Last week, when Rhett Lashlee departed for UConn, I thought Auburn would move quickly to name a new offensive coordinator. That turned out not to be the case.
I listed a few candidates when Rhett left. Most of them have now been crossed off the list. Art Briles was never a factor. Chip Kelly was never a serious thought, but his name has never come up. Sonny Dykes was briefly referenced by other sites yesterday, but he's been announced as taking a job at TCU. Herb Hand hasn't been mentioned at all. Chip Lindsey and Eliah Drinkwitz were mentioned early on, but word leaked out that Gus Malzahn is looking beyond his "coaching tree" for people with new ideas.
So, where do we stand right now, then?
The three biggest names that have come up elsewhere are former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, former Texas OC (and now USF OC) Sterlin Gilbert, and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. All would be intriguing choices.
Helfrich hasn't called plays in almost 10 years, though. The one knock on Yurcich is that he's been a Division 1 offensive coordinator for less time than even Rhett Lashlee has been. His only D1 coaching experience has been the last four seasons at Oklahoma State. Sterlin Gilbert doesn't have a lot of time as a major conference OC, either, and he just took the USF job following Charlie Strong. None of those really fit the "veteran play caller" mold.
The other likely candidates - as mentioned above - have all taken jobs elsewhere. Is there a chance the person who gets the job will be someone other than the three I just mentioned? Absolutely. Who, after all, called the Kevin Steele hire before it happened? Same with Wesley McGriff. Same with Greg Brown. Gus is notorious now for hiring coaches that were never on the radar with the media or blogs to begin with.
That being said, who are some left-field options? I decided to look at P5 teams who led the nation in passing last season. That's not to say Gus couldn't reach into the G5 ranks, but I also don't want to drag this out too long. For all I know, Gus will have a new OC named before this posts and all my work will be for nothing.
So, what P5 teams are there that Gus could draw from?
1) Texas Tech
3) Washington State
9) Oklahoma State (only bring it up to show where they were)
22) North Carolina
Ok, so real quick, we can scratch off Oklahoma (doubt we can pull Lincoln Riley), Mississippi, Louisville, Baylor, and USC. That narrows it down even more. Of those, do I really think anyone is likely? Not really. Sure, we could snag someone from Clemson, but their offense is too close to Gus Malzahn's. I think Gus wants someone truly different. The only likely candidate out of that group (other than Yurcich from OSU) is Josh Heupel from Mizzou.
So, if I had to put money on anyone, it would be one of those three major candidates listed above. And, honestly, my money would be on Yurcich from Oklahoma State. He doesn't have the long-term experience, but it's hard to find an OC these days who has a lot of experience who hasn't already moved on to being a head coach, themselves.
It could always be someone else, though. Who knows, maybe Gus will go back to his pass-happy roots and snag someone like Texas Tech's Eric "The Elf" Morris.
One thing is virtually for certain, and that's that we'll have an answer in the next few days. I doubt Gus Malzahn wants this to get close to this weekend's big recruiting extravaganza.
*One last thing added before this publishes. I wrote this at about 10pm last night and set it to publish this morning. I should have just gone ahead and published it, then! It ended up being very similar in a way to what Brandon Marcello posted on 247Sports this morning (though he has some names in mind I didn't think of). I guess there are only so many ways to talk about the search since they ended up hitting on some of the exact same points. I did, admittedly, pick up on the Yurcich stuff from something he published a day or two ago, but that's it, and I always sit on stuff like that until I see a few people on Twitter start to talk about it.