Examining who could replace Mel Tucker at Colorado
Colorado is looking for a head coach after Mel Tucker decided to depart Boulder after one season for Michigan State. The Buffaloes finished 5-7 in Tucker’s only year at the helm and likely faced an uphill battle to get to a bowl in 2020. Tucker’s decision comes as a surprise after declaring he wasn’t interested in leaving just a few days before the news was announced on Tuesday night. Colorado athletic director Rick George has a tough task ahead. Hiring a coach in mid-February isn’t ideal.
Who could replace Tucker at Colorado? Here are 13 names to watch in the coaching search:
13 Coaching Candidates to Replace Mel Tucker at Colorado
Blake Anderson, Head Coach, Arkansas State
Anderson’s name popped up in the search at Missouri this offseason, and Colorado should at least inquire to see if he has any interest in the job. The Arkansas native ranks as the top coach in the Sun Belt for 2020 after guiding Arkansas State to a 47-30 mark since the 2014 season. The Red Wolves have made a bowl game and finished with a winning mark in Sun Belt play in all six of Anderson’s years at the helm in Jonesboro.
Andy Avalos, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Oregon
Avalos – a former Boise State linebacker – is a coach on the rise in the Pac-12. The California native had a prolific playing career on the blue turf and eventually worked as an assistant with the Broncos from 2012-15 before a promotion to defensive coordinator in ’16. Avalos directed the defense for three years in Boise and left to take over at Oregon prior to the 2019 season. The Ducks saw big-time improvement under Avalos’ watch, as this unit held teams to 16.5 points a game after allowing 25.4 in ’18. Oregon’s defense was a big reason why this team won the Pac-12 and claimed a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Bieniemy needs no introduction to Colorado fans after a prolific career with the Buffaloes from 1987-90. He worked with the program from 2001-02 as the running backs coach and also from 2011-12 as offensive coordinator. Bieniemy has made stops in the NFL as an assistant with the Vikings and Chiefs and was a key cog in the staff that led Kansas City to the Super Bowl this year.
Craig Bohl, Head Coach, Wyoming
Bohl is a proven winner from stints at North Dakota State and Wyoming. The Nebraska native worked his way through the assistant ranks with stops at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Rice, Duke and Nebraska before taking over as North Dakota State’s head coach in 2003. The Bison went 104-32 and won three FCS titles under Bohl’s watch from 2003-13. He took over as Wyoming’s head coach prior to the 2014 season and compiled a 6-18 mark through the first two years. However, the Cowboys have won at least eight games in three out of the last four seasons and claimed the 2016 Mountain West Mountain Division title. Bohl’s overall record as a coach is 140-72.
Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force
Calhoun is probably a longshot, but Colorado should inquire to see if he has any interest in the job. The former Air Force quarterback has compiled a 98-69 record at his alma mater and posted his best season (11-2) in 2019. The Falcons have only four losing marks since Calhoun took over as the program’s head coach in 2007.
Darrin Chiaverini, Wide Receivers Coach, Colorado
As a former player and current assistant coach at Colorado, Chiaverini makes the most sense in terms of internal options from Tucker’s staff. The California native worked as an assistant at Texas Tech from 2014-15 before landing on Colorado’s staff in 2016. He worked as the co-offensive coordinator for three years (2016-18) and remained on staff when Tucker arrived prior to 2019. Chiaverini has no experienced as a head coach at the FBS level.
Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s defense showed progress in Grinch’s first year calling the plays, as this unit held teams to 27.3 points a game after giving up 33.3 in 2018. Grinch is a rising star in the assistant ranks after successful stops at Washington State as a defensive coordinator and a one-year stint at Ohio State in 2018. Grinch has no previous experience as a head coach.
Graham Harrell, Offensive Coordinator, USC
Harrell’s arrival was a big reason why USC’s offense took a step forward last season. The former Texas Tech signal-caller helped to develop freshman Kedon Slovis into one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks and should direct another high-powered attack in 2020. Harrell has worked as an assistant at three FBS jobs since 2014 – Washington State, North Texas and USC – but has no experience as a head coach. Harrell’s background on offense and recruiting connections to the state of California would be intriguing for Colorado.
Jay Hill, Head Coach, Weber State
Hill is a name on the rise at the FCS level. After working as an assistant at Utah from 2004-13, he was hired as the head coach at Weber State prior to the 2014 season. The Wildcats went 15-20 over Hill’s first three years but have won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. Additionally, Weber State has qualified for the FCS Playoffs in four consecutive years.
Seth Littrell, Head Coach, North Texas
Littrell’s stock tumbled a little after North Texas finished 4-8 in 2019. However, the Mean Green are still 27-25 overall since Littrell took over in 2016 and played for the Conference USA title in ’17. North Texas has three bowl trips under Littrell’s watch and won 18 games from 2017-18. Prior to taking over in Denton, Littrell worked as an offensive coordinator at Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina.
Jim McElwain, Head Coach, Central Michigan
McElwain has previous experience in the state, as he recorded a 22-15 mark at Colorado State from 2012-14. After the three-year stint in Fort Collins, McElwain took over at Florida and won 22 games and two SEC East titles from 2015-17 in Gainesville. However, McElwain was dismissed after seven games in the 2017 season and worked for Michigan as an assistant in 2018. The Montana native had a successful debut at Central Michigan in 2019, as he guided the Chippewas to an 8-6 record and a MAC West title.
Jay Norvell, Head Coach, Nevada
Norvell was a long-time assistant with stops at Wisconsin, Iowa State, Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State before landing the top spot at Nevada prior to the 2017 season. The Wolf Pack went 3-9 in Norvell’s debut but have won 15 games and played in two bowl games over the last two years.
Steve Sarkisian, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
Sarkisian’s name popped up in the Mississippi State search, so it’s only a matter of time before he lands another opportunity to be a Power 5 head coach. The California native worked as an assistant at USC and in the NFL with the Raiders before becoming Washington’s head coach in 2009. The Huskies went 34-29 with Sarkisian before he left to take over at USC in 2014. Sarkisian was dismissed during the 2015 campaign but compiled a 12-6 mark in his limited stint in Los Angeles. He coordinated the offense for the Falcons from 2017-18 and called the plays for Alabama in 2019.