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Penn State Football: Top 5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bill O'Brien

Tim TolleyContributor IJanuary 1, 2014

Penn State Football: Top 5 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bill O'Brien

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    Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

    At 10:34 p.m. ET on New Year's Eve, ESPN College Football tweeted that the Bill O'Brien is leaving Penn State for the vacant Houston Texans job. Luckily for Nittany Nation, O'Brien left Penn State in much better condition than it was when he arrived. 

    Gone now is the uncertainty and stigma from the Sandusky situation, as ESPN Radio's Cory Giger tweeted. Penn State has survived as a university and as a football program and the head coaching job is exponentially more desirable than it was two years ago.

    Much of that is due to Bill O'Brien.

    But this isn't a time for reflection on O'Brien and the job he did in Happy Valley. It's time to look ahead at potential candidates to replace him inside the Lasch building and on the sideline of Beaver Stadium. 

    Unlike 2011, there will be a long list of coaches interested in inheriting Christian Hackenberg and the potential Big Ten juggernaut that is the Penn State football program.

     

Al Golden

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    Perhaps the first and most logical candidate for the Penn State head coaching gig would be former Nittany Lion tight end and current University of Miami head coach Al Golden.

    Before O'Brien was hired in January of 2012, Golden was considered an option for the Penn State job.

    Whether he hesitated because of recently taking the Miami job or it was the Penn State brass wanting to distance the school from anything tied to Joe Paterno, Golden was not hired.

    Some time has since passed, and the Penn State-Al Golden reunion may be inevitable.

    A three-year starter at tight end for the Nittany Lions, Golden has since worked his way up the coaching ladder. After serving as linebackers coach for Boston College and Penn State, Golden became the defensive coordinator at Virginia. His work there earned him the head coaching job at Temple, where he turned around a program that had gone 3-31 over the previous three years.

    In his five years at Temple, Golden coached the Owls to win totals of one, four, five, nine and eight before accepting the job at Miami.

    Despite battling a lingering investigation and self-imposed sanctions throughout his time in Miami, Golden has put together a 22-15 record with the 'Canes.

    A college coach to the core and a "Penn State guy," Golden seems to be a perfect candidate for the recent opening at his alma mater.

Ed Orgeron

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    "Coach O" doesn't have any ties to Penn State, but he may be the best college head coaching candidate that is currently unemployed.

    After the firing of Lane Kiffin, Orgeron took over a 3-2 USC team on the brink of falling apart. Orgeron led the team to a 6-2 mark during his tenure, including an impressive win vs. Stanford.

    Orgeron has coached defense all over the country, making stops at Tennessee, Miami, Syracuse and USC, along with a stint as the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07.

    He struggled mightily in his first head coaching role, but the offensive woes from Ole Miss seemed to be a thing of the past as USC thrived under Orgeron.

    Along with his coaching credentials, Orgeron is known as a very strong recruiter with national connections. He served as the recruiting coordinator at USC (twice) and at Tennessee.

    According to 247Sports, Orgeron was the lead recruiter for 5-star recruits Kenny Bigelow (DE) and Max Browne (QB).

Greg Schiano

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Like Golden, Greg Schiano also has ties to Penn State, serving as the secondary coach from 1991-95. Unlike Golden, Schiano was recently fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is currently unemployed.

    "Greg Schiano's name is very interesting there, since it was long assumed that Penn State was the job he eventually would leave Rutgers for," NFL.com's Albert Breer tweeted.

    After leaving Penn State, Schiano had stops at the University of Miami and the Chicago Bears before holding the Rutgers head coaching job for a decade.

    After a rocky start, Rutgers averaged eight wins per season during the final seven years of his stay, including an 11-2 season in 2006.

    Tampa Bay wasn't as patient with the New Jersey native and Schiano was let go after posting an 11-21 record in his two years there.

    Schiano's ties to Penn State and the Northeast make him an obvious candidate for the job in Happy Valley, but the Nittany Lion brass weren't concerned about connections when they made their last hire.

James Franklin

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    The Vanderbilt head coach is bound to move on at some point, and Penn State could be an ideal fit for both parties.

    StateCollege.com's Ben Jones tweeted: "James Franklin is the first person I call if I'm Penn State. And then I offer him a lot of money."

    While Vanderbilt is a fine academic institution, it simply cannot meet the needs of a true football powerhouse, and that's exactly where James Franklin is capable of taking Penn State.

    Franklin coached wide receivers at James Madison, Idaho State, Maryland and with the Green Bay Packers before serving as the offensive coordinator at Kansas State and Maryland.

    Before Franklin's arrival at Vandy, the Commodores hadn't won more than seven games since 1982. They won nine games in 2012 and will have a shot at a second nine-win season when they face Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl on January 4.

    Franklin's success at Vanderbilt is impressive not only because he shares the SEC East with Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, but because he must recruit under Vandy's strict academic restrictions.

    A high-quality football coach who is familiar with top-of-the-line academics would be a perfect fit for Penn State, which is a top-notch academic institution.

Rob Chudzinski

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    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    While he's a dark-horse, under-the-radar candidate, "Chud" also makes a ton of sense.

    His resume includes a national championships at the University of Miami as both a player and assistant coach, as well as NFL offensive coordinator experience with the Browns and Panthers before spending last season as the head coach of the Browns.

    During his time as an offensive coordinator in Miami, the Hurricanes experienced tremendous success with standout players such as Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson and Willis McGahee.

    While it wouldn't be wise to consider a candidate based on his success coaching an individual position, it's worth noting that Chudzinski was either the tight ends coach or OC at Miami during the careers of Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Shockey. He was also Antonio Gates' position coach in San Diego.

    Penn State just happens to have a full stable of stud players at that position.

    Chud's experience and success at both the college and pro levels combined with his link to Florida recruiting will make him a viable candidate.

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