kingsbury on Sunday. Where will the Red Raiders turn next? Here’s a list of potential replacements at Texas Tech. (And no, Mike Leach and Art Briles will not be seriously considered. There are small pockets of support for each, which will lead to some buzz. But Hocutt won’t touch either of them.)

1. Brent Venables, Clemson DC

We’re guilty of overlooking Venables at times because he’s been so passive in the job market over the years. But Hocutt and Venables were teammates at Kansas State and remain close friends, which makes this potential offer different than others. Venables did just sign a five-year contract for $11.6 million, an unprecedented deal for an assistant coach. Would the allure of working for his close friend lead him away from his comfort zone in Clemson? There’s no doubting his qualifications, just his willingness.

2. Neal Brown, Troy

He worked as the offensive coordinator at Tech from 2010-12 and thrived under Tommy Tuberville. He’s well liked at Tech, and it would be a fascinating choice between him and North Texas coach Seth Littrell (below). Brown’s marquee upsets of Nebraska and LSU the past two years give him a slight edge. Tech should be worried he has his sights set higher.

3. Seth Littrell, North Texas

Three straight bowl games has brought a buzz to Denton. He’s a branch of the Mike Leach tree, as he coached running backs in Lubbock from 2005-08. One of the enticing prospects of hiring Littrell is the return of favorite son Graham Harrell, Tech’s prolific former quarterback who is Littrell’s offensive coordinator at UNT. Littrell would be a popular hire with the fan base, as it keeps the program’s high-scoring ethos. (Harrell could be an OC name if Tech hires a defensive coach.)

4. Mike Norvell, Memphis

He’s a bit of a weird regional fit, as he’s from Irving, Texas, but hasn’t coached in the state. Norvell makes an average of $2.6 million, so money wouldn’t lure him away. He’s a good name here, but likely waiting a bigger opportunity. His history of consistently producing prolific offenses would be attractive. Back-to-back AAC West titles is also attractive.

5. Major Applewhite, Houston

The Cougars spent the season ranked in the top five in both total offense and scoring offense. That’s appealing to Tech, a fan base accustomed to binge scoring. Applewhite is a household name from his playing days at Texas and has kept Houston nationally relevant after replacing Tom Herman.

6. Dave Aranda, LSU DC

Aranda is the highest-paid coordinator by annual salary in college football. He has Tech ties as a graduate assistant there from 2000-02. He’s been particular about jobs and can afford to be since he’s making $2.5 million. Would Tech be a good enough opportunity to lure him from Baton Rouge?

7. Sonny Dykes, SMU

He was on Tech’s radar last time, as the school had interest in him when it hired Kliff Kingsbury. Dykes had already agreed to go from Louisiana Tech to Cal and couldn’t back out. His father, Spike, is an iconic coach in Lubbock and there’d likely be an allure to coaching where his father did.

8. Todd Orlando, Texas DC

If Texas Tech wanted to pull a U-turn and go with defense, Orlando has proven himself as one of the most consistent coordinators in the country. He’s established strong Texas ties with his stints at both Houston and Texas. Hard to argue with the results.

9. Todd Graham, former head coach

He has deep roots in Texas from coaching high schools there and had a history of success in that footprint at both Rice and Tulsa. He interviewed for the Kansas job and is eager to get back to that part of the world. He’s 95-61 as a head coach, with a proven track record for hiring OCs: Gus Malzahn, Chad Morris and Mike Norvell.

10. Eric Morris, Incarnate Word

The Elf has thrived in his first season at the FCS school in San Antonio. He took over a 1-10 program and led it to the school’s first-ever FCS playoff bid and Southland Conference title. He grew up outside Lubbock, starred for Leach at Texas Tech and was an assistant for Kingsbury before taking the Incarnate Word job.

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