Monday was a pivotal day for the college football head coaches’ merry-go-round, as one college filled its vacancy while two others opened up.
The big news of the day came out of Los Angeles, where USC named Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian to the same position. An assistant on Pete Carroll’s coaching staff for seven years (2001-2003, 2005-2008), Sarkisian has spent the last five seasons as the Huskies head coach, during which time Washington has posted a 34-29 record and is on the verge of going to its fourth consecutive bowl game, the team’s longest such streak since 2000-2002.
Sarkisian’s hiring was a bit of a surprise by USC due to multiple reports that the Trojans had narrowed their search down to Boise State’s Chris Petersen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, two well-respected young head coaches. Still, Sarkisian appears to have the makeup needed to win in L.A.: he’s young, energetic, has head coaching experience in the PAC-12, and has spent more than enough time within the USC program to know what it will take to keep the Trojans competitive.
Now that Sarkisian has vacated Seattle, who will be the next Washington head coach? Here are five names to consider:
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State HC – DeRuyter is arguably the hottest head coaching candidate on the West Coast thanks to the Bulldogs’ impressive 2013 campaign, which saw Fresno State post an 11-1 record and were oh so close to busting the BCS. DeRuyter holds a 20-5 record in two seasons as head coach, and while he may be winning with Pat Hill’s recruits, the fifty year old certainly has had a good bit of say in Fresno’s resurgence.
Justin Wilcox, Washington DC – Wilcox arrived in Seattle after the 2011 season and has done a good job at building the Huskies’ defense, which held opponents to twenty-five points or less in seven games this season and has done so in a total of fifteen games since he replaced Nick Holt as defensive coordinator. Washington athletic director Scott Woodward has praised Wilcox along with LB coach Peter Sirmon, saying both will one day be head coaches; does Woodward have enough confidence in Wilcox to hand him the keys to this program?
Doug Nussmeier, Alabama OC – Nussmeier is very familiar with this program from his three year stint as Huskies offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011, and since he left Washington he has been calling the plays for a Crimson Tide squad that has lost a total of two games in almost two full seasons. It would be extremely hard to argue with hiring Nussmeier considering the way Alabama has played since he joined the staff, although there are questions concerning how much of the credit Nussmeier deserves. Former Alabama play-caller Jim McElwain’s success with his own program at Colorado State (Rams are 7-5 this season) certainly does not hurt Nussmeier’s chances at landing a head coaching job.
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU HC – A former PAC-12 player at Oregon State in the ‘80s, Mendenhall has done a great job with the Cougars, who were coming off the disappointing Gary Crowton era when he was hired way back in 2005. Mendenhall’s 82-33 record with Brigham Young is certainly impressive, but the fact that he has been there nine years may mean he is content with staying put in Provo. Would Bronco be willing to buck BYU and head to the PAC-12?
Greg Roman, 49ers OC – Roman was a highly respected college offensive coordinator during his stint with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, and although the 49ers have been up and down in 2013, that does not remove the fact that Roman was calling plays for one of the teams in Super Bowl XLVII. Sure, having a Super Bowl ring would have done wonders in recruiting, but nevertheless Roman is a name that athletic directors should at least inquire about.
Meanwhile, another head coaching move was made in the Tar Heel State, as longtime Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe announced his resignation. Grobe had done a commendable job as Demon Deacons head coach, leaving Winston-Salem with a 77-82 including five bowl appearances over the course of thirteen seasons. The highlight of Grobe’s tenure with Wake Forest came back in 2006, when Wake went 11-3 and won the ACC for the first time since 1970.
Despite the good times had under Grobe’s leadership, things had turned sour for the Demon Deacons as of late, seen in the team’s five consecutive losing seasons. The 2013 season was not much kinder to Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons went 4-8 with four losses coming by seven points or less.
With Grobe now gone, who will lead Wake Forest in 2014? Here are five coaches that may ultimately get the nod:
Chad Morris, Clemson OC – Morris, along with Alabama’s Kirby Smart, is the most sought-after coordinator in all of college football, which means that he can pick and choose which head coaching position he winds up taking. Judging from Jim Grobe’s $2.2 million salary, Morris would see an increase in the $1.3 million a year he is making calling the plays for the Tigers; the question is whether or not Wake would be the job that lures him from Death Valley.
Pete Lembo, Ball State HC – Lembo’s Cardinals had an outstanding year, finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record that included a 48-27 beatdown of the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville back on October 5th. Now in his thirteenth season as a head coach with stops at Lehigh and Elon, Lembo has the type of experience that Wake Forest will need if it intends to compete with Florida State and Clemson every once in a while. I am 100% convinced that Lembo will not be the Ball State head coach in 2014; where he will be coaching, however, is totally up in the air.
Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina HC – Formerly the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech during the Mike Leach era, McNeill has done his part in helping his alma mater maintain competitiveness year after year, currently holding a 28-22 record over the course of four years. McNeill knows how to recruit North Carolina and had great success against ACC opponents this year (beat North Carolina 55-31 & NC State 42-28, lost to Virginia Tech 15-10), so why not consider him for this position?
Dave Clawson, Bowling Green HC – It looks like Clawson has finally turned the corner with the Falcons, recording Bowling Green’s first back-to-back winning seasons since 2004-2005 thanks to a 9-3 record this year that included two losses by a combined four points. A former head coach at Richmond (29-20 record with two I-AA Coach of the Year awards), Clawson’s Falcons are set to face off with Northern Illinois on Friday night for the MAC Championship, a game that several schools may keep an eye on in order to gauge Clawson’s readiness to take another step up.
Blake Anderson, North Carolina OC – Definitely the wildcard of this group, Anderson’ s Tar Heels offense certainly produced in 2013, averaging 32 points per contest, including an 80-point outburst against Old Dominion on November 23rd. Anderson’s first season in Chapel Hill saw UNC set new school records for points in a season, points per game, and total offense, showing that the team’s spread offense seems to work very well. Anderson’s candidacy for this job hinges on either Wake Forest’s top targets declining the team’s offer or the team deciding not to break the bank with a new head coach; either way, it would not be impossible.