There are many Power Five coaching openings already this season, with a couple more likely on the way. Here are my top choices for those openings.
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Why it’s open: Clay Helton never really quite felt like he was the right guy for that program. While he had some success, it always felt a bit like he was a square peg in a round hole. He lacked the charisma of a Pete Carroll and the recruiting slipped during his tenure, as did the on-field performance. While 46-24 isn’t anything to sneeze at, it’s not up to snuff at USC, which has historically been the dominant program in the conference.
Farrell’s pick: James Franklin
Franklin has had success at both Vanderbilt and Penn State, and is known as one of the game’s top recruiters. He has a bigger personality than many coaches, and that will play well in Los Angeles, where it takes a lot to break through. He’s also great in living rooms, and USC is a recruiter’s dream. If there’s anyone who’s going to be able to do it, it’s Franklin. Franklin should instantly kill it on the recruiting trail and quickly get the program back to the top of the conference.
Why it’s open: There are a multitude of reasons why Ed Orgeron is out in Baton Rouge less than two years after winning a national title, but at the end of the day it’s the fact that the team hasn’t won enough. After going 5-5 last season, the Tigers got off to a 3-3 start and that was enough for the administration to part ways with Orgeron, effective at the end of the season. His off-the-field issues have not helped the situation, as widespread reporting has documented the litany of questionable decisions that he has made.
Farrell’s pick: Mel Tucker
Would Tucker be willing to change jobs again? It would be his third job in four years. But it’s clear that he can coach and recruit, and he would be an outstanding fit in Baton Rouge. He has spent time at both Alabama and Georgia, has NFL experience and can clearly get the most out of his talent, as evidenced by Michigan State‘s 8-0 start to this season.
Why it’s open: One of the longest-tenured coaches in college football, Gary Patterson‘s ousting is arguably the biggest surprise firing of the season. But TCU has been on the decline since 2015, having only one year with more than seven wins since. After a 3-5 start to this season – and some questionable assistant coaching hires – it was time for new blood in the program.
Farrell’s pick: Sonny Dykes
Dykes wouldn’t have to go far to take over the Horned Frogs, as he lives just down the road in Dallas right now as the coach of SMU. He had led the Mustangs to an undefeated season before a last-second loss to Houston this past weekend. Dykes is a first-rate offensive mind who has strong roots across the state of Texas, even having spent a season at TCU in 2017.
Why it’s open: Matt Wells always seemed like a bit of a strange fit at Texas Tech, and he didn’t win enough to keep the job. He was 7-16 in conference in two-and-a-half seasons, and despite some improvement this year, he has not been able to replicate the success the program saw under Mike Leach, or even Kliff Kingsbury.
Farrell’s pick: Joey McGuire
McGuire, the current associate head coach at Baylor, has plenty of Texas roots, having been a legendary high school coach at Cedar Hill. Texas Tech is one of the toughest Power Five jobs, due to its combination of location and in-state competition. McGuire’s defensive background would be a departure from the offensive backgrounds that we’ve become accustomed to in Lubbock, which might be a benefit to the program. But this man also knows offense — trust me. His relationships with high school coaches across the state would undoubtedly be an asset.
Why it’s open: Even before he wasn’t willing to comply with the state of Washington’s vaccine mandate, Nick Rolovich was already starting to be on the hot seat. He had plenty of off-the-field issues at both Hawaii and Washington State, and his 5-6 record wasn’t helping things after the success that the program had seen under Mike Leach. But his noncompliance with the mandate gave athletic director Pat Chun the ability to fire him with cause and not have to pay a buyout.
Farrell’s pick: Kalen DeBoer
The Fresno State coach is a fast-rising name who is known for his offenses. He’s a grinder who started at the NAIA level and won three national titles, leading the University of Sioux Falls to a 67-3 record during his five years. He’s been an OC at the Power Five level before becoming Fresno State’s head man in 2020. And we’ve seen his Bulldogs team put up big numbers and pull off upsets over bigger programs. He’d be a great fit, and he’s not afraid of a challenge.
MAJOR SOON-TO-BE OPEN JOBS ….
Why it will be open: Manny Diaz, despite back-to-back wins over ranked opponents for the first time since 2017, is still firmly entrenched on the hot seat after mediocre results over the past three seasons. His 18-14 overall record and lackluster recruiting (the 2022 class currently sits at 57th in the Rivals ranking, sandwiched between BYU and San Diego State) has led to the fanbase being very cranky. The only thing preventing his firing at this point is an administration and AD who do not seem quite as engaged with the program or care about its success as much as previous regimes.
Farrell’s pick: Mario Cristobal
This is a no-brainer. Cristobal is a South Florida native who has deep roots in Miami (he played there as well) and would be an absolute home run hire for The U. He’s arguably the top recruiter in the country outside of Nick Saban and has grown tremendously as a big-game coach. He has proven he can compete with the big boys at Oregon, as evidenced by the Ducks’ big upset over Ohio State earlier this season. A long shot? Yes. But Miami has always been his dream job.
Why it will be open: When Scott Frost took over the Cornhuskers program in 2018 there was nothing but optimism coming out of Lincoln, and for plenty of good reason. Frost had just led UCF to an undefeated season and a a bowl win over Auburn, and was being hailed as an offensive genius returning to his alma mater. But now he’s staring down the barrel of a fourth straight losing season and has yet to finish better than fifth in the Big Ten West. With a new AD in place at Nebraska there is almost zero doubt that Frost will be gone at or before the season’s end.
Farrell’s pick: Bill O’Brien
The former Penn State and Houston Texans head coach has spent this season at the Nick Saban Rehabilitation Camp for Coaches, where he is now serving as the offensive coordinator for one of the best offenses in the country. He’s a proven commodity, too. People will forget, but he took over Penn State at the low point in that program’s history in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and led it to back-to-back winning seasons before heading to the pros. He made the playoffs four times in six seasons with the Texans as well, and would bring some stability and veteran leadership to that position. Other names – like Matt Campbell and Luke Fickell – will be mentioned, but O’Brien would have the best shot at success.