With the reported agreement between Mike Leach and Washington State taking Kansas football's apparent top candidate off the board, Sheahon Zenger and the Kansas Jayhawk fanbase now must shift gears and look ahead to the next group of candidate.
Without question when Zenger started the search Leach was likely the top candidate and no one on the board this offseason even compares to Leach from a proven resume standpoint. That's not to say there aren't a good deal of solid candidates, but it's hard to look at a coach who went to 10 straight bowl games in Lubbock while playing in the Big 12 South and not salivate a little at the prospect of that man being charged with building your program.
Several schools took a stab at it, Washington State seems to have landed the big fish and now the rest of the college football world moves on. The Kansas search has had quite a few names kicked around in recent days including Sonny Dykes, Larry Fedora, Kevin Sumlin, Dave Doeren, Dave Christensen, Brent Venables, Mark Stoops and a host of others. This is all of course speculation because Kansas isn't leaking any information but three names do seem to standout at the moment.
In an ideal world the Jayhawks might look hard at Fedora, but by all account Fedora might be in line for the Ole Miss job and Kansas might not be second on his list of possible destinations. The same goes for Kevin Sumlin. During the last go around Sumlin showed little interest in Kansas and that appears to be the case once again with Arizona State rumored to be the lead horse in that race.
That leaves Zenger in the position of deciding between a few head coaching names that might not have the same 'sexy' hire look or going the coordinator route which was of course where Mark Mangino came from in the early 2000's. At this point a few names are floating to the top from a speculative standpoint. KUSports.com's Matt Tait points to a few potential interviews.
Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora and, to some extent, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables all appear to be in good shape to at least get an interview with KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger.
On the B List, Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech)
Now again, Fedora is mentioned but there are more and more reports that seem to indicate that he will likely end up elsewhere. That leaves two coordinator names at the top of the interview list and both have ties to Oklahoma and Bob Stoops. That's not bad company and that is exactly the place where the Jayhawks last successful coach came from.
Mark Stoops and Brent Venables are both defensive minded coaches that have been around programs making a turnaround. Both are hard nosed and disciplined, both have recruited and coached at a high level and both will get a chance as a head coach at some point when they decide the situation is right.
Dave Doeren is another interesting name due to the fact that he was on Mangino's original staff. Doeren coached some of the best defenses in recent Kansas memory and he was very good at evaluating and maximizing talent. If you need an example look no further than Big 12 defensive player of the year in 2005, Nick Reid.
At the end of the day this search is probably right where most should have realistically expected it to be. Yes Leach was the homerun possibility, but with everyone gunning for him Kansas had to realize that the situation in Lawrence probably wasn't the most attractive one he would see.
So Zenger takes his solid list of up and coming grind it out head coaches along with some hard nosed assistants who have been around some of the best and he looks for the right man for the job. It's a two way street in any coaching search. Kansas needs to find the right guy for the program and that guy has to want Kansas.
We'll certainly learn more in the coming days but Zenger has a nice list of possibilities and if you're a Kansas fan it's important to remember that you didn't give up a sure thing and whiff on a homerun. This search is about improving something that was horribly broken so missing on Leach isn't the end of the world and it doesn't mean that better times aren't still on the horizon.