Just like Mizzou OC Josh Heupel’s lightning-quick offense, the UCF Knights swooped in out of nowhere and hired the second-year coordinator away from the Tigers on Tuesday morning.
Before the announcement of the hire, no one was connecting Heupel, a former star quarterback at Oklahoma, to the UCF job, so it came as quite a bit of a surprise.
However, it’s a move Heupel has to make, and you can’t fault him for accepting his first head coaching position with a team that is 12-0 and heading to the Peach Bowl to take on Auburn.
Still, it’s a tough blow for Mizzou, a swift stomach punch just when it seemed like the program’s fortunes were turning around. The Tigers rebounded from a 1-5 start to finish 7-5 and earn a Texas Bowl berth against the Texas Longhorns.
Now, second-year head coach Barry Odom has a tough task on his hands, as hiring the right offensive coordinator will be crucial to keeping Mizzou’s momentum going.
It remains to be seen if Heupel will coach the Tigers through the Texas Bowl, but with Scott Frost’s staff staying on at UCF through the Peach Bowl, Heupel has the freedom to choose to coach in one last game as a Mizzou assistant.
However, Odom can’t wait until Heupel leaves to start interviewing candidates. Finding the right coordinator will likely play a huge factor in whether star QB Drew Lock declares for the 2018 NFL Draft or returns to Columbia for his senior season.
Obviously, Mizzou would take a huge step back next year if Lock leaves, so Odom needs to make sure his next hire has Lock’s best interests in mind. Someone who also runs a fast-paced, high-octane system would be ideal, as it would be asking a lot for Lock to completely change his style of play as a senior.
Who should Mizzou turn to?
Now that Heupel is gone, Mizzou fans are already calling for former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze to join Odom’s staff. That seems unlikely, as Freeze might end up with several high-profile offers on the table, especially if LSU OC Matt Canada lands a head coaching job.
Therefore, the Tigers will likely need to look elsewhere, and could look to the NFL ranks to find the right guy. Recently fired New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo could be an intriguing option.
McAdoo hasn’t coached in college since 2003, when he was a graduate assistant at Pitt, but he has plenty of experience working with quarterbacks. During the 2012-13 seasons, McAdoo was the quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers, working with none other than Aaron Rodgers.
As mentioned, McAdoo has been in the NFL coaching ranks since 2004, but after his unceremonious firing in New York, he might want to consider dropping down to rehab his image.
Getting McAdoo to work with Lock, even if he just stays in Columbia for one year, could be great for both parties. Lock would get to learn from a former NFL coach what it takes to play at the next level, while McAdoo would inherit an offense loaded with talent to help him get back in the good graces of NFL teams.
Admittedly, that would be a bit of an awkward fit, but Odom should at least give McAdoo a call to see if he’s interested.
Another option that could be a good one for the Tigers would be to just take UCF’s offensive coordinator, Troy Walters. Walters was a key part of Scott Frost’s UCF staff, but won’t be joining the coach at Nebraska next year (as of now).
He runs the kind high-flying offense that might entice Lock to stick around in 2018 and appears to be ready for an offensive coordinator job in a Power 5 conference.