An Unexpected Ride on the Fast-Paced College Coaching Carousel

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It’s 2 a.m. in the quiet lobby of the Holiday Inn Express off U.S. Highway 75 in Dallas. No one should be up at this hour, but four newly hired coaches are up busily planning their recruiting strategy.

It’s early December, only two months away from National Signing Day. The day when hundreds of the top high school athletes will make their college decisions final.

Former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and some of the first additions to his new coaching staff have no time to spare. Morris was just announced as the 19th head coach of the SMU Mustangs, a team that finished dead last in Division I in 2014.

Joe Craddock, a former graduate assistant with Morris at Clemson, is one of the four men sacrificing sleep on their first day on the job.

“I woke up the next morning at 7 a.m. and was at the school by 8 a.m.,” Craddock said. “We didn’t slow down for the next two weeks.”

Over the next two weeks, Morris, Craddock and the rest of the SMU coaching staff will visit dozens of schools and athletes in and around the Dallas area.

On the job training is a must in this business, as this is Craddock’s first time hitting the recruiting trail as a full-time member of a college coaching staff.

“It was a grind, it was unique, but I had a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

Craddock’s journey to this moment was indirect and unexpected.

His love for football was honed at one of Alabama’s top private school football programs, Briarwood Christian in Birmingham. There, the 5-foot–11 quarterback passed for 6,677 yards, rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 100 touchdowns as a three-year starter.

Craddock led the Lions to the AHSAA Semifinals all three years and brought home the program’s third state championship to end his senior season in 2003.

“Even after we won the state championship, we cried our eyes out,” he said. “We were so close as a unit and we knew that was our final game together.”

Jay Mathews, Craddock’s offensive coordinator at Briarwood, recounts the first time he knew the young quarterback would make a great coach.

“His first drive of his first varsity game he threw a touchdown,” he said. “We had practiced the play all summer and normally throw to one of two receivers. When Joe dropped back and hit a different receiver for the touchdown I asked him how he knew to throw the arrow route. ‘I saw the safeties roll strong side and knew the backside flats were uncovered,’ Craddock said. At that point, I knew he would be special.”

Craddock’s success as a quarterback was just beginning. He signed with Middle Tennessee State only months after the conclusion of his senior season.

Joe Craddock

Joe Craddock

He led the Blue Raiders to their third bowl game in program history and accounted for 4011 passing yards and 27 touchdowns during his time in Murfreesboro.

Craddock was the trigger man for one of the nation’s most exciting fast-paced offenses under Blue Raiders’ head coach Rick Stockstill.

“Joe was a good player for us. He was not the most talented, but he became a really good player because of his work ethic and dedication to the game from a learning standpoint,” Stockstill said. “Those characteristics usually transfer to the coaching profession.”

After a short stint playing professionally in Italy, he returned home to coach at his high school alma mater. Craddock led the Lions to a 25–4 record and the state championship game in two seasons as offensive coordinator.

Following the 2012 season, he was offered a job as an offensive player development coach by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.

“When I got the call from Coach Swinney I didn’t know much about Clemson and Coach Morris,” he said. “I was excited to get my first college job. I thought I knew a little bit about football heading up there, but the amount of knowledge I gained just in that first year was unbelievable.”

Over the next three years, Craddock would be promoted to an on-field graduate assistant role and his relationship with offensive coordinator Chad Morris grew.

“I loved having Joe on our staff. I watched him in high school and followed his career at MTSU. He worked my camp one summer and impressed me greatly with his work ethic,” Swinney said. “I hired him to be a graduate assistant for me and he did a great job for three years. He grew each year and greatly impacted our program during his time here. Chad Morris, just like myself, realized that he was a special young coach.”

As their relationship flourished, so did Morris’ coaching reputation, and by 2011 he would become the highest paid assistant in the country earning $1.3 million per year.

Chad Morris

Chad Morris

During their years at Clemson, Morris’ offenses were known for their fast-paced attack, consistently leading the country in plays per game.

After a 10–3 finish to the 2014 season, Morris was named the head coach at SMU bringing Craddock with him to be his first offensive coordinator.

“I essentially got my Master’s or PhD in football during my time at Clemson,” Craddock said.

Despite an indirect journey to Dallas, Craddock is the third-youngest offensive coordinator and one of the most inexperienced in major college football, but that doesn’t phase him.

“Coach Morris and I know what Coach Swinney brought to Clemson and we are ready to bring that to Dallas,” he said. “We want to bring a family mentality. We will be a true family and live it everyday.”

Craddock and Morris join a long list of successful high school coaches to make the jump to college and he still considers his high school coach, Fred Yancey, his biggest mentor.

“He is everything you want to be as a man,” he said. “Coach Yancey told me one time that we wouldn’t know if we had a winning season at Briarwood until 10 years down the road. I’ll never forget that.”

It’s now mid February, three weeks after National Signing Day. Deep in the heart of Dallas, a first-time head coach and offensive coordinator are once again working long hours. Though the journey was indirect and unexpected, Craddock wouldn’t have it any other way.

What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

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Paul Graham writing in his January 2015 essay:

Few people know so early or so certainly what they want to work on. But talking to my father reminded me of a heuristic the rest of us can use. If something that seems like work to other people doesn’t seem like work to you, that’s something you’re well suited for.

The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. When I was in college I used to write papers for my friends. It was quite interesting to write a paper for a class I wasn’t taking. Plus they were always so relieved.

What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Paul, as usual, hits the nail on the head in this essay.

I love the way that he tells the story of his father. His father was a mathematician and loved every minute of it.

Math certainly isn’t my strong suit, but you get his point.

What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you? – I would even take this a step further. What seems like work to other people that you would even do for free?

Granted, you should never short sell yourself or your skills, but if you would do it for free, it’s an amazing feeling to be compensated for your work.

I brush shoulders with over 36,000 students every single day on campus. There is a crisis, an education crisis. I don’t know exact numbers, but I would be willing to bet that a large number of these individuals have no clue what they want to do for a living.

I’m not saying you have to have your entire life figured out at 18, but you should have an idea.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a career choice, encourage them to ask this simple question – What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?

Do that.

That for me is writing. Like Paul, I love writing papers. I would do it for free. Of course, I’m not going to write papers for the rest of my life.

Public relations and corporate communications give me a medium to write copy and interface with clients in a professional manner. That’s what I love.

There are way too many people in the world today that hate their careers. Pick something you love, put all you’ve got into it and you will be rewarded.

Gary Vaynerchuk explains this idea in a way that only he can. Just a warning, Gary can be a little vulgar when he gets worked up.

SEC Sports Roundtable 152: And Now to Basketball?

Shane and I break down some of the biggest coaching moves of this young offseason and discuss why some coordinators are choosing to make lateral moves. We also break down the first couple weeks of SEC Basketball and look ahead to the rest of the conference schedule.

SEC Sports Roundtable 150: SEC Bowl Previews (Part 2)

In a Christmas week edition of SECSRT, Shane and I break down Georgia vs. Louisville, Ole Miss vs. TCU, Mississippi State vs. Georiga Tech and Auburn vs. Wisconsin. We give our takes on the current state of the bowl season and take a quick look at the SEC basketball season to come.

“He and She” – EP by Mandi Mapes

It’s December 23, Christmas (Eve) Eve and I should be jamming out to some Christmas music, right?

Well, not exactly, but I am in love with a not so new album that I just downloaded earlier today.

Mandi Mapes is an artist that I have loosely been following for several years now (keyword: loosely). Despite following her on nearly every social media platform, I had no idea that she had released a new EP earlier this fall. And boy, do I love it.

Mandi is an extremely gifted singer and songwriter that I discovered several years ago here locally in Birmingham. I love the Southern influence that many of her songs feature and she even has a song about my beloved hometown.

“He and She” is available on iTunes and Spotify, but if you have a couple bucks, you won’t regret downloading it. Not to mention, supporting up-and-coming artists is awesome.

So, if you find yourself needing to spend that iTunes Gift Card that Santa left in your stocking this year, here you go.

SEC Sports Roundtable 148: Week 14 in the SEC

The college football regular season is officially over and we look back on a memorable rivalry week, including the highest scoring Iron Bowl in series history. Shane, Britton and I break down the SEC Championship Game and I give a brief eulogy of UAB’s now defunct football program.

Missourinet – Alabama Scouting Report for the SEC Championship Game

I was once again privileged to join Bill Pollock of Missourinet to give a brief scouting report of the Alabama Crimson Tide heading into the 2014 SEC Championship game against the Missouri Tigers.

SEC Sports Roundtable 147: Week 13 in the SEC

After a couple weeks away, I join Shane and Britton to discuss a less than stellar week of SEC football and preview one of the biggest weeks of the year – rivalry week. We look forward to each SEC game including the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl and discuss Mississippi State’s chances at birth in the College Football Playoff.

The Curious Connection Between Baseball and Technology

Jason Snell writing for Six Colors:

So I am a baseball fan, and my team is in the World Series. Last night’s game was in San Francisco, and I somehow won the lottery to buy tickets, and so my wife and I went to the game. We went early, had a beer at the 21st Amendment Brewery that’s next door to my old office and right down the street from the ballpark.

Sports were my first love, especially baseball. Baseball was the first sport I played as a child and the first sport I avidly followed. I am still a diehard Braves fan to this day and well, to put it lightly, I still love sports.

My love for technology came a bit later in life, but as I began following the tech industry I noticed something extremely interesting. Those in technology, especially in the Apple space, share my love for baseball.

It’s unexplainable, really. Baseball is a relatively archaic game. Granted, technology has changed the game in some ways, but baseball has stood the test of time.

Jason Snell’s recent article detailing his trip to the final 2014 World Series game in San Fransisco featuring the Royals and the Giants reminded me of the strange connection between baseball and technology.

Jason is known for his love for sci-fi, video games, television shows and other extremely geeky hobbies. So, what drives this crazy connection between baseball and technology?

Is it the draw of keeping your own book and observing all the little details that go into a baseball game? To be quite honest, I’m not sure.

Baseball has always been my favorite sport to consume in person. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, doesn’t require your full, undivided attention and features some great personalities and quirks that only come alive on the baseball diamond.

Whatever the connection, it’s there and it’s fitting that the MLB is the first major sports league in the U.S. to support Apple Pay and Passbook.

Either way, anytime two of my loves collide, it’s bliss.

Section O, Row 61 – Wright Thompson

When it’s all said and done, Wright Thompson may be the greatest sportswriter of my lifetime.

That’s just it though, Wright Thompson doesn’t write about sports. He just tells stories. Powerful stories.

Section O, Row 61 is a story that Wright recently wrote and narrated for ESPN’s College Gameday.

His words are powerful, but there’s something even more powerful about hearing his deep, scratchy voice read his own words.

College football Saturdays are how we talk to the dead in the south. It’s how we remember the past, escape the present and look forward to the future.

Wright makes me love writing. His work constantly reminds me why we need good writers. The stories are out there, they’re just waiting to be told.