Report: Targets emerging for Mizzou DC job
For more than a week after defensive coordinator Ryan Walters left Missouri following six seasons with the Tigers to accept the same position at Illinois, no news emerged about who head coach Eli Drinkwitz might be targeting to fill the opening. Finally, Thursday morning, a report from FootballScoop.com provided four names who have emerged as candidates for the job: Missouri cornerbacks coach David Gibbs, Alabama assistant Charles Kelly, Cleveland Browns assistant Chris Kiffin and Alabama analyst Mike Stoops.
The report also said that no hire is believed to be imminent, and more names could arise for the opening. It did not indicate whether the above names have formally interviewed for the position.
Gibbs, the lone in-house candidate on the list, comes as no surprise. The Missouri cornerbacks coach has spent 10 seasons as a college defensive coordinator across stops at Minnesota, Auburn, Houston and Texas Tech. When Walters missed the Tigers' game at South Carolina due to a COVID-19 quarantine, Gibbs filled in as interim defensive coordinator. The son of longtime NFL assistant Alex Gibbs has also spent seven seasons as a defensive backs coach in the NFL with both the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
Stoops, too, would bring a wealth of experience, both as a defensive coordinator and head coach. The brother of current Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops spent eight seasons as the head coach at Arizona. His teams went 41-50 from 2004-2011. Interestingly, while at Arizona, Stoops hired Walters as a graduate assistant, and Walters has been vocal about his admiration for Stoops.
Most of Stoops' defensive coordinator experience came at Oklahoma under his brother Bob. Stoops spent 12 years across two stints with the Sooners, from 1999-2003 and 2012-2018. After his brother's retirement, Lincoln Riley retained Stoops to his staff but ultimately fired him midway through the 2018 season. The Sooners had surrendered an average of 27.3 points across their first six games of the season, including a 48-45 loss to rival Texas. Stoops has spent the past two seasons as an off-field analyst for defending national champion Alabama, although he did fill in for Kelly when Kelly missed a game due to quarantine this season.
Speaking of Kelly, the associate defensive coordinator and safeties coach for Nick Saban started his coaching career as a high school assistant and climbed through the FCS ranks before finding his first Power Five job. Kelly's spent seven seasons at Georgia Tech, first as a special teams coach, then coaching cornerbacks and, eventually, defensive backs. From there, he moved to Florida State, where he coached linebackers for one season and then served as defensive coordinator for four years under Jimbo Fisher. Following Fisher's departure for Texas A&M, Kelly spent one season coaching safeties at Tennessee before moving into his current role. Prior to Missouri's season-opening matchup against Alabama, Drinkwitz noted that he coached against Kelly's Florida State units while serving as offensive coordinator at North Carolina State.
Finally, Kiffin represents another candidate with a well-known brother: Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. Chris Kiffin played college football at Colorado State then quickly got into coaching as an NFL intern thanks to his father, longtime defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Chris Kiffin earned his first on-field college coaching role as the defensive line coach at Arkansas State in 2011. After one season, he made the jump to Ole Miss, where he spent five seasons coaching the defensive line under Hugh Freeze. He then got his first defensive coordinator job for Florida Atlantic in 2017, working under his brother. That gig was short-lived, however, as the NCAA slapped him with a two-year show-cause penalty as part of Ole Miss' sanctions. Kiffin then returned to the NFL, where he spent two seasons as a "pass rush specialist" on the San Francisco 49ers staff before being named defensive line coach for the Browns. In Cleveland, he has coached former Missouri standouts Sheldon Richardson and Jordan Elliott.
No timetable has yet been set for filling the defensive coordinator vacancy. Stay tuned to PowerMizzou.com for the latest.