The Cleveland Browns and new head coach Freddie Kitchens continue to work on building a coaching staff, and the team has reportedly looked west for a candidate.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Browns interviewed the University of Utah’s Jim Harding for the offensive line coach position:
As Freddie Kitchens keeps putting together his staff, the #Browns interviewed Utah OL coach Jim Harding, source said. Considered one of the best at the college level.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 13, 2019
That is an interesting turn as Harding has spent his coaching career in the college ranks, first at Wyoming from 2009 to 2013, where he held the roles of co-offensive line coach, run game coordinator and co-offensive coordinator during his tenure with the Cowboys.
Harding just completed his fifth season at Utah as the offensive line coach, and previously was the co-offensive coordinator from 2015 to 2016. A look at his bio on the Utah website shows a nice résumé:
Utah’s offensive line has been one of the best in the country under Harding. His 2016 line produced a school-record four NFL draft picks and he has coached five total draft picks. Headlining the Utes in the 2017 NFL Draft was left tackle Garett Bolles—a first-round pick by Denver. Other members of the 2017 draft class were Isaac Asiata (Miami), J.J. Dielman (Cincinnati) and Sam Tevi (San Diego). A year earlier, Jeremiah Poutasi was a third-round selection of the Tennessee Titans. Salesi Uhatafe signed a free agent contract with Atlanta in 2018. In 2016, Bolles was first-team All-Pac-12 Conference in his only NCAA season while Asiata won the Morris Award, which honors the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12 by vote of the league’s starting defensive linemen. With Harding’s linemen opening holes, Utah has boasted a thousand yard rusher in four straight seasons: Devontae Booker in 2014 and 2015, Joe Williams in 2016 and sophomore Zack Moss in 2017. Booker and Williams were both All-Pac-12 Conference selections (Booker was first team in 2014) and Williams set a school rushing record by averaging 156.3 yards per game in 2016.
Harding was passed over on Friday for Utah’s offensive coordinator position when the program decided to hire Andy Ludwig, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, which could be part of the reason that Harding is looking for an exit out of Salt Lake City. He also has ties to Ohio, as he grew up in Maumee and played collegiately at Toledo.
The Browns are also reportedly interviewed James Campen as an offensive line coach. Campen has spent the past 15 seasons for the Green Bay Packers.