Offensive coordinator: What comes next?
Sorry not to get a post up on Sunday -- it was my daughter Hailey's third birthday, so spent much of the day with friends and family at the house, princesses and parties and so on. I was able to make a few calls, but there still hasn't been too much light shed on the circumstances surrounding the release of offensive coordinator Greg Gregory.
Much like the Jon Gruden/Bruce Allen news just a day earlier, the timing was the most curious aspect of things -- why, four weeks after the season ended, in the middle of a recruiting weekend, was Gregory dropped with an e-mail sent out at 10:11 on a Saturday night? Was there something over the weekend that prompted what appeared from the timing to be a sudden decision? (It doesn't appear to be the case). Was there a candidate newly available to join the staff that Leavitt felt was good enough to dismiss the fourth-year assistant? Could be, but much like the Bucs, it could also be that a decision was made and announced, and we're reading too much into the timing, awkward as it might have been. As with the Bucs, I don't think this move is made unless there is a specific hire already in mind.
I talked to Leavitt twice on Sunday, but he really hasn't explained much, saying only that things will make more sense in the next few days -- presumably when a new coordinator is named. Given Leavitt's general history with hires, it makes good sense that receivers coach and passing game coordinator Mike Canales, who was the offensive coordinator from 1996-2000, might have earned a promotion to his old job. There would be continuity with current players, especially quarterback Matt Grothe, who will have three coordinators and quarterbacks coaches in four seasons. Leavitt values familiarity, and Canales has worked under him for seven seasons in two different stints.
Could Leavitt hire from outside? It's certainly conceivable, but with his current pool for assistants, he's likely limited to about $200,000. Gregory made $160,000 last year, and Leavitt has a salary bump of $100,000 to distribute across his nine assistants. The move came shortly after Boston College's Steve Logan resigned, but I don't know of any personal ties between Logan and Leavitt, nor much history of Logan recruiting in the state of Florida. The first name I thought of was former San Diego State head coach Chuck Long, who had been floated as a possibility for Miami's OC job -- Leavitt is familiar with him from Long's years working under Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, one of his closest friends. I don't know that their coaching styles mesh perfectly. Another Stoops assistant, current quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, had been mentioned for the OC job at Minnesota, but apparently turned down an opportunity to coach there. He grew up a Gophers fan, so that seems to point to him staying at his alma mater for now.
Gregory had four recruits in town for official visits over the weekend, and it doesn't appear that his dismissal has significantly changed USF's status with any of them. "It doesn't change anything," said Dunedin running back Adaris Bellamy, one of those recruits. "I wasn't going to USF just for the coaches. There's a lot more that I like about the Bulls." It makes sense that if Leavitt left the vacancy open too long, other schools would use that in recruiting, but again, it seems we could hear news soon.
I had spoken with Gregory on Thursday night, and it seemed like business as usual -- he was breaking down game tapes from the 2008 season and preparing for a busy recruiting weekend. Asked about his son Grant's petition for a sixth year of eligibility, he mentioned that an answer should come in the next 7 to 10 days (late this week or early next week) and he would know more after hearing back on that.
Other links? I need to put a call in to receiver Taurus Johnson, who appears to have helped himself with a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game in Houston. 49ers.com has a scout's blog that mentioned Johnson -- could he be projected as a draft pick now? This NFL blog has him as the No. 21 receiver in the draft -- doesn't seem that impressive, but in last year's draft, the No. 21 receiver went in the fifth round. Tyrone McKenzie, for comparison, is listed as the No. 13 outside linebacker on the same site.
-- Scout.com published their list of the top 100 returning players in college football, and the only Bulls player on the list is defensive end George Selvie, who checks in at No. 18. Grothe isn't on the list, and that might motivate him a bit, since there are 21 quarterbacks in the top 100. (Fundamentally, it's a bit QB-centric to think that 21 of the top 100 players in the country are QBs, as compared to three offensive linemen.) You won't find another Big East player after Selvie until No. 68 -- Cincy receiver Mardy Gilyard, with Pitt defensive end Greg Romeus (75), Rutgers linebacker Ryan D'Imperio (80), West Virginia running back Noel Devine (98) and Louisville running back Victor Anderson (100) as the only other league players.
-- For those who missed it, we ran our big recruiting package in Sunday's paper -- here's our USF capsule, and the Bulls have commitments from six of the Times' top 25 players in the Tampa area, more than any school. Can't find the top 25 online, but those six are Armwood DE Ryne Giddins (2nd in our rankings), Boca Ciega DE Julius Forte (12), Lakewood defensive back JaQuez Jenkins (13), Hillsborough RB Lindsey Lamar (14), Wesley Chapel offensive lineman Kamran Joyer (23) and Dunedin's Bellamy (24). The Bulls are still in the mix for other top-25 kids, such as Largo's Mike Marry (9) and Mike Lang (21).
-- Speaking of recruits, it doesn't appear that this weekend has netted any immediate commitments for USF, though I can report that Hallandale cornerback Ricardo Dixon says he's definitely signing with USF. "I'm 100 percent a Bull now," said Dixon, who committed back in summer but was considering other programs, most publicly Ole Miss. Dixon said he had visits planned to Big East rivals Rutgers and West Virginia, but said he now won't take those visits. Dixon said he wants to add 15-20 pounds to his 170-pound frame, and says his Hallandale teammate, Victor Marc, is also a firm commitment. What position will Marc play at USF? Dixon only knows it will be on offense -- the high school quarterback is often listed as a running back, but I've heard his first look might be at slot receiver.