Penn State Football: Which Coaches Will the Nittany Lions Turn to Now?

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IDecember 7, 2011

Is Boise State coach Chris Petersen going to be Penn State's top target?
Is Boise State coach Chris Petersen going to be Penn State's top target?Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Penn State’s coaching search could be one of the most complicated ones we’ve seen in college football in quite some time, given the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the campus and the surrounding community last month.

It was already going to be a tough task to follow a legendary coach like Joe Paterno. However, with all that’s now gone on in Happy Valley, it’s going to take a special type of coach—and, more importantly, a special type of leader—to guide the Nittany Lions through the recovery and rebuilding process of the next few years.

Many have speculated about who school officials could possibly be targeting. Names like Dan Mullen, Al Golden and Greg Schiano have all been thrown out there.

Mullen, who was thought to be a possible front-runner for the job, has already vehemently denied reports that he’ll be the next coach in State College. However, there really hasn’t been much official word to go on yet. All we’ve heard about candidates so far seems to be just rumors and hearsay.

Nevertheless, this is a crucial decision for Penn State. It is a decision that will have a major impact on not just the football program, but the entire university as well.

The Nittany Lions need to find an experienced and strong-willed coach who knows how to handle running a big-time college program. Finding a perfect candidate who meets all the necessary criteria certainly won’t be easy.

One coach who I happen to think would be a great fit for the job is Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren, who was a former defensive coordinator at Wisconsin.

Doeren’s name hasn’t been brought up in the discussion about the Penn State job, but he’s the type of young, passionate coach who has the type of attitude that it takes to handle such a job.

The Allentown Morning Call has reported that Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Harvard’s Tim Murphy could both be targets.

Petersen, who has elevated Boise State into an annual Top-10 team, would obviously be a slam dunk hire for the university. However, given that he just reportedly rejected a very lucrative offer from UCLA, it’s doubtful that he would leave such a great situation for such a shaky one at Penn State.

Murphy, on the other hand, is an interesting name to watch.

The Harvard coach had a largely unsuccessful stint at Cincinnati back in the early 90s before taking over the Crimson in 1994.

Murphy’s won six Ivy League championships during his tenure at Harvard, including one this year, and he does fit the mold of the type of person that Penn State would be interested in hiring. However, there are obviously going to be more high-profile names that are given more priority during the coaching search.

Still, Tim Murphy is definitely a name to remember as the process unfolds.

We also can’t forget about interim head coach Tom Bradley, the team’s former defensive coordinator, who was unexpectedly thrust into the role of head coach when Joe Paterno was fired.

Bradley has been a stabilizing presence during these tumultuous times. He’s handled himself about as well as anyone could have hoped, despite the team stumbling to a 1-2 finish down the stretch.

When all is said and done, Penn State will likely want to clean house and get rid of everyone from the Paterno regime. However, if Bradley wins the TicketCity Bowl and impresses school officials enough, he may very well earn himself a shot at the job.

No matter how it all ends up playing out, obviously the Penn State coaching search is going to be one of the more fascinating college football stories to follow over the next month.

In the end, it will be interesting to see which coach accepts the tremendous challenge of trying to lead Penn State out of these dark times and bring the Nittany Lions back into the light.