College Coaching Buzz: Five candidates to watch

Matt Lowe

October 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm.

Oct 15, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre celebrates the win over the Arizona State Sun Devils at Folsom Field. The Buffaloes defeated the Sun Devils 40-16. Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 15, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre celebrates the win over the Arizona State Sun Devils at Folsom Field. The Buffaloes defeated the Sun Devils 40-16. Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching carousel will be spinning at high speed yet again this offseason.

Heck, we’ve already seen three coaches, LSU’s Les Miles, Purdue’s Darrell Hazell and Florida International’s Ron Turner, fired before the third week in October.

Of course, LSU is the biggest job to come open so far. But rest assured, there will be more to come.

Texas’ Charlie Strong is fighting for his coaching life, as is Oregon’s Mark Helfrich and USC’s Clay Helton. Paul Johnson’s seat could also be warming at Georgia Tech if the Yellow Jackets continue their downward spiral.

Sure, Houston head coach Tom Herman will draw interest from several top programs after re-signing a new contract early this year. But the Houston brass is rumored to be in negotiations about yet another contract extension that could potentially keep Herman — currently the most talked about coaching name in the country — on board as the team’s lead man for the foreseeable future.

“We have what I consider to be one of the hottest coaching commodities in all of college football,” Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek told the Houston Chronicle “It’s my job to continue to do due diligence and work with [president Renu] Khator and [board of regents] chairman Tilman Fertitta and put together parameters for what potentially could be a new contract offer for coach Herman as we look toward the future and retaining him as head coach.”

The Herman situation will be one to monitor as the regular season draws closer to an end because if he re-ups with the Cougars it will create a domino effect.

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher’s name has also been linked to the LSU opening, but if he chooses to stay in Tallahassee, and Herman stays at Houston, then Tigers’ athletic director Joe Alleva will have to do his homework when looking for his next head coach. And that’s not to say current interim Ed Orgeron wouldn’t be contained if he runs off a bunch of wins, but it’s doubtful he’ll stick as the team’s long-term option. He’ll likely remain on the staff however.

Louisville’s Bobby Petrino is another coaching candidate to keep an eye on. But he’d be a fool to leave with Lamar Jackson returning to school next season.

With that said, here are a five potential head coaching candidates to watch, if, and when, other premier jobs open up.

P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan: The Broncos are undefeated and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in school history and the well-dressed Fleck is a big reason for the team’s current success. Fleck, a bright offensive-minded coach, was a standout receiver in college at Northern Illinois and isn’t afraid to show his players how to run routes, perform drills etc. He’s also well-respected by his team.

Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama: Kiffin didn’t have a lot of head coaching success at Tennessee or USC, but he’s older and wiser than he was while leading those two schools. Kiffin’s offense at Alabama is averaging over 500 yards a game and 45.4 points per game and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better game-day play-caller in America.

Mike MacIntyre, head coach, Colorado: MacIntyre is a defensive-minded coach and has SEC and NFL assistant coaching experience, but he landed his first head coaching job at San Jose State and did a hell of a job. Despite going 1-12 in his first year, the Spartans went 5-7 then 10-2 in his second and third seasons. After taking over a complete dumpster fire in Boulder four years ago, MacIntyre has Colorado tied for first place in the Pac-12 South and on the outskirts of the Top 25 with a 5-2 record.

Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons: Kyle’s dad, Mike, was one of the better NFL coaches in league history so obviously the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. Now whether or not Kyle would be interested in being a head coach on the collegiate level remains to be seen; he may prefer to stay in the NFL. But there’s no doubt recruits would be interested in playing for a guy that’s currently dialing up the Xs’ and Os’ for the top offense in the NFL.

Chip Kelly, head coach, San Francisco 49ers: Kelly is a major wild card. If he were to choose to bolt the NFL and return to college, could you imagine what he could do running a program such as USC or LSU or Texas? A return to Oregon could also be in the cards with Nike founder Phil Knight’s deep pocket book.