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LSU Back on the Coaching Carousel

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The transition to the Coach O Era takes another step.

LSU v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The transition of the LSU Football program from Les Miles to Ed Orgeron took a few more steps today with the abrupt news that receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig would be leaving the program, while running backs coach Jabbar Juluke would transition into an off-field role within the program.

Moves like this after National Signing Day are not uncommon (and expect more to come for several other programs), although there’s always something of a smell to it, especially when the coaches involved actively played a role in getting some recruits to sign. Still, these moves come as no surprise to me.

It should be made clear that both Juluke and Craig’s respective departures have been in the works for some time now — this is not a “fired for underachieving in recruiting” situation. Craig had been looking for other opportunities since the season ended, including getting publicly mentioned with Willie Taggart’s coaching staff (something that, I would imagine, is still possible since Taggart fired an assistant for a DUI). Poor fit is probably the best way to describe it, including in how Craig performed his recruiting coordinator duties once Orgeron promoted him to that spot.

In Juluke’s case, there was some talk that he was a bit over his skis in terms of the demands of a job like this. Most of his experience is still at the high-school level, with only a few years on Louisiana Tech’s staff. LSU is a different animal. Juluke has also battled some family issues in the last few months, so a lower-pressure administrative type of job is probably a better fit, and also keeps his relationships with high school coaches in play as an asset for the program.

Judging from some angry tweets from Derrius Guice and Dee Anderson (since deleted), both were still fairly popular with their position groups.

So where does LSU go from here? A couple of obvious names that are likely to come up are Memphis wide receivers coach David Johnson and Kansas running backs coach Tony Hull. Both are former high school coaches from the New Orleans area — Johnson was Leonard Fournette’s head coach at St. Augustine, and has been mentioned for staff jobs here before. Both, obviously, fit a very similar profile to Juluke. **Ed. Note, 8:18 a.m., Friday - Watch for Johnson to maybe be announced within 24-48 hours.** Some other names that may come up include:

  • Curtis Johnson, former Chicago Bears receivers coach: Johnson, a LaPlace native (represent), is a fairly well-known commodity in this area. The former Tulane head coach was the receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints for some time, and before then, held that position at at the University of Miami for nine years, where he recruited studs like Ed Reed and Reggie Wayne out of Southeast La., and developed more like Santana Moss and Andre Johnson. Many heard the rumors that Johnson could be headed down to Louisiana once the Bears let him go a few weeks back, but reports linked that to a move back with the Saints. It is, however, worth noting that the Saints have never announced anything official with Johnson, and he is not listed on the team’s website (as opposed to other new hires like Mike Nolan). In theory, that could mean this move is still in play, although I question the fit. Yes, Johnson has a great rep as a recruiter in this area, but that never really paid off in his time at Tulane, and his biggest wins are all nearly 20 years old. The game has changed a lot since then.
  • Josh Gattis, Penn State receivers coach: he did a hell of a job with the Nittany Lions’ pass-catchers this season, and served as co-recruiting coordinator for PSU’s 15th-rated class.
  • Zach Azzani, Tennessee receivers coach/passing game coordinator: one of the top recruiters on Butch Jones’ staff, Azzani’s name has come up for past openings as well.
  • Andre Powell, Pitt running backs/special teams coach: he’d obviously have a history with Matt Canada, but Powell could give some flexibility with the current special teams opening as well. He brought in a pair of four-star running backs to the Panthers in this past cycle.
  • Keary Colbert, offensive assistant, USC: as Dan detailed a few months back during LSU’s OC search, Colbert has some history with Orgeron as a player and young coach. He’d almost certainly be eager or a move up, and Coach O has shown a penchant for giving young go-getters their first crack at the big time.
  • Brennan Carroll, Seattle Seahawks assistant: we all know Coach O’s relationship with Pete Carroll, and his son has coached receivers and tight ends at Miami in the past. But would he want to strike out on his own away from dear ol’ dad?
  • Michael Smith, Arkansas receivers coach: while I do expect this name to get mentioned, Smith is not an option after signing an extension with Arky last season that includes a non-compete clause for other positions within this conference.
  • Keith Williams, Nebraska receivers coach: one of the top recruiters on Mike Riley’s staff in Lincoln, Williams has experience in Louisiana from his time on Curtis Johnson’s staff at Tulane.
  • Tee Martin, co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach, USC: this is likely some wishful on my part, but Martin currently shares OC duties with Tyson Helton out at Southern Cal, and may want to carve his own path and move closer to his SEC roots.
  • Tommie Robinson, USC running backs coach: an old hand that had a huge close for the Trojans on Signing Day, Robinson has experience at Miami and also worked with Orgeron on the USC staff in 2013.

Admittedly, a lot of these names are mostly speculative on my part, but Orgeron kind of has a clean slate here, and seems more willing than his predecessor to branch out from coaches he’s worked with previously, and to give younger coaches a chance. The safest bet is that Orgeron will hire a high-energy coach that will be willing to be active, pound-the-pavement type recruiters. We will update you as we learn more.