Coaching Carousel

By John Harris
October 3, 2013

As seasons move on, we find out the fates of college coaches that didn't work out. We also learn who's willing to bolt. Here, John Harris takes a look at the best available candidates and where they could land.

Editor's Note: Bookmark this page. John Harris will continue updating it throughout the year.

Okay, the coaching carousel started spinning a little earlier than usual this year, starting when former USC head coach Lane Kiffin stepped off the team bus early Sunday morning.  Then, the news of Texas AD DeLoss Dodds retiring prior to the start of the next academic year hit a crescendo on Monday.  The widely held speculation is that with Dodds out, Texas HBC Mack Brown won't be far behind.  Add in U Conn firing its head coach Paul Pasqualoni and it's been wild way to finish September.

Now, Kiffin and Pasqualoni should've never been in those roles to begin with, but that's a different story.  So, let's start tracking some coaching prospects for all levels of teams this off-season.  This isn't meant to say that these coaches WILL leave, but their agents will be getting calls…soon.

Top candidates

Bill O'Brien, Penn State Head Coach

Could be the perfect fit at either Texas (if open, of course) or USC given his ability to connect to players, recruiting abilities and the coaching chops to get the most out of the talent on his campus.  Some might question whether he wants to leave the East Coast, but it's worth, well worth, asking the question.

Targets:  Top five job in the country

James Franklin, Vanderbilt Head Coach

Gregarious, intelligent, great pedigree and made Vanderbilt a winner.  Yes, read that again, he made Vanderbilt relevant in the SEC.

Targets:  Top job in any other conference than SEC

Pete Lembo, Ball State Head Coach

Having lived in Burlington, NC a few miles away from Elon University, I watched that program spin its wheels for a while.  Then, Lembo showed up from Lehigh and he turned that program around.  He's doing the same at Ball State.  There's no question a BCS program (U Conn?) shouldn't snap him up yesterday.

Targets:  BCS level job

Charlie Strong, Louisville Head Coach

Finally getting an opportunity at Louisville, Strong has built up his resume with a brilliant start to his head coaching career at Louisville.  The worst thing that could happen to Louisville is for the Cardinals to finish with an undefeated record and have no shot at the national championship game.  That frustration may be enough to force him to listen to others, but moving into the ACC next year will help the cause.  That and some more cash.

Targets:  Top five job in the country or best SEC job available

Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky Head Coach

Because he's a coaching whore…and WKU knows it.

Targets:  BCS conference job, preferably east of the Mississippi River

Jerry Gray, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator

Although he's only coached one year in college, he's a hot name, especially in these parts given his years at the University of Texas.  No one is sure what he'll do in recruiting, how he'll be in the spotlight each and every season and what kind of leader he'll be for young men.  But, he's a good, solid football coach that has to decide whether he wants to coach in the NFL or college.

Target:  University of Texas (only job that pulls him away from NFL)

Mark Hudspeth, ULL Head Coach

Not a well known name throughout the country, but he went 66-21 at North Alabama and has been 18-8 at ULL, including two straight New Orleans Bowl wins.  He'll continue to win at ULL, but there's a ceiling on what he can do there.

Targets:  BCS jobs or spot in MWC

Paul Chryst, Pitt Head Coach

I don't truly think he'd entertain leaving Pitt at this point, now that the Panthers are in the ACC.  However, if a team is looking for a no non-sense, excellent football coach and leader, Chryst is that guy.  He has B1G experience, having led the Wisconsin Badgers offense for years.  Ditto for Pac 12 experience when he was OC at Oregon State a few years ago.

Targets:  SEC job or top B1G job

Danny Langsdorf, Oregon State Offensive Coordinator

If the Beavers continue to light up the scoreboard, which they should, Langsdorf, an Oregon native, should get some looks from MWC and even Pac-12 schools looking for head coaches.  He's from McMinnville, OR, home of a good friend of mine (shameless plug) so it may be hard to pry him away.  But, few offensive coordinators have produced like Langsdorf, year in and year out.

Targets:  West coast jobs (MWC, Pac-12)

Mike Riley, Oregon State Head Coach

Riley seems so comfortable at Oregon State that it would appear that he's not going anywhere.  But, he spent a few years at USC as offensive coordinator in the early 1990s and the Trojans have seen what he's done in Corvallis for years.  Pat Haden needs to make that call and Riley ultimately should listen.  But, Haden's going to have a number of other prospects on his list that a "well, let me think about it" option will probably get discarded.

Of course when asked on Tuesday as to whether he would be interested in USC job, he said "No.".  Okay, well that settles that.

Targets:  USC, maybe

Chris Petersen, Boise State Head Coach

No.  Just no.

Targets:  None

Tom Herman, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator

Everywhere Herman has gone, the offense continues to thrive:  Rice, Iowa State and Ohio State.  More success with the explosive talent at Ohio State will put him on AD's radars, if it hasn't already.

Targets: MAC, MWC or lower half BCS schools (kind of a starters job, if you will)

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach

Everybody wants him.  Everybody should want him.  Worst case scenario, he's going to get a raise.  But, let the bidding begin.

Targets:  NFL, USC, Texas and every other top five job in the nation.

Art Briles, Baylor Head Coach

Baylor is building a new stadium.  Facilities have improved.  The overall product on the field is outstanding.  Briles rebuilt Houston.  He rebuilt Baylor.  There's no way in Hades that if the Texas job comes open that he shouldn't be considered for it.  He'll put butts in seats, recruits in jets and put Ws in the left hand column.

Targets:  Top 15 job in the country, in particular the University of Texas

Lane Kiffin, Unemployed

Heh heh heh heh…just seeing if you're paying attention.

Targets:  CFL jobs