Ranking the 7 Hottest College Coaches with Realistic Shot of Jumping to NFL

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIJanuary 9, 2013

Ranking the 7 Hottest College Coaches with Realistic Shot of Jumping to NFL

0 of 7

    With the college football season coming to an end, NFL teams in need of head coaches and coordinators can really start dissecting prospects. While each year there are a number of potential candidates hoping to make the leap from college to the NFL, only a handful of coaches can be considered the hottest prospects.

    Big names like Nick Saban, Chip Kelly and Bill O'Brien won't be in these rankings. It's not that NFL teams wouldn't love to get their hands on them, it's just that none of them are realistic options for the NFL at this point.

    Instead, our rankings will be filled with the hottest college coaching prospects who have a realistic chance of landing in the NFL in the near future.

    Here is a list of the seven hottest NFL head coach/coordinator prospects from the college football ranks.

7. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats

1 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Head Coach

    The only thing working against Pat Fitzgerald is his age. If Fitzgerald was to be hired as a head coach in the NFL, he'd be the youngest in the league at 38 years of age.

    What makes him such an interesting coaching prospect for the NFL is how he has completely rebuilt and turned around the Northwestern Wildcats. He took them from a perennial losing team to having three consecutive winning seasons.

    With each winning season Fitzgerald has at Northwestern, he'll become more and more tempting to NFL teams. Sooner or later we will see this stellar coach leading a team at the professional level.

6. Bo Pelini, Nebraska Cornhuskers

2 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Head Coach

    Since Bo Pelini became the head coach for the Nebraska Cornhuskers he has been a popular name among NFL teams.

    Pelini's 49-20 career regular-season record proves that he is capable of winning games on a consistent basis. In fact, since Pelini took over in 2008, the Cornhuskers haven't won less than nine games in a season.

    The one area where Pelini has struggled—and where future employers might get a little scared—is during big games. His last three seasons have ended with losses in his team's respective bowl games.

    If Pelini really wants to get an NFL team in his corner, he may need another season in the college ranks to prove that he can get the big wins.

5. Will Muschamp, Florida Gators

3 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Defensive Coordinator 

    After struggling in his first season at the University of Florida, Will Muschamp put it all together in 2012. The Gators finished the season 11-2 and were easily one of the better teams in the nation over the course of the season.

    Where Muschamp has really made his mark is on the defensive side of the football. Considering that he's spent the majority of his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball, this is where he'd initially fit best in the NFL.

    He'd be able to step in from day one and put together a very competitive unit on the field. Look for Muschamp to be a hot name in the coming weeks for a number of NFL teams.

4. Brady Hoke, Michigan Wolverines

4 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Head Coach

    What Brady Hoke could do for an NFL team is instantly improve how hard a team plays. At every job he's had, his team has always given 110 percent for him.

    At both San Diego State and Michigan, Hoke was almost instantly able to turn around both programs. He took a pitiful program at San Diego State and got them to nine wins in just his second season. At Michigan, Hoke took a team that was in complete shambles to an 11-2 record in his first season.

    While Michigan may be Hoke's dream job, the NFL will be too big of a stage to turn down once the right job comes along.

3. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Hawkeyes

5 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Head Coach

    Kirk Ferentz is always a name that is spoken of when head coaching jobs open up in the NFL. He already has experience in the NFL as an offensive line coach for both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.

    While it has been nearly 15 years since Ferentz was in the NFL, that experience in the league still makes him one of the hottest prospects in college. Ferentz has been extremely consistent, despite coaching at a school not known to be a football powerhouse.

    In 14 years at Iowa, Ferentz has won exactly 100 games. He's led his team to nine winning seasons, 10 bowl games and two Big Ten titles. He also has an above-average record of 6-4 in bowl games, proving that he can win on the big stage.

    Despite having a down season in 2012, Ferentz should still draw plenty of interest from an NFL team needing a proven coach.

2. Steve Sarkisian, Washington Huskies

6 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Offensive Coordinator

    With the NFL becoming more and more of a quarterback-driven league, quarterback gurus like Steve Sarkisian will continue to become popular options.

    All Sarkisian has done throughout his career is work and build quarterbacks. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders and USC Trojans before becoming the head coach at the University of Washington in 2009.

    While his record isn't overly impressive at Washington, this is still a coach who knows how to teach and build quarterbacks. His most well-known quarterback success story is that of Jake Locker, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans.

    As long as Sarkisian continues to prove that he can make quarterbacks better, he'll continue to be an extremely hot name thrown around the NFL.

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners

7 of 7

    Best NFL Role: Head Coach

    With each college football season that passes, Bob Stoops becomes more desired by NFL teams. Simply put, Stoops is a coach who just knows how to win football games.

    Since taking over for the Oklahoma Sooners in 1999, Stoops has posted a career record of 149-36. He has yet to have a losing season, and Oklahoma has never had less than seven wins in a season with Stoops as its coach.

    The big issue that always follows Stoops around is his record in bowl games. His mediocre record of 7-7 in bowl games has caused some to wonder if he can be a "big-time" coach.

    It seems that every offseason we ask whether Stoops will make the jump to the NFL, and this offseason is no different.