Ohio State 2012 Coaching Search: 15 Names to Watch

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Expect big names like Urban Meyer to be interested in the job.

Expect big names like Urban Meyer to be interested in the job.

- By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Even though Ohio State is facing significant penalties from the NCAA, it remains one of the top coaching jobs in college football. The Buckeyes should have several big names interested after 2011, even if Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini are longshots to get the job.

Here's a look at 15 candidates who could be Ohio State's coach when the season kicks off in 2012 -

Tim Beckman, Toledo

Pros:
On the verge of becoming one of the top coaches outside of the BCS conferences with another solid year in 2011. Coached cornerbacks at Ohio State from 2005-2006. Has wins over two BCS teams during his two years at Toledo – Colorado and Purdue.

Cons: Does not have experience as a head coach at a BCS school. Only 13-12 in two years, but that record should improve in 2011 with one of the best teams in the MAC returning.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Pros:
A Jim Tressel protégé and proven commodity in the Big Ten. Was Ohio State’s defensive coordinator from 2001-2003.

Cons: Would Ohio State want someone with ties to Tressel? Dantonio may not want the job either, especially since he and Tressel are close friends.

Luke Fickell, Ohio State (interim coach)

Pros:
An Ohio State alum. Has a chance to earn the job with a good showing in 2011. If the Buckeyes get hammered with NCAA sanctions, the school may stick with Fickell to ride out what could be a very difficult period in Columbus.

Cons: Only head coaching experience will be the distraction-filled 2011 campaign. Whether it’s fair or not, Fickell is not a big name at one of the top programs in college football. Would Ohio State want to completely clean house to remove all reminders of the Tressel era?

Jon Gruden (ESPN analyst)

Pros:
Born in Sandusky and played at Dayton. Has over 15 years of coaching experience in the NFL, which would be attractive to high school recruits. Seems ready for a new challenge after spending 2009, 2010 and 2011 on the sidelines. Since leaving the NFL has been studying with college coaches to learn different schemes.

Cons: Limited coaching experience on the collegiate level. NFL experience is a plus, but also a drawback. NFL schemes are difficult to implement in college with the limited time to work with the players. If Gruden is hired as head coach at Ohio State, if things do not go well early, how quick will he be tempted to jump back to the NFL?

Jerry Kill, Minnesota

Pros:
A proven winner at every stop – Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. Will get a chance to get familiar with the Big Ten in 2011 at Minnesota. Not a flashy name, but a solid coach and one who would be a good cleanup option to navigate any sanctions.

Cons: A longshot at Ohio State due to taking the Minnesota job this year. Kill is a proven winner, but would not win the press conference or be a splashy name on the recruiting trail.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn (offensive coordinator)

Pros: One of the top offensive coordinators in the nation. Malzahn’s offenses have succeeded with instant results at the high school and collegiate level. Would be a flashy hire in terms of what the fans will see on the field.

Cons: Malzahn does not have any head coaching experience at the collegiate level. All of FBS experience has been relegated to the South and would have few connections in the Big Ten region.

Urban Meyer (ESPN analyst)

Pros:
Born in Toledo and coached at Ohio State for two seasons (1986-1987). Has won two national championships at Florida and regarded as one of the top recruiters in college football. Meyer has won big at three different stops at the FBS level. If hired at Ohio State, likely would be able to tap into the Florida pipeline for recruits.

Cons: Left Florida due to health reasons, which could resurface if he takes another job. Is Meyer ready to step back into the coaching ranks after one year off?

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Pros:
If the Buckeyes can’t get Urban Meyer, how about one of his protégés? Mullen coached under Meyer for 10 seasons and has elevated Mississippi State’s program in just two years. A sharp offensive mind and a very good recruiter. Not afraid to mix it up with the school’s top rivals. 

Cons: Was born in Pennsylvania – could he be more interested in the Penn State job? Was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame and coached quarterbacks at Bowling Green, but overall, not much experience in the Big Ten region. Mullen has indicated he is committed to Mississippi State – but will that hold true if Ohio State comes calling?

Gary Patterson, TCU

Pros: One of college football’s top defensive minds. Has compiled an impressive 98-28 record during his tenure at TCU. Patterson picked up where Dennis Franchoine left off in 2000 and has continued to elevate the TCU program.

Cons: Does not have any Big Ten coaching experience. Has built TCU into a consistent winner, and the Horned Frogs are moving to the Big East in 2012. Considering the success at TCU and the lack of strength in the Big East, the Horned Frogs could step in and immediately contend for multiple BCS bids – certainly enticing to Patterson.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Pros: An Ohio State alum and a proven head coach at one of the top 20 programs in college football. One of the top defensive minds in college football – a style that would work well at Ohio State. Pelini will have a chance to “interview” with Ohio State when the Cornhuskers host the Buckeyes on Oct. 8.

Cons: Already has a very good job at Nebraska – would he leave one of the top 20 programs in the nation for one facing NCAA sanctions? Temper has drawn criticism, but seemed to tone that down at the end of 2010.

Chris Petersen, Boise State

Pros:
Regarded as one of the top coaches in college football. Petersen has compiled an impressive 61-5 record in five seasons in Boise. Has led the Broncos to big wins against BCS competition – Oregon, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma – and has continued to push this program higher every season.

Cons: Very few. Most of coaching experience has been on the West Coast. Although Boise State has ranked among the top 10-15 programs over the last couple of years, Ohio State would bring more scrutiny. Petersen enjoys being out of the spotlight and Columbus may be too bright. 

Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Pros:
Born in Akron. Has coaching experience at Kent State, Bowling Green and served as the Toledo head coach from 1991-2000. Has turned Missouri into a consistent top 25 contender. Would be a steady hand to guide Ohio State through potential sanctions.

Cons: Will be 59 when the season starts. Is he ready to take on a project with NCAA sanctions at the end of his career? Although Pinkel has done a good job at Missouri, the Tigers have not played for a BCS bowl and have struggled against ranked teams. Turned down Michigan interview in January and does not appear to be interested in leaving.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Pros:
Born in Youngstown. Arguably one of the top five coaches in college football. Has compiled an impressive 129-31 record in Norman. Is familiar with Big Ten territory by playing at Iowa from 1979-1982.

Cons: Has been criticized for performances in big games, largely due to a 3-5 record in BCS bowls. Just like Pelini, Stoops already has an excellent job. Even though Stoops would be going back to the state he was born, why leave Oklahoma when you already have one of the top programs in college football and no conference title game at the end of the year?

Mark Stoops, Florida State (defensive coordinator)

Pros:
Born in Youngstown. Excellent coaching bloodlines. In addition to learning from his brothers, Stoops has coached under Hayden Fry and Jimbo Fisher. Turned around a Florida State defense that was awful in 2009 to one that finished 20th nationally in scoring defense last year. Familiar with the Big Ten during his playing days at Iowa. Ohio State went under the radar with its last hire of Jim Tressel, and Stoops seems to fit that mold in 2012.

Cons: Does not have any head coaching experience. Should be one of the most sought-after assistants at the end of 2011. Ohio State will need to move quick if Stoops is their guy.

Brent Venables, Oklahoma

Pros:
Regarded as one of the top assistant coaches in college football. Has learned from one of the best in Bob Stoops and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his shot at a program. Will bring energy and discipline to the program.

Cons: Does not have any playing or coaching experience in the Big Ten. Venables has never been a head coach.

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<p> Jim Tressel's resignation has opened one of the top coaching vacancies in college football. Luke Fickell will be the interim coach, but some big names could be interested at the end of the 2011 season.</p>
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