Texas Tech fired coach Matt Wells on Monday, becoming the first Big 12 coaching job to open in 2021. Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie is expected to serve as the program’s interim coach for the remainder of the season. Wells spent just three years at the helm in Lubbock, finishing 13-17 overall with a 7-16 mark in Big 12 play. Prior to Texas Tech, Wells went 44-34 with five bowl trips at Utah State.
Who could replace Wells at Texas Tech? Here are nine names to watch in the coaching search:
9 Coaching Candidates to Replace Matt Wells at Texas Tech
Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas
Briles has previous Big 12 experience from a stint as an assistant under his father Art at Baylor in 2008 and remained in Waco through the ’16 season. He eventually spent time as the offensive coordinator at FAU (2017), Houston (2018), and Florida State (2019) before taking over at Arkansas in ’20. Briles has no previous experience as a head coach at the FBS level.
Sonny Cumbie, Offensive Coordinator, Texas Tech
Could Cumbie stay on as the full-time coach? It’s unlikely, but let’s keep Cumbie’s name in the mix. The Texas native played his college ball at Texas Tech, and in addition to the likely stint as the interim coach, Cumbie also worked in Lubbock from 2011-13 as an assistant. He also had a stint on Gary Patterson’s staff at TCU from 2014-20. Cumbie has never been an FBS head coach.
Sonny Dykes, Head Coach, SMU
Sonny is the son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes and he previously spent time in Lubbock as an assistant from 2000-06. Sonny Dykes also has assistant experience from his time at Kentucky and Arizona before becoming a head coach at Louisiana Tech in 2010. The Bulldogs went 22-15 from 2010-12, which allowed Dykes to take the California job in ’13. The Golden Bears finished 19-30 under his watch but showed improvement after a 1-11 mark in his debut. Dykes landed his third FBS job at SMU in 2017 and is 29-14 over the last three years.
Jeff Grimes, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
Grimes has never been a head coach, but he’s has assembled a solid resume as an assistant over a handful of stops and has made a big-time impact as a play-caller in his last two stints as BYU and Baylor. The Bears averaged 23.3 points a game last season but have jumped to 38.3 with Grimes now at the controls after Week 8. Prior to his stints at BYU and Baylor, Grimes worked as an assistant at Arizona State, Colorado, Virginia Tech and LSU. He's also a native of Texas.
Graham Harrell, Offensive Coordinator, USC
Could Texas Tech look to a former player to direct the program? Harrell is young (36) and has never been a head coach at the FBS level before, but he’s considered a rising star in the assistant ranks after stints at USC, Washington State and North Texas. The Trojans have been inconsistent on offense, but Harrell’s stock is clearly on the rise.
Jeff Lebby, Offensive Coordinator, Ole Miss
Lebby is another assistant on the rise and is likely to get looks to be a head coach at the FBS level in the coming years. The Texas native played at Oklahoma and later spent time as an assistant at Baylor (2012-16), NAIA Southeastern (2017), and UCF (2018-19). He joined Lane Kiffin’s staff at Ole Miss in ’20 and has been instrumental to the development of the Rebels’ high-powered offense. Lebby has never been a head coach at the FBS level.
Joey McGuire, Baylor Assistant Coach
McGuire hasn’t been a head coach at the FBS level but has a ton of ties to the state of Texas through the high school and collegiate ranks. McGuire was a successful high school after going 141-42 at Cedar Hill High School from 2013-16. He came to Baylor in 2017 and spent two years coaching tight ends before moving to defensive ends this season.
Jay Norvell, Head Coach, Nevada
Norvell’s name is likely to pop up for openings this offseason and is already in the rumor mill at Washington State. The Wisconsin native accumulated a wealth of experience as an assistant at a handful of jobs, including Iowa State, Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State. Norvell finally got a chance to be a head coach in 2017 at Nevada and he’s been impressive through five years. The Wolf Pack went 3-9 in 2017 but showed improvement the next four seasons. Nevada is 30-24 overall under Norvell’s direction, including a 19-10 mark over the last three years.
Jeff Traylor, Head Coach, UTSA
Traylor is just in his second season at UTSA, but he’s already on the radar as a rising star – and should be near the top of the list of replacements for Wells. The Roadrunners finished 7-5 and second in Conference USA’s West Division in Traylor’s debut and are 8-0 through eight weeks in 2021. Traylor was a successful high school coach at Gilmer prior to becoming an FBS assistant at Texas (2015-16). He also spent time at SMU (2017) and Arkansas (2018-19) prior to landing the UTSA gig.
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