With pro teams moving toward college concepts offensively and wanting to extract maximum value from young, cheap quarterbacks by playing them early, there is expected to be more interest than usual in college coaches.
Though Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley will be a hot name for the Browns job, particularly given his connection to Baker Mayfield, it’s a long shot that he’ll actually leave Oklahoma. Another college name that has bounced around the rumor mill for Cleveland is Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, an Ohio native with deep roots in the state. Baylor’s Matt Rhule got an interview in Indianapolis last year, and the program’s improvement (the Bears are 5-4 going into the final three games) could inspire teams to take another look.
Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh will be connected to NFL openings every year until he takes one. And with Notre Dame 9-0 and possibly Playoff bound, expect another round of NFL speculation to hit Brian Kelly, who has established impressive stability after some turbulent seasons. Stanford’s David Shaw has shown no real inclination to jump to the NFL.
Jeff Brohm’s decision
With Louisville sinking deeper into the abyss every week, it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine a scenario in which Bobby Petrino returns in 2019. The play here for Louisville is no secret. Purdue’s Jeff Brohm is a rising star and a favorite son, and the pull to go home (particularly for his family and those around him) will be significant. By the same token, don’t be surprised if Brohm winds up on some NFL lists — he was a backup quarterback in the league for nearly a decade — or becomes the primary target for Notre Dame or Ohio State, should either job come open.
In other words, Brohm is going to have options, a reality not lost on Purdue athletics director Mike Bobinski. While there’s a chance he could stay, Purdue’s financial limits will be tested if Louisville comes in aggressively after Brohm.
The state of Kansas
Make no mistake, Jeff Long was hired this summer as athletics director for one reason: to fix football. So to think that he hasn’t spent the last few months working diligently on a plan to replace Beaty would be foolish.
Multiple people familiar with Long’s thinking insist his focus has been on experienced head coaches who aren’t working this season and that an announcement on a replacement could come well before the end of the season. That would allow the new staff to get a running start in recruiting, particularly with the December signing period playing such a big factor now in coaching changes.
The early speculation has focused on former LSU coach Les Miles. Miles and Long overlapped at Michigan in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and Long targeted Miles in 2012 when he was the athletics director at Arkansas (Miles got an extension, and Long hired Bret Bielema).
Another name to watch is ex-Arizona State coach Todd Graham, who is an established winning college coach and would bring an exciting offense plus Texas recruiting ties. Others who fit the profile include Butch Jones and Gene Chizik.
This could be a rare year where Kansas and Kansas State change coaches.
Though Bill Snyder, 79, has amassed the power to hang on as long as he wants, a window of opportunity to stage a graceful exit is becoming smaller. Nobody will say it publicly because he’s such a legend, but there’s been fear about Snyder making his retirement a protracted behind-the-scenes fight, contingent on his son Sean being named his successor.
With Kansas State 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big 12, there seems to be more momentum behind the idea that this will be Snyder’s last season. But until he announces it publicly, you never know.
Bielema, a former K-State defensive coordinator, could be a fit here. North Dakota State’s Chris Klieman, who has three Football Championship Series national titles, has a strong connection to Wildcats athletics director Gene Taylor.
❚ Nobody has a great grasp of what’s going on at Maryland, where Matt Canada is 5-4 as the interim coach. Anything from retaining Canada to cleaning house completely is in play.
❚ Georgia Tech (5-4) has stabilized after an awful start, but the last three games are all tough. Paul Johnson’s buyout is a reasonable $4 million, and there hasn’t been much juice around the program lately. This is a school that intrigues a lot of coaches.
❚ Some Group of Five jobs that agents are keeping an eye on include East Carolina, Western Kentucky, Charlotte, UNLV and Middle Tennessee.
A high buyout might be a pivotal factor in Southern California coach Clay Helton being retained for next season.