With South Florida’s Willie Taggart accepting the Oregon coaching job, one of the most desirable Group of Five coaching positions has come open. Among the candidates to take over the Bulls’ program are several former head coaches – as well as a few without head-coaching experience. Among them:
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who has strong ties to Florida and Tampa in particular, would seem like a very plausible option for the Bulls. He’s been instrumental in helping Nick Saban keep the Tide on top of the college football world despite having three consecutive years breaking in new QBs.
Folks inside the business have pointed out in the past week that Kiffin seems to make a lot more sense at USF than he would at Houston, where there’s some concern with how the powerful Texas high school coaches would react to him as the Cougars’ coach.
Ex-Texas head man Charlie Strong, a former Florida defensive coordinator, also has strong ties around the state and this could be a good landing spot for the 56-year-old. Strong built his Louisville program in large part around Florida-bred talent.
Strong did a terrific job at Louisville and has stocked the Texas program with lots of young talent, but he was fired after going 16-21 with the Longhorns. He is expected to be a candidate for the Cincinnati vacancy but word is he'd prefer USF over UC.
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Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers head coach and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head man, also makes some sense for USF. Schiano first developed strong roots almost 20 years ago when he was Butch Davis’ defensive coordinator at Miami. Schiano also parlayed those ties into helping turn around the Rutgers program.
Word is, he’d like to stay at Ohio State another year because his sons will be seniors in high school in 2017 and he would prefer not to uproot them again. But USF figures to be very tempting for him.
Mario Cristobal has been Nick Saban’s top recruiter at Alabama the past few years after he was the head coach at Florida International. Cristobal, a Miami native, is as well-connected in South Florida as any coach in football.
The 'first-time' candidates
A few other potential candidates without head coaching experience to keep in mind:
Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins (pictured) has done impressive work in all his stops. He’s a former UCF recruiting coordinator and has been key in evaluating and developing talent at Georgia Tech, FIU, Mississippi State and now Florida. It seems obvious that Collins will get a college head coaching job sooner than later.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is another guy who has spent decades cultivating relationships throughout Florida. Gran helped spark Kentucky’s rise out of mediocrity this fall; the Wildcats’ offense was third in the SEC in yards per play. He’s also highly regarded within coaching circles.
Lawrence Dawsey, a former Bucs wideout, coached on Jim Leavitt’s USF staff a decade ago. Dawsey is a co-offensive coordinator at Florida State and has been a key assistant for the Noles since 2007.