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11 Coaching Candidates to Replace Mike Riley at Nebraska

Mike Riley, Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Mike Riley, Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Mike Riley has been fired as Nebraska’s head coach following Friday’s loss to Iowa. The defeat against the Hawkeyes dropped the Cornhuskers to 19-19 under Riley’s direction. After a 6-7 mark in 2015, Nebraska slipped to 9-4 in 2016 and dropped to 4-8 in 2017. From the start, Riley’s hire seemed like an odd fit for Nebraska. However, the Cornhuskers showed slight progress in 2016 before falling to four wins, which was the program's first year of winning less than five games since 1961. New athletic director Bill Moos has a big decision ahead as he looks to get the Cornhuskers back near the top of the Big Ten.

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Who could replace Riley at Nebraska? Here are 11 candidates to watch:

11 Coaching Candidates to Replace Mike Riley at Nebraska

Bret Bielema, former Arkansas head coach

Things didn’t worked out well for Bielema at Arkansas, but he still knows his way around the Big Ten. From 2006-12, Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin and guided the program to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. Additionally, the Badgers won back-to-back Big Ten titles from 2011-12. Under Bielema’s direction, Arkansas showed promise after a 3-9 debut in 2013. The Razorbacks improved to 7-6 in 2014, 8-5 in 2015 and finished 7-6 after blowing two second-half leads late in the year to close out 2016. A 4-8 record in 2017 ended Bielema’s tenure at Arkansas, as he was fired following the finale against Missouri.

Craig Bohl, head coach, Wyoming

Bohl is a Lincoln native, played his college ball at Nebraska and also spent time with the Cornhuskers as an assistant from 1995-02. Bohl worked as a linebacker coach (1995-99) and defensive coordinator (2000-02) for Nebraska during the Frank Solich era. In addition to his stint with the Cornhuskers, Bohl has worked as an assistant at Tulsa, Wisconsin and Rice and went 104-32 as North Dakota State’s head coach from 2003-13. During his stint with the Bison, Bohl guided the program to three consecutive FCS titles from 2011-13 and won 43 games in that span. Bohl has worked as Wyoming’s head coach since 2014. After a 6-18 start to his tenure at Wyoming, Bohl is 15-10 over the last two years and guided this program to an appearance in the Mountain West title game in 2016.

Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force

Calhoun – a former quarterback at Air Force – has won 81 games since taking over as the program’s head coach in 2007. The Falcons won 10 games in 2014 and again in '16 and have only missed out on a bowl game once during Calhoun’s tenure. Air Force is expected to miss out on a bowl this year, largely due to the significant turnover in personnel from the 2016 season. Air Force is 4-7 prior to the finale and can only make a bowl on APR. Calhoun also has previous stints on his resume as an assistant in the NFL with the Broncos and Texans, as well as time at Wake Forest and Ohio.

Matt Campbell, head coach, Iowa State

Campbell has a significant buyout ($9.4 million) if he wants to leave for another job. With that in mind, it’s difficult to see Campbell leaving Iowa State this offseason. But he’s one of the rising stars in college football’s head coach ranks, as the Cyclones have improved from 3-9 last year to 7-4 in 2017. Campbell also guided Toledo to a 35-15 mark over four full seasons as the program’s head coach from 2011-15. Additionally, Campbell played his college ball at the ultra-successful Division III program Mount Union.

Jason Candle, head coach, Toledo

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Candle is another rising star to watch in Power 5 coaching searches. He took over at Matt Campbell left for Iowa State and is 20-6 as Toledo’s head coach over the last two years. The Rockets went 9-4 last season and improved to 10-2 with a MAC West title in 2017. Prior to taking over as Toledo’s head coach, Candle worked as an assistant under Campbell and also had a stint as an offensive coordinator at Mount Union.

Dave Clawson, head coach, Wake Forest

Clawson’s a longshot to go to Lincoln, but he’s someone who deserves a look for bigger jobs this offseason. The New York native started his head coaching career at Fordham in 1999 and guided the Rams to a 29-29 record over five seasons. He took the top spot at Richmond in 2004 and went 29-20 overall and made two trips to the FCS playoffs over four years. Clawson spent 2008 as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer, but after the staff was dismissed, he landed at Bowling Green as the program’s head coach for the 2009 campaign. Clawson’s tenure with the Falcons resembled the ones at Fordham and Richmond. Bowling Green went 32-30 under Clawson’s direction but showed steady improvement after his first year or two on the job, which included a MAC title in 2013. Clawson was hired at Wake Forest prior to the 2014 campaign and went 6-18 in his first two years at the helm. However, after playing a lot of freshmen his first two seasons, Clawson has guided the Demon Deacons to a 14-10 record since 2016. Clawson would be appealing for two reasons: He’s a bright offensive mind and knows how to rebuild programs.

Scott Frost, head coach, UCF

It’s no secret Frost is the preferred pick to take over at Nebraska. He’s a native of Nebraska and a former quarterback in Lincoln. After his playing career with the Cornhuskers was over, Frost played in the NFL with five different teams as a safety from 1998-04. In between those stints, Frost also worked as a graduate assistant with Nebraska in 2002 and held that same role at Kansas State in 2006. Frost was hired at Northern Iowa as the program’s linebacker coach in 2007 and took over as the defensive coordinator in 2008. Frost joined Chip Kelly’s staff at Oregon as a wide receivers coach in 2009 and remained in that role until he was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013. Under Frost’s watch, the Ducks ranked first all three seasons in the Pac-12 in scoring offense. Frost was hired at UCF prior to 2016, and after the Knights went 0-12 the previous year, he guided the program to a six-game improvement in the win column that season. And in 2017, UCF went 11-0 and claimed the AAC East Division. Frost knows the program, has an explosive offense and has proven himself for two years as a head coach at UCF. He’s ready for a Power 5 job.

Mike Leach, head coach, Washington State

New Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos hired Leach at Washington State. Could these two unite once again in Lincoln? It seems unlikely, but you never know. Leach is 38-36 since taking over at Washington State, which includes three consecutive seasons of at least eight victories. Prior to his stint at Washington State, Leach went 84-43 at Texas Tech. He’s regarded as one of college football’s top offensive-minded coaches.

Joe Moorhead, offensive coordinator, Penn State

It’s only a matter of time before Moorhead takes over as a head coach at a Power 5 program. As the head coach at Fordham from 2012-15, Moorhead accumulated a 38-13 record and went to the FCS playoffs in three seasons. He was hired as Penn State’s offensive coordinator prior to the 2016 campaign and brought immediate improvement to Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring in 2015 but improved to third in Moorhead’s first year and rank second after 11 games in 2017. Prior to his last two jobs, Moorhead was an offensive coordinator and assistant at UConn from 2009-11 and also worked at Akron from 2004-08.

Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy

If Nebraska wants to dip into its past and utilize some option looks, Niumatalolo would be a strong pick. The Hawaii native joined Navy’s staff in 2002 under coach Paul Johnson and was promoted to head coach in 2007 after Johnson departed for Georgia Tech. Niumatalolo is 83-47 since taking over the reins in Annapolis, guided the Midshipmen to an American Athletic Conference West Division title in 2016. Niumatalolo leaving Navy is a longshot, but he’s a consistent winner and knows how to produce productive offenses.

Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M

Sumlin’s tenure at Texas A&M is expected to end after Saturday’s game against LSU. While Sumlin didn’t quite meet expectations in College Station, he went 51-25 during his tenure with the Aggies and won 11 games with Johnny Manziel leading the way in 2012. Prior to Texas A&M, Sumlin went 35-17 at Houston. Sumlin is known for producing high-powered offenses and is a good recruiter. He also has previous Big Ten experience from his playing career at Purdue and stints with the Boilermakers and Minnesota as an assistant coach.