LSU is losing its hotshot recruiting coordinator three weeks before National Signing Day.
Frank Wilson informed coach Les Miles on Thursday evening that he’s leaving the Tigers to be the head coach at University of Texas at San Antonio, a source told The Advocate.
FootballScoop.com first reported that Wilson and UTSA were negotiating a deal for him to be the Roadrunners’ new head man. Wilson and Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer were the two finalists for the position, the site reported earlier Thursday.
Wilson, a 42-year-old from New Orleans, just completed his sixth season with the Tigers as recruiting coordinator and running backs coach. He’s helped bring in some of the nation’s best recruits while in Baton Rouge, including the Tigers’ No. 2-ranked signing group in 2014.
That class’ main star: running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette posted this message on his Twitter account on Thursday night:
Forever my coach @LSUCoachWilson
— 7⃣ (@_fournette) January 15, 2016
Running back Nick Brossette posted a message, too.
Wilson’s departure comes at a pivotal time in the recruiting period.
LSU’s current class is ranked No. 1 nationally, and National Signing Day is Feb. 3 – 20 days away. LSU plans to host more than a dozen highly touted players this weekend on official visits. LSU’s 20-person class is expected to swell to as many as 28-29, and Wilson is a key figure.
He was recruiting in New Orleans, at least earlier Thursday, with new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. The dead period in the NCAA recruiting calendar ended Thursday, making it legal for college coaches to travel about the country visiting prospects.
Wilson was a finalist for the head job at Troy last season, and he’s expressed interest in becoming a head coach. Wilson is the highest-paid position assistant at LSU, making $675,00 a year. He has a contract that expires on March 31, 2018 – the longest of any position assistant.
Wilson will owe LSU about $330,000 – or 25 percent of the remaining salary on his contract. LSU can waive the buyout.
Larry Coker, the former Miami coach, stepped down as coach of UTSA after last season. Under Coker’s leadership, the Roadrunners went 26-32 while the program moved from FCS to WAC to Conference USA. UTSA finished 7-5 in 2013, but has gone 4-8 and 3-9 the past two seasons.
Coker made about $427,000 a year, according to USA Today. The salary pool for the UTSA coaching staff this year was $808,000- one of the nation’s lowest.
A San Antonio TV station on Thursday night reported that Wilson would make $750,000 a year.
Wilson is known as one of the nation’s best recruiters. Five of the Tigers’ previous six signing classes under Wilson have been ranked in the top 10 by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. Wilson has never been a college head coach or a college offensive or defensive coordinator. He’s had stops as an assistant at Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Tennessee before arriving at LSU.
He’s the third LSU assistant in the mix for another gig this off-season. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele left for Auburn, and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and Mississippi State were in, at least, brief discussions about the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator opening.
Orgeron, an aggressive recruiter who joined the staff last year, seems to be a natural fit to take over the recruiting part of Wilson’s job. The Louisiana native has served as recruiting coordinator at Tennessee and two stints at Southern Cal.
But who would coach running backs? Potential candidates could include current North Carolina running backs coach Larry Porter, who spent 2005-09 coaching running backs at LSU and had a brief stint as the head coach at Memphis; Alabama running backs coach Burton Burns, a New Orleans native; Texas Tech running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, a Southern University graduate and former Louisiana Tech assistant; and Josh Henson, the former Missouri offensive coordinator who worked with Miles at Oklahoma State and LSU.
Wilson has made it clear that he hopes to be a head coach at some point. During an interview with The Advocate this summer, he was asked about that goal.
“It’s not a priority. In due time, when the right opportunity comes, when it’s there for me, it’ll happen,” he said. “I love my job, love where I’m at. I’m not out soliciting. I’m not willing to take any job that’s out there. Jon Gruden probably said it best, when he came back to football, he’d like to be the running backs coach at LSU.
“I’m very fortunate with the plethora of talent that we have in our backfield, assembled around a great offensive line and great defense. I like the job that I do. It’s a goal of mine, but nothing pressing that has to happen any time soon.”
Austin Thomas, LSU’s director of player personnel, posted a message on Twitter on Thursday night congratulating Wilson.
— Austin Thomas (@AustinThomasLSU) January 15, 2016
LSU quarterback Brandon Harris chimed in, too.
So excited for @LSUCoachWilson well deserved. Will make a great head coach. Hate to lose him tho!
— Brandon Harris (@bharrisqb1) January 15, 2016