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COLUMN: Candidates to be WVU’s next offensive coordinator

MORGANTOWN — With Graham Harrell heading to Purdue, WVU football coach Neal Brown will now have to hire his fourth offensive coordinator in five years. With 2023 looking like a true do-or-die season for Brown in Morgantown, who he chooses to lead the Mountaineers’ offense next is undeniably important.

A student of the air raid offense himself, Brown has gone with similarly pass-focused coordinators previously with Harrell and Gerard Parker, but with a capable stable of running backs and a deficit at receiver, a more run-focused approach may be beneficial for the Mountaineers.

Here’s a handful of candidates who seem like they would be a good fit for Brown and the Mountaineers.

Clint Trickett – Marshall OC/QB

The former WVU quarterback is an obvious choice given his connection to the school and the experience he’s gained in his eight-year coaching career. Trickett was brought back to the Mountain state as a member of Charles Huff’s staff at Marshall in 2021 and was elevated to offensive coordinator prior to this season. The Thundering Herd averaged 24.2 points and 405.8 yards per game this season. They were perfectly balanced with 2,400 yards both rushing and passing. Marshall (8-4) will finish the season against UConn in the Myrtle Beach Bowl on Monday.

Chad Scott – WVU RB

Perhaps the most intriguing of WVU’s internal options, Scott actually served as co-offensive coordinator alongside offensive line coach Matt Moore when Brown first came to WVU in 2019. Scott moved to just coaching the running backs the following season when Gerad Parker was hired as the new OC, where he has since excelled. After inheriting Leddie Brown and turning him into an All-Big 12 workhorse, Scott has developed a deep and talented running back room. Four backs — CJ Donaldson, Tony Mathis, Justin Johnson and Jaylen Anderson — all had shining moments this season as WVU eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards for the first time since 2016.

Seth Littrell – Former North Texas HC

The obvious connection to Littrell is with newly-hired athletic director Wren Baker, both coming from North Texas. Baker did not hire Littrell at UNT but he also did not fire him. Littrell was hired a few months prior to Baker’s arrival and fired a few days after his departure. In seven seasons, Littrell guided the Mean Green to a 44-44 record with six bowl game appearances, although they lost all five in which he coached (UNT fired him before playing in the Frisco Bowl this season). 

Tommy Mainord – Former North Texas co-OC/WR

A member of Littrell’s staff at UNT, Mainord has a pretty extensive history with Brown. The pair coached together at Texas Tech (2010-12) and Kentucky (13-14) before Brown became the head coach at Troy and Mainord went to UNT. Mainord started as UNT’s passing game coordinator and receivers coach but was promoted to co-offensive coordinator and associate head coach in 2019. UNT averaged 33.9 points and 463.8 yards per game this season with 3,400 yards passing and 2,600 rushing.

Mark Whipple – Former Nebraska OC/QB

Another figure from Brown’s past, Whipple was actually Brown’s college head coach at UMass in 2001 and 02. Whipple has bounced around a lot since then, including stints with three NFL teams, a return to UMass and as OC at Pitt and Nebraska. Whipple has been replaced by incoming Nebraska coach Matt Rhule and a reunion with Brown could make sense if he’s still looking to coach at age 65. 

Kendal Briles – Arkansas OC/QB

Someone with no connections to WVU or Brown, Briles appears to be on the hot seat as Arkansas went just 6-6 this season and profiles as a nice fit with the Mountaineers. Briles has experience in the Big 12, coaching at Baylor from 2008-16, and has been an offensive coordinator at FAU, Houston, Florida State and, most recently, with the Razorbacks. Arkansas averaged 30.7 points and 453.8 yards per game this season, including 223.4 yards rushing. This season Briles coached dual-threat quarterback KJ Jefferson and 1,400-yard rusher Raheim Sanders.

Sean Reagan – WVU TE

Another internal candidate, Reagan first crossed paths with Brown at Troy in 2008 and then again when Brown took over as head coach in 2015. Reagan has been on Brown’s staff ever since, coaching quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends at different times while also serving as a co-offensive coordinator at Troy in 2018.

Casey Woods – SMU OC

A true air raid disciple, it would be a big swing for WVU to hire Woods, a first-year coordinator at SMU this season. However, it’s hard to ignore what the Mustangs produced. With former Oklahoma quarterback Tanner Mordecai, SMU averaged 38.4 points and 479.8 yards per game this season. The Mustangs threw for 3,900 yards and 34 touchdowns while still running for 1,800 and 25 more scores. WVU might just not have the right pieces on its current roster for a true air raid system to really work, however.

Matt Canada – Steelers OC/QB

The Steelers’ embattled offensive coordinator has not impressed in his first two seasons calling plays in the pros. Canada does, however, have an extensive resume as a college coach that includes stops at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, NC State, Pitt, LSU and Maryland. While his unique system hasn’t produced in the pros, it has a track record of success in college, making him an intriguing option should he not last much longer with the Black and Gold.

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