Virginia's Bronco Mendenhall is stepping down as the head coach in Charlottesville following the team's bowl game. Mendenhall took over in 2016 and proceeded to record a 36-38 mark over six years. The Cavaliers have won at least six games in each of the last five seasons, including a 9-5 mark with a Coastal Division title in '19. Mendenhall previously went 99-43 at BYU from 2005-15. His overall record as a head coach is 135-81.
Who could replace Mendenhall at Virginia? Here are 14 names to watch in the coaching search:
14 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia
Jamey Chadwell, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
Chadwell's name has popped up a lot in connection with Power 5 jobs over the last two seasons. The Tennessee native would make a lot of sense here, as he's compiled a 29-19 overall mark at Coastal Carolina in four seasons as the head coach, including 21 victories over the last two. He also has stops as a head coach at Charleston Southern (35-14), Delta State (3-7), and North Greenville (22-14).
Curt Cignetti, Head Coach, James Madison
Cignetti has thrived at James Madison, going 31-4 since taking over in 2019. He also has previous stops as a head coach at Elon (2017-18), IUP (2011-16), and as an assistant in the ACC at NC State (2000-06).
Bill Clark, Head Coach, UAB
Clark has extensive ties to the state of Alabama and has spent his entire coaching career there, so it would be a bit of an interesting fit to move to the ACC. However, there's no doubt Clark is one of the best coaches at the Group of 5 level. UAB went 6-6 in his debut in 2014, but the program was disbanded for two seasons following that year. The Blazers returned with an 8-5 mark in '17 and are 48-26 overall under Clark's watch. UAB has also won two Conference USA titles.
Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
Like most of the candidates on this list, Elko's name has been mentioned for other Power 5 openings the last few years, and it's probably only a matter of time before he lands one of these jobs. He's considered a rising star in the coordinator ranks, guiding Texas A&M's defense to a place among the best in college football. Although Elko has no previous head-coaching Power 5 experience, in addition to his current stint in College Station, he’s worked as a successful defensive coordinator at Bowling Green, Wake Forest and Notre Dame.
Tony Elliott, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Clemson's offense took a step back this year, but Elliott is still among college football's top coordinators and is regarded for his work on the recruiting trail. Elliott has never been an FBS head coach, but he's due for an opportunity to run a Power 5 program.
Josh Gattis, Offensive Coordinator, Michigan
Gattis played in the ACC at Wake Forest and has developed a strong resume from stops as an assistant at Vanderbilt, Penn State and Alabama before becoming the offensive coordinator at Michigan. The Wolverines rank second in the Big Ten by averaging 37.3 points a game this year.
Will Healy, Head Coach, Charlotte
Healy is young (36) but is a coach poised to move quickly through the ranks. Also, he has some ties to the state after playing his college ball at Richmond. Healy started his coaching career as an assistant at Chattanooga (2009-15) before landing the top spot at Austin Peay. The Governors went 0-11 in his first year but improved to 13-10 over the next two seasons. Healy departed for Charlotte in 2019 and finished 7-6 in his debut, followed by a 7-11 mark over the last two years.
Mike Houston, Head Coach, East Carolina
Houston inked an extension at East Carolina, so this seems unlikely, but his name might get mentioned in the search. The North Carolina native is 14-19 with the Pirates but guided the team to a 7-5 finish this year after a 7-14 start. He also went 37-6 at James Madison (2016-18) and posted winning records at The Citadel (14-11) and Lenoir-Rhyne (29-8).
Charles Huff, Head Coach, Marshall
Huff is coming off a strong debut at Marshall, guiding the program to a 7-5 record and a second-place finish in Conference USA's East Division. The Maryland native played his college ball at Hampton and spent time as an assistant in the NFL with the Bills and at the college level with Western Michigan, Penn State, Alabama and Mississippi State. In addition to his strong on-field resume, Huff is regarded as an excellent recruiter.
Dan Lanning, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
Lanning has helped Georgia coach Kirby Smart build one of the nation's top defenses over the last few years, including the dominant 2021 unit limiting teams to 6.9 points a game. The Missouri native has never been an FBS head coach but is young (35) and has gained valuable experience working under Smart for the last four years.
Sean Lewis, Head Coach, Kent State
Lewis' stock is on the rise after the 2021 college football season, as he guided Kent State to just its second MAC East Division title this year. The Golden Flashes also finished 7-6 and won their bowl in 2019 under Lewis' direction. His overall record at Kent State is 19-22, however, his mark over the last three years is 17-12. Lewis also directs one of the nation's top offenses and has spent time as an assistant under Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois, Bowling Green and Syracuse.
Dan Mullen, Former Florida Head Coach
Mullen was dismissed at Florida this year, but his resume in Gainesville was still strong (34-15 and a SEC East title). He previously went 69-46 at Mississippi State from 2009-17 and is regarded for his work with developing offenses and quarterbacks. Mullen's biggest shortcoming at Florida was recruiting. Is he ready to jump back into things in the ACC?
Bill O'Brien, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
O'Brien has spent time in the ACC as an assistant at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke and has experience from stints as a head coach at Penn State and in the NFL with the Texans. He's also directed one of the top offenses in college football at Alabama this year. Does O'Brien want to be a college head coach again? Or could he look to stay in Tuscaloosa or find a different spot in the NFL this offseason?
Anthony Poindexter, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Virginia
In terms of candidates and past connections to this job, it doesn't get much better than the ones Poindexter has. He's from Virginia, played his college ball in Charlottesville, and also worked here as an assistant from 2004-13. Poindexter has also made stops as an assistant at UConn (2014-16), Purdue (2017-20) and Penn State (2021). He does not have any previous FBS experience as a head coach.