Every coaching search has a plan, at least until reality hits.
Big jobs open unexpectedly, coaches latch onto former bosses or alma maters. Occasionally a small school ponies up enough to hold onto a hot candidate for another year. South Carolina still needs a new staff, so it’s worth looking at some of the more unsung candidates that could still be up and coming.
Who: Temple head coach
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Why: Turned the Owls into a 10-win team with a rugged and strong defense. His background is mostly Northeastern, with a stop at UCLA, but he spent four seasons at Western Carolina and worked under former Florida assistant Steve Addazio.
Who: Oklahoma offensive coordinator.
Why: A young coach (32), he is currently running a top-flight offense on a top-5 team. He’s been able to combine an air raid-style, high-tempo passing offense with a multi-threat running game. He also coached for five years at East Carolina, so he knows the region somewhat and has recruited here. He even signed former South Carolina receiving target Dre Massey out of Mauldin High School.
Who: Bowling Green head coach
Why: A practitioner of the dynamic Art Briles offense from Baylor, he’s gone 36-16 at two stops, with two conference titles and two division titles in four years. He’s had the benefit of inheriting top-flight quarterbacks at each stop (NFL backup Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois and Matt Johnson at Bowling Green).
Who: Air Force head coach
Why: At first glance, he’s an odd fit, but he has a diverse background. Despite running the triple option with the Falcons (seemingly mandated for service academy schools), he also had four years of NFL experience, one as offensive coordinator at Houston. He spent a couple years as a Wake Forest assistant in North Carolina.
Who: Clemson defensive coordinator
Why: Already has a solid record and has built a pair of extremely high-level defenses the past two years. Transitioned well to the state after spending his career in Kansas and Oklahoma and still young at 44.
Who: SMU head coach
Why: His 2-10 record in one season with the Mustangs probably keeps him in Texas for another year, but he is a highly-respected offensive mind. He’s built strong attacks since bouncing up from the high school ranks in 2010, in essence creating Clemson’s current offensive renaissance.
Kendal Briles/Philip Montgomery
Who: Baylor offensive coordinator/Tulsa head coach
Why: Both are experts in running the high-pace air raid offense Briles’ father deploys. Kendal Briles is much younger and has strong recruiting chops, but the main difference is the year Montgomery has had coaching the Golden Hurricanes to a 6-6 record.
Who: TCU co-offensive coordinator
Why: A little on the older side at 50, he helped turn the Horned Frogs offense into a powerhouse. His last decade of coaching has been in Texas and Oklahoma, but he’s had stints at smaller schools in Arkansas, Florida, Alabama and Georgia (at noted junior college Georgia Military College).
Who: Utah State head coach
Why: Since taking over for Gary Anderson, he has managed to post a 25-15 record with nine- and 10-win seasons despite losing starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton to injury every year. His background is mostly in the Southwest and West Coast, but he was born in Columbia. He’s a strong offensive coach with good ties to a strong defensive pipeline.
Who: Marshall head coach
Why: He’s rolled up a 49-28 record with the Thundering Herd, fielding teams that have been productive on both sides of the ball. He was a recruiting coordinator for Urban Meyer at Florida, but his age, 50, might be a factor.
Who: Western Kentucky head coach
Why: He’s quietly leading one of the feistiest teams outside the Power Five, primarily on the back of a dynamic offense. Most of his background is in Kentucky, primarily at Louisville, but he did work at UAB and Florida Atlantic for one-year stints.
Who: South Florida head coach
Why: He has turned around programs at South Florida and Western Kentucky, and has some regional feel coaching in both states.
Other notable assistants D.J. Durkin
Other notable assistants
Who: Michigan defensive coordinator
Why: His past nine years have been comprised of building good defenses for Jim Harbaugh and Will Muschamp. He was named Rivals 2012 recruiter of the year and is still under 40. He’s been linked to the Maryland opening.
Who: Florida defensive coordinator
Why: The Gamecocks got an up-close look at what his unit could do. He’s also coached at a range of stops in the southeast, notably four years with as DC for Dan Mullins at Mississippi State and a year as director of player personnel for Nick Saban at Alabama.
Who: Cincinnati offensive coordinator
Why: Despite being older and holding a relatively modest position, Gran has an overall resumé that intrigues. He was at Miami, Ole Miss and Auburn alongside Tommy Tubberville, plus coached at Tennessee and Florida State. He has recruiting ties to Miami and South Florida and has built solid offenses in his time with the Bearcats..
Other names out there
Other names out there
Notables that don’t seem to fit in the first two groups and possess vaguely Southern or SEC ties:
Who: California head coach
Why: Another Mike Leach disciple, Dykes has turned around the Golden Bears and had a strong stint (9-3 in his third year) at Louisiana Tech. He runs a high-powered, pass-heavy offense, has a little SEC experience at Kentucky and could be on the move.
Who: Penn State defensive coordinator
Why: Has built a pair of rock-solid units in his time with the Nittany Lions and is highly-regarded for his preparation, planning and focus on details. He worked at Vanderbilt for three successful years with James Franklin, but most of his career was spent in the Northeast.
Who: Offensive line coach Alabama
Why: Nick Saban assistants are all the rage and he actually has some head coaching experience. He brought Florida International to a credible point as a young program before being let go after one bad year and is renowned as a one of the best recruiters in the country.
Who: Coastal Carolina head coach
Why: He’s led his team to a 41-13 record and two FCS top-10 finishes despite an unconventional background. The one-time CEO of TD Ameritrade is notably quirky, but thus far, the lessons from the business world have seemed to pan out.