The search for Arizona State's next head football coach has seemingly taken more twist and turns than an entire season of The Twilight Zone, but there may be some indications that the Sun Devils could be zeroing in on their man.
After the latest June Jones flirtation fell apart, a new batch of coaching candidates emerged last week--Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun and San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach and former South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt.
The developments have been predictably swift and unpredictable.
On Friday, reports circulated that ASU would not consider any candidate that did not have prior head coaching experience, which would have eliminated Chryst, Wilcox and Helfrich. However, indications over the weekend have indicated that those coordinators would in fact receive consideration.
Over the weekend, Utah's Kyle Whittingham was being mentioned with increasing frequency as one of the top targets of the university.
Then things took on an Agatha Christie feel, as one-by-one the candidate list was seemingly pared down.
Leavitt appeared at one point during the early weekend to be a very strong contender, and with the 49ers in town to play the Cardinals, it appeared the stars may have aligned. However, Leavitt's somewhat tumultuous departure from USF combined with his team's propensity for being undisciplined led to the end of his candidacy.
One of ASU's desired characteristics in a candidate is a willingness to keep current offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Steve Broussard on the staff. Chryst appeared unwilling to do so, thus eliminating him.
Helfrich and Calhoun's candidacies have appeared to lose traction over the last few days. Helfrich, never popular among boosters and fans, seemed to fall by the wayside as ASU focused on the other names, and Calhoun took an interview with Texas A&M before the Aggies decided to hire Kevin Sumlin. Neither has been outright eliminated, but work on those fronts could very well be on the proverbial "back burner" at the moment.
Most recently, the brief flirtation with Whittingham seemed to be another leverage ploy by a coach with ASU looking to drive up his price elsewhere (see: Sumlin, Kevin). The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Whittingham and Utah currently have a new deal in the works.
This seemingly leaves Wilcox as the one candidate whose consideration has not waned or been eliminated entirely.
Wilcox has seemingly been at or near the top of ASU's list for the last several days and his position can only be strengthened as the search enters its third week. He has generated a lot of positive traction with his terrific performance leading the defenses at Boise State from 2006-2009 and for the last two years at Tennessee. Wilcox has a tough minded yet dynamic personality that could help with the much need culture change for ASU's program. He also is praised for his apparent willingness to keep Mazzone and Broussard.
While all indications are that Wilcox is in a prime position, this search's only certainty has been it's complete unpredictability, and ASU should do its due diligence in this effort. Official words have been nearly non-existent in the last several days, which after the fiasco surrounding the Jones offer/non-offer, could be a welcome development.
With the clock ticking during this important recruiting time, and the foul stench of last week's developments still lingering, this week will be critical for the program to re-establish credibility and find their man.
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