As had been expected, LSU offensive assistant/passing game coordinator Jerry Sullivan announced his retirement yesterday, leaving an opening on the Tiger coaching staff. As of press time, no names have been directly linked to the position, but upon request, we’ll take a look a few names that are likely to be the source of some speculation, and a few others that could, in my opinion, have some interest in the job.
Presumably, the new hire will have some sort of tie to the passing game, either as another receivers coach alongside Mickey Joseph, or perhaps even with the “passing game coordinator” title, although that is typically used to justify a larger salary than a position coach. The new coach will likely play some role in the design and gameplan of LSU’s offense because Steve Ensminger involves all of his assistants in that.
A source inside the program suggests that the hire will skew younger, which should be no surprise given that Sullivan came out of retirement for the job. Now, does that mean some 20- or 30-year-old wunderkind? Who knows. I’ve also been told that Ed Orgeron & Co. have a list of coaches they want to talk with — this isn’t a find/replace deal like James Cregg replacing Jeff Grimes last year. I do expect there to be some sort of connection to Orgeron and the staff, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a first-hand, direct connection; coaching is a tight-knit profession, and relationships are what power most hires. It may not be one-to-one, but chances are at a minimum the new coach will come recommended by somebody Orgeron trusts.
In general, when it comes to receiver coaches, the key is to find a balance between recruiter and teacher. Yes, it’s always best to have a ton of stud talents, but receiver is also a position where a strong technique can make a decent talent look very good.
Anyhoo, here are a few names that are bound to come up in the speculation, and some thoughts. Some of these are just educated guesses on my part, some are just wishful thinking:
Tee Martin: former USC receivers coach and offensive coordinator has been a popular name on the message boards, but I’m told he was never in serious consideration here. Also expected to take some sort of role at Miami on Manny Diaz’s staff.
Tyke Tolbert, Curtis Johnson and Adam Henry: current NFL receivers coaches with ties to Louisiana and/or LSU, these three always seem to come up when the program has a receiver-related opening. That said, all three have spent the better part of the last 10 years in the pro ranks, and none of them seem particularly keen on returning to the aforementioned grind.
Steve Sarkisian: the former Atlanta Falcons’ OC had previously expressed interest in joining Orgeron’s staff in 2016. Some have speculated that he could be brought in as part of a succession plan for Ensminger, who is approaching a possible retirement age. Honestly, that seems a bit like wishful thinking to me; Sarkisian has been a head coach at two Power-Five programs, plus a coordinator at the college and pro levels to boot. Coming back to college as an assistant, even with some sort of “passing game coordinator” title just seems far-fetched. That said, as of this writing, Sark doesn’t have a job. So I don’t think it can be completely dismissed yet.
John Morton: bounced around to a few places, most recently the New York Jets’ OC. Has coached receivers with Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton, and also worked with Orgeron on the USC staff.
David Johnson: Leonard Fournette’s original high school coach at St. Augustine in New Orleans is currently coaching receivers at Tennessee after a few years on the Memphis staff. He certainly has Crescent City connections, although that may be redundant with Mickey Joseph on staff.
Michael Smith: a New Orleans native currently coaching receivers at Kentucky, Smith had previously expressed interest in jumping to the LSU staff from Arkansas, where he served as the Razorbacks’ primary Louisiana recruiter.
Zach Azzanni: most recently the receivers coach with the Denver Broncos, Azzanni was previously a receivers coach/recruiting coordinator at Tennessee, during which time he helped land four top-100 recruits. Azzani may or may not have a job at the moment with the coaching change in Denver.
Keary Colbert: tight ends and inside receivers coach at USC, Colbert has served on the Trojan’s staff in various capacities since 2016, after serving as an analyst there and at Alabama. He is currently responsible for two five-star commitments for SC.
Ron Dugans: former University of Miami receivers coach that brought a ton of big-time receiver talent to the Canes, but appears to be on the outs after their coaching transition.
Kenny Guiton: former Houston Cougars’ receivers coach, Guiton has only been in the business for a few years after a playing career at Ohio State. But most of his work has been in Texas, so that might have an appeal as a young up-and-comer.
DelVaughn Alexander: currently the receivers coach at Notre Dame, Alexander has a solid history as a recruiter and may be looking for a fresh start after a couple years under Brian Kelly.
Terry Samuel: a more veteran coach who has had a lot of success as a recruiter at Michigan State.
Keenan McCardell: the Jacksonville Jaguars’ receivers coach has expressed interest in coaching here before. He doesn’t have much of a track record in college aside from two years at Maryland, but he has the profile of somebody that could adjust well to recruiting. A former player who was known for being a technician at receiver.
Karl Dorrell: former UCLA head coach was most recently the receivers coach for the Jets. He hasn’t had much luck as a coordinator, but he’s been a strong position coach and brought in some talent to UCLA when he was there.
Ike Hilliard: a Louisiana native, Hilliard is currently coaching receivers for the Washington Redskins. He’s never worked in college, but between growing up in Patterson and then playing college ball at the University of Florida, he could have some useful connections.