Ideal Candidates for College Football Teams Most Likely to Be Changing Coaches

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2019

Ideal Candidates for College Football Teams Most Likely to Be Changing Coaches

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    While the College Football Playoff race is the sport's most pertinent storyline, the coaching carousel is starting to pick up speed.

    Rutgers moved on from Chris Ash early in the 2019 season, Florida State recently fired Willie Taggart, and Arkansas parted ways with Chad Morris after Week 11.

    While this probably won't be a particularly busy year of coaching changes, a few marquee programs may have openings soon. USC, without question, is the most notable possibility.

    So we're taking a look at the ideal candidate or two for those programs. The first portion highlights some potential openings around the country. The next section individually provides a deeper dive into the most notable vacant jobs and potential openings. 

Potential Openings

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    Michigan State

    Will the Spartans actually move on from Mark Dantonio?

    "That is not even a discussion," athletic director Bill Beekman said, per Mark Johnson of the Lansing State Journal. "Mark's our head coach, there's no question about that."

    But it would be pretty foolish if that is the absolute answer. Dantonio made faux-changes after 2018 and shuffled titles among his assistants, and positive results are nonexistent. MSU is 4-5 heading into a clash with rival Michigan and is only likely going to a bowl because Maryland and Rutgers await on the schedule.

    If the program ends up making a change, Beekman's first call should be to Matt Campbell. He's amassed a 59-38 record between his stops at Toledo and Iowa State. Campbell would also bring a much-needed modern outlook to MSU's offensive philosophy.


    South Florida

    Charlie Strong inherited a terrific situation after Willie Taggart's departure, but USF has been trending the wrong way. After a 10-2 debut season for Strong, the Bulls are 11-11.

    If the school is willing to stomach the buyout—an unclear number because of Strong's contract situation—a change will happen.

    While former coaches Jim Leavitt and Taggart will probably have support, USF should make a run at Clemson coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott. The latter also serves as the recruiting coordinator and has thrived in the state of Florida.

    Though he's unlikely to leave a comfortable situation, Scott would be a worthy top choice with Elliott close behind.



    Tony Sanchez is just 18-39 overall and 2-7 in his fifth season, and UNLV hasn't reached a bowl game in his tenure. It's probably time for the Rebels to move in a different direction.

    And UNLV had better make Joe Brady say no.

    The brains behind LSU's offensive surge in 2019, Brady spent the two previous seasons as an analyst for the New Orleans Saints. While there's a possibility he won't consider UNLV because he'll get better offers, the program needs to take a run at Brady if Sanchez is fired.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    What's old is new, it appears. According to, Rutgers is prepared to meet Greg Schiano's requirements to accept the position.

    He's the most sensible candidate too.

    Certainly some MAC coaches or high-level assistants would be interested in the opportunitythere aren't an endless number of P5 jobsbut this is a complicated position. Schiano helped the program gain respectability in the 2000s and early 2010s before heading off to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Rutgers doesn't need a splashy hire. Schiano probably isn't even a "safe" option. But he should be steady.

    And that, more than anything, is what Rutgers needs.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Losing 45-19 to Western Kentucky signaled the end of Chad Morris tenure. Arkansas announced his dismissal on Sunday.

    Morris lasted only 22 games as the Razorbacks' head coach, mustering a 4-18 overall record and failing to win an SEC game in 14 tries. The next coach has an awfully low bar to clear, yet he'll simultaneously face the toughest possible situation.

    To compete in the vaunted SEC West, Arkansas needs offense. Yes, Morris came as a respected offensive mind from an AAC school, but that shouldn't cause the school to shy away from trying again.

    Mike Norvell has thrived in four seasons with Memphis.

    After ranking 33rd in yards per play in 2016, the Tigers have finished fourth (2017), fourth (2018) and are currently seventh (2019). Arkansas should be drawn to that extraordinary efficiency.

    Norvell also played at Central Arkansas and coached at Tulsa, so he should be familiar with the area for recruiting purposes.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Let's start here: Don't expect Penn State's James Franklin or Iowa State's Matt Campbell to leave their current situations.

    Still, Florida State has a bunch of possible options.

    The Seminoles could pursue a rising star in Minnesota's P.J. Fleck, though his connection to the area is minimal. They could target former assistant and current Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, but he's not a super-compelling pick. There's always Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic, and Washington State's Mike Leach may have real interest.

    Norvell is the most enticing candidate for his offensive prowess. And, as we covered with Arkansas, his offenses are tremendously efficient. The Seminoles desperately need a jolt offensively.

    Will FSU be willing to hire another younger, rising coach? Given the early connection to former Oklahoma boss Bob Stoops, a more established coach seems the likely result.

    Even if Norvell is the ideal one.

USC Trojans

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Although it seemed possible at the conclusion of the 2018 season, USC firing Clay Helton now feels inevitable.

    According to Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times, interim athletic director Dave Roberts said he wouldn't make a decision on Helton's future. That responsibility will instead fall on Mike Bohn, who is leaving Cincinnati to take control at USC.

    Bohn's top priority? Check with Urban Meyer.

    Well, maybe.

    Brett McMurphy of Stadium reported the former Ohio State coach is "undoubtedly" USC's top choice. Scott Wolf of Inside USC said university president Carol Folt does not want Meyer hired.

    Team culture issues have followed Meyer, but his recruiting prowess and history of winning are undeniable. Which topics will outweigh the others? This potential staredown is looking like the sport's biggest offseason story.

    If that pursuit doesn't work out, USC should open the checkbook for Minnesota's P.J. Fleck. He's already been a tremendous recruiter at Western Michigan and Minnesota; imagine what he can accomplish in one of the most talent-rich areas in the country.