10 College Football Assistants Who Are Earning Head Coaching Jobs for Next Year
College football is a unique stage for a number of reasons. The most interesting act that plays out is the coaching carousel. This season, there are a number of top assistants that are pushing their way to the top of the head coaching discussion this fall.
Looking across the landscape, there have been some major surprises. Teams like Western Kentucky and UTSA have appeared from nowhere to join the national discussion from the bottom of expectations.
Coaches are what make the difference at every level of football.
Some of these coaches have been on the head coaching radar for a while, others are newcomers. These 10 guys are climbing their way to the top by coaching up great units in 2012.
Chad Morris: Clemson Offensive Coordinator
Chad Morris has been a hot name on the coaching circuit for the past couple of years. Morris leads the potent Clemson offense, and has done so since the 2011 season. In 2010, Morris led the Tulsa Hurricanes offensive unit.
He has followed in the offensive footprint of Gus Malzahn, employing the hurry-up, no-huddle offense. He has the Clemson offense ranked the No. 10 total offense, No. 11 passing offense and the No. 13 scoring offense in the country.
The Clemson Tigers put up 37 points against a very stingy and talented Florida State defense.
In 2010, Clemson finished as the No. 88 total offense and No. 78 passing offense in the country. In Morris’ first season, he brought the Tigers to No. 26 in total offense and No. 21 in passing offense.
Morris would fit a mid-major program well. Look for his name to be tossed around on campuses in the MAC, WAC, Conference USA or the Sun Belt. Who knows, maybe a terrible Big East team will come calling.
Bob Diaco: Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator
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Bob Diaco is an impressive head coaching candidate this year. He has done amazing things with the Notre Dame defense in the past few seasons. This year, all his work is coming to a point of top-level productivity.
Diaco has led the Notre Dame defense since the 2010 season. He has improved the output of the unit markedly. Most notable was the turnaround during the 2011 season. Diaco led a defense that was a Top 50 performer in passing, scoring, rushing and total defense for only the fourth time in 15 years.
Notre Dame was in search of a guy to make an instant impact turnaround, and Diaco has been able to do it. One point that should be emphasized is that his defense is No. 2 in scoring and No. 13 in total defense this season.
By the way, the Irish run the spread. All the conversation about not having a good defense with a spread offense has been shelved thanks to this guy.
As this defense progresses, expect Diaco to be a name that starts floating the coaching circuit as a replacement at the top of a program for the 2013 season.
Kirby Smart: Alabama Defensive Coordinator
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Kirby Smart is the coach that can’t be gotten. Not so far, anyway.
Smart has been the defensive coordinator during the entire tenure of Nick Saban at Alabama. Smart followed Saban from Miami to Alabama in the 2007 season, and has since helped construct one of the most consistent defenses in the modern era of college football.
There are always whispers that this is really Saban’s defense, but who cares? Smart is the guy that is the workhorse at the top of the defense.
Smart was almost lured to his alma mater in 2010 when Georgia offered him the defensive coordinator position, but he held strong with Saban and received a hefty raise.
For four years in a row, the Alabama defense has been ranked in the Top 5 in total defense. Twice, they have finished No. 1. Someone will get this guy soon. Don’t be surprised if it is a major conference team that snags Smart.
Mark Stoops: Florida State Defensive Coordinator
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Mark Stoops is a part of a winning college coaching pedigree. Stoops has been a defensive coordinator for two schools since 2004. It is time for him to take the leap to the head coaching carnival.
Since 2009, Stoops has operated the Florida State defense. The Seminoles struggled to find consistency in the first two seasons, but Stoops has since turned this unit around.
For the past two seasons, the secondary has been one of the most impressive units in the country. Currently, the Seminoles are ranked No. 5 in pass defense and No. 4 in total defense. Last season, the pass defense finished at No. 20, and the total defense was the No. 4 unit in the country.
Stoops is the secondary coach as well as the defensive coordinator. A mid-major team looking for a turnaround defensively will aim high for Stoops. At this point, don’t be surprised if he takes a solid offer.
Phillip Montgomery: Baylor Offensive Coordinator
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Philip Montgomery has been an assistant under Art Briles for 14 seasons. Montgomery knows offense. Montgomery coached under Briles at Houston, working his way into the offensive coordinator for the Cougars before following Briles to Baylor.
Montgomery is also the quarterbacks coach. He coached Robert Griffin III to a Heisman-winning performance in 2011 and has been a part of an offensive surge at Baylor over the past few seasons.
For the second consecutive year, the Bears are a Top 5 offense. Nick Florence has stepped in for a departed Heisman winner and been very good under the guidance of Montgomery.
Who doesn’t want that type of development and production on offense? After 14 years of working with a great offensive mind, Montgomery is ready. He will be plucked from the assistant ranks soon enough.
Brent Pease: Florida Offensive Coordinator
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Brent Pease came to Florida this season from Boise State. Pease was a part of a lot of offensive success at Boise State, helping guide the Broncos to an unbelievable run of wins. The Broncos were very reliant on their powerful offense.
Pease has coached in the SEC at Kentucky. He then left and headed to Baylor for two seasons as an offensive coordinator.
In 2006, he appeared in Boise, working his way into the assistant head coach position by 2007. Pease was named offensive coordinator in 2011.
In 2012, Pease was hired by Florida coach Will Muschamp to head the Gators offensive attack. The Florida offense is far from the best statistical unit in the country, but the development of a young sophomore quarterback named Jeff Driskel has been very impressive.
The Gators have also found a very potent rushing attack this fall. If this Gators offense continues to progress this season, a mid-major team may come calling for the Gators offensive guru.
Lance Guidry: Western Kentucky Defensive Coordinator
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Lance Guidry has served as the defensive coordinator for the Hilltoppers since 2011. Prior to that, he was on the defensive staff at Miami (OH) where he served as an interim head coach for the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl. He coached the Redhawks to a win.
He has been an intricate part of the turnaround at Western Kentucky that led to a big win over SEC team Kentucky earlier this season.
Guidry has been in the news for a DWI last year, but that doesn’t look to be a huge detractor for a team looking for energy and a young defensive-minded coach.
Pete Kwiatkowski: Boise State Defensive Coordinator
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Kwiatkowski has been the head of the Broncos defense since the 2010 season. He was hired by Boise State to be the defensive line coach in 2006, and continues in that capacity today.
In the past three seasons, the Boise State defense has been a Top 15 performer under Kwiatkowski, finishing as the No. 2 defensive unit in the country in 2010.
Boise State has been steadily climbing the ranks of college football in the past half-decade with offense being the main driver for the national discussion.
It is impossible to sleep on what Kwiatkowski has done for the Broncos. The offense has been great, but the defense may be more impressive.
Bud Foster: Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator
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Bud Foster has done great things alongside Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. The Hokies have struggled throughout the past few seasons to produce consistent results on the field, but the defense has been moderately level.
This year, the defense has been very complacent and ineffective, but just a season ago they were a Top 15 unit.
Foster is not likely leaving Virginia Tech as he is the head coach in waiting, but Beamer may be heading out soon. Beamer has been the head coach of the Hokies since 1987. They have failed to meet expectations consistently, and this season they are sitting at 3-3.
Am I saying that Beamer needs to look at leaving? Well, yeah. It may be that time to retire and pass the team on to Foster. If not this year, it will be soon.
Luke Fickell: Ohio State Defensive Coordinator
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Luke Fickell is a name that is well-known in college football circles. He took over a team last year that was in self-destruct mode after NCAA sanctions and the loss of a legendary head coach.
Fickell has been on staff with Ohio State since the 2002 season when he took over as the special teams coach. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator during the 2005 season, and served that role until the 2011 shakeup where he took over the head job.
This season, Fickell stepped down and stayed with the Buckeyes staff as the defensive coordinator.
Fickell was only 6-7 as the head man at Ohio State a year ago, but he won six games with a team that was in a very similar, if not worse, situation than Arkansas right now. He had no previous head coaching experience and fielded a competitive team with a young quarterback.
From 2005 to 2009, the Buckeyes were a Top 10 defense under Fickell and finished in the Top 5 two out of those four seasons. In 2011 as the interim head coach, Fickell led a Top 20 defense and the No. 14 pass defense in the country.
Fickell is a dream hire for a team that needs tough defensive leadership. He will be hired away soon enough.