Who could replace Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia?
West Virginia is the latest opening in college football’s coaching carousel, as Dana Holgorsen is leaving Morgantown to be the next head coach at Houston. SBNation.com and The Athletic's Bruce Feldman are reporting Houston and Holgorsen are finalizing a deal, as his buyout drops to $1 million on Jan. 1. Holgorsen went 61-41 in eight years with the Mountaineers, which included two double-digit win seasons. West Virginia has a good tradition and plenty of fan support, so athletic director Shane Lyons will have no trouble finding interested candidates.
Who could replace Holgorsen at West Virginia? Here are eight names to watch:
West Virginia Football: 8 Coaching Candidates to Replace Dana Holgorsen
Neal Brown, Head Coach, Troy
Brown is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to run a Power 5 program. The Kentucky native is 35-16 since taking over at Troy prior to the 2015 season. The Trojans have won at least 10 games in each of the last three years. Before he took over at Troy, Brown worked as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Kentucky. With a strong core of talent returning for the Trojans in 2019, Brown’s stock could climb even higher after next season.
Tony Elliott, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Elliott is a rising star in the assistant ranks and has been a key cog in Clemson’s success in recent years. The California native has worked as Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator since 2015. Prior to that season, Elliott coached running backs for the Tigers (2011-14) and worked as a wide receivers coach at South Carolina State (2006-07) and Furman (2008-10). Elliott does not have any head coaching experience, but he’s a bright offensive mind and is regarded as an excellent recruiter. Additionally, he’s been the play-caller behind a Clemson offense averaging 44.3 points a game this season.
Dan Enos, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
Mike Locksley was the primary play-caller for Alabama’s offense this season, but Enos certainly had a huge role in the development of this unit and overall quarterback play. Enos previously worked as the head coach at Central Michigan from 2010-14, compiling a 26-36 mark and two bowl trips. Enos left the Chippewas to be the offensive coordinator at Arkansas (2015-17), and he joined Alabama’s staff prior to '17 after a short stint under Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. The Michigan native also has stops on his resume from stints at Western Michigan, North Dakota State, Cincinnati and Michigan State.
Luke Fickell, Head Coach, Cincinnati
Fickell won 11 games in his second year (15-10 overall) with the Bearcats and has a strong team returning for 2019, so he’s likely in no rush to jump to a Power 5 job. Fickell is from Ohio, so he’s certainly familiar with the recruiting territory and overall factors West Virginia must navigate to win at a high level. Nearly all of Fickell’s experience prior to Cincinnati took place at Ohio State, as he worked as an assistant under Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer and was the program’s interim coach in 2011.
Tony Gibson, Defensive Coordinator, West Virginia
Gibson has never been a head coach at the FBS level, but he’s a native of West Virginia and has worked in Morgantown as an assistant from 2001-07 and again from 2013-18. Gibson also has stops on his resume from stints at Michigan (2008-10), Pitt (2011) and Arizona (2012). Under Gibson’s watch, West Virginia’s defense finished second in the Big 12 in fewest points allowed in 2015-16 and held opponents to 5.83 yards a play in ’18.
Lance Leipold, Head Coach, Buffalo
After a 109-6 mark at Wisconsin-Whitewater from 2007-14, Leipold made the jump from Division III to the FBS and took over as head coach at Buffalo. The Bulls went 7-17 in Leipold’s first two years but have showed marked improvement over the last two seasons. Buffalo went 6-6 in 2017 and compiled a 10-4 mark with a MAC East title in ’18.
Mike Norvell, Head Coach, Memphis
Norvell is one of college football’s top coaches in the Group of 5 ranks. After working under Todd Graham as an assistant in stints at Tulsa (2009-10), Pitt (2011) and Arizona State (2012-15), Norvell was hired at Memphis after Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech. Norvell is 26-14 over the last three years and guided the Tigers to back-to-back AAC West Division titles. Norvell is also regarded for his work in developing offenses, as Memphis has averaged over 40 points a game in back-to-back seasons.
Rich Rodriguez, Offensive Coordinator, Ole Miss
This is a longshot to happen, but it’s worth a mention. Rodriguez previously coached at West Virginia from 2001-07, compiling a 60-26 mark with three seasons of at least 10 victories. However, Rodriguez didn’t leave on the best of terms when he departed for Michigan in 2008. Rodriguez went 15-22 with the Wolverines and was dismissed following the 2010 season. He took over at Arizona prior to the 2012 campaign and went 43-35 over six years. Rodriguez’s tenure in Tucson also ended in controversy, so there’s some baggage associated with him becoming a head coach once again.