With three college football coaches fired by early October, the timetable for picking a new coach this year is already shrinking.
Whenever an athletic director decides to make a change, they usually aren’t making the decision without much background or information on the potential replacements. Most football administrations likely know if a coach is interested in a particular job before making a change.
With coaching moves already happening and more likely to come in the next few weeks, it’s time to take a look at the coaches that will be in demand in December.
Baylor’s Art Briles, Boise State’s Chris Petersen and TCU’s Gary Patterson are always discussed when any high-level BCS job opens. But will they actually leave this offseason? That’s the million-dollar question.
Assuming no program can hire one of those three coaches, the focus in coaching searches will likely turn to Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Ball State’s Pete Lembo or Ohio State’s Tom Herman.
Here’s a look at 10 names who will be targeted in coaching searches this offseason, along with a few coordinators from BCS programs and head coaches on the rise.
Head Coaches…Always in Demand
These three coaches will be discussed with seemingly every big BCS vacancy this offseason. But will any of them actually leave their current school?
Art Briles, Baylor
Prior to his arrival at Baylor, the Bears struggled just to escape the cellar of the Big 12 South. From 1997-2007, Baylor went 31-94 with no bowl appearances and lost at least eight games in 10 out of those 11 seasons. In six years under Briles, Baylor has been molded into a top-25 program with three consecutive bowl appearances. Baylor won 10 games in 2011, which was the school’s first double-digit win total since 1980. Briles has spent his entire coaching and playing career in the state of Texas, spending time in the high school ranks as an assistant at Sundown High School in 1979, followed by a stop at Sweetwater (1980-84), before serving as a head coach at Hamlin (1984-86), Georgetown (1986-88) and Stephenville (1988-99). Briles worked as an assistant at Texas Tech from 2000-03 and was hired as Houston’s head coach in '03. Briles is also regarded as an outstanding offensive coach and has done a good job of identifying and developing talent at Baylor. With his background in Texas, Briles would be a good fit to replace Mack Brown. However, with a new stadium opening at Baylor next season, it’s hard to see the Texas native taking over in Austin.
Gary Patterson, TCU
Patterson has been instrumental in TCU’s rise to Big 12 membership, and the Kansas native is one of the top defensive minds in college football. Patterson worked under Dennis Franchione at Texas State and New Mexico and was promoted to the top spot at TCU in 2000. Under his direction, the Horned Frogs are 118-39, which includes an undefeated season in 2010 and a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Patterson will be tough to pry away from TCU – if at all – but programs like Texas or USC will certainly try.
Chris Petersen, Boise State
It seems Petersen’s name is connected every time a high-level BCS job is open. However, the California native hasn’t been tempted to leave Boise State. And who can blame him? The Broncos are 87-10 under his watch, recorded four top-10 finishes in the Associated Press poll and have played in two BCS games. There’s pressure to win at Boise State, but nothing like the pressure of taking over a program like USC or Texas. It may be tough for the Broncos to replicate the 38-2 mark it accumulated from 2008-10, but Petersen should still have this program in the mix for a spot among the top 25 teams in the nation every year.
The Next 10
Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green
Clawson gets a bad rap for his one season as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, but the New York native has been a successful head coach at three different stops. After starting 3-19 at Fordham, Clawson recorded three consecutive winning seasons and led the Rams to a playoff berth in 2002. Clawson was 29-20 in four seasons at Richmond and is 27-29 with two bowl appearances at Bowling Green. While Clawson has a background on offense, it was his defense that led the MAC in fewest yards allowed last season and ranks No. 1 after six games in 2013.
Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State
Pat Hill had a solid stint at Fresno State, but the program seemed to grow stale at the end of his tenure. DeRuyter inherited good talent and has elevated the Bulldogs into BCS bowl contention this year. Fresno State went 9-4 in DeRuyter’s first season and is off to a 5-0 start this season. Prior to taking over at Fresno State, DeRuyter made stops as an assistant at Ohio, Navy, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M. Could the California native replace Lane Kiffin at USC?
James Franklin, head coach, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is one of the toughest BCS jobs in the nation. From 1983-2008, the Commodores had only one winning year and just four bowl trips in the school’s history prior to Frankin’s arrival. However, under Franklin, Vanderbilt has back-to-back bowl appearances and went 9-4 last season – the best record by the Commodores since 1982. Franklin also has a wealth of experience as an assistant from stops at James Madison, Washington State, Maryland, Kansas State and in the NFL with the Packers. The Pennsylvania native is regarded as an excellent recruiter, and his background on offense will be attractive for programs looking for a jumpstart on that side of the ball. Franklin has to be near the top of Pat Haden’s list at USC, but his name will likely come up in connection with several jobs.
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
Herman is a genius. Literally. The Ohio native is a member of MENSA – the national high-IQ society – and directs one of the top offenses in college football. The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring offense last season, averaging 37.2 points a game. In 2013, Ohio State has been even better, averaging 46.8 points per contest and averaging 492.8 yards per game. Prior to joining coach Urban Meyer’s staff at Ohio State, Herman worked as an assistant at Sam Houston State and was the offensive coordinator at Texas State, Rice and Iowa State. In 2008, the Owls averaged 41.3 points a game and ranked fifth nationally in passing offense.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, UL Lafayette
Hudspeth isn’t short on intensity, and it won’t be long before he’s in charge of a BCS program. The Mississippi native has stops as an assistant at Central Arkansas, Delta State, Navy and Mississippi State, along with a successful run as North Alabama’s head coach from 2002-08. Under his watch, the Lions went 66-21 and made five playoff appearances. Hudspeth inherited a program that went 3-9 in the season prior to his arrival, but the Ragin’ Cajuns are 21-10 under his watch and have back-to-back bowl wins. With his experience in the South, Hudspeth would be a good fit in the SEC. However, will there be a job vacancy this offseason in college football’s premier conference?
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State
It was somewhat of a surprise Lembo didn’t receive much attention for open jobs last offseason, but that should change this year. Lembo has been successful at three different stops. From 2001-05, Lembo went 44-14 at Lehigh and led the Mountain Hawks to two playoff appearances. Lembo moved on to Elon in 2006 and stayed there until 2010, recording a 35-22 mark. In three seasons at Ball State, Lembo is 20-11 and has four wins over BCS teams, including an impressive 48-27 victory at Virginia last Saturday. Lembo is due for a promotion in the near future, and programs like Connecticut would be wise to inquire about his interest. However, would Lembo hold out for a job in the ACC or Big Ten?
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
Morris has no head coaching experience on his resume, but he will generate plenty of interest from athletic directors this offseason. The Texas native worked as a high school head coach from 1994-2009, including a successful 32-0 stint at Lake Travis from 2008-09. Morris was hired to replace Gus Malzahn as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator in 2010, and the Golden Hurricane averaged 505.6 yards per game under his watch. His work at Tulsa caught the attention of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, and after three seasons, it’s clear this hire has worked out well for Clemson. The Tigers have increased their yards and points per game average in each of Morris’ three years in Death Valley and set a single-season record with 533 points in 2012. There’s no question Morris knows offense, and it’s only a matter of time before he has a chance to run his own program.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi’s name has already circulated for the Connecticut job, but the 47-year-old coach could be coveted by any open BCS vacancy this offseason. Narduzzi started his coaching career in 1990 as a graduate assistant at Miami (Ohio) and made stops as an assistant at Rhode Island and Northern Illinois, before taking over as a defensive coordinator with the RedHawks in 2003. Narduzzi left Miami (Ohio) to be the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati in 2004 and followed coach Mark Dantonio to Michigan State in 2007. Under Narduzzi’s watch, the Spartans ranked in the top 10 nationally in total and scoring defense in 2011-12 and led the nation in total defense in 2013. Narduzzi doesn’t have head coaching experience, but he’s one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama
Nick Saban plays a large role in shaping Alabama’s defense, but Smart is still held in high regard among coaching circles and will be the next Saban assistant to take a head coach job. Smart is well-versed in life in the SEC, as he played defensive back at Georgia and worked at LSU, Georgia and now Alabama as an assistant. The Alabama native also spent one season with the Dolphins in 2006. In five seasons calling the defensive signals for the Crimson Tide, Smart’s defenses have never ranked outside of the top 10 in scoring and total defense. Considering Alabama is loaded with talent for the next few years, Smart’s defense will continue to be ranked among the nation’s elite, and he can be selective in choosing his first head coaching gig.
Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington
In just two seasons, Wilcox has transformed Washington’s defense from one of the worst to one of the best in the Pac-12. The former Oregon defensive back started his coaching career at Boise State in 2001 as a graduate assistant and after a three-year stint at California, he returned to coordinate the Broncos’ defense in 2006. Wilcox directed Tennessee’s defense under Derek Dooley from 2010-11 and returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2012. Washington ranked 106th nationally in total defense and allowed 35.9 points a game in the year prior to Wilcox’s arrival, but the Huskies finished 31st nationally in yards allowed in 2012 and held opponents to just 24.2 points a game. And after five games in 2013, Washington leads the Pac-12 in total defense. Wilcox is only 36, but he’s ready for a chance to be a head coach. Could he be a possible replacement in Boise if Chris Petersen decides to leave?
Other Coordinators to Watch
Mike Bobo, offensive coordinator, Georgia
Opinions on Bobo seemed to be mixed from around the SEC, but the former Georgia quarterback has coordinated some very successful offenses. The Bulldogs have ranked in the top 40 of total offense in three out of the last five seasons and are averaging 530 yards per game in 2013. Bobo may need to take a non-BCS head coach job first, but he’s been a solid coordinator and deserves a promotion to run his own program.
Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame
Diaco played under Hayden Fry at Iowa and has quickly ascended the coaching ranks. He made stops as an assistant at Western Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Virginia, before taking the Cincinnati defensive coordinator position in 2009. Diaco followed Brian Kelly to Notre Dame in 2010, and from 2010-12, the Fighting Irish improved their total defense numbers, including a No. 7 finish nationally last season. Diaco does not have any prior head coaching experience.
D.J. Durkin, defensive coordinator, Florida
Durkin was promoted to defensive coordinator after Dan Quinn left for the NFL after the 2012 season. The Ohio native is highly regarded among coaches in the SEC and has spent time at Bowling Green, Florida, Notre Dame and Stanford as an assistant. Durkin has learned from some of the best coaches in college football during the BCS era, working under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.
Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
Frost is this year’s Kliff Kingsbury. The 38-year-old Nebraska native is piloting one of the nation’s top offensive attacks and will eventually be a head coach. Frost went 24-2 in his two years as Nebraska’s starting quarterback from 1995-97 and had a short career in the NFL as a safety. Frost started his coaching career at Kansas State in 2006 and was hired as an assistant at Northern Iowa in 2007. He worked with the Panthers for two seasons, including a stint as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2008. Frost was hired by Chip Kelly at Oregon in 2009 and worked as the team’s wide receivers coach until Kelly left for the NFL. So far, Oregon’s offense hasn’t missed a beat under Frost’s direction, averaging 630.4 yards and 59.2 points a game.
Brian Lindgren, offensive coordinator, Colorado
Looking for the next rising star in the offensive coordinator ranks? Look no further than Boulder, Colo. Lindgren is a former Idaho quarterback who started his coaching career at Redlands in 2005. He left for Northern Arizona in 2006 and stayed with the Lumberjacks until 2011, serving as the offensive coordinator from 2009-11. Under Lindgren’s watch, Northern Arizona finished 5th, 42nd and 14th nationally in total offense. Lindgren was hired by Mike MacIntyre as the offensive coordinator at San Jose State in 2012, and the Spartans finished sixth nationally in passing and averaged 34.8 points per game. In four games this season, Colorado is averaging 402 yards per game in 2013, which is a 100-yard improvement from '12.
Seth Littrell, offensive coordinator, Indiana
Littrell is another Mike Leach disciple. He played under Leach at Oklahoma and joined Texas Tech’s staff in 2005 as a running backs coach. Littrell worked at Arizona under Mike Stoops from 2009-11, spending the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator. The Wildcats ranked ninth nationally in passing offense in 2010 and improved to No. 3 nationally in '11. In one season with the Hoosiers – and having to use three different quarterbacks – Littrell guided the offense to a No. 33 finish nationally and averaged 30.8 points a game.
Derek Mason, defensive coordinator, Stanford
Mason is the architect behind one of the nation’s best defenses. The Arizona native was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2011, and the Cardinal finished second in the Pac-12 in total defense that season, followed by a No. 1 finish in 2012. Mason has never been a head coach and has worked as an assistant on both sides of the ball, including a stop as a wide receivers coach at Utah in 2002.
Philip Montgomery, offensive coordinator, Baylor
Montgomery doesn’t get enough national credit for his work as Baylor’s offensive coordinator. The Texas native has worked under coach Art Briles since 2003, and both have been critical in developing the Bears’ offense into one of the best in the nation. Montgomery calls the plays for Baylor, guiding the Bears to an average of 572.2 yards per game in 2012 and a whopping 779.5 yards per game this season. Baylor also set or tied or set 101 school records in 2011, with quarterback Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy.
Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State
Looking for the next Chad Morris? Look no further than Tempe, Ariz. Norvell is only 31 and coordinates one of the Pac-12’s top offenses at Arizona State. The Sun Devils averaged 38.4 points a game last season and are tied for 16th nationally after five games this year, averaging 42.2 points a contest. Prior to Arizona State, Norvell worked for Arizona State coach Todd Graham at Tulsa and with Pittsburgh in 2011. Norvell isn’t in any hurry to leave Tempe, but he should get a chance to be a head coach in the next few years.
Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator, Alabama
Nick Saban is known for his defenses, but his assistant tree has produced a couple of head coaches from the offensive side. Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain are the most recent head coach hires, and Nussmeier could be next. The former Idaho quarterback has stops as an assistant in the CFL and in the NFL, before coordinating offenses at Fresno State, Washington and Alabama. In Nussmeier’s first season as the Crimson Tide’s play-caller in 2012, Alabama averaged 35.7 points a game and ranked second in the SEC in rushing offense.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Venables played under Bill Snyder and coached under Bob Stoops at Oklahoma – it doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to experience. The Kansas native left Oklahoma for Clemson after Mike Stoops returned to Norman to call plays in 2011. The move has paid dividends for the Tigers, as their defense showed improvement at the end of 2012 and is holding opponents to 16.6 points a game this fall.
Three More Head Coaches on the Rise
Matt Campbell, Toledo
Campbell is one of college football’s youngest head coaches and played at ultra-successful Mount Union College. The Ohio native spent time as an assistant at Mount Union, Bowling Green and Toledo, and was promoted to the Rockets' head coach after Tim Beckman left for Illinois. Campbell led Toledo to a bowl win over Air Force in 2011 and is 12-7 in his first two full seasons.
Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Johnson had no assistant or head coaching experience prior to taking over at Tulane. But after 18 career games, Johnson clearly has the Green Wave on the right track. Tulane finished 2-10 in 2012, but the Green Wave are 4-2 and should make their first bowl game since 2002 this year.
Justin Fuente, Memphis
After a horrible two-year stint under Larry Porter, Memphis made the right move to hire Fuente. In the three years prior to Fuente’s arrival, the Tigers went 5-31. However, Fuente went 4-8 last season, which included a three-game winning streak to close out the season. Memphis is 1-3 this year, with losses by seven points to a solid UCF team, along with a two-point defeat to MTSU and a 28-14 loss against Duke. It’s clear Fuente has Memphis moving in the right direction. And it won’t be long before athletic directors around the country start to take notice.
Non-BCS Coordinators Poised for a Promotion
Mike Elko, defensive coordinator, Bowling Green
The MAC is home to a handful of explosive offenses, but Bowling Green has been winning with defense. The Falcons led the MAC in total, scoring, rush and pass defense last season and rank No. 1 after six games in 2013. Elko’s defense held opponents to just 296.6 yards per game last season and generated 2.9 sacks a game in 2012.
Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, East Carolina
Riley is a Mike Leach disciple, spending 2003-09 in Lubbock with the Red Raiders, then followed Ruffin McNeill to East Carolina in 2010. Under his direction, the Pirates averaged 414.3 yards and 31.6 points per game from 2010-12 and rank second in Conference USA in scoring offense this season.
Nick Rolovich, offensive coordinator, Nevada
Rolovich has an interesting background of offensive styles in his coaching career, as he worked at Hawaii with the Run and Shoot offense under Greg McMackin from 2008-11 and joined Nevada’s staff in '12, picking up the Pistol offense from Chris Ault. Rolovich briefly left for Temple last offseason but decided to remain in Reno. Under his direction, Nevada led the Mountain West in total offense last year and is averaging 435.2 yards per game in 2013.
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