Despite a victory over Arizona and a 7-5 record in 2017, Arizona State coach Todd Graham was fired by athletic director Ray Anderson on Sunday. Graham’s final record with the Sun Devils was 46-31, which also included a Pac-12 South title in 2013. After winning 20 games between 2013-14, Arizona State went just 11-14 over the next two years. Graham was under pressure to win in 2017 and delivered a 7-5 season. However, athletic director Ray Anderson still decided to make a change.
Arizona State is a program with some upside, as it ranks among the top 30-40 jobs in college football. Additionally, a renovation of its stadium and facilities will help make this job more attractive to coaches.
Who could replace Graham at Arizona State? Here are nine candidates to watch:
9 Coaching Candidates to Replace Todd Graham at Arizona State
Dave Aranda, defensive coordinator, LSU
Aranda is one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks. After coordinating successful defenses at Utah State (2012) and Wisconsin (2013-15), Aranda was hired as LSU’s defensive coordinator prior to the 2016 campaign. Under Aranda’s watch, the Tigers finished second in the SEC in scoring defense in 2016 and fourth in 2017. Aranda has never been a head coach at the FBS level, but he can build standout defenses and is primed for an opportunity to lead a program in the near future.
Teryl Austin, defensive coordinator, Detroit Lions
Austin’s name popped up in a USA Today report report for potential candidates for this opening. If Austin is indeed on the radar, it’s an odd move for Arizona State. He hasn’t coached in the collegiate level since 2010 and has never been a head coach at the FBS level. Austin worked as the Ravens’ secondary coach in 2011 and remained in that role until 2014 when he was hired as the Lions’ defensive coordinator. Detroit ranks 19th in the NFL in scoring defense. He also has previous stints on his resume from Michigan (1999-02) and Syracuse (1996-98) and other stops in the NFL with the Cardinals and Seahawks.
Pep Hamilton, assistant coach, Michigan
Hamilton has never been a head coach at the collegiate level but has previous Pac-12 experience from a stint at Stanford (2010-12). Hamilton worked in the NFL in a couple of different stints, including the Jets (2004-05), 49ers (2006), Bears (2007-09), Colts (2013-15) and Browns (2016). He was hired as Michigan’s passing game coordinator and assistant coach prior to the 2017 season.
Bryan Harsin, head coach, Boise State
Harsin is coaching at his alma mater, so it would take an enticing job for him to leave Boise State. After working as an assistant at Boise State from 2005-10, Harsin was hired as Texas’ offensive coordinator for two years (2011-12) before landing the top spot at Arkansas State. The former Boise State quarterback went 7-5 with the Red Wolves in 2013 but left Jonesboro for the blue turf after Chris Petersen left to be the head coach at Washington. In four seasons at the helm in Boise, Harsin is 40-12 and has two years of double-digit victories. The Broncos also have two division titles and a Mountain West championship (2014) under Harsin’s watch.
Lane Kiffin, head coach, FAU
Kiffin back in the Pac-12? It's probably a longshot after just one year at FAU, but he would be a standout hire for Arizona State if this is the direction the program goes with its new coach. After working as the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2014-16, Kiffin was hired as FAU’s coach prior to the 2017 campaign. Kiffin has made an immediate impact in Boca Raton, as he guided the Owls to a Conference USA East Division title and an 9-3 record prior to the season finale. Kiffin has two previous stints as a head coach: Tennessee in 2009 and USC (2010-13). He went 7-6 with the Volunteers in his only season at the helm and 28-15 in his stint with the Trojans. Kiffin is a polarizing figure, but there’s no doubt he can develop an offense and is a better coach than his record at USC and Tennessee would suggest.
Jim Leavitt, defensive coordinator, Oregon
Leavitt seems poised to earn another shot as a head coach in the next couple of seasons. Kansas State is one potential destination in the future, but Leavitt could get a look at open jobs in the 2017 carousel. The Texas native spent time as an assistant at Iowa and Kansas State before becoming the first head coach in USF’s history. Leavitt went 95-57 in 13 years as the program’s head coach, which also included five consecutive bowl trips (2005-09). He was dismissed as the head coach after 2009 and spent a year out of football before landing in the NFL with the 49ers (2011-14) as an assistant. Leavitt returned to the collegiate sidelines in 2015 and transformed Colorado’s defense into one of the best in the Pac-12. Leavitt was hired away from Colorado to Oregon and made an immediate impact on the Ducks’ defense in 2017. After the Ducks allowed 41.4 points a game in 2016, Leavitt lowered that total to 28.3 in his first season.
Seth Littrell, head coach, North Texas
Littrell is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise for 2017. The Oklahoma native worked as an offensive assistant at Texas Tech, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina before taking over as North Texas’ head coach prior to the 2016 season. Littrell is known for his roots in the Air Raid offense and has worked under Larry Fedora and Mike Leach. The Mean Green won just one game in the year prior to Littrell’s arrival but improved to 5-8 last fall. And in 2017, North Texas is 9-3 through 12 regular season contests and claimed Conference USA’s West Division crown.
Mike Norvell, head coach, Memphis
Norvell's name is likely to come up in searches at Arkansas and Ole Miss, so the second-year coach is going to be one of the carousel's top names to watch. Norvell has an obvious tie to Arizona State, as he worked under Todd Graham as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator from 2012-15. The Texas native played his collegiate ball at Central Arkansas and started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant. He later joined Tulsa's staff under Todd Graham in 2007 and remained an assistant until 2010 when he left for one season at Pitt (2011). At Arizona State, Norvell's attack ranked in the top five in scoring offense of the Pac-12 in all four seasons (2012-15) of calling plays. Norvell picked up where Justin Fuente left off and has Memphis poised to finish in the top 25 this season. The Tigers went 8-5 in Norvell’s debut and are off to a 9-1 start in 2017. Overall, Memphis is 18-6 under Norvell and claimed the AAC’s West Division this season. Prior to taking over as the head coach at Memphis and play-caller at Arizona State, Norvell worked under Graham at Pitt (2011) and Tulsa (2007-10). Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coaches at age 36. And he’s also one of the nation’s top minds on offense. Considering Norvell worked under Graham, it's unlikely he would replace his former boss in Tempe - but he's at least worth a mention in this search.
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. Sumlin has never coached in the Pac-12 but his ties to the state of Texas could be huge in recruiting.