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Star-Ranking the Coaching Candidates

November 25, 2017

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley was fired by Athletic Director Bill Moos on Nov. 25. There has been constant speculation that this way coming since Moos was hired to replace former Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, the man who hired Riley in a stunning move in December of 2014.

With the Huskers officially on the market for a new head coach, it’s time to look at some candidates for the job. However, because recruiting is my world, I wanted to break them down into star-ratings just like prospects Nebraska looks at on the field. Let’s get weird.

5-star Candidates

Scott Frost (HC, UCF)

No Nebraska coaching list will be without the man currently guiding Central Florida to a sensational season. The former Huskers quarterback leads one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, a blend of the Oregon offense he coordinated in Eugene and the Tom Osborne offense he played in. He is the overwhelming favorite of the fans to lead the program.

Matt Campbell (HC, Iowa State)

The 37-year old coach is in his second year as the head man of the Cyclones. His overall record at Iowa State is 10-13 but he has guided his team to wins over Oklahoma and TCU this season while being ravished by injuries at the quarterback position. He is known as a terrific motivator and relentless recruiter. He has huge upside if he wants a bigger job right now.

Chris Petersen (HC, Washington)

Petersen pops up on just about every team’s wish list when they have an opening and that has been happening since he was at Boise State drawing up plays to beat Oklahoma. He is arguably one of the top five coaches in all of college football. His game-planning, in-game adjustments and play-calling will keep ADs trying to pry him out of Washington.

4-star Candidates

Bob Stoops (Retired)

Stoops simply had an amazing run as the head coach at Oklahoma. During his 18 years in Norman, his record was 190-48. He won one national championship, 10 conference championships, played in three Orange Bowls, three Sugar Bowls and three Fiesta Bowls. There are doubts about his stated intention to retire, it certainly would not hurt to call to check.

Gary Patterson (HC, TCU)

By now, everyone has heard the story of Gary Patterson saying that he had an interview with Nebraska the year they hired Bo Pelini where Patterson claims he felt Nebraska was set on hiring Pelini. All Patterson has done since then have 4 double digit win seasons and 4 top 10 finishes. At 57, it’s unclear if Patterson wants to build another program but he is a top-notch coach. Top-notch enough that TCU signed him to an extension on Friday, making it very hard for any school to pry him away.

Justin Fuente (HC, Virginia Tech)

The 41-year-old coach in his second year at Virginia Tech was a hot name in the coaching search world when he took over the Hokies coming off a successful stint at Memphis. During his time at Tech, his record is 19-7 with a division title last year. The transition from long-time coach Frank Beamer has been seamless from the outside looking in. Fuente has Midwestern roots being from Tulsa, Oklahoma and cook eventually look to get closer to home

3-star Candidates

Ken Niumatalolo (HC, Navy)

If you want discipline in your program, Niumatalolo is your man. Also, if you long for the days of the old-school version of the option, he is also your man. Niumatalolo has the most wins of any coach in Navy history.

Mike Leach (HC, Washington State)

The quirky personality is certainly qualified as a football coach. Leach has won at Texas Tech and Washington State, two college football outposts that everyone can admit are difficult places to win. His air-raid system is proven to put up massive statistics and points. His familiarity with Moos makes him low-hanging fruit for anyone speculating about the open job.

Mike Norvell (HC, Memphis)

At the age of 36, the young coach is the other hot Group of 5 candidate being looked at for jobs this coaching cycle. His record at Memphis since taking over for Justin Fuente is 17-6, with five of those losses coming last season. He’s in line to get a big job with all of the openings this cycle.  

Super Sleepers

Brent Venables (DC, Clemson)

There hasn’t been a lot of buzz surrounding the hot assistant coaches this cycle like there usually is. However, if one could be a good sell in Lincoln, it’d be Venables. The former Oklahoma defensive coordinator and Kansas State assistant has been Clemson’s defensive coordinator since 2012 and is one of the nation’s top assistants.

Jeremy Pruitt (DC, Alabama)

Could going to the Saban tree prove fruitful? It could have big rewards like Georgia is enjoying with Saban’s last defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart. Pruitt will likely get a job in the next cycle or two, is he ready to run his own program yet or does he need more time in the Saban “process?”

Justin Wilcox (HC, Cal)

Nebraska couldn’t possibly take a chance on a west coast coach hovering around a .500 record right? Well this one is a bit different than the last one they hired. For starters, Wilcox is just 41. He is also in just in his first year as the Cal head coach and is still unproven. However, he did spend a year in the Big Ten when he was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2016.

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