10 college football coaches who could be in for a change of scenery
The college coaching carousel is already in full swing. USC, Miami, Virginia Tech, Missouri, South Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, Hawaii, UCF and North Texas have head-coach openings, and it's possible Virginia and Rutgers could join them by the time the season's over. With so many programs in the hunt, there are plenty of candidates to keep an eye on. A few NFL names have come up, (Chip Kelly, Pete Carroll, Jeff Fisher, Pep Hamilton), as have the names of some college coaches who're already helming big-time programs (Brian Kelly, Jim Mora, Jimbo Fisher, Pat Fitzgerald, Kyle Whittingham). But here are the more realistic candidates.
Houston coach Tom Herman
Herman's actually got a good thing going at Houston right now -- which is why his name seems to get dropped so often. It doesn't hurt that he studied under Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, serving as the Buckeyes' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Plus, Houston is a known proving ground for coaching stars. Art Briles was hired by Baylor. Kevin Sumlin subsequently headed to Texas A&M. Would Herman be ready to make the leap from the AAC to a Power 5 conference?
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Bowling Green State coach Dino Babers
Babers has a long resume, but his profile has been steadily rising the past few years. He learned much as an assistant under Baylor head coach Art Briles, and when Babers was hired by Eastern Illinois, he essentially took Briles' system with him. Babers enjoyed success there for two seasons before leaving for the same job at Bowling Green. The Falcons were MAC East champs last season and won their bowl game vs. South Alabama. It's likely only a matter of time before the big leagues call.
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Memphis coach Justin Fuente
Fuente has the Tigers rolling, and it's little wonder considering his training. After a tenure as quarterbacks coach for Illinois State, he joined TCU's staff in 2007 and by 2009 became co-offensive coordinator in Fort Worth. During that stint, Fuente worked with future Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton and helped guide the Horned Frogs to an undefeated season in 2010. Since being hired by Memphis at the end of 2011, Fuente has engineered a dramatic turnaround for the struggling program. The Tigers were AAC co-champions in 2014, finished ranked in the AP Top 25, and won their bowl game vs. BYU.
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Air Force coach Troy Calhoun
Calhoun's been with the Falcons since their 2007 season and -- despite one rocky year in 2013 -- they've enjoyed plenty of success together. Last year, in fact, Air Force went 10-3 and won a bowl game vs. Western Michigan. Calhoun's also got NFL experience, having served as an assistant coach with the Denver Broncos and as offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans. His name has come up before in previous high-profile coaching searches, and some have speculated Calhoun could be on USC's short list.
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Toledo coach Matt Cambell
Campbell, 35, is one of the youngest FBS coaches working today, but that hasn't stopped him from assembling a terrific program at Toledo. The Rockets spent some time being nationally ranked this season, and last year, Campbell guided his team to a 7-1 conference record and a bowl victory over Arkansas State. His youth, enthusiasm and skill make him an attractive candidate for plenty of schools.
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James Madison coach Everett Withers
Withers has a long and varied coaching history that includes time in the NFL (as an assistant for the Saints and the Titans) and as a head coach of a Power 5 program (North Carolina). Before taking the head-coaching job at James Madison last season, Withers also was a defensive coordinator at Ohio State under head coach Urban Meyer. Withers guided the Dukes to the FCS playoffs in 2014 after a three-year absence, and they're off to another good start this year.
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Temple coach Matt Rhule
Rhule, too, has previous NFL experience, having served as an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants. Since his hiring by Temple in late 2012, Rhule has steadily lifted the Owls' program each season, and has them bowl-eligible already. Temple has also proved to be a launching pad of sorts for coaches. Just ask these former Owls coaches: Bruce Arians (now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals); Al Golden (until recently the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes); and Steve Addazio (head coach of the Boston College Eagles).
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Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm
Brohm has had a successful tenure with the Hilltoppers, leading them to a winning record and a thrilling bowl victory over Central Michigan in 2014 -- his first year at the helm and the team's first year as a Conference USA member. This season, Western Kentucky appears to be on track for similar or greater success, as they're already bowl-eligible. A former NFL player himself, Brohm studied for years under current Louisville Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino and recently has been linked to the vacancy at South Carolina, to succeed the legendary Steve Spurrier.
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Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart
While he's never been a head coach himself, Smart has been a staff member for several of the premier programs in college football, including Georgia, Florida State, LSU and of course Alabama now. He's followed Tide coach Nick Saban everywhere, from LSU to the NFL and finally to Tuscaloosa, and he's routinely recognized as one of the top assistants in the country. Smart's a young, well-trained and highly paid DC, and he'll almost certainly be guiding his own program soon. His name, too, has been bandied about as a potential Spurrier replacement.
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Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth
Hudspeth took the helm for the Ragin' Cajuns in 2011 and made an immediate impact, guiding them that season to their first bowl berth in more than 40 years. His tenure has been remarkably and consistently successful since then -- four straight 9-4 seasons, four straight New Orleans Bowl victories. Hudspeth has a lengthy and successful collegiate coaching resume. Expect him to draw some interest from the big boys.