At College Football America I keep up with coaching changes, and in our Yearbook I published the coaches that I felt were the hottest names on the head-coaching market. Periodically during the season I’ll bring you my Hot Coaching Names Top 25, my list of the 25 coaches the most likely to find a head-coaching job in 2017.
Note that there are already two openings on the market as we roll past the first quarter of the season — LSU and FIU.
So until next time, here is my Hot Coaching Names Top 25.
College Football America’s Hot Coaching Names Top 25
- Les Miles, former head coach, LSU
Bucketload of career wins? Check. National championship on the resume? Check. Brand-name everyone recognizes? Check. Group of 5 schools need not inquire. Miles may be feeling the pain now, but Miles is the kind of coach a few programs might sacrifice their current head coach to hire. My guess is The Mad Hatter won’t be unemployed for long — unless ESPN lures him with an easy job for easy money. Could you imagine Les Miles on TV? I totally can.
- Tom Herman, head coach, Houston
I imagine the Cougars’ brass are desperately hoping that the school is invited to join the Big 12. But don’t think that means it’s a lead-pipe lock Herman stays in Houston. Herman and his agent parlayed interest by three SEC schools last offseason into a new, long-term deal that pays him $2.8 million this year. That would surely go up if the Cougars make another New Year’s bowl game (or, dreaming big, the College Football Playoff), and new Big 12 money would fuel that raise. People already see Herman as a potential successor to Miles at LSU, and let’s face it — if the SEC comes calling, you listen. Ask Arkansas’s Bret Bielema.
- Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama
If you’re looking for the perfect template for career rehab, look at Kiffin. He went to Alabama with his reputation in tatters and now seems poised to land a head-coaching job in 2017. It’s been three years. That’s enough time to put USC behind him. Look, if Will Muschamp can get employed again as a head coach, so can Kiffin. This assumes, of course, that Kiffin wants another head-coaching job. And I believe he does. He just wants the right one.
- PJ Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan
This guy has been on my radar for over a year. He’s a recruiting machine in Kalamazoo and he’s built a high-powered offense that has beaten two Big Ten teams this year (Northwestern and Illinois). The Broncos enter MAC play as one of the favorites to win the league. Even if they don’t, the MAC is a pipeline to the Big Ten and if a Big Ten job opens up you can be sure Fleck will be on the short list.
- Jeff Brohm, head coach, Western Kentucky
So did you think the graduation of QB Brandon Doughty was going to tamp down WKU’s chances in Conference USA? Nope. Their losses are to Alabama (understandable) and Vanderbilt (by a single point). Brohm coaches an exciting brand of football that kids just love and the last guy to hold his job at WKU — Bobby Petrino — is doing all right at Louisville. His background as a college quarterback and QB coach makes him a great candidate for the quarterback-centric Big 12.
- Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma
Yes, the Sooners have taken a bit of a hit to start the season. But the Big 12 is wide open and I think the Sooners’ offense is coming to life soon. Riley made a huge impact on OU’s run to the College Football Playoff last year. He’s just 33, but with stops at Texas Tech, East Carolina and OU, he has the offensive pedigree to lead his own program.
- Doug Meachem, co-offensive coordinator, TCU
Meachem got close to the North Texas job last offseason, but maybe not getting it was for the best. He’s capable of leading a bigger program. He’s the guy that validated Gary Patterson’s change in offensive philosophy and turned Trevone Boykin into a stud. He’s found another muse in Kenny Hill. Another good season and he might just get Meachem in a head coach’s headset.
- Rich Rodriguez, head coach, Arizona
I don’t know what to make of RichRod in Tucson, and I’m looking forward to heading out there in a couple of months to check it out. But last year he was offered the South Carolina job and turned it down. He’s one of those coaches that just seems to come up when head-coaching openings come up, so he makes this list. And his track record puts him in the Top 10.
- Major Applewhite, offensive coordinator, Houston
If teams interested in Tom Herman can’t lure Herman to their program, perhaps they’ll settle for his OC? Applewhite, the former Texas quarterback, is close to being ready to run the show somewhere. With stops around the country, including a season at Alabama, teams with openings — especially those in the Group of 5 — will probably be interested.
- Willie Taggart, head coach, USF
Another school waiting to hear if it might make the Big 12, Taggart’s stock is on the rise after getting the Bulls back to a bowl game in 2015 and putting them in contention in the American Athletic Conference in 2016. He showed his recruiting chops at USF and his previous stop, Western Kentucky. I’d keep an eye on him if Kentucky or Vanderbilt chooses to make a move. He knows the recruiting area and could slip into the job quickly.
- Ed Warriner or Tim Beck, co-offensive coordinators, Ohio State
When you win, you lose assistant coaches. That’s how it works. Two years after losing Herman to Houston, OSU head coach Urban Meyer may need to brace for losing either Warriner or Beck, both of which construct the Buckeyes’ offense. Those looking for someone with QB coaching experience will lean toward Beck, who has tutored J.T. Barrett, among others.
- Doc Holliday, head coach, Marshall
First, the name is just awesome, right? He’s led Marshall to three straight seasons of 10 wins or better. He’s 59, so if he desires a bigger job now is the time.
- Larry Fedora, head coach, North Carolina
You and I know that UNC is a basketball school first. Fedora has done great things with the Tar Heels and it might be time for him to get a promotion to a school where football is a bigger thing.
- Jake Spavital, offensive coordinator, Cal
His rep cooled a bit in the post-Johnny Manziel era while at Texas A&M. But with Davis Webb calling the shots in 2016 the Golden Bears’ offense is cooking and Spavital’s credibility is rising again. He’s just 31, so he might need more time. But head coaches in FBS are getting younger and younger. I could see a Group of 5 school taking a chance. It worked for Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, who was elevated to head coach at Tulsa in his early 30s.
- Rocky Long, head coach, San Diego State
He’s won twice as many as he’s lost at San Diego State and has the Aztecs in position to win the Mountain West and vie for a New Year’s bowl game, as well. The only question I have is whether Long wants to leave? He’s 66 now. He may be fine where he’s at. But he’s done quality work at SDSU and deserves a Power 5 job, if he wants it.
- Josh Heupel, offensive coordinator, Missouri
He’s been calling offensive signals for a half-dozen years at three schools, including his alma mater, Oklahoma. His offense at Utah State last year put up solid numbers. People forget this guy tutored a Heisman winner in Sam Bradford.
- Rod Carey, head coach, Northern Illinois
I think this guy is underrated. NIU has to play a hard non-league slate to pay for its other sports, but always brings it in MAC action. He just needs the right fit.
- Matt Rhule, head coach, Temple
Rhule shepherded the Owls’ big 2015 and that put him on our radar. He was connected to the Missouri job at one time last offseason. Another competitive season might put him in a new office.
- Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Last year Venables said he didn’t need to be a head coach to be happy and turned down interviews. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done at Clemson. But the fact is the window only stays open for so long before it closes on being a head coach.
- Art Briles, former head coach, Baylor
His first stab at career rehab wasn’t fantastic, frankly. But athletic directors have long memories when you win — and Briles won quite a bit at Baylor. The school that hires him will take some heat, but if he can bring the “Miracle on the Brazos” to their campus, they’ll take the heat. LSU is certainly an option.
- Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana
Despite the vacated wins, Hudspeth did take the Ragin’ Cajuns to four straight New Orleans bowls. If Dan Mullen is ever fired at Mississippi State Hudspeth’s phone is liable to ring.
- Todd Grantham, defensive coordinator, Louisville
He’s bounced around in both FBS and the NFL as a defensive coach, but the way Louisville is playing this year he might just get some looks. People are going crazy for Lamar Jackson and that’s reasonable. But don’t forget the Cards held Florida State to 20 points.
- Phillip Montgomery, head coach, Tulsa
An Art Briles offensive disciple, he is quickly resuscitating Tulsa in the Bears’ offensive image. Just look at what he’s doing with QB Dane Evans. A great season might get him on the fast track.
- Jonathan Smith, offensive coordinator, Washington
That’s a vanilla name, but the offense he’s calling for the Huskies isn’t. QB Jake Browning is developing into a star. He’s been with Chris Petersen for a long time and may be ready to take his shot, assuming someone is willing to make an offer.
- Scott Satterfield, head coach, Appalachian State
The Mountaineers darned near upset Tennessee the opening week and should be Sun Belt contenders again. Satterfield has managed the move from FCS to FBS nicely. Larger programs should be taking notice.
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