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Coaching Search Names to Know for 2015

Here are the names that'll be coming up most often this winter.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

With the SEC having two jobs open (and maybe more) and seemingly every fourth program nationally having an opening, this is going to be a busy coaching carousel season. Here are some names to know heading into Silly Season 2015.

For now, I'm only covering the standard kinds of coaching moves. I'm setting aside specific school-only stuff like Charlie Strong maybe going to Miami (FL) or Jimbo Fisher maybe going to LSU. This list isn't exhaustive, but you'll get some good mileage out of it.

The Big Three

Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis

Records at current job: 4-8, 3-9, 10-3, 8-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: co-OC at TCU 2009-11

SEC ties?: Used to employ current Mizzou DC Barry Odom as his DC at Memphis. That's all.

Long story short: Memphis has been one of the worst FBS programs for a while, but Fuente turned things around with a quickness. He also was an assistant at TCU from 2007-11, so getting him sort of gets you a piece of Gary Patterson's success too. He has a signature win with a victory over Ole Miss earlier this season.

Red flags?: His team has lost three straight after starting 8-0, but they were to good teams in Navy, Houston, and Temple. That's about it. He'll be able to pick which job he wants, basically. If there's anything, it's that he hasn't worked for a Power 5 program, but TCU was not that far off in its pre-Big 12 days.

Update: Virginia Tech has hired Fuente.

Tom Herman, head coach, Houston

Record at current job: 10-1 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at Ohio State 2012-14; OC at Iowa State 2009-11

SEC ties?: Nothing direct. He's spent a lot of time coaching in Texas, and that's where Texas A&M is.

Long story short: He was offensive coordinator for the Buckeye's outlandishly successful run from from 2012-14, and the OSU offense has struggled without him this year. UH wasn't a disaster when he took over, having gone 21-17 under the previous coach (including 8-5 last year). Still, he had his team in prime position to nab the Group of Five's guaranteed New Year's Six bowl bid before losing to UConn last Saturday.

Red flags?: Well, losing to UConn isn't a good look, but it was at least on the road. More seriously, he's only been a head coach for one year. His track record is shorter than that of a guy like Fuente, who has a four-year story of building at Memphis to tell. Getting Herman is close to just hiring a coordinator.

Matt Rhule, head coach, Temple

Records at current job: 2-10, 6-6, 9-2 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at Temple, 2008-11

SEC ties?: None. His time as an assistant at Western Carolina 2003-05 is it for time spent in the southeast.

Long story short: Temple is a hard place to win, but Rhule turned it into a legit winner this year. The Owls are going to go to a bowl for just the third time since 1979, and Rhule was an assistant on those other two postseason outfits too. He's been a part of crafting a winner out of a program that had been so bad it got kicked out of the old Big East after the 2004 season.

Red flags?: The team's loss at USF a couple weeks ago was puzzling, but there aren't any to speak of. If there is anything, it's that he hasn't been a part of a high-level football environment other than one year at UCLA in 2001 and one year with the New York Giants in 2012. Building something out of just about nothing is a different kind of skill set than running a power program, as former Temple coach Al Golden's tenure at Miami (FL) attests.

Power 5 Coaches

Larry Fedora, head coach, UNC

Records at current job: 8-4, 7-6, 6-7, 10-1 (current)

Notable past jobs: HC at Southern Miss, 2008-12; OC at Oklahoma State 2005-07

SEC ties?: Assistant at Florida 2002-04, including OC job his last year

Long story short: For his second straight head coaching job, Fedora treaded water just above bowl eligibility for three years before having a breakout fourth season. He's known for uptempo spread offense, something that might appeal to a program in need of some new life.

Red flags?: Southern Miss fell off a cliff the instant he left, and his gaudy record with the Heels this year is built on what turned out to be a really soft schedule. His best win is Pitt, and he lost to South Carolina in Week 1. There were hot seat rumblings last offseason before his team's takeoff this year, which, again, could be something of a mirage due to the schedule.

Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State

Records at current job: 5-7, 9-4, 7-6, 8-5, 7-6, 10-3, 8-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at Florida, 2005-08

SEC ties?: Duh.

Long story short: He's turned MSU into a consistent bowl team, and last year was a pinnacle with a No. 1 ranking for a few weeks and an Orange Bowl bid. He turned Dak Prescott into one of the most prolific players in school and conference history, and with Prescott's eligibility about to expire, he might be ready to take on a new challenge at a higher profile school.

Red flags?: None, unless you're still hung up on the whole Cam Newton thing. It's not a red flag on him, but his name has been out there for bigger jobs the past few years without him actually taking any of them. It's happened again this year with Virginia Tech. Mullen really does seem to be happy where he's at, though, and MSU takes good care of him with his $4.3 million salary. It would really take just the right set of circumstances for him to leave.


Rich Rodriguez, head coach, Arizona

Records at current job: 8-5, 8-5, 10-4, 6-6 (current)

Notable past jobs: HC at Michigan 2008-10; HC at West Virginia 2001-07

SEC ties?: None, though he did work in the conference's footprint as an OC at Tulane (1997-98) and Clemson (1999-2000).

Long story short: As the godfather of the spread option, he's a true innovator in the sport. West Virginia and Arizona aren't traditionally big powers, but he took the former to two BCS bowls and the latter to the Fiesta last year.

Red flags?: His tenure at Michigan was a disaster. With that in mind, he may be content to stay in Tucson, where things are working, rather than leave and risk a similar situation to what happened in Ann Arbor.

Gene Chizik, defensive coordinator, North Carolina

Records at last head coaching job: 8-5, 14-0, 8-5, 3-9

Notable past jobs: HC at Auburn 2009-12, HC at Iowa State 2007-08, DC at Texas 2005-06

SEC ties?: Check.

Long story short: He won a national title as DC at Texas and as head coach at Auburn. The 10-1 record that UNC has this year is as much attributable to his quickly turning the defense around as it is the soft schedule.

Red flags?: His 5-19 Iowa State tenure wasn't inspiring, and things fell apart quickly after the national title at AU. It's not likely that he'll get a high profile job, but he's viable as a head coach again after his good work in Chapel Hill this year. He might be in play for a job like UCF, seeing as how he was an assistant there 1998-01.

Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Auburn

Records at last head coaching job: 7-6, 11-2, 4-8, 6-5

Notable past jobs: HC at Florida 2011-14, DC at Texas 2008-10, DC at Auburn 2006-07, DC at LSU 2001-04

SEC ties?: Double check.

Long story short: His Florida teams never lacked for defense, which is the guy's specialty. If you want to get a Nick Saban-style defense, he's your best bet given Kirby Smart's reluctance to leave Saban's side. He says he wants to stick around at Auburn for a while, but the project of fixing that defense is a bigger one than anyone had thought. If a decent enough program comes calling, he might jump at the chance of running his own show sooner than later.

Red flags?: Things obviously didn't work out at UF, though to be fair, that's not an easy place to have your first head coaching job. Let's just say he has learned plenty about being a head coach through experience.


Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green

Records at current job: 8-6. 8-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: HC at Eastern Illinois 2012-13; WRs coach at Baylor 2008-11

SEC ties?: OC and QBs coach at Texas A&M, 2001-02

Long story short: BGSU has one of the nation's most exciting offenses, and it pushed Tennessee for a good bit before securing Big Ten wins over Maryland and Purdue. Art Briles isn't leaving Baylor, but if you hire Babers, you can get a close variant of his offense.

Red flags?: He hasn't held a head coaching job for longer than two years yet, so you don't know how he works out at a place over a longer period of time. Also at age 54, he might be older than some ADs would be looking for.

Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo

Records at current job: 9-4, 7-5, 9-4, 9-1 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at Toledo 2010-11

SEC ties?: Zip. He's only ever played and coached inside Ohio.

Long story short: Campbell's offense is one of the best in the Group of Five, and his Rockets have been consistent winners under his charge. The team picked up Power 5 wins over Arkansas and Iowa State this year.

Red flags?: At 35, he's the second-youngest head coach in the FBS. He's also been a sustainer rather than a builder, having taken over at Toledo following Tim Beckman's hire at Illinois. Plus while geography and ties don't always matter, Campbell never having worked outside of Ohio means he's never had the experience of building relationships in an unfamiliar place.

Update: Iowa State has hired Campbell.

Rod Carey, head coach, Northern Illinois

Records at current job: 12-2, 11-3, 8-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at NIU, 2012

SEC ties?: None.

Long story short: NIU has been a Power 5 coaching pipeline of late, producing Jerry Kill for Minnesota and Dave Doeren for NC State. Nothing slipped under Carey, with the Huskies winning two division and one conference title in his first two years. He's a win over Ohio away from a third straight division title thanks to having beaten Campbell's Toledo.

Red flags?: Like Campbell, he's been a sustainer rather than a builder. He also didn't get his first experience even on the coordinator level until 2012. Aside from being a GA at Minnesota in 1998-99, he has no Power 5 experience and has only been at the FBS level since taking NIU's OL coaching job in 2011.

Todd Monken, head coach, Southern Miss

Records at current job: 1-11, 3-9, 8-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at Oklahoma State 2011-12, WRs coach at NFL's Jacksonville 2007-10

SEC ties?: WRs coach at LSU 2005-06

Long story short: Southern Miss was nearly dead as a program when he took it over, and now, it's contending for the CUSA title in just his third year. The Golden Eagles aren't just winning, but they're winning some games big with seven of the team's eight wins coming by 20 points or more. He's worked under good coaches like Brian Kelly, Les Miles, and Mike Gundy.

Red flags?: Nothing to speak of, given his experience at Power 5 programs and his truly stunning work at Southern Miss.


Clay Helton, OC and interim head coach, USC

Record at current job: 4-2 as interim HC

Notable past jobs: OC at USC 2013-15; OC at Memphis 2007-09

SEC ties?: Played at Auburn 1990-92, and he's worked at SEC-adjacent schools Duke, Houston, and Memphis.

Long story short: Helton's done a good job as interim guy at USC, and he might just get the full time job there. If not, his work as OC in building offenses is probably good enough to get him a look outside LA should he not get that promotion.

Red flags?: Nothing jumps out, and he even now has some experience as a head coach beyond the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl.

Update: USC has made Helton the full-time head coach.

Bud Foster, defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech

Notable past jobs: DC at Virginia Tech 1995-present

SEC ties?: None.

Long story short: He's been Frank Beamer's right hand man for 20 years, forsaking past advances by other programs to remain in Blacksburg. He might just get the promotion to take over for Beamer, but VT might also want to start fresh considering things have gotten stale there lately. If he doesn't get the VT gig, he'll actually be out there for someone to go get finally.

Red flags?: It's hard to complain about anything Foster has done as a coordinator. All I can think of is that maybe he inherited too much of the Beamer Ball ethic and therefore won't invest enough in a dynamic offense.

Update: Foster will remain on the VT staff in his capacity as defensive coordinator.

Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson

Notable past jobs: DC at Clemson 2012-present; DC at Oklahoma 2004-11

SEC ties?: None, though Clemson is in the footprint.

Long story short: He put together some great defenses at Oklahoma, and his Clemson defenses (particularly last year's) have been elite. He's been mentioned in discussions for Power 5 jobs before, but maybe it's now his time after building terrific units without being in Bob Stoops's shadow.

Red flags?: Offense is all the rage these days, so the appeal of a defensive coordinator isn't as high as it once was. Maybe being opposite dynamic offenses at both OU and Clemson will convince someone otherwise.

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama

Notable past jobs: DC at Alabama 2008-present

SEC ties?: Played at UGA; coached at LSU, UGA, and Alabama.

Long story short: It's obligatory to put Smart of these kinds of lists. This years' unit might be his best defense at Alabama yet.

Red flags?: Can you actually get him out of Tuscaloosa? It's been widely speculated that he's biding his time to either succeed Saban at Bama or take over his alma mater once Mark Richt is done. This is also unfair to Smart, but Muschamp's difficulty at Florida might bleed over to ADs' perception of him as a fellow Saban DC.

The Triple Option Guys

Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy

Records at current job: 8-5, 10-4, 9-4, 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, 8-5, 9-1 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC at Navy, 2002-07

SEC ties?: None.

Long story short: Navy can't recruit high school stars, but it has nonetheless been one of the best non-power conference teams of the past decade. He learned the flexbone from Paul Johnson and has run it to near perfection with, among others, current record setting QB Keenan Reynolds. Navy is a win over Houston away from an AAC division title and is in the hunt for the G5 guaranteed New Year's Six bowl bid.

Red flags?: It's not a red flag, but there's no indication he wants to leave Navy. Since becoming a full-time coach in 1995, he's spent just three years anywhere else.

Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force

Records at current job: 9-4, 8-5, 8-5, 9-4, 7-6, 6-7, 2-10, 10-3, 8-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: OC for Houston Texans, 2006; OC at Wake Forest 2001-02

SEC ties?: None.

Long story short: It's a similar story as with Navy, as AFA has been a consistent bowl team despite the restriction that its players having to go into military service following graduation. Calhoun's name comes up for more jobs than Niumatalolo's in part because he's not a pure triple option guy. He's been an NFL OC, and Air Force runs plenty of non-option stuff. The Falcons clinched their MWC division last Saturday, checking off one of the few things that have been missing from his resume.

Red flags?: Same goes for Calhoun as Niumatalolo: there's no real indication he wants to leave.

Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern

Records at current job: 9-3, 7-3 (current)

Notable past jobs: HC at Sam Houston State, 2010-13; HC at Central Missouri 1997-2009

SEC ties?: None.

Long story short: Fritz runs an innovative option scheme, and it has served GSU well in its two years on the FBS level. He won the Sun Belt conference title last year and is in the thick of the race again this year. Notably, he took Georgia to overtime just last weekend.

Red flags?: The two years at Georgia Southern are his only two at the FBS level, and that barely counts as true FBS experience. There's not much difference between hiring Fritz and hiring an FCS coach, except that maybe that FCS coach at least played or was an assistant at the FBS level before. He's also 55, which is not young.