Top 10: Ranking star assistants who'll soon be coveted head coaches
Jul 29, 2014 at 12:00p ET
There's been a run lately on hot, young offensive coordinators whom schools have hired in hopes of revitalizing stale programs.
So who could be next?
This week's Top 10 list focuses on the offensive coordinators most likely to get a long look for a head coaching job later this year when the coaching carousel cranks up.
No. 10: Brent Key, Central Florida Knights
A former Georgia Tech O-lineman, Key's been a long-time aid to George O'Leary and a vital cog in UCF winning a BCS bowl. He's worn a lot of hats for UCF, including being special teams coordinator. His new title -- in addition to being UCF's O-line coach -- is assistant head coach of offense. Last season, the Knights offense averaged 35.2 ppg and his O-line did not allow a sack against, among others, Baylor, Penn State and Louisville -- all three teams that ranked in the nation's top 50 in sacks (the Cards were second).
No. 9: Mike Bobo, Georgia Bulldogs
The former Bulldog QB has proven to be a solid assistant for Mark Richt in Athens for over a decade and has groomed more than his share of standout quarterbacks. Last season, Bobo did some especially impressive work producing the nation's No. 21 offense despite a litany of injuries.
No. 8: Mike Norvell, Arizona State Sun Devils
He turned down some good opportunities to stay with the Sun Devils, and the 32-year-old Norvell got a big raise (up to $700,000) after ASU averaged 41 ppg last season, ninth-best in the country.
No. 7: Lincoln Riley, East Carolina Pirates
The Texas native is the latest Mike Leach protégé blowing up scoreboards. Last season, Riley helped the Pirates to 10 wins as the team ranked eighth in the country in scoring and seventh in third down percentage, and he's developed QB Shane Carden into a star. Riley had chances to be a coordinator at bigger schools but opted to remain at ECU. Look for another big season by the Pirates and more offers to come Riley's way.
No. 6: Kurt Roper, Florida Gators
After years with David Cutcliffe, Roper is back in the SEC and tasked with fixing the Florida offense (and saving Will Muschamp's job). Roper was Duke's play-caller as the Blue Devils won 10 games last season and averaged 33 ppg. If Roper can help UF back into the top 25 this fall, his stock will soar.
No. 5: Phillip Montgomery, Baylor Bears
Art Briles' right-hand man helped the Bears lead the nation in scoring last season at 52 ppg and in plays of 40 yards or longer by a big margin despite breaking in a new starting QB. With Bryce Petty returning for a second season as the starting quarterback and a ton of speed at his disposal, there will be more fireworks from a team primed for another top 10 season.
No. 4: Scott Frost, Oregon Ducks
Being a Chip Kelly protégé is a very good thing these days and Frost, a former Nebraska and Stanford QB who played DB in the NFL, knows the Ducks' secret sauce. In 2013, they tied for third in the country in scoring at 45.5 ppg and were second in yards per play (7.55). With Marcus Mariota returning, along with a deep backfield and all five O-linemen, look for another huge offensive season in Eugene.
No. 3: Doug Nussmeier, Michigan Wolverines
He came in second to Chris Petersen for the Washington head coaching vacancy, and Nussmeier is ready to take over somewhere. He left Alabama -- where despite relying on a pretty new O-line and new OL coach he helped the Tide to 38.2 ppg and an impressive 7.15 yards per play (fifth best in the country) -- to become the Wolverines’ new OC. The former NFL QB is charged with putting a jolt back into the Michigan offense, which had been woefully inconsistent and really shaky in pass protection. The confidence is very high that Nussmeier will remedy that, so don't be surprised if he ends up high on a lot of athletic directors’ lists come November.
No. 2: Chad Morris, Clemson Tigers
The Tigers pay Morris well over a million dollars a year, and they're thankful he's still a college assistant and not running his own program by now. He's been a Godsend for Dabo Swinney. Last season, Morris helped lead Clemson to 40.2 ppg and a BCS bowl win. He will have to break in a new QB this year, with longtime starter Tajh Boyd off to the NFL, but Cole Stoudt knows the system and Swinney says he's actually a bit faster than his predecessor. And, as long as Morris is running the show, the Tigers should still be a headache for opposing DCs.
No. 1: Tom Herman, Ohio State Buckeyes
Anyone who has spent five minutes with the California native has no trouble seeing Herman running a big-time program. Herman is brilliant (he actually is a MENSA member) but also a terrific communicator and well-respected by his peers. Last season his offense ranked third in the nation in scoring (45.5 points per game) and should have another big season with his continued development of QB Braxton Miller, although it does have to replace most of the O-line. Better still, Herman, a guy who has worked under Mack Brown and Paul Rhoads, has learned a lot about how to run a program from his time around Urban Meyer in Columbus.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB.