Tom O'Brien Fired: Logical Candidates to Replace NC State Coach

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIINovember 26, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Head Coach Tom O'Brien of the North Carolina State Wolfpack calls to the players prior to a play against the Miami Hurricanes on September 29, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Hurricanes defeated the Wolfpack 44-37. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In the aftermath of Tom O'Brien being fired as NC State head coach, the Wolfpack must gear up for a bowl game while the administration assesses candidates in its nationwide search for his successor.

This situation may serve as a distraction, but there are several candidates who would be logical fits to fill the vacancy for 2013 and beyond. It simply depends on what AD Debbie Yow is looking for. In an AP report published by USA Today, Yow explained her reasoning for dismissing O'Brien to the rest of the staff and players:

Yow said she met with O'Brien on Friday to discuss the future of the program, then notified him of her decision Sunday before meeting with the coaching staff and players.

"I told them it's really fairly simple...Coach O'Brien and I agree on the goal of becoming a Top 25 program. We just don't agree on what it takes to do that, how to get there."

Securing the program's fourth bowl bid in his sixth season—and a huge upset over former No. 3 Florida State—wasn't enough for O'Brien to hold on.

Here is a list of good fits for the Wolfpack program—some coming at a greater expense and perhaps a little less realistic than others.


Mike Bobo

There may not be a lot of buzz for the Georgia Bulldogs offensive coordinator, but his record in Athens speaks for itself. Bobo also serves as the quarterback coach and could be a valuable asset for recruiting top-tier QB prospects to the Wolfpack.

Players who have thrived under his tutelage include No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford, D.J. Shockley and current signal-caller Aaron Murray.

The recent history of the NC State program boasts the likes of Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon, who were both prolific collegiate passers. Having the right guy under center can do so much for a program, and Bobo certainly knows how to groom a quarterback.

Bobo has also learned from one of the best in Mark Richt, and has had to match wits with some of the most brilliant defensive minds in the country in the SEC. Despite having no head coaching experience, Bobo should be ready for a head coaching gig at this point.

At 38 years old, Bobo is still pretty young, and a successful stint at NC State could lead to a top gig at an SEC school someday.


Darrell Hazell

The current Kent State head coach has the Golden Flashes shockingly in contention for a potential BCS bowl bid entering Week 14. What he has done in just two years at Kent is nothing short of remarkable.

After enduring a turbulent 5-7 season in 2011, the Golden Flashes overcame a Week 2 blowout loss at Kentucky to rattle off 10 straight wins and rank 17th in the latest BCS standings.

Hazell has had experience at some of the nation's elite programs as an assistant. It began at West Virginia then at Rutgers under current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and on Jim Tressel's staff at Ohio State.

Hazell's heavy run-first mentality has served Kent State well, as running backs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham have far exceeded 1,000 yards in 2012. Bringing that physical tone to the Wolfpack would be key, and it would give Hazell an opportunity to helm a bigger school.

Considering he has done well enough to get the amount of talent to be a legitimate BCS factor with the Golden Flashes, it would be interesting to see how he could do with the Wolfpack's recruiting.


Butch Jones

Sure to be a hot name in any head coach search, Jones has enjoyed successful head coaching tenures at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Each time, he has succeeded current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who isn't going to leave the Fighting Irish any time soon.

That means that Jones will have to succeed someone else for a head coaching position. 

Unlike the other two candidates on this list, Jones is an advocate of the spread offense—which is what many of the country's most successful programs utilize today. It will just be a matter of recruiting the right personnel to run his system, something Jones has been able to do at every stop he's made. 

With a career record of 49-27, Jones is a proven winner and someone whom the Wolfpack administration can bank on to have an immediate impact.

Jones will command a higher salary than the other candidates due to his successful track record elsewhere, but the 44-year-old Bearcats coach would be well worth the asking price.