In College Football America, our preview publication, I wrote about the coaches that we believe could be head coaches in 2014. Now that we have two openings – USC and UConn – let’s check back in with our list of coaches and see how they’re doing. Remember – there have been more than 20 head-coaching openings each of the last four years. So some of these guys will be moving up.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama: The Tide are undefeated and in the Top 30 in overall defense. Sure, Texas A&M torched them. But they still won. Smart is still considered one of the best defensive minds in the business, and for a USC team that needs some defensive help, he’d be a great fit.
James Franklin, head coach, Vanderbilt: Franklin is on everyone’s short list and another bowl season in Nashville would provide Franklin all the ammo he needs to move up – if he wants to move up. USC would make total sense. He’s a fantastic recruiter with a great coaching mind. But Vandy is in the best conference in the land and turning the Commodores into a consistent winner would make Franklin the king of Music City.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson: The Tigers are undefeated and quarterback Tajh Boyd is putting up Heisman-worthy numbers. Morris is the architect of one of the best offenses in college football. Any team looking for offense will be looking his way shortly. One thing to keep in mind? Morris cut his teeth on high school football in Texas, so any Lone Star State opening will have some appeal to both him and the school, as Morris’ state ties will help in recruiting. But it’s not a given there will be an opening for him. For instance, if Mack Brown is fired at Texas, Morris likely won’t be a serious candidate due to lack of experience.
Paul Rhoads, head coach, Iowa State: It’s hard to say if his railing against officials after the Texas loss is good for him or bad for him. You certainly know his name now. He’s done good things in Ames, one of the hardest places to recruit. They’re under .500 now, but let’s see where they’re at come December. The Cyclones have three bowl appearances in four years, but only one winning record.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette: Not only has he turned the Ragin’ Cajuns into a back-to-back bowl team, but he has SEC ties as an assistant and would seem tailor-made to take over a larger program. USC might be a stretch. But if Dan Mullen is let go at Mississippi State, I could definitely see the Bulldogs looking west to bring Hudspeth home. Yep, he was the wide receivers coach at MSU before leaving for Lafayette.
Mario Cristobal, offensive line coach, Alabama: You want to talk about perfect career rehab? Get bounced as head coach by a program that had no business letting you go and coach the nearly-NFL ready O-Line for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. Watching your old team, FIU, go 1-4 to start the season just makes Cristobal look that much better. He’ll get plenty of interviews, and because he’s an assistant now he can be a little less choosy (the Miami job isn’t happening, bud. Al Golden has it on lockdown).
Willie Fritz, head coach, Sam Houston State: Fritz has taken the Bearkats to the FCS title game each of the last two years but lost. When the team that beat you is North Dakota State, there is no shame in that. But the athletes that built this dynasty in Huntsville are about to graduate. Perhaps Fritz takes this opportunity to leave, too. He’s won everywhere he’s been. Programs in the Sun Belt and Conference USA should be keenly interested.
Tim Albin, offensive coordinator, Ohio: The Bobcats put up massive numbers and no one pays attention. Right now they’re No. 85 in FBS, but they’re averaging 385 yards per game and that will balance out once the Bobcats start feasting on MAC teams. Another division title and bowl game should give Albin plenty of ammo to get a head-coaching job in any of the “Non-Power 5” conferences.
Four more to watch:
Art Briles, head coach, Baylor: Good lord Baylor is racking up the yards and the points. Briles has turned Baylor’s offense into a Buzzsaw on the Brazos. Bears fans have never seen anything like it (all apologies to Grant Teaff). Now the Baptists are praying that another school doesn’t come calling. If Mack Brown is indeed out at Texas, you know they’re placing a call to Briles. And sending a jet. And a whole mess of cash. But how important is all of that to Briles?
Someone from Ohio State: Have you seen this staff? Everett Withers and Luke Fickell are co-defensive coordinators. Tom Herman is the offensive coordinator. Mike Vrabel is the defensive line coach. Odds are at least one of these guys gets a head coaching job this offseason, especially if Ohio State wins the Big Ten.
Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon: If you want to be a head coach, being the offensive coordinator at Oregon is a primo position. The last two OC’s – Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich – have become Ducks head coach. Helfrich probably isn’t going anywhere soon. But perhaps the former Nebraska quarterback is an option for, say, oh I don’t know – Nebraska. That’s IF they jettison Bo Pelini this season. Yes, Frost is young, but Texas Tech went the youthful route with Kliff Kingsbury, a former Red Raiders quarterback, and it energized the team and fan base. Oregon is the No. 2 offense in the nation behind Baylor.
Craig Bohl, head coach, North Dakota State: The Bison have had a huge spotlight this season after beating Kansas State and serving as a host site on ESPN Gameday. The Bison have also won two straight FCS National Championships and seem pointed toward a third. That would seem to give Bohl all the ammunition he needs for a promotion to a FBS program. But does he want one? He’s a Nebraska native who has held assistant jobs at NDSU, Tulsa and Nebraska before taking over the Bison. He has a great deal at NDSU right now. The program is in fantastic shape and it’s won at every division it’s played in (the Bison have won national titles in Division II as well). He’d have to start from scratch wherever he goes and he’s 55 years old. Non-BCS FBS schools will make overtures, but he may be hard to dislodge.