Coach Ron Zook declined to mention any names when I asked him about his vacant offensive coordinator job Saturday. But a source tells me Chuck Long is among the candidates. And Long, who also is being mentioned for a job at Kansas State, would be a very good fit in Champaign.
Long, who's from Wheaton, was a star quarterback at Iowa and with the Detroit Lions before becoming Oklahoma's offensive coordinator. He was fired last month after three seasons as head coach at San Diego State, which shocked him by buying out the remaining two years on his contract a month after he received a vote of confidence.
``I think bitter is the right word,'' Long told the New York Times. ``[But] you can't let those things fester too long. Otherwise, they start to eat you up. I didn't like the way it went down.''
Long has the personality, the coaching background and the recruiting potential that could make him a very strong addition to Zook's staff. But Long will need to work out some delicate, and potentially difficult, contractual issues with his buyout, which is worth more than $1 million, before taking another job elsewhere.
Long also has been mentioned as a candidate for the offensive coordinator job at Kansas State, which recently brought back retired coach Bill Snyder.
Zook is genuinely impressed by the interest being shown in his vacant offensive coordinator job. He hasn't decided whether to fill the job from within, where he has several strong candidates, or to bring in a new offensive coordinator. One key is keeping the chemistry he has among his assistants.
That said, if one of the outsiders fits in from a chemistry standpoint, he's likely to be strong in other ways, too. Former NFL coaches Dan Reeves and Dick Vermiel have contacted Zook to offer recommendations for candidates who are interested in replacing Mike Locksley as Illinois' offensive coordinator.
``I don't know what I'm going to do,'' Zook said, adding that he's not going to rush the hire. ``We have a great offensive staff here, but there are so many great ones out there that are interested. I just want to make sure we don't want to mess up the chemistry we have.''