Alabama's Nick Saban probably gets to keep his job for now. But that won't last forever.
Coaches don't last long nowadays. Fans and trustees are too impatient. It is always a good thing to think about who is the next guy waiting in the wings.
Traditionally you want a man with experience at the Division I level who is a good fit for the program's style and tradition. Sometimes that means hiring internally. Other time that means going to the ends of the earth to find something completely different from whatever you currently have.
"What if" games are silly, but so much fun to play when it comes to sports. So here are 25 of some of the best head coaches in college football and who just might be the next 25.
Mississippi State isn't a traditional power, but Mullen is a brilliant coach who is making the program into something so if you are a fan or athletic director, you don't want to turn over the House that Mullen Built to just anyone.
Malzahn is the current head coach at Arkansas State, but previously he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn which means he is a big reason why Cam Newton has a Heisman Trophy and Auburn has a national championship. That is quality work there people.
Stoops is the current defensive coordinator at FSU. He knows the program and is already handling a great amount or responsibility. The man comes from a family full of coaches (Yes, Mike Stoops is his brother) and is destined to be a head coach one day.
Stoops is a near perfect successor. He played safety for Iowa from 1982-1984 so he not only knows the program and the conference, he has a personal investment in their success. After a few years in the NFL he came back to Iowa as an assistant.
Since then, the current co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma has held several coaching jobs at the Division I level, including eight years at Arizona's head man.
It would a happy homecoming for Stoops and Iowa alike if this actually came to fruition.
Arkansas needs someone with SEC experience. Chavis has plenty of that. In fact, he's spent his entire career in three states: Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.
Those are tough places to play football.
Let's not forget that he is currently the defensive coordinator at LSU. Yes, he is one of the masterminds behind that incredibly low-scoring "Game of the Century." The next stop for him would have to a head coaching job and there is no better place for him to try his hand at it then at an SEC school who could use a little attention.
Utah just joined the big boys in the Pac-12 so its a bit of hot commodity in the region now. The replacement would have to have head coaching experience now.
Troy Calhoun has been coaching some of the nation's future heroes at the Air Force Academy and churning out winning records in the process. He previously spent time as an assistant at both the NFL and Division I levels across the country. Utah's program, because of its proximity to BYU, often has a more conservative kind of player (sometimes even married) which might work well Calhoun's military background (he was a quarterback at the Academy before ever wore a headset).
Morrison came with Jones from Hawaii all the way to SMU. The assistant head coach currently helps Jones run the offense so the transition would be seamless. As long as the administration is happy with what Jones is doing at SMU, then Morrison is the guy that could keep the ball rolling.
Golden's first head coaching job was a Temple where he took a program that had been thrown out of the Big East for not being competitive enough to a bowl game contender. He was one of the names considered to replace Kelly when he left Cincinnati for Notre Dame so there have been others that thought Golden would be a good successor for the current Irish head coach.
No one would blame him for wanting to leave soon-to-be-disaster that is Miami right now. The former catholic school boy (He attended Red Bank Catholic High in New Jersey) might want to find a more upstanding institution to coach at. He keep all the tradition that he loves about his current gig without all the NCAA sanctions.
Grantham was the defensive line coach and assistant head coach from 1996-1998 at Michigan State. Now currently the defensive coordinator for Georgia, the Bulldogs finished the 2011 ranked third nationally in total defense. If he returned to MSU there is very little question about whether he would be effective.
Cristobal is the definition of a young, up-and-coming coach.Only the second coach in Florida International history, he took his team to the conference championship after only four years on the job. Prior to 2010, FIU had never had a winning season.
As TCU climbs their way into a permanent place in the national spotlight, they need to consider a coach that can continue to push their way up. Cristobal knows how to take an under dog and turn them into a top dog.
Michigan needs a "Michigan Man."
Whatever that means to you, in basic football terms, it means the right fit for a program with a lot of history and a certain way and standard of doing things. In cases like this, its best to hire internally.
Mattison already had one coaching stint at Michigan during the 1990's where coached the defensive line and was the defensive coordinator. He led the Big 10 conference in rushing defense for four consecutive seasons. He is currently one of the highest paid assistants in the country and could probably take over for Hoke in a heartbeat.
Pete Carroll had two protege's during his tenure at USC. One, of course, was Lane Kiffin.
The other was current Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. The two were co-offensive coordinators once Norm Chow left and still remain the best of friends. Though Sarkisian is building up the program at Washington one day he might want to go back to all the tradition and glamor in Los Angeles.
If Kiffin wants another shot at the NFL this would be a perfect next step for Sarkisian. It wouldn't be too bad for USC either. This is another school that likes to hire someone familiar with the program and its standard.
Partridge has already gotten one promotion in his five seasons at Wisconsin. He spent his first three years as the defensive line and specialists coach before becoming the co-defensive coordinator and associate head coach. Wisconsin is sitting in the top tier of the Big 10 so its best to pick a man who is part of the reason they are there. Partridge is that man. One day it might be time for promotion No. 2.
The current Western Kentucky head coach spent 2007-2009 as an assistant at Stanford developing players like Toby Gerhart. Upon returning to his alma mater, he became the youngest head coach in Division I football and is considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaches today. In 2002, he helped Western Kentucky win the 1AA National Championship as an assistant. He is bound to take over a larger program one day and Kansas State might serve as appropriate stepping stone.
Leach is a feisty guy who loves pirates and small towns (No really, he does). He is familiar with the Big 12 style of play as well as the area after his slightly controversial stint at Big 12. OSU had a tremendous year so if Leach ever feels called back to the Midwest this would be a great promotion.
Petersen has already proven he can get the job done against the odds at Boise State. One day he might want to take over a bigger program.
Going to would Oregon let him stay in the northwest while probably getting a much larger salary. The Ducks can afford to be a little picky with their hires now. Getting an already proven winning head coach that is somewhat familiar with the region (a plus for recruiting) should sooth the minds of worried fans should Kelly ever actually go to the NFL (not just pretend to go to the NFL).
Smart was a defensive back for the Bulldogs from 19954-1998 before becoming a graduate assistant there. He's moved up through several programs and now has a sweet gig as the defensive coordinator for Alabama. Yep, he's got a national championship ring now. The only thing left is trying to win won as a head coach and what better place than at his Alma Mater?
The former Boise State coordinator is currently bolstering his resume as the co-offensive coordinator for Texas. One day he might be ready to come back and take the reigns of his former program.
Foster is currently the Hokie's defensive coordinator. In 2006 he won the Frank Broyles Award, given to the top assistant coach in college football each year. In 2005 and 2006, Virginia Tech lead the nation in total defense. Foster is ready to be a head coach. When Beamer is ready to pass on the headset, there is no one more qualified than Foster to hand it off to.
Venables recently accepted the defensive coordinator position at Clemson after have the same position with the Sooners. Bob brought his younger brother Mike back thus forcing Venables to look elsewhere. That's alright though, Venables has not only been a finalist for the Broyles award, but he has been considered to take over other programs in the past. One day both Stoops might be gone and the Sooners could come knocking on Venables door once again, but this time with a promotion in hand.
Johnson has had successful stints by at Navy and Georgia Tech, but he might want to move up from the ACC to the SEC. He is still familiar with the area so recruiting would be easy to take over and Auburn could continue bringing in top recruits.
It sounds strange, but just like that weird looking fruit you saw in the grocery store last night, don't knock until you try it.
You can't really talk about replacing Meyer right now. The thought is kind of silly. No one really wants to follow that act anyway. So if you do, you better pick someone who is just much of a legend with some NFL experience to match.
Don't ask why. Ask, why not?
Holtz is a former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Gamecocks (1999-2004). He's since been serving as a head coach since first at East Carolina and now at South Florida. When the time comes, he will have the experience to come back lead the Gamecocks as their head coach.
Texas is the kind of place where its best to keep it in the family. Applewhite was a Texas quarterback from 1998-2001 and then followed as a graduated assistant. After serving as the offensive coordinator at Rice and Alabama he found his way back home and is now the co-offensive coordinator for the Longhorns.
No one understands what Texas football means quite like Applewhite. Plus, he definitely could secede Mack Brown in the "cool name" category pretty darn well.
Orgeron is one of the best recruiters and defensive line coaches in the country. He is also a Louisiana native who have experience recruiting in the area after a short stint at Ole Miss and an even shorter one at Tennessee.
And who can resist his Cajun charm?
Mullen is so highly regarded as an emerging head coach that rumor has it, he was considered for the Penn State job. He has been an offensive coordinator along side the one and only Urban Meyer both at Utah and Florida. He has made Mississippi State a competitive program again.
We could on for a while, but the long story short is this: Mullen is an effective coach and a man on the rise.