Up and Coming Coaches and Job Openings

If you aren’t a hardcore football fan like I am, you may not be familiar with the name Justin Fuente. You may not have heard of Tom Herman, Matt Rhule, or Dino Babers. With so many coaching jobs coming available some college football fans are going to be learning some new names.

The biggest opening of all is the one at USC. Some people will disagree with this comment, but USC is one of the top coaching jobs in the entire country. Several former USC coaches have gone on to NFL jobs like John McKay, John Robinson and now Pete Carroll.

Others, however, have crashed and burned there.

When Pat Haden fired Steve Sarkisian, he placed Offensive Coordinator Clay Helton in charge. Clay Helton was placed in charge in 2013 when interim head coach Ed Orgeron quit when he found out the job was going to Steve Sarkisian instead of himself. Helton wanted the job then and he still wants the job.

To have any chance at all of landing this job, Clay Helton will have to win out which is highly possible. Helton took over before the Trojan game against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and USC obviously lost that game. The Trojans played well in the loss and then they beat formerly unbeaten Utah like a rented mule.

Since then, they also beat California in Berkeley and they have games remaining with Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and rival UCLA.

If Helton does not win the remaining games, look for USC to go national for some new blood. Of course, most of the rumors have Chip Kelly spurning the NFL and taking the USC job.

I really don’t think it’s that likely, but stranger things have happened.

Other candidates could be Jack Del Rio who is the current head coach at Oakland, Jeff Fisher the head coach at St Louis, or any other number of guys like Dan Mullen of Mississippi State, or even Kevin Sumlin of Texas A%M.

The one thing to remember is that Pat Haden will be doing the hiring, so there’s just no predicting which way he would go. Trying to get a read on Haden is about like picking the winner of a Virginia Tech game this season. There’s just no telling which way this will go.

But, whoever is coaching USC next season will have talent to work with by the truckloads.

I don’t know which job should be considered the better one, South Carolina or Miami. Personally, I believe Miami would be superior mostly because they have won 5 national championships. South Carolina would get the nod from some just because they are in the SEC.

Miami is a very desirable place to live, for some people. I don’t like it, personally, but a lot of people do. It’s an easy sell to recruits, plus South Florida has as much talent as anywhere in the entire


The right coach can sell the climate and the past national championships and do really well if he can just keep the top talent at home. I wrote about the talent coming out of that area here: Miami recruiting

Some people think that Mario Cristobal the Offensive Line coach at Alabama is the front runner. Some strange rumors are also floating around about Charlie Strong of Texas and Dana Holgerson of West Virginia.

This one should be interesting. The Hurricanes have some talent and a good recruiting class, so far.

South Carolina rumors seem to center around Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart.  But, the dream candidate here is Mark Dantonio the head coach at Michigan State. He is a South Carolina alum, but it’s not likely he will leave Michigan State. Justin Fuente of Memphis, Tom Herman of Houston and Matt Rhule of Temple are some hot names in the coaching ranks right now and any of those guys could be candidates.

There is also the slight possibility that the Gamecocks could keep interim coach, Shawn Elliott.

Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech announcing his retirement at the end of the season should not have been a surprise. He’s been coaching the Hokies for 29 years and I challenge you without using Google to name his predecessor at Virginia Tech. I’m betting you can’t. Beamer put Virginia Tech on the map and the phrase ‘Beamer Ball’ was thrown around by the Talking Heads for years. Beamer Ball, if you haven’t heard, is Virginia Tech brand of football which was won by great defense and

Special Teams play. Beamer turned his Offense and Defense over to coordinators that he trusted and coached the Special Teams himself.

His 276 career wins will be hard to replace, even though his teams have slipped in recent seasons.

Alabama Defensive Coordinator is reportedly interested in the Virginia Tech opening, too.  Justin Fuente, the rising star at Memphis, is said to be a front runner here. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez is supposedly in the mix, also. He was outstanding at West Virginia before taking the Michigan game and failing miserably. He may not be interested in leaving Arizona.

Another prospect to consider is long time Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster. I don’t think he will get a shot and that’s really unfortunate because he has been loyal to the Hokies for all of these years.

In the Big 10, Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota will be looking for new coaches.

Of course, Justin Fuente’s name is going to come up with every good job out there. He turned a miserable Memphis team into a winner in a short time and they were a mess when he got there. He deserves the attention.

Dino Babers of Bowling Green, P.J, Fleck of Western Michigan, Mark Hudspeth of Louisiana

Lafayette, Ken Niumatalolo of Navy are head coaches that are going to be mentioned with most of the top jobs. But, throw in assistants like Scott Frost of Oregon, Chris Ash of Ohio State and several others.


North Texas is probably going to go after a high profile assistant such as Kendall Briles of Baylor, or Jake Spavital of Texas A%M.

PJ Fleck – Western Michigan:  Fleck played at Northern Illinois and then briefly in the NFL. He’s 34 years old and he has been a head coach for 3 seasons already. His first year was a difficult one as Western Michigan struggled to a 1-11 season, but his second season was a major improvement with an 8-5 final record. This season, the Broncos have fought to a 5-3 record but have tough games remaining with Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Toledo. He appears to be an up and coming star in the coaching ranks.

Matt Campbell – Toledo: The MAC has always been a breeding ground or promising young coaches including the famous cradle of coaches period at Miami of Ohio. Campbell is young at 35 and he has put up good numbers at Toledo. Overall, he has a 33-14 head coaching record at Toledo and he is

going to start getting more mention for head jobs. Toledo shocked the nation by beating Arkansas early in the season and just had their first loss of the season last week to Northern Illinois.

Rod Carey – Northern Illinois: Another MAC coach, Carey has a 29-9 record as a head coach and is 44 years old. The only negative is that the Northern Illinois program was already good when he took over. Jerry Kill and then Dave Doeren preceded Carey at Northern Illinois and he has just kept the machine rolling.

Dino Babers – Bowling Green: Babers is a little older than some of the other prospects at 54 years old. As a head coach, he has an impressive 34-15 record with stops at Eastern Illinois for 2 seasons and now at Bowling Green for 2 years. Baylor and Art Briles get credit for Babers, but he has been around and coached under a lot of other guys.


Matt Rhule – Temple: Rhule is only 15-17 so far at Temple, but you have to consider his first season was a rude awakening and a 2-10 record. The Temple Owls improved to 6-6 during his second season and then to 7-1 this year. He is only 40 years old and might be one of the hotter coaching prospects this side of Justin Fuente. The nation took notice after the Owls beat Penn State for the first time

since 1941 and kept them there through even their first loss of the season in a close one to Notre Dame. As the coaching searches intensify, expect to hear the name Matt Rhule a lot.

Justin Fuente – Memphis: The Memphis Tigers are 8-0 on the season and have one of the best Quarterbacks in the nation in Paxton Lynch. Fuente’s Tigers beat the Ole Miss Rebels and beat them soundly. Memphis was an absolute circus before the arrival of Fuente. Larry Porter went 3-21 at Memphis and 2-10 the season before Fuente was hired. Fuente had his struggles at first going 4-8 and then 3-9 before turning it around in his third season going 10-3 last season and then is 8-0 this season, so far. His overall record may not be impressive at 25-20, but he is clearly a coach on the rise and his teams are fun to watch. Maybe the most attractive thing about Fuente is he is still only 39 years old.

Tom Herman – Houston: The former Offensive Coordinator for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Herman apparently was taking notes from his former boss. Herman is also young enough at 40 to make an intriguing prospect for one of the bigger programs. He has only been the head coach for less than one season, but he has yet to lose his first game at 8-0.

The only drawback, is that he has only been coaching one year and will he leave after being at Houston only one season? That seems pretty Lane Kiffin’ish.

Ken Niumatalo – Navy: First Samoan head coach in college football, the 50 year old has done more at the Naval Academy than anyone could expect. Coaching at the Service Academies is a tough act and shouldn’t be dismissed. He is 63-36 and in his 9th season at Navy.

50 years old is not old and he would have plenty of time to build a winning program. He should be scooped up by a program in the West where he could use his Pacific Island ancestry to recruit lights out.

Jeff Brohm – Western Kentucky: Brohm was a Quarterback at Louisville before bouncing around the NFL for 7 uneventful seasons. After his playing days were over, Brohn got into coaching and eventually landed the head job at Western Kentucky. He’s only been the head man for 2 years, but has posted a 15-7 record so far. In his first season as a head coach, Brohm’s team spoiled Marshall’s run at an undefeated year with an incredible 67-66 upset victory in Overtime.

Brohm is only 44 years old and he is clearly a great offensive mind and will have a brilliant career ahead of him somewhere.

Lance Leipold – Buffalo: With an incredible 109-6 record at Division III Wisconsin Whitewater and 7 national championships in 8 seasons, Leipold decided to make the move to Division 1 football and he was hired by Buffalo of the MAC. So far, he is 5-4 there, but his losses came against good teams and he has won 3 straight after starting 2-4. Liepold is 51 years old, so he will need to make a move pretty quickly.

Phillip Montgomery – Tulsa: Former Art Briles assistant coached under him at Stephenville High School in Texas and moved with him to Houston and then to Baylor. If you want an Art Briles clone, then Montgomery is probably your guy which means you will score a lot of points and ignore the defensive side of the ball, mostly. He is pretty young at 43 years old and is only 4-4 as a head coach, but it’s been at Tulsa and he has some work in store for him.

Chad Morris – SMU: Former high school football coach that had a 169-38 career record as a high school head coach including winning state championships at Lake Travis High School. Tulsa hired him away from Lake Travis to be their Offensive Coordinator and then he was hired by Clemson. This past year, he was hired by SMU to take over their ailing program. He has posted a 1-7 record for the Ponies, but they have been more competitive in most games than in the past and have played a tough schedule.

He is only 46 years old and he is a graduate of Texas A%M and I figure he will eventually become their head coach if conditions work out for him.

Assistant coaches:


Mike Norvell – Arizona State Offensive Coordinator: He is a young and brilliant football mind that will get a head job soon. He is 33 years old.

Chris Thomsen – Arizona State Offensive Line coach: Thomsen was head coach at former Division II school Abilene Christian where he was phenomenal. His record was 61-21 as a head guy, but moved to a Division I school to be able to move up in those ranks. He is the Offensive Line coach at Arizona State and at 45 years of age, could possibly get a Division I job fairly soon.

Lincoln Riley – Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator: Mike Leach lineage lives on. Riley was a Quarterback for Leach at Texas Tech and he has been an Offensive Coordinator since 2010 for East Carolina and was known there as an up and coming guy. He was hired by Bob Stoops this year to run his offense. He is only 32 years old, but should get a head job some time in the near future. Although he is 32 years old, he appears to be about 16 years old.

Kurt Roper – Cleveland Browns Offensive Assistant: Roper was a well thought of Offensive Coordinator at Duke under head coach David Cutcliffe when he was hired by Will Muschamp at Florida. Muschamp was fired and Roper was out of a job, but was hired by the Cleveland Browns as an Offensive Assistant. Roper is only 43 years old and a brilliant offensive mind.

Scott Frost – Oregon Offensive Coordinator: I felt he should have been hired by Nebraska this past year, and wrote about it here: http://collegefootballcrazy.com/2682-2/

Frost will be the head coach for some team soon.

Doug Nussmeier – Florida Offensive Coordinator: Talented Coordinator played briefly in the NFL at Quarterback. He has been the OC at Fresno State, Washington, Alabama, Michigan and Florida. At the age of 44, he should get a shot at a head job soon.

Eddie Gran – Cincinnati Offensive Coordinator: He has coached college football for 27 years and his offense at Cincinnati is fun to watch.

Brent Venables – Clemson Defensive Coordinator: Venables played at Kansas State under Bill Snyder and worked his way up the ladder with Bob Stoops and became the Defensive Coordinator at Oklahoma. He was hired by Clemson to run their defense in 2012 and has fielded some of the best defenses in college football. At 44 years of age, he should be in line for a head job soon.

Scottie Montgomery – Duke Offensive Coordinator: Montgomery played at Duke and is back as an assistant coach. He moved up to Offensive Coordinator in 2014 when Roper went to Florida. He is 37 years old presently.

Bud Foster – Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator: At 56 years of age, Foster may not be that

desirable as a head coach. But, Frank Beamer is retiring at Virginia Tech after 29 seasons when the 2015 season is done and Foster should be one of the candidates to replace him. He has been a brilliant Defensive Coordinator at Virginia Tech.

Mike Sanford – Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator: Really young, but clearly talented Offensive Coordinator for Notre Dame has done a brilliant job this season even though the Irish have suffered quite a few injuries including star Quarterback Malik Zaire. It’s just a matter of time for Sanford.

Doug Meacham – TCU Co-Offensive Coordinator: Meacham and Cumbie changed TCU football maybe forever. They have just turned the football world upside down. Both of these guys are considered prospects for at least the North Texas job. This Oklahoma State graduate is a little older at 50, but still a promising prospect.

Sonny Cumbie – TCU Co-Offensive Coordinator: Cumbie was Quarterback for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Cumbie played briefly in the NFL and the Arena League before getting into coaching. He is super young at 34 and would make somebody a very good head coach.

Kendal Briles – Baylor Offensive Coordinator: The son of Art, the head man at Baylor, he is already being mentioned for jobs such as the North Texas opening. He played for his father at the University of Houston. He is really young, also, but could be a find for somebody.

Dana Dimel -KSU Offensive Coordinator: Dimel may have had his opportunity already with the head job at Wyoming and then at Houston where he compiled an overall 30-39 record. At 53 he may have blown it, but he has done a good job at Kansas State since 2009.

Ed Warinner – Ohio State Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line coach: He has been coaching college football for 32 years and has been impressive. He was the Offensive Line coach when Ohio State won the national title last year and was promoted to Offensive Coordinator when Tom Herman left for Houston.

Chris Ash – Ohio State Defensive Coordinator: The Buckeye defense has been pretty stiff since the arrival of Ash. Since he is 41 years old, he may be an attractive possibility for some school looking for a coach.

Geoff Collins – Florida Defensive Coordinator: 44 year old outstanding Defensive Coordinator could be in line for an opening soon.

Barry Odom – Missouri Defensive Coordinator: First year Defensive Coordinator for Missouri, he came to the Tigers from the Memphis Tigers this season. The Missouri offense has been sadly pathetic, but the defense has kept them in many games.

Frank Wilson – LSU Running Back coach: He is known as an excellent recruiter and is well thought of and could have a bright future in the coaching ranks.

Kirby Smart – Alabama Defensive Coordinator: Smart has been talked about in regards for head job openings for a while and particularly in the South. It’s said he may be a front runner for the South Carolina job. He’s supposed to be Alabama’s best recruiter.

Mario Cristobal – Alabama Offensive Line coach: The former Miami Hurricane Offensive Tackle and current Alabama Offensive Line coach is considered a favorite for the Miami job.

I could have missed a few, but these are some of the better up and coming coaches that I came up with.

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