College Football’s Top 10 Best Head Coaching Candidates


The coaching carousel never stops. Every year, there are coaches waiting in the wings to get their shots as head men on campus. With Ohio State already looking and programs like UCLA, Washington State, Ole Miss and Kansas possibly in the market for a new coach in 2012, we look at college football’s top 10 best head coaching candidates.


Note: Candidates limited only to those who are not currently college football head coaches


T-10. Bryan Harsin (Texas co-offensive coordinator)

There’s always a market for young, creative offensive minds. Texas hired the 34-year old this offseason after he turned Boise State into an offensive juggernaut. Harsin tutored Kellen Moore and helped turn him into a Heisman Trophy candidate. Yeah, there will be some interest here.


T-10. Bud Foster (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator)

Virginia Tech annually is known for its stingy defense. Foster has been with the Hokies since 1987, becoming defensive coordinator in 1995. He always seems to be a bridesmaid when schools are looking for a new coach, but Foster may be waiting to be Frank Beamer’s replacement in Blacksburg.


9. Paul Chryst (Wisconsin offensive coordinator)

Texas chose Harsin over Chryst, but Wisconsin’s OC has made people notice him by putting up gaudy numbers in Madison. His offense put 70 points on Austin Peay and Northwestern and 80 on Indiana. Those aren’t heavy-hitters, but Chryst was piling up an obscene amount of points all season with an old school, smash-mouth offense.


8. Brent Venables (Oklahoma defensive coordinator)

OU’s defense is always good, but much credit is given to coach Bob Stoops, who is known as a defensive guru. But Stoops has had defensive coordinator Brent Venables by his side at OU in some capacity since 1999. Venables has been a candidate for both head jobs and awards, but always falls just short. With K-State’s Bill Snyder now 71, the Wildcats would be foolish not to look at Venables - a KSU alum - as his replacement.


7. Kirby Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator)

Smart is ready for a promotion. He won the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant, in 2009. He is Alabama’s assistant head coach and is the highest-paid coach Nick Saban’s staff. He’s a top recruiter and has NFL experience, all the ingredients to be a good head man somewhere. With the Crimson Tide defense expected to rise again this fall, we’d be shocked if he’s still at Alabama in 2012.


6. Rich Rodriguez (CBS Sports Network analyst)

RichRod’s defense flopped so hard at Michigan that it obscures two absolute truths: He had a wonderful tenure at West Virginia, and the Wolverines’ offense actually was really good. Rodriguez can still be a good head coach; he just needs a good defensive mind on his staff. Oh, and slightly less pressure wouldn’t hurt.


5. Gus Malzahn (Auburn offensive coordinator)

Malzahn is one of the great offensive minds in college football. He has had success at Arkansas, Tulsa and Auburn, where he has been since 2009 and just won a national title. He turned down $3 million to be Vanderbilt’s head coach, most likely waiting for a better situation. But with his only head coaching experience at the high school, Malzahn will need to hire a top notch defensive coordinator.


4. Mike Bellotti (ESPN college football analyst)

Chip Kelly has taken Oregon to the next level, but Bellotti was the one who made the program a powerhouse. He handed the program over to Kelly after the 2008 season and stayed on as the athletic director until March 2010, when he took a job as an ESPN analyst. But Bellotti, 60, flirted with Colorado and it seems he’s not done on the sideline.


3. Mike Leach (CBS Sports Network analyst)

Hiring Leach won’t be a public relations home run, to say the least, but he certainly can coach. Just look at his resume - he was 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09, when he didn’t have a single losing season. In fact, he had eight straight seasons with at least eight wins. The man can coach and put butts in the seats with his trademark “Air Raid” offense.


2. Jon Gruden (ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst)

Gruden has won a Super Bowl and been beamed into millions of homes as an analyst on “Monday Night Football.” Needless to say, he would be a great recruiter with a Super Bowl ring on his finger and his ability to talk with players evidenced during his pre-draft QB camps. Gruden is a great offensive mind who has studied Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense and would be a great motivator with his legendary intensity. “Chucky” is a top candidate for most open NFL and college jobs for a reason.


1. Urban Meyer (ESPN college football analyst)

Was there ever any doubt? Spread offense guru, master recruiter and two-time national champion, Meyer has it all. The only question is if he will ever coach again after already retiring twice. You can bet Ohio State and schools across the country will bang on his door every offseason until he returns to the sidelines.


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