Written by Gabe Burns, Sports Editor
David Dean, the winningest coach in Valdosta State history, will not be winning any games for the Blazers in the foreseeable future.
Dean’s departure to Georgia Southern came as a surprise to not just VSU, but to the entire community. As a result, Blazer fans wait with anticipation as the school continues its search for the next headman of VSU football.
The rumors of potential targets have been flying since Dean left to become the offensive coordinator for the Eagles on Jan. 5. Chris Hatcher, the current coach at Samford who enjoyed seven seasons as the Blazers’ leader, was a prime candidate, according to Ed Hooper, a VSU alumnus who runs a blog covering Valdosta-area sports. Hatcher coached at VSU from 2000-2006 and collected a 76-12 before departing for Georgia Southern himself.
However, VSU has since moved on to other options, according to Hooper and Valdosta Daily Times Sports Editor Jamie Wachter.
Popular names that have circulated in the rumor mill include Colquitt County coach Rush Propst, Kerwin Bell, formerly of Jacksonville State University and LaGrange College coach Matt Mumme.
The most likely and intriguing name here is Bell. According to FootballScoop.com, Bell is “still in” the competition to be named the coach.
Bell is the winningest coach in the history of Jacksonville State, but the Dolphins let him go over “philosophical differences” after nine years in charge.
Bell was a quarterback at the University of Florida and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 1988 NFL draft. He also spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons in his playing career before becoming a graduate assistant at UF in 1990.
Bell interviewed for the offensive coordinator position at Florida in 2011 and has gathered plenty of interest from other universities during his JSU tenure. With Bell at the helm, the Dolphins were 66-35 with two Pioneer League Championships.
Propst has been a hot name locally because of his recent success in Moultrie, where the Packers have won two-straight state titles. Propst told Hooper he wouldn’t leave Colquitt for “another high school job.” That comment piqued the interest of fans, and while Propst has expressed some level of interest in the position, it remains an unlikely hiring.
Mumme is the son of former Blazers coach Hal. Hal Mumme, who also coached at Kentucky, is highly-regarded nationally for his innovative work with the Air-Raid offense. His disciples have fared well over the course of their careers, and Matt has already made an impact at LaGrange College offensively.
Defensively, the Panthers have left much to be desired. A defense that surrendered 38 points per game dropped LaGrange’s record from 5-5 in 2014 to 2-7 in 2015. That lackluster performance could cool VSU’s interest.
While the Panthers have yet to post a stellar record, the team has set several of its own offensive records in Mumme’s two seasons. With VSU’s past emphasis on familiarity, Mumme still makes for a logical target.
With such a wide-casted net of candidates, athletic director Herb Reinhard has taken his time to make sure that VSU brings in the right man for the job.
“I am confident that we will find the right person to continue to build on our rich tradition of success at Valdosta State,” Reinhard said in a statement.