With the departure of Bobby Elliot to Notre Dame on Tuesday, the Iowa State football team has effectively lost three coaching positions in the last month. And while Courtney Messingham's promotion to offensive coordinator fills the void left by Tom Herman, Iowa State still needs to find a new wide receivers coach, a new defensive backs coach and a recruiting coordinator this offseason.
Specifically, these coaches should be good recruiters and teachers with ties to Texas and California. The football team currently has 21 players from Texas and 14 players from California, with eight more recruits from those two states on the way in 2012. Because Iowa is mainly known as a vortex of mediocrity when it comes to high school football, Iowa State is forced to recruit heavily in states like California, Florida and Texas, where kids play football year round and ISU can scrape off recruits with 4.5 speed that don't end up going to the football powerhouses.
When Chris Ash left for WIsconsin after one year as ISU's defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator, Paul Rhoads was able to fill the void with Bobby Elliott, a virtual Ash clone. Like Ash, Elliott was a seasoned defensive backs coach and recruiter with ties to the state of California. In his first year back on the ISU staff, Elliott was the lead recruiter for five Iowa State commits; Ernst Brun, Darian Cotton, David Irving, Kenneth Lynn and Henry Simon. This year, Elliott has been instrumental in bringing in linebackers Adam Pavlenko and Kane Seely. And while Tom Herman doesn't have quite the recruiting record that Elliott did, his time as a coach in Texas did open a lot of doors for Iowa State coaches.
So what is Rhoads going to look for in a new coach? As mentioned above, experience, recruiting and ties to California or Texas are key. With previous hires, Rhoads has also shown that he likes to hire people he knows and is comfortable with. With that in mind, here are a few potential hires for wide receivers and defensive backs coach that make sense.
Possibilities for defensive backs coach:
Troy Douglas: Ex-North Carolina defensive backs coach, Douglas' secondary units regularly led the ACC in takeaways. A veteran college coach, Douglas coached with Wally Burnham at USF from 2006-2008 and also has ties to Texas, coaching at UTEP and SMU from 1995-2000.
Marcus Robertson: Maybe the greatest cornerback in Iowa State's history (sorry Ellis!), Robertson was recently let go from his position as secondary coach for the Tennessee Titans. A California native, Robertson has no college coaching/recruiting experience, but has five years experience coaching in the NFL which could be a draw for playeers.
Greg Burns: Former ASU secondary coach, Burns was let go this year when Dennis Erickson was fired. Burns appears to have solid recruiting connections in California, perhaps dating back to his time as USC's secondary coach (he's already familiar with Iowa State's color scheme!)
John Skladany: Longtime defensive coordinator at Iowa State under Dan McCarney, many Iowa State fans have a love-hate relationship with Skladany. On one hand, his '01, '04 and '05 defenses were some of the best Iowa State has ever seen. On the other hand, outside of those three years Skladany's defenses usually ranked in the bottom quarter of the Big XII. So his track record is a little spotty, but he does have experience and Paul Rhoads might want to provide a safe landing spot for his former boss.
Possibilities for wide receivers coach:
Greg Knox: Current running backs coach at Mississippi State, Knox has over two decades of college coaching experience at Ole Miss and Auburn. He also happened to be the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn with Paul Rhoads in 2008, so there's some history there. Appears to be an excellent recruiter, also has ties to Texas dating back to his time as an assistant with TCU and Stephen F. Austin.
Mike Grant: Longtime wide receivers and special teams coach at Iowa State, Grant is currently reunited with former boss Dan McCarney at North Texas. Grant and Rhoads coached together at ISU during the 1998 and 1999 seasons, so there's some familiarity there, and McCarney might be willing to let Grant go to the school he coached at for 12 years.
JD Brookhart: Currently on the Colorado Buffalo's staff as the passing game coordinator, Brookhart was the wide receiver's coach and offensive coordinator at Pitt from 1999-2003. Probably a long shot, but Brookhart does have a history with Paul Rhoads from his time at Pitt.
Austin Flynn: Currently the defensive backs coach at Grandview College in Iowa after coaching high school ball in Texas, Flynn would be a sentimental choice. A fan favorite as a wide receiver at ISU, Flynn doesn't have a great deal of coaching or recruiting experience. Probably not going to happen, but it would be fun to see hiim on Iowa State's sidelines again.
All coaches listed above are pure conjecture, and there's no timeline for a new hire. With the commitments of Damien Lawry and Darius White last week, the 2012 recruiting class sits at 23 players and is pretty much finished for the year, so there's no need for Rhoads to scramble to find new coordinators immediately. Expect rumors to start popping up soon, but actual news may not arrive for another month.