I couldn’t help noticing that people keep coming back to an article I wrote a month ago, before Lovie Smith’s incredible four-game winning streak took me out of coaching-search mode.
I had a HUGE list of coaching prospects that you should go back and look at for more details, but with some more football played since I made it, I think it’s time I updated these rankings.
Currently, three Power 5 jobs are open: the Florida State Seminoles, Arkansas Razorbacks, and of course our very own Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Jeremy Pruitt and Lovie Smith did remarkable work in getting off the hot seat quickly for the Tennessee Volunteers and Illinois Fighting Illini, and it’s looking like there might not be that many vacancies after this season, but you never can tell!
Tier 0: USC or Notre Dame?
Coaches in this tier will never coach at any Big Ten school except maybe Penn State in the future, but they’re almost certainly going to coach either the USC Trojans or Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the near future.
1. Urban Meyer, FS1 analyst
Your team is still not hiring Urban Meyer. All the money your school’s boosters could muster couldn’t convince him to lower himself to your pathetic also-ran program.
Tier 1: Blue Blood Poachables
If you’re reading this, your team is probably not hiring any of these guys. But perhaps if you’re FSU, the Michigan Wolverines...maybe just maybe the Michigan State Spartans? Probably not that last one, but you get the drift. These are guys you have your eye on.
2. PJ Fleck, HC Minnesota Golden Gophers
Fleck just signed a lengthy extension with Minnesota, but he’s backed out on long-term commitments before and the win over the Penn State Nittany Lions cemented him as the absolute top candidate in this class. Truthfully, I feel disgusting writing about this section, because it’s as though I’m writing about what successful companies with great business models your venture capital firm should acquire in a leveraged buyout and desiccate for profit like the vampire it is.
3. Bryan Harsin, HC Boise State Broncos
Broncs are still pretty good.
4. Dave Clawson, HC Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Forest couldn’t live up to the same standard as Minnesboata and will almost certainly be annihilated by the Clemson Tigers, but that doesn’t make Clawson’s run in Winston-Salem any less impressive
5. Jeff Brohm, HC Purdue Boilermakers
What Brohm has done given the decimation of his team is pretty remarkable. He’s definitely a steadying presence, and you can see young players improve week to week under him.
6. Matt Campbell, HC Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State is apparently a good enough win that it’s buoyed the Iowa Hawkeyes into the College Football Playoff rankings. They’re a legitimate force to be reckoned with in an interesting Big 12.
7. Mike Leach, HC Washington State Cougars
Leach’s name keeps getting thrown around as his Cougars struggle in PAC-12 play, and it’s hard to know if he wants to leave, if there’s friction with the administration or what the situation is.
Dropped: Dino Babers, HC Syracuse Orange
Yeah, Dino has to prove he can build a program instead of just one good team. He’s still good, but not necessarily the type you want to snatch up right now if you’re a college football oligarch.
Tier 2: Low-tier P5 home runs
The likes of Rutgers, Arkansas, and maybe, like, Boston College or Michigan State are looking here.
8. Gus Malzahn, if fired, HC Auburn Tigers
Auburn has now lost two games, and they still have to play the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide. I can’t stress enough how idiotic it would be for Auburn to fire him for anything less than, if we’re honest, PJ Fleck. With four losses, though, they very well may do it.
9. Luke Fickell, HC Cincinnati Bearcats
If Michigan State is reconsidering Mark Dantonio, it would be foolish for them not to give Fickell a call. Cincinnati’s only loss is to the monstrous Ohio State Buckeyes, and they’re the only undefeated team in the American so far.
10. Sonny Dykes, HC SMU Mustangs
I told you to watch Sonny Dykes! His stock is up HUGE after getting the Mustangs ranked for the first time since the 80’s, and they currently sit at the top of their division in the American. Their only loss was a shootout to Memphis, and Shane Buechele, Xavier Jones and Reggie Roberson (not to mention James Proche) have been a lot of fun to watch.
11. Mike Norvell, HC Memphis Tigers
The American West currently has three one-loss teams, and Memphis made their bid by handing SMU their first loss of the season.
12. Craig Bohl, HC Wyoming Cowboys
Wyoming has fallen back in the conference race but still boasts a perfect 5-0 record at home. They’ve lost three games, but none by more than 4 points. A head-scratcher at Tulsa is the worst of the three, as road losses to the San Diego State Aztecs and then last week at Boise State in overtime are nothing to be ashamed of.
13. Lance Leipold, HC Buffalo Bulls
Since I wrote the first edition, Buffalo is 3-0 and is one game behind the surprising Miami (OH) Redhawks for the division lead. Leipold struggled early but hasn’t let roster turnover destroy his program.
14. Jay Norvell, HC Nevada Wolfpack
Norvell’s experience is still a big reason I’d put him this high, but Nevada is bowl-eligible again and one game back of the division lead.
15. Willie Fritz, HC Tulane Green Wave
I’m willing to bump Fritz up here despite his team getting ethered by Memphis. He’s shown he can adapt his offense to his personnel and I think he can find a formula that works at the P5 level.
16. Billy Napier, HC Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
Time to get on board this hype train, because Napier is well-connected in the entire Southern coaching scene and has proven to be a very adept coach as well as a dynamite recruiter. In his second year in Lafayette, his Cajuns are on top of their division in the Sun Belt again, with their only conference loss a 17-7 defeat at the hands of App State’s potent offense. They slowed down the Mountaineers and contained Arkansas State’s Omar Bayless. I’m ready to put Napier in this tier: he’s going places.
17. Jeff Tedford, HC Fresno State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs have fallen off a bit from last year’s results after losing some starters, but Tedford’s record at Cal speaks for itself.
18. Rod Carey, HC Temple Owls
On merit, Carey should be higher, but he has a huge buyout because Temple didn’t want to get Manny Diaz-ed again.
19. Lane Kiffin, HC Florida Atlantic Owls
The UCF game has aged poorly, but they’re 5-1 in conference play and on top of the C-USA East standings. What more can you ask for?
20. Todd Graham, Freelancer
Still waiting by that phone
Tier 3: Promising prospects
These coaches could very well be in Tier 2 by season’s end, but have a few too many unanswered questions to call them no-doubt home runs
21. Chris Creighton, HC Eastern Michigan Eagles
I outlined how unique his situation was with a struggling athletic department, and any school that wants to tap him needs to explain that, since his Eagles are currently last in their division.
22. Steve Addazio, if fired, HC Boston College Eagles
Addazio is the B1Ggest coach not currently in the league, and as his Eagles struggle a little (currently 5-5 with a 3-4 conference record), the locals are getting restless. I’m a firm believer in building a program through the offensive line, and even if BC parts ways with him I still think he’d do well with a fresh start.
23. Graham Harrell, Offensive Coordinator, USC Trojans
Kedon Slovis has become an unlikely miracle worker against teams not named Oregon, and with USC just half a game out of the PAC 12 south lead, Harrell deserves some credit for saving Clay Helton’s ass. For now.
24. Ken Niumatalolo, HC Navy Midshipmen
Turns out Navy was just having a down year. You know about him already.
25. Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson Tigers
26. Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, LSU Tigers
Do they want the job?
27. Steve Sarkisian, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama Crimson Tide
28. Seth Littrell, HC North Texas Mean Green
I don’t know why they’re not better this year. Mason Fine is still in Denton.
29. Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma Sooners
30. Skip Holtz, HC Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
I still don’t understand how he was so bad at USF
31. Blake Anderson, HC Arkansas State Red Wolves
32. Jay Hopson, HC Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Hopson joins this list in his fourth year at the helm in Hattiesburg. His Eagles eviscerated Bill Clark’s UAB Blazers 37-2, and only a loss to Louisiana Tech mars his resume
33. Jeff Monken, HC Army Black Knights
Their season got a little off the rails...
34. Todd Monken, Offensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns
35. Bill Clark, HC UAB Blazers
36. Chuck Martin, HC Miami (OH) Redhawks
Tier 4: If You Can Justify It
These coaches have the potential to be embraced by your fans, but you’d better have a good explanation for hiring them at this point.
37. Willie Taggart, freelancer
He was put into an unfair situation in Florida State, but he did burn the Oregon Ducks to put himself in said situation. He might be toxic for a year or so, but he’ll definitely land on his feet somewhere
38. Nick Rolovich, HC Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Please don’t disrupt Hawaii
39. Tyson Helton, HC Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Helton has this program back to contending in pretty short order!
40. Mike Houston, HC East Carolina Pirates
Okay, maybe he’s not good enough to bounce after just one season in the American, but his Pirates damn near beat Cincinnati. The bad news is they’re still winless in conference play, but give him some time to establish a program.
41. Jamey Chadwell, HC Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
See Mike Houston
42. Josh Heupel, HC UCF Knights
Well this hasn’t gone terribly well. Still, at least Heupel has won the former Big East, unlike #43.
43. Jason Candle, HC Toledo Rockets
44. Greg Schiano, Schiano Man
Sorry, Rutgers, but unless I’m Rutgers, I don’t particularly want him over any of the dudes above.
45. Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Longhorns
46. Major Applewhite, Analyst, Alabama Crimson Tide
47. Mike Yurcich, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State Buckeyes
48. Mark Richt, TV guy
49. Bret Bielema, DL coach, New England Patriots
50. Butch Jones, Analyst, Alabama Crimson Tide
51. Matt Canada, Freelancer
52. Bob Surace, HC Princeton Tigers
53. Randy Shannon, Defensive Coordinator, UCF Knights
54. Bo Pellllini, HC Youngstown State Penguins
Bo is 1-4 since I wrote the last one
Tier 5: Still A Ways Off
55. Beau Baldwin, Offensive Coordinator, California Golden Bears
56. John Grass, HC Jacksonville State Gamecocks
57. Brian Bohannon, HC Kennesaw State Owls
58. Brock Spack, HC Illinois State Redbirds
59. Al Golden, LB Coach, Detroit Lions
60. Chad Lunsford, HC Georgia Southern Eagles
61. Frank Wilson, HC UTSA Roadrunners
62. Matt Viator, HC Louisiana Monroe Warhawks
63. Jake Spavital, HC Texas State Bobcats
64. Will Healy, HC Charlotte 49ers
65. Scott Loeffler, HC Bowling Green Falcons
66. Jimmy Lake, Defensive Coordinator, Washington Huskies
67. Tony Elliott, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson Tigers
68. Curt Mallory, HC Indiana State Sycamores
69. Brent Key, Offensive Line Coach, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
70. Paul Petrino, HC Idaho Vandals
71. Tosh Lupoi, Defensive Line Coach, Cleveland Browns
72. Eric Bienemy, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
73. Jedd Fisch, Offensive Assistant, Los Angeles Rams
74. Rod Smith, Offensive Coordinator, Illinois Fighting Illini
Tier 6: Nah
Here are some dudes that were on this list when I put it together last year that have since fallen out of favor
75. Charlie Strong, HC South Florida Bulls
76. Derek Mason, if fired, HC Vanderbilt Commodores
77. Walt Bell, HC Massachusetts Minutemen
78. Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Missisippi State Bulldogs
79. Bob Diaco, Defensive Coordinator, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
80. Mike Bobo, HC Colorado State Rams
81. Pep Hamilton, HC/GM, DC Defenders
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