Even though Tom O'Brien went 24-14 in his last three seasons at NC State, the school decided to make a change after Saturday's win against Boston College. O'Brien was a steady coach but couldn't elevate the program to the next level. NC State wants to compete with Florida State and Clemson more frequently, which means a coaching change had to be made to raise the level of the program.
11 Coaching Candidates to Replace Tom O'Brien at NC State
Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green –Clawson took a lot of heat for Tennessee’s struggles on offense in 2008, but he is a proven head coach at three different stops. The New York native went 29-29 in five seasons at Fordham (1999-2003), which also included a trip to the FCS playoffs in 2002. Clawson jumped to Richmond in 2004 and led the Spiders to two playoff appearances, including an 11-3 mark in 2007. After the failed season at Tennessee, Clawson landed at Bowling Green and went 7-6 in his debut year and 8-4 in 2012.
Dave Doeren, head coach, Northern Illinois – Even though Doeren has spent his career coaching defense, his Northern Illinois’ teams the last two years have ranked among the nation’s best. Doeren is only 40 years old, so he doesn’t have a ton of experience from other coaching stops. He spent two seasons at Montana (2000-01), before moving to Kansas in 2002. After a couple of seasons in Lawrence, Doeren took over as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and held that position until 2010, when he became Northern Illinois’ head coach. Doeren inherited a good situation in DeKalb, but he’s also done a good job of putting his own stamp on the program. And despite his defensive background, Doeren would likely run an uptempo, spread offense at his next stop.
Darrell Hazell, head coach, Kent State – Just like Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, Hazell has done a terrific job in a short amount of time at Kent State and is due for a promotion to a BCS program. Hazell inherited a program that had not won more than five games in the four seasons prior to his arrival and has quickly turned Kent State into a MAC title contender. Hazell is 16-8 in two seasons with the Golden Flashes, which includes a huge road win over Rutgers in 2012. Although this is his first head coaching gig, Hazell has an impressive resume from stops at Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia, Rutgers and Ohio State.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette – Hudspeth has quietly led Louisiana-Lafayette to back-to-back bowl games and has a 16-8 mark in two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before his current job, Hudspeth was 66-21 in seven years as the head coach at North Alabama. The Mississippi native has some SEC experience, working for two seasons under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. Although Hudspeth isn’t a big-name hire and doesn’t have experience in the ACC, he’s a high-energy guy and has proven to be a successful coach in two years with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Butch Jones, head coach, Cincinnati – Jones has been in the rumor mill quite a bit over the last few weeks, especially with the open vacancy at Kentucky. Considering the uncertainty over Cincinnati’s future conference and long-term stability in the Big East, it’s no surprise Jones could be looking to leave for the Big Ten or SEC. Jones followed up Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, recording a 27-13 mark in three seasons with the Chippewas and a 22-14 record with the Bearcats. Another reason for Jones to be targeted by NC State? His background on offense, which includes a stint as Central Michigan’s offensive coordinator and at West Virginia as a wide receivers coach.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State – Lembo isn’t a big name but has been a successful head coach at three different stops. In five seasons with Lehigh, he recorded a 44-14 record and made two appearances in the FCS playoffs. Lembo spent the next five years at Elon and compiled a 35-22 mark and one trip to the FCS playoffs. In two seasons at Ball State, Lembo is 14-9 and has the Cardinals poised to make their first bowl appearance since the 2008 season. Lembo doesn't have any experience in the ACC but is track record suggests he can win anywhere in college football.
Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State – Although Malzahn has spent most of his coaching career in Arkansas, his up-tempo, high-scoring offense would work anywhere in the nation. Malzahn has only been a head coach on the collegiate level for one season and is 8-3 with a chance to win the Sun Belt title on Saturday for Arkansas State. Considering the lack of head coaching experience on the FBS level, there’s certainly some risk with Malzahn. However, his exciting offense would ignite the fanbase, as well as help to recruit elite quarterbacks and receiving talent to Raleigh.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson – After O’Brien’s departure, Morris was one of the first names to circulate through the rumor mill in Raleigh. Although the Texas native has no collegiate head coaching experience, he has run some of the nation’s best offenses at Tulsa and Clemson. Morris also has strong recruiting ties to Texas, especially after spending over 10 years as a head coach on the high school level. Morris is an unknown commodity when it comes to being a head coach but there’s also a lot to like on his resume.
Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas head coach – If NC State really wants to make a splash, how about making a run at Petrino? Although the messy end to his tenure at Arkansas is a huge negative, he’s ready to work and can probably come at a discounted price. Petrino was 34-17 in four seasons at Arkansas and recorded a 41-9 mark in four years at Louisville. Although the off-the-field incident in Fayetteville is a concern, Petrino is an instant impact hire and would help NC State ignite its fanbase, especially with an offense that averaged over 35 points a game last season.
Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops’ name has popped up in connection with the Kentucky job, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes over a BCS program. Stoops does not have any head coaching experience but has stops as an assistant at Wyoming, South Florida, Houston, Miami and Arizona. Stoops has quickly resurrected Florida State’s defense back among the best in the ACC over the last three years.
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart’s stock has been on the rise over the last few seasons and is due for a shot to run a BCS program. In three seasons with the Hilltoppers, Taggart is 16-20 and has back-to-back winning records. In addition to his solid run as Western Kentucky’s head coach, Taggart spent three seasons as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Taggart is young, energetic and has strong recruiting ties to Florida, which seems to describe what NC State needs in its next head coach.