Panthers HC Matt Rhule Reportedly 'Held in Highest Regard' by CFB Teams

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 5, 2021

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers takes the field before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Matt Rhule is in just his second season as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but there is reportedly plenty of interest from schools looking to bring him back to the collegiate level.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Sunday that Rhule, who impressed as the head coach of Temple and Baylor before going to the NFL, is "held in highest regard by many premier programs."

La Canfora noted LSU, USC and Oklahoma were all interested in Rhule, although only the Sooners still have an opening at head coach with Brian Kelly joining the Tigers and Lincoln Riley going to the Trojans.

Perhaps one program missed an opportunity to hire Rhule, as La Canfora also noted that the Panthers coach reportedly would have had the most difficulty turning down an offer from Penn State. However, the Nittany Lions agreed to a 10-year extension with current coach James Franklin.

Rhule first turned heads nationally at Temple, where he coached from 2013 through 2016.

The Owls are the furthest thing from a national powerhouse, but he took them from 2-10 in his first season to 6-6 in his second, 10-4 in his third and 10-3 in his fourth. That type of drastic improvement and double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons caught the attention of Baylor, which hired him prior to the 2017 campaign.

Immediate improvement was again the theme of his tenure with the Bears.

They were just 1-11 in his first season but went 7-6 in his second and 11-3 in his third with a Sugar Bowl appearance. While Baylor is more of a national factor than Temple, it is still often overlooked in a Big 12 conference that includes Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State.

The Panthers are surely hoping Rhule can continue the patterns of improvement at the NFL level after they were just 5-11 in his first season in 2020. They are 5-7 this year and still in the NFC playoff picture, so that could be the situation if they play well down the stretch.

Figuring out the quarterback position, which has seen Sam Darnold, Cam Newton and P.J. Walker under center this year, will be the quickest path to long-term success if Rhule remains with the Panthers, but his track record in college has not been forgotten as teams look to fill vacancies prior to the 2022 campaign.