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Duke Football: 11 Coaching Candidates to Replace David Cutcliffe

Duke Football: David Cutcliffe

Duke Football: David Cutcliffe

Duke will have a new coach for the 2022 college football season, as the program and David Cutcliffe agreed to a mutual agreement for separation on Sunday. This is one of the toughest jobs at the Power 5 level, but Cutcliffe helped the Blue Devils become an annual threat to make a bowl game from 2013-18. However, the program was trending in the wrong direction over the last couple of seasons, dropping Cutcliffe's overall record to 77-97 in Durham.

Who could replace Cutcliffe at Duke? Here are 11 names to watch in the coaching search:

11 Coaching Candidates to Replace David Cutcliffe at Duke

Troy Calhoun, Head Coach, Air Force
Calhoun played his college ball at Air Force and coaches at his alma mater, so there’s no guarantee he would leave for a Power 5 job. However, Duke would be wise to inquire about his interest. Calhoun is 110-75 since taking over at the Academy, which includes three seasons of 10-plus victories and a Mountain Division title in 2015.

Jamey Chadwell, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
Chadwell might be aiming higher than Duke, but the program would be wise to inquire about his interest. The Tennessee native has worked as a head coach at four different stops, including North Greenville, Delta State and Charleston Southern before taking over at Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are 29-19 under his watch, with the program winning 21 games over the last two years.

Curt Cignetti, Head Coach, James Madison
Cignetti worked his way through the assistant ranks with stops at Temple, Pitt, NC State and Alabama before landing his first collegiate head-coaching job at IUP in 2011. After a 53-17 record with the Crimson Hawks from 2011-16, Cignetti went 14-9 at Elon (2017-18) before replacing Mike Houston at James Madison. The Dukes are 31-4 under Cignetti's watch since the '19 season.

Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
It’s only a matter of time before Elko gets a chance to run a Power 5 program, as he emerged as one of the nation’s top assistants during the last three seasons as Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator. Prior to College Station, Elko worked as the play-caller on defense at Bowling Green, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Elko has no experience as a head coach.

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Marcus Freeman, Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
Freeman is a rising star in the assistant ranks and might wait for a bigger job, but he's a name to keep on the watch list for openings this offseason. The Ohio native made stops as an assistant at Kent State and Purdue before becoming Cincinnati's defensive coordinator in 2017. After four years with the Bearcats, Freeman left for South Bend and a chance to call plays at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish own one of the nation's top defenses, limiting teams to just 18.3 points a game this year. 

Josh Gattis, Offensive Coordinator, Michigan
Gattis is a native of Durham and played his college ball at Wake Forest, so there's already plenty of familiarity with this program and the ACC. He worked as an assistant at Western Michigan, Vanderbilt, Penn State and Alabama before taking over as Michigan's offensive coordinator in 2019. Gattis does not have any experience as a head coach.

Will Healy, Head Coach, Charlotte
Healy is young (36 years old) and would bring plenty of fresh energy into the program. The Tennessee native went 13-21 at Austin Peay from 2016-18 and is 14-17 at Charlotte since taking over prior to the ’19 season. While the resume is a little light, Healy is a rising star and might move up the coaching ladder quickly if he continues to progress at Charlotte.

Mike Houston, Head Coach, East Carolina
Houston is a rising star in the Group of 5 ranks, guiding East Carolina to a 7-5 mark this year to earn the program’s first bowl bid since 2014. The Pirates are 14-19 in three seasons under Houston but have showed steady progress after a 4-8 debut in ’19. Houston also went 37-6 at James Madison (2016-18), 14-11 at The Citadel (2014-15) and recorded a 29-8 mark at Lenoir-Rhyne (2011-13).

Sean Lewis, Head Coach, Kent State
Lewis is another up-and-coming coach to watch for openings this offseason. Kent State is a difficult job, but Lewis has guided the program to a 19-22 mark since taking over in 2018, which includes a 7-5 mark and a MAC East title in '21. The Golden Flashes also went 7-6 with a bowl victory in '19. Prior to taking over in Kent, Lewis spent time as an assistant under Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois, Bowling Green and Syracuse. 

Jeff Monken, Head Coach, Army
Could Duke think outside of the box and make a move to the option? Monken went 38-16 at Georgia Southern from 2010-13 and is 57-42 at Army since ’14. The Black Knights have just one losing season since ’16 and have made four bowl trips in that span (expected to be five after ’21).

Bill O’Brien, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
O’Brien worked as Duke’s offensive coordinator from 2005-06, so he already has some natural ties to the program. The Massachusetts native also spent time as an assistant in the NFL (Patriots) before landing the top spot at Penn State in ’12. O’Brien went 15-9 over two years with the Nittany Lions before leaving to take over as the Houston Texans’ head coach. O’Brien was fired as Houston’s coach but went 52-48 during stint. He was hired as Alabama’s play-caller prior to ’21 and has directed one of the SEC’s top offenses.