Role Play: My Top 10 Coaching Candidates for the USC Trojans
Ok, we all know the story. Pete Carroll is resigning at USC and is on the verge of announcing he is now the Seattle Seahawks' new head coach (and president).
This leaves a monumental void for the USC athletic department to fill. Carroll haters can keep hating all you want on the man but he made USC football relevant again after a disappointing decade in the '90s. He had all the best qualities that make college football fun and one can even Youtube all the fun Carroll and the Trojans have had the past few seasons. He made USC the NFL program of college. Celebrities were everywhere and pranks were pulled weekly. He was the best coach USC has seen, and his record speaks for itself.
Now, while we are all aware that USC may be facing some penalties, it is still perhaps the most attractive job in all of college football. The Southern California weather cannot be beat and the recruiting ground is unmatched. While some people are assuming that USC may have trouble finding a new coach, I am not one of those.
I am role playing here...I am the USC athletic director and I am not afraid to call or interview anyone. Here are my top ten coaching candidates in the order I want to call them in.
1. Jeff Fisher—Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans
Even if he is rumored to have no interest right now in coaching USC, I still call him first.
Jeff Fisher has been a tremendous coach in the NFL and has a tremendous football mind. Fisher also went to USC and played football here. He obviously loves the California area since it is where he grew up and I will gladly pay him a large amount of money to bring him here.
His name alone attracts recruits and there is no doubt he would bring some incredibly talented assistant coaches in with him. Fisher has a great personality and would be a good fit at USC.
Jeff, I am calling you first.
2. Jon Gruden (Former NFL Coach and Current ESPN Analyst)
First of all, can I get this out of the way: he just looks like he belongs in SoCal with that blonde hair!
Jon Gruden is also an NFL guy and also has a huge name. USC needs to get in touch with him no matter what. We all know he wants to coach again and at the ripe age of 46, he is in his prime.
Not only will recruits be drawn to his name and resume, but he is a very likable guy and his outgoing attitude will be great in college. USC needs a coach to come in and make them work hard and make them forget the name Carroll, and Gruden is almost as good as it gets.
Gruden, we want you at SC.
3. Jim Harbaugh (Head Coach at Stanford)
Jim, you are young, cocky, and a helluva football coach. You were the only coach in the Carroll era to beat him twice in the Coliseum and you surely know how to get the best out of your players.
You recruit exceptionally well at Stanford, which is the Harvard of the West, and win a lot of games. Your style and attitude is what USC needs and I guarantee if you take the job, USC will keep or gain a few more four and five star recruits. You may bolt to the NFL someday like Carroll, but you are a great choice to replace Carroll.
You humiliated Pete on his home field, now it is time for you to make it YOUR home!
4. Chris Petersen (Head Coach at Boise State)
Arguably the one of the best x's and o's coaches in the country, Petersen would be a great name for USC.
Petersen has had incredible success at Boise State (49-4 record), and is one of the hottest names in the CFB world. He is originally from California and even coached at UC Davis. He also had a stint at Oregon which means he is certainly familiar with the Pac 10. His record speaks for itself and his coaching ability mixed with the type of athletes USC gets, makes for a great combo.
Chris, please answer your phone, we want to talk to you.
5. Mike Riley (Head Coach at Oregon State)
Mike Riley is the hottest name on USC forums and blogs as a potential replacement of Carroll but I, myself, think he should be called after the previous four candidates. Here is why:
He is a wonderful x's and o's coach but outside of the West Coast, he isn't very well known and USC is used to just showing up and having its hand in on recruits across the country.
Riley was an assistant at USC for a couple of years and has a great mind for the game. He is one of the most underrated coaches in the country and constantly wins eight or nine games with "lesser" talent.
Riley is certainly a top choice but is likely to stay with Oregon State. As I am writing this, Riley just agreed to an extension with Oregon State, but if I am USC, I still try to contact him at some point.
6. Will Muschamp (Defensive Coordinator at Texas)
This one may come out of the blue to some of you, but to me this makes perfect sense. USC is a hip place and needs another coach with similar energy to Pete Carroll. Will Muschamp is one of the best defensive minds in college football and would be an awesome fit at SC.
He is very well known in the South and can pull recruits anywhere. He will make a splash on the West Coast and is the right kind of energy for the Trojans. Muschamp will be a younger and of course bigger version of Carroll.
Muschamp is the "head coach in waiting" at Texas but who knows when Mack Brown will step down? Why wait to coach an elite school when you have one that wants and needs you now?
7. Tony Dungy (Former Buccaneers' and Colts' Head Coach & Current NBC Analyst)
Dungy's name has been popping up lately in SoCal and a lot of people think it is a long shot but honestly, Dungy is worth the phone call and effort.
If USC can pull in Dungy, we will be set for many years to come. His name is synonymous with winning football but more importantly, his name is infamous for being a great role model and mentor.
Dungy would be able to walk into any kid's living room and get them to come to USC. He is a great man and the assistants he could bring in to help would be incredible.
I am the USC AD so I am calling Dungy until he answers my calls!
8. DeWayne Walker (Head Coach at New Mexico State)
Meet DeWayne Walker, a name you have probably heard of, but don't know much about the man behind the name.
Walker was actually Carroll's first hiring at USC as an assistant coach and he also worked under Carroll in the NFL. Some people call him the "next" Pete Carroll. He has had stints as the UCLA defensive coordinator as well and was one of the favorites for the head coaching job before Slick Rick was hired by the Bruins.
He is a tremendous recruiter and a great defensive mind. He has a ton of energy and as I alluded to above, he has a wonderful charm about him. He is rising fast on this list and as the AD, I am very interested in Walker!
9. Steve Sarkisian (Head Coach at Washington)
Coach "Sark" could be the man for this job but he may not want it. He was a part of the USC staff for several years and did an unbelievable job at Washington in his first year. He could also bring back defensive coordinator Nick Holt, which would be incredible for the Trojan defense. However, he seems happy in Seattle and we would really have to give him a great offer to come back to SC.
But hey, who knows, a phone call won't hurt because this guy is the real deal as a college football coach!
10. It's A Tie...Jack Del Rio (Jaguars' Head Coach) or Kirby Smart (Alabama Defensive Coordinator)
Del Rio is another former Trojan with a solid track record as a coach. He has an outgoing personality which is a must in L.A. He has a ton of energy and would be able to use it in a positive manner at SC.
Del Rio's name is obviously very well known and will help the Trojans on the recruiting trail. Being in Jacksonville, he probably has gotten to know a lot of coaches and athletes down there which would also be a bonus to get players.
Lastly, he will bring with him a band of former USC players that work under him with the Jags as assistant coaches. This will also help recruiting and may help secure some top players this year. As of right now, Del Rio looks like he may be the leading candidate but I would call a few coaches before I get to him...NFL guys like him may not stay here long term.
Kirby Smart is a hot name and a wonderful defensive coordinator. He just won a title with the Crimson Tide and has a ton of ties in the South now for recruiting. The Georgia Bulldogs just offered him a lateral move at their school, but Kirby if you're smart, you listen to Saban who said to only accept jobs in which you are moving up in. If we call you, you may want to listen. If not, you may never have an opportunity like this again. You are a young guy and can reach full potential out here in the constant 75 degree weather.
If None of the Top Ten Coaches Come, Here Are a Few More Long Shot Names
Lane Kiffin (Tennessee head coach)—Has a history with USC and is a great recruiter. He also has some of the best assistants and recruiters, specifically Ed Orgeron. USC may be hesitant though because of how close USC is being watched by the NCAA.
Herm Edwards (Former NFL coach)—His name has been thrown around here quite a bit and of course his name alone is a great recruiting advantage. He is also a great defensive coach. His lack of experience in college makes him a long shot.
Bob Stoops (Oklahoma head coach)—He has been linked to nearly every job that has opened up this season and USC is maybe one of the only programs that matches up with OU's mystique.
Ken Norton Jr. (USC linebackers coach)—USC needs to do anything and everything to not lose Norton as a assistant coach and recruiter but naming him head coach is very unlikely. However, maybe a "head coach in waiting" title is enough to keep him from joining the Seahawks with Carroll. I repeat, other than Pete, Norton is USC's best recruiter...do anything to keep him!