Molnar targeted for the UMass head coaching job

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A week after running backs coach Tim Hinton was rumored to be joining Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff (nothing has happened yet), there’s more smoke around another member of Brian Kelly‘s staff: offensive coordinator Charley Molnar, who looks to be the front-runner for the vacant UMass coaching job.

Mark Braudschun of the Boston Globe reports that after two weeks of interviewing candidates, Molnar has emerged as the top choice for the position.

Molnar’s candidacy was first reported by the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Sources familiar with the search process said UMass athletic director John McCutcheon met with Molnar over the weekend in Pittsburgh and came away so pleased he moved Molnar to the top of his wish list as the replacement for Kevin Morris, who was fired Nov. 21.

Barring any complications, Molnar could be named by the end of the week, with a press conference potentially being held at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, which will be the Minutemen’s home for the next few years as they transition to the Bowl Subdivision, as part of the Mid-American Conference.

Molnar was on the road recruiting in the past week for the Irish, but that could quickly change. According to Jason Sapp of BlueandGold.com, Molnar has been offered the position as of Monday night, and negotiations were ongoing.

For Molnar, any head coaching job would be a reward for a winding road as an assistant coach. With UMass moving into the Mid-America Conference and up into the FBS, Molnar’s credentials and experience in the conference seem to be helping his candidacy. Of course, the quality of the UMass job is subject to debate, with faculty mixed about stadium renovations and the transition to “big-time” football sometimes a sink or swim prospect. That said, expect Kelly to be supportive of his chief offensive lieutenant, and if Molnar’s representatives can get a deal done, expect him to depart quickly.

It’s tough to know what losing Molnar will mean for the Irish offense and for Kelly. With Molnar in the box relaying information, Kelly handled the playcalling duties, while Molnar also served as quarterbacks coach. From an offensive identity perspective, don’t expect the loss of Molnar to hurt the Irish, as Kelly will continue to hold on to playcalling duties regardless of who’s coordinating the offense.

The obvious internal candidate for the job is current offensive line coach and run-game coordinator Ed Warinner, who has already coordinated high powered offenses at Illinois and Kansas. Warinner could easily slide up the ladder, allowing Kelly to hire a quarterbacks coach, while also giving valued assistants like Tony Alford a bump in responsibility.

Of course, Alford’s name is always on the offseason radar for opposing schools and this year is no different. While the Denver Post reports that former Colorado head coach Gary Barnett is interested in the vacant Colorado State job, Alford’s name is also being mentioned for the job. Alford is a former running back for Colorado State, and while he’s probably not quite ready for a head coaching job, he’d certainly be a viable option from a recruiting perspective.