Cov­eted Power 5 coach­ing jobs could open up

But would Franklin bolt if USC came call­ing?

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By J. Brady McCol­lough

Col­lege foot­ball play­ers must now spend time in the mys­te­ri­ous trans­fer por­tal to find a new des­ti­na­tion, but for coaches, switch­ing up lo­cales is as easy as ever in 2019: break one con­tract, sign a new one. And they won’t have to make an ap­peal to the NCAA for im­me­di­ate el­i­gi­bil­ity ei­ther.

It’s never too early to look ahead and try to fore­cast the po­ten­tial move­ments of the coach­ing carousel. Among power pro­grams, USC, Florida State and Auburn could come open. Then there is the pos­si­bil­ity that Ok­la­homa loses Lin­coln Riley to the NFL. (If Kliff Kings­bury can get fired at Texas Tech and be re­warded with an NFL head coach­ing gig, imag­ine what lux­u­ri­ous pack­ages those franchises who are search­ing for the next Sean McVay are go­ing to start throw­ing at Riley?)

In the next tier, we find a few sce­nar­ios that are more of the “thank you for all that you did, but it’s time to freshen things up” va­ri­ety.

For in­stance, Texas Chris­tian would never “fire” Gary Pat­ter­son, the man who has built that pro­gram from the ground up over the last two decades and pushed the Horned Frogs to the verge of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off in 2014. But af­ter go­ing 7-6 in 2016 and 6-7 in 2018, if TCU doesn’t show marked of­fen­sive im­prove­ment and clear signs of com­pet­ing with Texas and Ok­la­homa, there could at least be dis­cus­sion of an am­i­ca­ble part­ing of ways.

Sim­i­larly, Michi­gan State would not send Mark Dan­to­nio pack­ing un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously. The Spar­tans have made the CFP and gone 8-4 against Michi­gan un­der his watch. But things are start­ing to get a bit stale in East Lans­ing — Dan­to­nio did not bring in a new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor de­spite hav­ing a woe­ful of­fense, elect­ing in­stead to shuf­fle his staff — and it’s at least worth watch­ing if Michi­gan State doesn’t have a big bounce-back year.

Vir­ginia Tech is prob­a­bly stick­ing with Justin Fuente af­ter he won 19 games in his first two seasons, but if the pro­gram tra­jec­tory con­tin­ues to­ward last year’s 6-7 record, his seat will get hot. The Hok­ies al­ready an­nounced that de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bud Foster, a Blacks­burg in­sti­tu­tion, will re­tire af­ter this sea­son, so a tran­si­tion is com­ing. It’s just a mat­ter of whether Fuente will be lead­ing it.

South Carolina is in no hurry to give up on Will Muschamp, whose Gamecocks are fac­ing one of the tough­est sched­ules in the coun­try. Still, a big win over Alabama, Florida or Clem­son, all of which visit Columbia, would go a long way to­ward prov­ing his pro­gram is on the up­swing.

Here’s who you don’t want to be in 2019: Illi­nois’ Lovie Smith and Rut­gers’ Chris Ash.

For the top tier jobs, Iowa State’s Matt Camp­bell, Syra­cuse’s Dino Babers and Vir­ginia’s Bronco Men­den­hall will be the first names on most ath­letic di­rec­tors’ wish lists. For a premier, top-five job such as USC, a name such as Penn State’s James Franklin would make sense, too. Of course, it would be fool­ish to leave Ur­ban Meyer out of any spec­u­la­tion.

Cincin­nati’s Luke Fick­ell, Ken­tucky’s Mark Stoops, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, N.C. State’s Dave Do­eren, Pittsburgh’s Pat Nar­duzzi, Wake For­est’s Dave Claw­son, Mem­phis’ Mike Norvell and North Texas’ Seth Lit­trell could be wor­thy of more high-pro­file jobs and might be ap­peal­ing based on the par­tic­u­lar fit.

MARK J. TERRILL/AP

Penn State’s James Franklin is a name to watch should South­ern Cal­i­for­nia look to make a coach­ing change.

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