Karl Dorrell was fired as the head coach at Colorado on Sunday. The Buffaloes were just 8-15 under Dorrell and were off to an 0-5 start in the 2022 college football season. Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense and defense and lost all five of its games by 23 or more points. Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson also was dismissed on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford is expected to work as the interim coach for the remainder of the year. The Buffaloes are off in Week 6 before returning to play on Oct. 15 versus California.
Who could replace Dorrell at Colorado? Here are some names to watch:
Colorado Football: Coaching Candidates to Replace Karl Dorrell
Blake Anderson, Head Coach, Utah State
Utah State is off to a slow start in 2022 (1-4), but Anderson is 63-44 overall as a head coach and has previous experience working at a Power 5 program from a stint at North Carolina (2012-13). Anderson went 51-37 and had just one losing season at Arkansas State from 2014-20. He inherited a Utah State team that went 1-5 in ’20 but guided the program to an 11-3 mark with a Mountain West title in ’21.
Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
As a former player and assistant at Colorado, Bieniemy’s name always pops up when this job opens. Is the former running back interested in a return to college or will he stay in the NFL to pursue openings this year? Bieniemy has worked with the Chiefs since ’13, with his last stint in college coming at Colorado from 2011-12.
Brent Brennan, Head Coach, San Jose State
Brennan’s name could pop up in the search at Arizona State, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him mentioned at Colorado. The California native has Pac-12 experience from stints as a graduate assistant at Washington and Arizona, along with a six-year run as the receivers coach at Oregon State (2011-16). San Jose State is not an easy job but Brennan has brought steady progress to the program. After a 3-22 start, the Spartans are 20-16 over the last four years and won the Mountain West title in ’20.
Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force
Calhoun’s name popped up in the last coaching search at Colorado. Could there be some interest in this opening this time around? Calhoun coaches at his alma mater, so it would take a good situation for him to leave Colorado Springs. The Oregon native took over at Air Force in 2007 and has accumulated a 115-76 mark over 16 seasons. The Falcons have four double-digit win seasons, including an 11-2 mark in ’21.
Matt Entz, Head Coach, North Dakota State
Entz has maintained North Dakota State’s place atop the FCS ranks, as the Bison are 41-5 under his watch since ’19. The Iowa native has never worked at the FBS level and had no previous experience as a head coach before his stint at NDSU.
Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Tulane
Fritz has won at every stop in his coaching career and should get a look for Power 5 openings this offseason. The Kansas native went 97-47 at Central Missouri from 1997-09 and guided Sam Houston State to a 40-15 mark over four years (2010-13). He departed the Bearkats for a two-year stint at Georgia Southern (2014-15) and guided the Eagles to a 17-7 mark. Fritz took over at Tulane in '16 and is 35-44 at one of the AAC's toughest jobs. The Green Wave are 4-1 through five games this season and posted at least six wins in three consecutive years (2018-20).
Jeff Grimes, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
Could Colorado look to a former assistant for its next head coach? Grimes previously worked in Boulder from 2007-08 as the program’s offensive line coach under Dan Hawkins. The Texas native also spent time as an assistant at Boise State, Arizona State, BYU, Auburn, Virginia Tech and LSU before becoming a play-caller at BYU (2018-20) and Baylor (2021-22). The Bears showed marked improvement on offense in ‘21, averaging 6.3 yards per play (up from 4.4 in '20). Baylor is averaging 6.2 yards per play through five games in ’22.
Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, USC
Grinch’s name is likely to pop up in searches this offseason, as the Ohio native has helped USC’s defense take a big step forward in his first year with the program. The former Mount Union player has no head-coaching experience but has built a solid resume from other stints as an assistant at Missouri, Washington State, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Bryan Harsin, Head Coach, Auburn
It’s no secret Harsin’s future is very much in doubt at Auburn. And if he doesn’t return to the Plains, will he look for another head-coaching job this offseason? Harsin went 69-19 at Boise State from 2014-20 and is 9-9 as the head coach at Auburn. Harsin wasn't a great fit on the Plains, but his name will likely surface for open jobs in the ’22-23 cycle.
Tom Herman, Former Texas Head Coach
Herman has been away from the sidelines since his dismissal at Texas after the 2020 season, but his name could pop in coaching searches this year. The Ohio native spent time as an assistant at a handful of stops, including Sam Houston State (2001-04), Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08), Iowa State (2009-11), and Ohio State (2012-14) before landing his first head-coaching job at Houston. The Cougars went 22-4 under Herman, which helped him land the top spot at Texas. The Longhorns finished 32-18 under Herman (2017-20).
Jay Hill, Head Coach, Weber State
If you are looking for an under-the-radar coach to watch in Colorado's search, Hill could be a name to remember. The Utah native worked with the Utes as an on-field assistant from 2005-13 and took over at Weber State prior to '14. The Wildcats went 2-10 in his debut but hasn't posted a losing record in each of the last seven years. Weber State is 62-36 under Hill and has earned five trips to the FCS Playoffs.
Jeff Lebby, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Lebby doesn’t have any experience as a head coach, but he’s one of the rising stars in the assistant ranks and a wide-open style of play would certainly work in the Pac-12. The Texas native had stops as an assistant at Baylor, Southeastern, UCF and Ole Miss before landing at Oklahoma prior to ’22.
Brian Lindgren, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon State
Lindgren is a name familiar to Colorado, as he worked in the program from 2013-17 as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. After departing Boulder, Lindgren has called plays at Oregon State since '18. He doesn't have any experience as a head coach, but Lindgren is a rising star in the assistant ranks.
Sean Lewis, Head Coach, Kent State
Lewis runs a wide-open offense and has an entertaining style of play that would be a good fit in the Pac-12. Also, the Wisconsin native is one of the youngest head coaches (36) in the nation and a rising star in the MAC. Dino Babers' protege went 2-10 in his debut (2018). However, the Golden Flashes – one of the MAC's toughest jobs – are 19-17 over the last three years and won the East Division in '21. Lewis is a native of Wisconsin and has no Pac-12 coaching experience.
Jim McElwain, Head Coach, Central Michigan
McElwain is probably a longshot here, but his name has popped up in searches for jobs in Pac-12 territory in recent years. The Montana native also had a stint at Colorado State, going 22-15 and earning two bowl trips from 2012-14. McElwain’s resume also includes a stop in the NFL with the Raiders and college assistant stints at Fresno State, Michigan State, Louisville and Michigan. McElwain guided Florida to a 22-12 mark from 2015-17 and is 21-17 at Central Michigan since ’19.
Bronco Mendenhall, Former Virginia Head Coach
Mendenhall stepped away from coaching at Virginia after the 2021 season but could be interested in a return to the sidelines. The Utah native went 36-38 with the Cavaliers, won the ACC Coastal title in ’19 and guided the program to four bowl trips over the final five years. Prior to Virginia, Mendenhall went 99-43 at BYU from 2005-15. Mendenhall is a program builder and has spent most of his coaching career out West. If he’s interested in a return to the sidelines this offseason, Mendenhall would be a good fit at Colorado.
Todd Monken, Offensive Coordinator, Georgia
Monken is among college football’s top play-callers and has experience as a head coach from a three-year stint at Southern Miss (2013-15). The Golden Eagles showed marked improvement over his tenure, as the program went 1-11 in ’13 but finished 9-5 two years later. Since the stint at Southern Miss, Monken has worked in the NFL (Buccaneers and Browns) and has called the plays at Georgia since ’20. Monken has no Pac-12 experience but has a wealth of experience from stops at Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Oklahoma State and LSU.
Dan Mullen, Former Florida Head Coach
Mullen was dismissed as the head coach at Florida after the ’21 season, but a return to the sidelines could be in order. Although things didn’t work out in Gainesville, Mullen went 34-15 over four years and guided the program to an SEC East title in ’20. Before his stint at Florida, Mullen compiled a 69-46 record at Mississippi State (2009-17). The bulk of Mullen’s coaching career took place on the East Coast or in the South, but he did have a two-year stint at Utah (2003-04) so there’s some familiarity with the region.
Bill O’Brien, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
O’Brien has a good gig as the offensive coordinator at Alabama, but his name is expected to pop up for openings this season. The Massachusetts native currently calls the plays for a dynamic Crimson Tide offense and has FBS head-coaching experience from a successful stint at Penn State (15-9 from 2012-13). O’Brien then went 52-48 as the head coach of the Houston Texans from 2014-20. He does not have any experience coaching in the Pac-12.
Ricky Rahne, Head Coach, Old Dominion
Could the Buffaloes look to a native of Colorado to lead its program? Rahne doesn't have any experience in the Pac-12, but his resume is strong due to stops as an assistant at Kansas State, Vanderbilt and Penn State. Old Dominion went 6-7 in Rahne's debut last year and is 2-3 through five matchups in '22.
Matt Rhule, Head Coach, Carolina Panthers
Rhule is on the hot seat in 2022, and if things don’t work out in the NFL, a return to the collegiate sidelines could be an option. The New York native worked as an assistant at a handful of stops, including Temple, Western Carolina and UCLA before a stint in the NFL with the Giants (2012). Rhule took over as Temple’s head coach in ’13 and guided the Owls to a 28-23 mark over four years. He was hired at Baylor in ’17, and after a 1-11 mark in his debut, proceeded to go 18-9 over the final two years.
Troy Taylor, Head Coach, Sacramento State
Taylor spent one year as a graduate assistant at Colorado (1995) and has recent Pac-12 experience from a stint as Utah’s offensive coordinator from 2017-18. The California native also spent time as an assistant at California (1996-00) and thrived as the head coach at Folsom High School from 2002-15. Taylor is 22-7 as the head coach at Sacramento State since ’19 and has guided the program to two trips to the FCS Playoffs.
Ryan Walters, Defensive Coordinator, Illinois
Walters is a native of Colorado and played his college ball in Boulder from 2004-08. He started his coaching career a year later (’09) as a student assistant with the Buffaloes and made stops at Arizona (2010-11), Oklahoma (’12) and North Texas (’13) before an extended stint at Missouri (2015-20). Walters spent five years with the Tigers, including the final three as the defensive coordinator. The Colorado native was hired on at Illinois to be part of Bret Bielema’s staff and helped the defense improve from 13th in scoring defense in ’20 to sixth in ’21. The Fighting Illini lead the Big Ten in scoring defense (8.4 points a game) through five games.