It may start earlier than that. Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, a Tech grad and a teammate of Stansbury, is to meet with Stansbury this weekend, according to a tweet Thursday evening from NFL Network reporter Adam Schefter.
Stansbury also has at least two candidates who would hope to speak with him about the opening. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Alabama offensive line coach Brent Key are believed to have interest in succeeding Johnson.
Elliott has directed the Tigers offense for the past four seasons, helping Clemson win the past three ACC championships and play for a fourth in a row on Saturday. He won the Frank Broyles Award in 2017 as the nation’s top assistant coach and is seen as a hot up-and-comer. Among other things, he earned a degree in industrial engineering from Clemson.
Key, who was a four-year offensive-line starter at Tech during the George O’Leary era, has coached the Crimson Tide’s line since 2016 after 11 seasons at Central Florida, the last of which he served as offensive coordinator. Stansbury was UCF’s AD three of those years.
Both are young (Elliott is 39, Key is 40), have experience at powerhouse programs and hold reputations as excellent recruiters. Neither has experience as a head coach.
They are among many names that have been tossed around since the news regarding Johnson broke Wednesday, also including Temple coach Geoff Collins (formerly a Tech graduate assistant and player personnel director), Army coach Jeff Monken and Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon, both of whom were longtime Johnson assistants.
Stansbury said that, as of the news conference, he had not had any conversations with any candidates.
Stansbury didn’t give a planned timeline, but ideally he would have a successor in place before the start of the early signing period Dec. 19 to give Tech’s 15 commits and the new coach a chance to learn each other and make a decision on whether to sign a letter of intent. Stansbury said that Johnson and his staff will continue to recruit and hold official visit weekends.
“I think the sooner the better, because it kind of brings clarity and everyone will kind of know what’s going on,” Stansbury said. “But I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that for getting the right person.”
Stansbury is not wedded to a particular scheme, namely versions of Johnson’s spread-option offense. He said that he wants an innovator, someone who understands that Tech is a different sort of school “and has a plan on, OK, how are you going to take what you’ve done before and strategically implement it in a way that can be successful here.”
Of factors like head-coaching experience, ties to Tech or a particular scheme, he said that “because there are so many things that go into being a great coach, I think you’ve got to look at it all.”
Stansbury reiterated his belief that Tech can compete for ACC championships and, in so doing, for a place in the College Football Playoff.
“At the end of the day, I just want to win games,” he said.