Predicting Which CFB Coordinators Will Take Head Coaching Jobs After 2014 Season
This time of year, the carousel is still.
It sits in a forgotten corner of the college football world, sitting silent and gathering dust as the summer heat beats down on it.
This, of course, is a metaphorical carousel. In summer, it is quiet, but wait until October or November.
Once teams lose a few games and the heat cranks up on embattled coaches, it springs to life, fueled by rumors and innuendo.
By December, the college football coaching carousel will be in full swing, slinging participants off and grabbing new riders with every passing day.
We’ll be talking about which coaches will be moving where and who’ll replace the candidates who are moving on or moving out.
Sitting head coaches will be part of the carousel, but so will be the nation’s top coordinators. Their names will be bandied about with breathless abandon until the final major coaching job is filled.
It’s only July, but here’s a shot at predicting which college football coordinators will take head coaching jobs after the 2014 season or, for that matter, hang around for another year.
Tom Herman, Ohio State
Tom Herman made his reputation as one of college football’s top offensive coordinators the old-fashioned way. He earned it. Following stops at Sam Houston State, Texas State, Rice and Iowa State, Herman’s fast-paced spread system (which also includes a bruising run element) has thrived under Urban Meyer’s watch at Ohio State.
A year ago, the Buckeyes averaged 45.5 points per game (third nationally) and 511.9 yards per game (seventh nationally), and that gained him attention. Per Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch, he was reportedly courted by Texas to become Charlie Strong’s new offensive coordinator but ultimately decided to stay in Columbus.
“I think at some point in my life I do want to be a head coach, and I do want to run my own program,” he told the Dispatch. “I want to be successful, too, and especially here this year. Like I said, there is some unfinished business.”
OSU could take a step back this fall. While the Buckeyes do return do-everything quarterback Braxton Miller, they must replace physical tailback Carlos Hyde and four starting offensive linemen from a year ago. Still, it’s clear that Herman will be a top candidate for top-tier head coaching positions. It’s just a matter of when, and it could be this winter.
Philip Montgomery, Baylor
If you’re looking for the secret to Art Briles’ success as Baylor’s head coach, you’d be wise to focus your attention on Philip Montgomery. He has been with Briles ever since his days at Stephenville (Tex.) High School, following him to Houston and then Baylor as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Montgomery mentored Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and has another potential Heisman candidate on his hands this fall in quarterback Bryce Petty, if a rebuilt offensive line that returns only one starter from a year ago gives him room to move. A year ago, Petty threw for 4,200 yards and 32 scores, leading Baylor to a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Baylor led the nation in points per game (52.1) and total offense (618.8 yards per game) with a fast-paced spread offense. The Bears could take a step back this season if newcomers don’t mesh with Petty and Co. on offense, but Montgomery should be a hot name if Petty thrives.
Montgomery has always been more comfortable out of the limelight, but he’ll have opportunities to jump to a head coaching position if Baylor is successful this fall. The only question is if he really wants that for himself.
Chad Morris, Clemson
Until Chad Morris leaves Clemson, he’ll be a fixture in these sorts of stories, and with good reason. He is one of the best offensive coordinators in college football and a huge factor in the Tigers’ surge toward national prominence. Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense has revitalized Dabo Swinney’s program: Clemson is 32-8 in his three seasons as offensive coordinator.
Clemson is one of just five schools nationally to average 40 points and 500 yards per game over the last two seasons. Last fall, Clemson averaged 507.7 yards and 40.2 points per game.
Clemson and Baylor are the only programs nationally to have a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the last two seasons.
Morris’ task will be tougher this fall. He must replace NFL first-round pick Sammy Watkins and third-round pick Martavis Bryant in the receiver corps, quarterback Tajh Boyd (the ACC’s all-time passing touchdown leader and No. 2 in career passing yardage) and tailback Rod McDowell, a 1,000-yard rusher.
But if Morris can achieve similar results with senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, a backfield by committee and a young but talented receiving corps led by junior Charone Peake, sophomore Mike Williams and a trio of freshman early enrollees, he’ll have his pick of jobs again. Morris makes $1.3 million annually and has no reason to jump for just any job.
“I think you’ve got to look at it, there’s a huge commitment to winning in Clemson. From my deal, my contract, I’m in a situation, it’s going to have to be the right fit before it can happen,” he told me following the Texas Tech interview in 2012. “Just to say you’re a head coach, I have no desire to say I’m a head coach at wherever, I have no desire to do that. We’ve got a great situation here, we’re building something special and a great commitment to winning. That’s what’s happening.”
Still, Morris will be 46 years old in December and isn’t getting any younger. If the right dominoes fall this offseason, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him break out on his own.
Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
When the nation’s top defensive coordinators are mentioned, Pat Narduzzi’s name is a constant. His nasty, efficient defense has laid a foundation for Michigan State’s recent success.
A year ago, the Big Ten champions allowed 13.2 points per game (second nationally) and 252.2 yards per game (also second nationally). In fact, MSU was in the top two nationally in all four major defensive statistical categories.
Narduzzi must replace six starters from that defense but has an excellent foundation in a defensive line that features returning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Shilique Calhoun and four-year starting defensive end Marcus Rush.
A year ago, Narduzzi interviewed with UConn but withdrew from consideration. He also was connected to Louisville’s opening, per Mike Griffith of MLive.com.
"When I went through from it, obviously it was close; you're always close,'' he told MLive.com regarding the UConn position.
He added that “it would have to be the right one” for him to leave Mark Dantonio’s staff.
It wouldn’t have surprised anyone had Narduzzi taken a head coaching position last winter. And if Michigan State has the same level of success, it won’t surprise anyone this time around either.
Mike Norvell, Arizona State
Mike Norvell is one of the nation’s top young offensive coordinators. Norvell, 32, teamed with head coach Todd Graham to revitalize Arizona State’s offense and help the Sun Devils to a Pac-12 division title in 2013.
The Sun Devils averaged 39.7 points per game (No. 10 nationally) and 457.3 yards per game (No. 32 nationally) with a fast-paced, wide-open system led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, who had 37 total touchdowns and accounted for 4,243 total yards.
Per CBS Sports, Norvell interviewed with Arkansas State last December and was also connected to Florida’s offensive coordinator opening before re-affirming his position with ASU and earning a new title as deputy head coach.
His age and excellent pedigree for a coach his age make him a top candidate for a mid-major FBS job or higher if the Sun Devils continue their offensive success this fall. If veteran offensive coordinators like Chad Morris stay in place, Norvell will be an excellent choice for any athletic director who is willing to take a chance on a younger coach.
Kirby Smart, Alabama
If Chad Morris is the most talked-about offensive coordinator in America, Kirby Smart is his defensive counterpart. Smart makes $1.35 million annually as the nation’s highest-paid defensive coordinator and has been a huge part of Alabama’s three national titles under Nick Saban’s watch, including back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
A year ago, the Crimson Tide held foes to 13.9 points per game (No.4 nationally) and 286.5 yards per game (No. 5 nationally). Smart faces a challenge this fall, as his defense returns only three starters from a year ago, led by junior safety Landon Collins. However, the Tide’s cupboard is far from bare as Alabama has recruited exceedingly well.
Smart interviewed at Auburn following the 2012 season and has been connected to various openings in the past two seasons, including Tennessee and Arkansas.
However, he said he isn’t going to just jump at the first attractive job that comes along. He told Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan (h/t AL.com) that he’s comfortable at Alabama and could see finishing his career as a defensive coordinator: "I'm not sitting here saying I got to go today in order just to take one to take it. Every one of them says don't just jump at the first one. If you get the wrong one, it will be the last one."
If the right job opens, don’t be surprised to see Smart jump. But his comfort at Alabama means that job will have to be extremely attractive.
Brent Venables, Clemson
Chad Morris gets most of the attention when Clemson’s coordinators are connected with head coaching openings, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables deserves his share of attention too. Since taking over a defense that allowed 70 points in the 2012 Orange Bowl, the former Kansas State and Oklahoma coordinator has molded Clemson into one of the ACC’s top defenses.
A year ago, the Tigers were No. 24 nationally in scoring defense and No. 25 in total defense and figure to be even better this season. They return six starters, including the entire defensive line two-deep, led by senior All-America defensive end Vic Beasley. Highly touted redshirt freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander could have a breakout year after redshirting last season following a groin injury.
Venables has been connected with head coaching jobs in the past: In fact, in 2008 he interviewed with then-Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips for the job that Dabo Swinney eventually received. If Venables, 43, is serious about being a head coach, he could jump if the Tigers defense is as nasty as advertised this season.
Not that he’ll leave for just any job: The Post and Courier that he’ll make $875,000 this season. Like Morris, it would have to be the right job, but leaving to become a head coach wouldn’t be stunning.