There are certain positions within professional or college sports that come with more scrutiny than is probably deserved. People who serve in these roles know what they’re signing up for. As an example, every hitting coach in the history of Major League Baseball has been most hated person in that city at some point in his or her respective career. Want to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL? Hope you’re ready for the arrows to be slung in your direction as your defense goes up against some of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Serving as an offensive line coach, particularly in the SEC, is one of these positions. It’s a thankless job. The only time when your unit is likely to be discussed is when something goes awry.
This is the backdrop to the news that frankly shocked corners of the Mizzou fanbase last week when it was reported Missouri assistant head coach, running game coordinator and offensive line coach, Marcus Johnson, was expected to be named the next offensive line coach at Purdue. It’s not shocking Johnson would leave. That’s been rumored for as long as he’s been on Missouri’s staff, really. The timing is what came as a bit of a surprise.
Spring ball is, more or less, over. The Tigers have already locked in the 2023 recruiting class and they added a significant player to the offensive line via the transfer portal. And now Johnson is leaving? The timing is puzzling. The lateral move to Purdue is a bit surprising.
And now Missouri is left in a bit of a scramble.
The Tigers’ offensive line came under some heavy criticism a year ago for its performance. Personally, I think that had more to do with the talent available than the coaching. I genuinely believe Johnson has done a quality job of getting the most out of his group since joining the Tigers’ coaching staff on Drinkwitz’s original staff. It seems as if Drinkwitz agreed with that assessment, considering Johnson has collected seemingly every possible coaching title in the book over the past few years. He was hired for a salary of $315K in 2019. Missouri listed his salary at more than $600K for the 2022 school year, nearly double what he made in his first year on campus. Titles and salaries tell you everything you need to know about how Drinkwitz thought Johnson was doing. They were happy with his performance. It is not easy to find a quality offensive line coach. The Tigers are now tasked with doing exactly that.
This is a job that could be seen by some as quite appealing. Missouri has four returning starters and a grad transfer as options along the offensive line. Armand Membou has a chance to be a high-level starter in just his second year on campus. EJ Ndoma-Ogar showed legitimate reasons for optimism. Logan Reichert is one of Missouri’s highest rated offensive line commits in recent years. The personnel isn’t bad, but the salary is the real draw. Missouri has some real money to throw around for this hire. Johnson was among the highest paid offensive line coaches in all of college football. The run game coordinator and assistant head coach titles are now up for grabs. This could be quite the platform job for a coach looking for such an opportunity.
This is a big hire for the Tigers. It’s the first real opportunity for new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore to put his stamp on his offensive staff. They need to get this right. So, where could they look? Who are some potential candidates?
I want to stress that this is purely based on speculation and trying to connect-the-dots and not informed reporting. One more time, to make it very clear, THIS IS SPECULATION. Alright, let’s get to some of the names that would make sense if they were announced as Missouri’s next offensive line coach.
- Saga Tuitele - Coached the offensive line at Fresno State while Moore was on the offensive staff in 2021 & 2022. Tuitele was named the offensive line coach at Arizona State this past offseason. A move this early would certainly come as a surprise, but nobody expected Johnson to leave at this point in the offseason, either.
- Scott Huff - The rare coach on this list with connections to both Drinkwitz and Moore. Huff was a position coach at Boise State while Moore was still playing wide receiver in college, and he then served as the offensive line coach at Boise while Drinkwitz was on the Broncos’ staff.
- Brad Bedell - Coached the offensive line at Arkansas State while Drinkwitz was on the staff in 2013. Bedell eventually went to Boise State with Bryan Harsin, and followed Harsin to Auburn in 2021. Bedell served as the running game coordinator and offensive line coach at Boise, and he was the tight ends coach the past two seasons at Auburn. Bedell was fired along with Harsin in the middle of last season, and best I can tell he has yet to be hired elsewhere.
- Nate Potter - Potter is another coach with connections to both Drinkwitz and Moore. He played offensive tackle at Boise State from 2008 through 2011 where he was teammates with Moore from 2009-2011. Potter has since served in a variety of roles as an assistant coach at multiple schools, including Boise. He is currently the running game coordinator and tight ends coach for Boise State.
Those are the four coaches I could find with clear and obvious links to at least one of Drinkwitz or Moore. It’s entirely possible I missed someone out there that ends up being the hire. These hires — especially at this point in the cycle — are typically a result of some kind of previous connection.
We’ll see where this goes. There’s really no “deadline” on when a hire needs to take place, but sooner rather than later feels like a timeline that would preferred. The Tigers’ offensive line is entering a critical season. The unit just lost what most believe to be a high-level coach. Replacing him is a significant undertaking, but this hire could help us understand the direction the Tigers plan to go with their offense. Buckle in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.