Hot Coaching Candidates

In our preseason edition of College Football America 2015 Yearbook we examined the head coaches and assistant coaches that we felt had the best chance to move up the coaching ladder after the season. Now that we’re more than two months 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. I’ll also consider where each candidate might fit best.

As a reminder, here are the current coaching openings as of Nov. 8: Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Miami (FL), Minnesota, North Texas, South Carolina, UCF, USC and Virginia Tech.

From the 2015 College Football America Yearbook

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama: At this point I just want him to take a job so I can take him off the list. He’s been on it for three seasons. South Carolina really ought to make a hard push.

Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth could be a candidate for various job openings.

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana: A down year for the Ragin’ Cajuns at 4-4, and those are based on the standards that Hudspeth has set (four straight 9-4 seasons). There is still time to get to bowl eligibility. I consider him a candidate for any of the current openings. South Carolina might be a good fit as he has SEC ties as an assistant.

Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama: He’s enjoying being an offensive coordinator at Alabama, but one has to imagine the chance to be a head coach again is alluring. We’ll see after the season. The USC job is open. I kid, I kid. Again, South Carolina might be wise to take a look. UCF would be an intriguing possibility. After that LSU win, Kiffin’s stock received a boost, no doubt.

Vance Bedford, defensive coordinator, Texas: One of the best defensive coordinators on the market, though his UT defense is a bit hit and miss this season. But when it’s on, it’s on. I could see an Illinois or a Maryland being interested. His hard-nosed defensive philosophy could be a good fit.

Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State: A long-term extension in 2014 — but more importantly a 3-7 record this season — removes him from consideration. He’ll be back in Muncie, Ind., in 2016.

Beau Baldwin, head coach, Eastern Washington: Once again Baldwin has the Eagles dominating the Big Sky (though a key matchup with Montana looms). North Texas, UCF and Hawaii should all give this offensive whiz a ring.

Rod Carey, head coach, Northern Illinois: Saw him last week when the Huskies went into Toledo and beat the Rockets to end their dream of a Group of 5 bowl berth. Since replacing Dave Doeren (remember Carey’s first game was the 2013 Orange Bowl) he’s led the Huskies to two MAC West titles and a MAC title in 2014. He could do it again in 2015. The Big Ten loves to cherry-pick from the MAC and there are three Big Ten openings. He’d be a good fit for any of them.

Toledo’s Matt Campbell is one of the hottest coaching names in the business.

Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo: Despite the loss he’s one to watch. He’s young, he coaches the brand of football young players like and he’s been successful at Toledo since taking over for Tim Beckman. That might sour Illinois on taking a look. But Minnesota and Maryland should kick the tires. UCF should consider looking at him, too.

Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green : I saw him during MAC Week last week. Again, here’s a guy who has been successful from the get-go and has FBS ties (he was an Art Briles assistant at Baylor). One question programs might have is that Babers has largely inherited recruits, as he’s just in his second year at BG. But the Falcons are among the best offensive teams in the nation and that’s liable to get Babers an interview, perhaps at Virginia Tech, where they need an offensive jolt.

P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan: He’s a recruiting whiz and a solid coach, too, as he has the Broncos undefeated in the MAC West and in the driver’s seat. But a gauntlet remains — games against Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Toledo. But if the Broncos win all three and reach the MAC title game, you can bet Fleck’s phone will blow up. All three Big Ten schools could be interested. I could see Virginia Tech and UCF being interested, too.

Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern: Well the Eagles finally lost a Sun Belt game a couple of weeks ago against Appalachian State. But the Eagles are already bowl-eligible and have an interesting game with Georgia coming up on Nov. 21. Just consider this my friendly reminder that Fritz’s career record is 152-67. UCF might be the best fit.

Justin Fuente, head coach Memphis: No matter what happens the remainder of this season Fuente will get some interviews. South Carolina has to be considering it. The Big Ten schools should take a look, too.

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. From here Venables is the clear leader if he wants a job, as Clemson remains the nation’s No. 1 team (according to the College Football Playoff Rankings). The southern schools — South Carolina and UCF — make sense.

Bill Cubit, interim head coach, Illinois: Illinois is a win away from bowl eligibility even though Cubit was given the job a week before the season began. That would be more than enough, I think, to convince Illini administration to give Cubit (and his 89-67-1 record as a head coach entering this season) the full-time job.

Could Temple head coach Matt Rhule leave Philadelphia for a bigger job?

Matt Rhule, head coach, Temple: Did you see what the Owls nearly did to Notre Dame? Every Big Ten school with an opening, along with Virginia Tech, are trying to dig up his agent’s number.

Jeff Brohm, head coach, Western Kentucky: Their only two losses are to Indiana and LSU. The Hilltoppers could go undefeated in Conference USA and win the title game. He’s a former quarterback and has a great reputation for turning passers into stars. The Big Ten Schools, along with Virginia Tech and Hawaii, might all take a look.

Tom Herman, head coach, Houston: Would he bolt after one year? He has the Cougars nationally-ranked and undefeated. He’s turned quarterback Greg Ward Jr. into a bona fide star. The Big Ten openings make sense, since he still has strong ties there.

Doc Holliday, head coach, Marshall: OK, Rakeem Cato is gone, people, and the Thundering Herd were undefeated in the East Division of Conference USA (until Middle Tennessee beat them in triple overtime). Someone want to interview this guy already? Maybe Virginia Tech?



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