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Which college coaches are in line for a promotion?

The cost of success at the Group of Five level means you're going to be looking for a new coach soon.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

It's safe to say nobody got into coaching college football for the job stability.

Most guys grind it out.  Years spent making next to nothing as a GA, maybe a spot as a position coach for a few years, and if they stick it out and have some success maybe the chance to run the offense or defense as a coordinator.

But it's the job of head coach they all covet. And those jobs don't come easy.

This year's coaching carousel got off to an early start and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, and speculation and rumor about who USC will hire or if Miami will spend the money are fun and dominate the news cycle - but what happens to the schools that have their coaches poached by bigger programs?

Memphis and Houston can enjoy Justin Fuente and Tom Herman for now, but they'll be joining the carousel soon.


Current coach: Tom Herman
Potential replacements: Major Applewhite, Todd Orlando, Doug Meacham, Brent Venables, Kendal Briles

The Tom Herman-era is way ahead of schedule, even for a program that has somewhat heightened expectations. Herman's Cougar team remains unbeaten in 2015 and may very well be in the drivers seat for a New Year's Day Bowl.

The hiring process is one Houston is getting to know well.  Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin parlayed their tenures here into bigger gigs and upped the expectations enough that Tony Levine had back to back 8 wins seasons and still got the ax. And while most expected Herman to win here, it's shocking how quickly he's gotten things rolling.

Herman, however, remains a bit of a wild card in the coaching carousel. Despite the success and pedigree, one year is not a large sample size. He's undoubtedly a shooting star in the coaching profession, but will South Carolina or Miami or Virginia Tech roll the dice on the former Buckeye coordinator? It seems likely someone will take that chance, so Herman is very much in a position to take his time and wait for his preferred spot -- his demand is only going up.

In the event Herman bolts after this year, Houston will have no shortage of quality candidates.  In-house they've got two good candidates in offensive coordinator Major Applewhite and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando - either of whom is likely to bolt for bigger coordinator gigs this off-season regardless of whether or not the head coach job opens.

There's also the option of going back to the Briles family/coaching tree and grabbing Baylor offensive coordinator, Kendal Briles, The younger Briles is only 33, but graduated from Houston in 2006 and has cut his chops as an offensive whiz-kid since.  If he can help navigate Baylor to a playoff bid this year, his candidacy might be more legitimate.

TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham also has Houston ties having ran the offense for the Cougars under Kevin Sumlin in 2013.  At 50, Meacham is the most experienced of the potential candidates and likely the most ready to run his own show be it here, or say, North Texas.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables seems destined to be a candidate at a number of spots soon, and cut his teeth at Oklahoma so there are some ties to the region.  Should the Courgars want to bring in a more defensive-minded coach, this would be an excellent option.


Current coach: Justin Fuente
Potential replacements: Ed Orgeron, Frank Wilson, Rhett Lashlee, Tee Martin

It's taken Fuente a few more years than Tom Herman to get his program humming, but no one seems to be linked to more potential openings than the Memphis head coach. Memphis, despite the football talent that surrounds it, has not historically had the success of other Group of Five schools.  With that in mind, Fuente pretty much has to jump at a bigger job this year or risk damaging his profile.

There doesn't seem to be a next-in-line successor on the current staff, so expect the Tigers to look outside their program --just like they did with Fuente-- in hiring their next football coach.

Ed Orgeron makes a lot of sense here.  Coach O didn't set the world on fire at Ole Miss in his first shot at being a head coach, but seems primed for another opportunity. His ties to the memphis recruiting base and colorful personality will be an asset in keeping the program winning.

Another option from the LSU staff is Frank Wilson.  Wilson, currently LSU's running backs coach, has developed the reputation as a fierce recruiter throughout the region.  At 42, he has to be eager to get a shot at running his own program, but will face the stigma of never having been a coordinator.

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has tarnished his star slightly this season with the Tigers' offensive struggles. However, the general consensus remains Lashlee is destined to be the next Gus Malzahn protegee  to succeed as a head coach.  Lashlee is only 32, and may very well have to wait a few more years to run the show, but Memphis could do far worse than the Springdale, Arkansas native.

Tee Martin is a bit of a wild card here.  The former Tennessee quarterback certainly has the name recognition to create a buzz, but has only spent six seasons as a collegiate coach (zero as a coordinator).  Still, Martin has made a name for himself in the coaching ranks as USC's wide-outs coach and may very well be looking for employment this off season depending on what the Trojans do with their own hire.


Current coach: Matt Rhule
Potential replacements: Al Golden, Phil Snow, KC Keeler, Mario Cristobal

Rhule seems like the guy least likely to move and look for the greener pastures of a bigger program this off season. That's not because he hasn't done a great job with Temple or he isn't an attractive candidate -- he simply seems very comfortable in Philly.

Inevitably, the limitations of Temple will sink in though. This is a program that was once kicked out of the Big East for being non-competitive and can't match the money/facilities/profile of most Power Five schools.

Rhule leaving would put the Owls in the unfortunate spot of hiring their fourth coach in six seasons.

From the re-hire bin, both Al Golden and Greg Schiano are available.  Yes, Golden did burn some bridges here when he left for Miami, but he also turned around the Owl program. If he's looking to get back into the coaching game, it may be a nice reunion story.

Schiano doesn't have direct history with Temple, but did revive a similar dormant eastern program in Rutgers.  Since being fired from Tampa Bay, he's been angling to get back into a head coaching role, but has yet to be successful. He'll undoubtedly make a run at bigger jobs, but Temple may be his best option.

Long-time defensive assistant, Phil Snow has done a tremendous job with the Owl defense this year, but it appears too late in his career for him to be considered a serious candidate.

Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal has revived his coaching reputation after being fired from FIU and has ties to the area via a previous coaching stint at Rutgers.  Temple could potentially be a nice landing spot after a few years of tutelage under Nick Saban.

And finally there's K.C. Keeler.  Keeler got his start at DIII Rowan in New Jersey, but is perhaps best known for his stint as head coach at FCS-level Delaware.  He successfully led the Blue Hens to one national championship and two more title game appearances before being let go in 2012.  He resurfaced at Sam Houston State in 2014 and has built a record of 17-7 in his time there. It's never easy to make the jump in competition levels in college football, but if Temple is looking for a stable coach who would be content at Temple for the next 6-8 years, then Keeler is certainly worthy of consideration.

The MAC Schools (Bowling Green, Western Michigan and Toledo)

Current coaches: Dino Babers, PJ Fleck, Matt Campbell 
Potential replacements: DJ Durkin, Luke Fickell, Chris Ash, Ed Warrinar, a myriad of other B1G assistants, Mike Yurcich, Mike Elston, Brady Hoke

If there's anyone who knows about getting their coach poached by a bigger school -- it's the Mid-American Conference. The MAC has been the incubator for growing head coaches, particularly for the Big Ten, since the dawn of college football.

The cream of the current crop of MAC coaches, Barbers, Fleck, and Campbell all are prominently mentioned in openings for larger schools and likely will be moving on soon.  This is a common reality for many MAC schools, who now must compete salary-wise with coordinator positions at Power Five schools.

At Bowling Green, it would be a third coaching search in four years. The Falcons job seems to be a perfect landing spot for an Ohio State assistant on the rise, say Luke Fickell or Chris Ash, but there is still a stinging animosity at receiving the Buckeyes hand me downs (how else can you explain Jeff Boals not getting a job?). And while Fickell or Ash would be great hires here, Michigan's D.J. Durkin seems tailored made for the job.  The Wolverine defensive coordinator played at BG from 1997-2000 then served as a GA and assistant coach under one Urban Frank Meyer. He further bolstered his coaching resume during stints at Stanford and Florida before taking the job in Ann Arbor this year. At 37, Durkin is at a prime age to take over his own program, but it may come at the cost of a pay cut to his $800K salary.

Toledo's Matt Campbell may not have the flash of other names, but has been a consistent winner since taking over the Rockets program from Tim Beckman in 2012. Campbell, a Mount Union alum, is so well thought of that Ohio State's Urban Meyer badly wanted to hire him as part of his first Buckeye staff.

Other typical B1G assistants are in play here -- although Toledo doesn't seem to have the aversion to Ohio State assistants that other in-state schools have.  However, it's just as likely that Toledo looks to keep things rolling with an in-house promotion of offensive coordinator Jason Candle.

At Western Michigan, It will be difficult for whoever follows P.J. Fleck to match his personality. His turnaround job in Kalamazoo has been remarkable, but Fleck will forever be more known his recruiting theatrics and "row the boat" mantra.

So when Fleck does move on (and he will soon), he'll leave behind a program with incredible foundation to succeed in the near future. Former Michigan linebacker and current Notre Dame assistant coach Mike Elston seems like a natural fit here.

Elston has grinded-out from a video assistant at Michigan, to a position coach at Eastern Michigan, to a stint at Cincinnati, and now as a defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator for the Fighting Irish. He has the background and work ethic needed to win at WMU.

And to throw an interesting name out there for the potential Bronco opening -- how about Brady Hoke? He's won at the MAC level, has recruiting relations in the area, and spent three seasons as an assistant at WMU. The end of his Michigan tenure was pretty awful, but this could be a nice opportunity for him to resurface.  He may even wear a headset this time.

That Team Up North

Current coach: Jim Harbaugh
Potential replacements: The Ghost of Fielding Yost, Jim Bob Cooter, Kirk Ferentz

It's clear that Harbaugh is headed back to the NFL, right?  That guy can't live without a Super Bowl.  As for who would take the job when he leaves?  It's hard to imagine anyone lining up to take over a program that hasn't won an outright Big Ten title since the first W. administration.