In our preseason edition of College Football America 2015 Yearbook we examined the head coaches that we felt had the best chance to move up the coaching latter after the season. Now that we’re more than a month into the season, let’s take a look at how they’re doing. Plus, we’ll explore some potential additions to our list of Hot Coaching Names.
From the Yearbook
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama: He’ll be a candidate for any job that’s open. As always the question is whether Smart wants to leave Alabama for something lesser than his current employer, and that’s just about every program in the country.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns are 2-3 overall, 1-0 in the Sun Belt. But Hudspeth has piloted them to four straight 9-4 seasons. He’s a coach with SEC ties, so any opening in that conference might direct their attention to him (hello, South Carolina). He’s in good shape right now. However, the NCAA has announced that UL is under investigation for major sanctions, so this might impact Hudspeth’s potential mobility.
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama: In spite of those strange rumors, Kiffin is having another solid season calling plays in Tuscaloosa. That said, the job in Illinois would offer Kiffin a chance to get back into head coaching with a Power 5 school. Plus, now South Carolina will be looking for a new coach and Kiffin knows the league now. I suspect he won’t deflect interviews this offseason.
Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator, Texas: The Longhorns’ defensive performance against Oklahoma is an example of what a Bedford-coordinated unit can do. He’s a talented defensive coach with a great personality that will sit well with recruits. He was on Colorado State’s short list last year before hiring Mike Bobo. A high-profile Group of 5 program might take the plunge, depending on how Texas plays the rest of the season.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State: At 2-4 overall, 1-2 in the MAC, Lembo’s Cardinals will have a hard time making a bowl game. He missed out on the Wake Forest job two years ago. His window might be closed for now.
Beau Baldwin, head coach, Eastern Washington: He is 69-27 at EWU through last weekend and has a national title to his credit. He coaches one of the most exciting offenses in Division I football. I think a school like North Texas, which just fired Dan McCarney, should kick the tires on Baldwin.
Rod Carey, head coach, Northern Illinois: The Huskies went into Ohio State and nearly beat the Buckeyes. They already have a MAC loss, which is unusual. But Carey should be a candidate if a Power 5 job opens up for a program that needs a lift.
Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo: He led the Rockets to wins over Arkansas (on the road) and Iowa State. The Rockets are undefeated. They may not stay that way but he’s a rising star in the coaching ranks. The last time Illinois had an opening it tapped Toledo (Tim Beckman). All Campbell has done as his replacement is win every year. Keep his name in your back pocket and sound smart when you’re talking to your friends.
Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green : A member of the Art Briles coaching tree, Babers is in charge of one of FBS’s most productive offenses. It’s only a matter of time before a Power 5 school comes calling.
P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan: The nattily-attired Mr. Fleck has quickly ascended into the ranks of one of the top recruiters in the Group of 5. That’s the name of the game in college football and he’s already getting attention from bigger schools. He might be a year away from a new job, though.
Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern: All this guy does is win at every level. He’s won 16 of his first 17 games at GSU, which just moved into FBS last year. His phone should be ringing soon.
Justin Fuente, head coach Memphis: The Tigers are undefeated going into their game with Ole Miss on Saturday. Even with a loss in that game the Tigers might be looking for a new coach in 2016, especially if Fuente can sneak the Tigers into a New Year’s Day bowl game. Right now, that’s very much a possibility.
Assistants we’re tracking include Cincinnati OC Eddie Gran, Clemson DC Brent Venables, Louisville DC Todd Grantham, North Carolina DC Gene Chizik, TCU OC Doug Meacham, Notre Dame DC Brian VanGorder, Utah State OC Josh Heupel and Oregon OC Scott Frost. Right now the two I would track with interest are Venables and Meacham. Both could find themselves in a new job after this season, especially since their current employers have national title aspirations.
New to Hot Coaching Names
Bill Cubit, interim head coach, Illinois: Cubit had a week to prepare to be the head coach as Tim Beckman was fired days before the season opener. Illinois is 4-2 overall and has a Big Ten win over Nebraska. There’s a solid chance Cubit can pilot the Illini to six wins and a bowl, and if he can do that would the Illini simply keep the job in-house? Even if they don’t, Cubit could find a head coaching job elsewhere. He has an 89-67-1 career record and was at Western Michigan from 2005-12.
Matt Rhule, head coach, Temple: The Owls are 5-0 with wins over Penn State and Cincinnati. Bowl eligibility is practically a certainty. Rhule’s employment in Philadelphia past this season is not. He’s on plenty of radars now.
Jeff Brohm, head coach, Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers are a close loss to Indiana away from being undefeated. But programs across the country are getting the message that Brohm has taken the ‘Toppers to another level.