Georgia Tech’s coaching quest appears to be winding down

However, Chadwell has never trained at the power conference level. Additionally, his successful three-year streak at Coastal Carolina coincided with quarterback Grayson McCall’s three-year streak as a starter. How successful Chadwell can be without him is a question mark. And where Key has established some kind of track record for how he would behave as a head coach at Tech, Chadwell (and every other non-Key candidate) is relatively unknown. While he’s proven himself in Coastal Carolina, there’s no shortage of coaches who’ve won at G-5 schools and then struggled at the power conference level. Two of them, Nebraska’s Scott Frost and Auburn’s Bryan Harsin, are among the most recent examples.

As for Key, his performance in his seven-game streak – a 4-3 record with two away wins against top-25 teams – is compelling, as is the way players and staff have clearly responded to him. Under Key’s leadership, the defense has improved dramatically.

DiscoverMichael Cunningham: Tech should give Brent Key the job forever

The actions he’s taken, beginning with the promotion of linebackers coach Jason Semore to the position of special teams coordinator, show that he gave serious thought to how he wanted to operate as head coach. His old-school approach — playing a physical style and limiting mistakes — is reminiscent of his mentors, former tech coach George O’Leary and Alabama’s Nick Saban. Aside from improving the team, tech fans have been delighted by the apparent passion Key has for his alma mater and coaching her team. Perhaps worth noting in terms of his recruiting ability — quarterback Zach Pyron and safety LaMiles Brooks, two players who have been hugely influential this season, were recruited by Key. For what it’s worth, Batt will almost certainly be bombarded with endorsements from tech alumni and former football letter winners.

Aside from his stint, however, Key has no experience as a head coach. Surely the product on the field is only part of Batt’s assessment. Key said Tuesday that he has yet to formally sit down with Batt — “I’m worried about Georgia,” he said — but when that happens, Batt will likely want to hear Key’s vision for the program, his plan for recruiting, which ones Coaches he would keep and which ones he would let go, who he would bring in as a replacement, how big his non-coaching team would be, and other details.

As an interim, Key would also offer continuity and a manager whose hiring would accept returning players. Also, and no small feat for Tech’s cash-strapped sports division, Key would likely be a less expensive option. He could ask for a lower salary than other candidates, and Tech wouldn’t have to pay a severance fee to hire him, as would be the case for hiring a sitting head coach from elsewhere.

But it’s also possible that Batt is inclined to do away with the Collins regime and start fresh with a new set of coaches.

Chadwell and Key seem like the most logical choices for Batt. But it doesn’t mean one or the other will be the rent. Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, a former Penn State and Houston Texans head coach, could be another option. He is associated with Tech, having served there in a variety of roles from 1995 to 2002, including offensive coordinator.

His experience as a head coach is an obvious asset, as is his two seasons on Saban’s staff. It’s not clear if this is a job he wants. As an NFL head coach, he may believe he can do better than Tech, or he may demand more than Tech can deliver.

Another possibility is Tulane coach Willie Fritz, who has built a successful program in a place where higher academic standards have made that task difficult. Before Fritz took the pre-season 2016 job, the three previous coaches combined three winning seasons, two bowl games, and a winning conference record over a 17-year period.

Now in his seventh year, Fritz has won three seasons, led his team to three bowl games (with a fourth coming), and set two records in conference play. With a 9-2 record, No. 19 Tulane (who will enter Tuesday night’s release of the College Football Playoff Rankings) is in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1998.

Fritz knows the state, has trained at Georgia Southern and is also an option student. However, like Chadwell, he never trained at the power conference level. At 62, the question of Fritz’s longevity arises.

East Carolina coach Mike Houston may have the strongest record as a builder of any candidate. In 2015, he led The Citadel to the Southern Conference championship, only the team’s second in more than 50 years. The next year, after joining James Madison, he led the Dukes to the FCS Championship with a spread offense, which was among the first to utilize the run pass option.

In East Carolina, which took over in 2019 from a 9-27 regime, Houston led the Pirates to a 7-5 record in his third season and a 6-5 record this season, including three losses for a total of six points. He’d probably be an easier take for Batt if the Pirates were actually 9-2. Like Fritz and Chadwell, Houston has never trained at a power conference school. East Carolina is actually the first FBS team he’s coached, as JMU made the jump from FCS to FBS just this year.

One wildcard candidate whose name has been circulated in the industry as a possibility is Los Angeles Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson. A former jacket, Henderson has earned a reputation as one of the top defensive line coaches in the NFL. He has college coaching experience – at Georgia Military College, in the state of Oklahoma and then in Texas-San Antonio. The appeal to recruitment, particularly for defenders, makes sense, but it appears to be a long shot.

The days count. The answer will be revealed soon enough.

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