Top Candidates for USC


It’s time to start looking at who is going to take over at USC. It may only be September but if everyone else can speculate who will be their next head coach, why not us? I picked a list of who I think will be the top candidates. Spoiler alert, Bob Stoops is not on this list. We also take a look at what I believe will be the odds the candidate accepts the USC job.

James Franklin (Penn State Head Coach) – I truly do not believe James Franklin will be leaving Penn State any time soon. Maybe one day he wakes up and decides he wants to test out the NFL waters but I do not see him moving to a different college program. Even if Franklin currently has no interest in leaving, the Trojans should still send the “You up?” text to see if he responds. USC is in a fertile recruiting ground and Franklin has proven himself as a recruiter. California has elite talent in the Los Angeles area. J.T. Daniels, Bryce Young, D.J. Uiagalelei, and C.J. Stroud are just a few of the names who came from southern California. I have no doubt Franklin would be able to keep the talent at home and build a top tier program. The main road block here is I think Franklin uses USC as a smokescreen to get better facilities, higher pay, and a contract extension. Depending how the season plays out, I could see him considering his options. Odds: 5/10

Luke Fickell (Cincinnati Head Coach) – Luke Fickell will be one of the hottest names in coaching after this season. Fickell is 37-14 at Cincinnati and 33-6 since 2018. He has built Cincinnati into a consistent winner and begun to recruit at the highest level in terms of group of five. Fickell’s class ranked 45th last year which was higher than programs such as Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Arizona State, TCU, and Iowa State. One concern is Fickell has never coached outside the state of Ohio. Even as an assistant coach, he was only at Akron and Ohio State. USC is an incredibly different enviornment and culture. Fickell has also stated he loves living in Cincinnati and has no desire to leave. Odds: 3/10

Donte Williams (Interim USC Head Coach) – Donte Williams comes highly regarded and was named the interim after Clay Helton was fired. He is a great recruiter and knows southern California as he helped lure Justin Flowe to Oregon. Williams will have a true trial period this fall as the Trojans have only played two games. If Williams can lead USC to a Pac-12 title this fall, it will be hard for the administration to hire someone else. Williams is also from Los Angeles and knows the area well so he should be able to help stabilize recruiting until the permanent coach is hired. In order for him to have a chance to be hired, he will need a top 15 finish. Odds: 4.5/10

Marcus Freeman (Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator) – Marcus Freeman will be one of the hottest names in coaching over the next few years. This would be a gigantic leap since this is his first season as a defensive coordinator for a power five team (Notre Dame is power five in my mind, I do not care if they are independent). Ultimately I cannot imagine USC moving forward with a coach who has no experience as a head coach. Freeman is also a year away from being a head coach and it is unlikely to be a the pedigree of a job like USC. Odds: 0.5/10

Chris Petersen (Retired Washington & Boise Head Coach) – Chris Petersen is an incredibly interesting option. He retired from Washington after the 2019 season due to stress. Per Dennis Dodd of CBS, Petersen is rumored to be interested in coaching again. No one know has coached better on the west cost in the last two decades in college better than Petersen. He is also familiar with the recruiting territory. At only the age of 56, Petersen is still a viable long term option. He helped lead Washington to their only appearance in the College Football Playoff plus help develop numerous players currently in the NFL. Petersen is a career 147-38 and would be a fantastic hire. Odds: 7.5/10

Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss Head Coach) – Imagine the story lines if USC suddenly hired the coach they fired on the tarmac just a few years ago. After Kiffin went to the Nick Saban school of coaching rehab, he has proven to be a very good coach. He helped turn Florida Atlantic into a consistent winner and now has Ole Miss on the rise. Kiffin was 28-15 in his first stint at USC while coming off of sanctions and one season he won 10 games. I have a hard time seeing USC turning to a coach they infamously fired because of a pride factor. Kiffin has experience recruiting California and would be an overall solid hire should the administration choose to hire him. Odds: 1.5/10

Urban Meyer (Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach) – For the next decade, Urban Meyer will be attached to any power program openings in college football. He was connected to USC last off season while Clay Helton was still the head coach. There is no question Urban Meyer could be a successful head coach but the question is if he wants to return to the college lifestyle with a year round schedule and recruiting. USC’s President, Carol Folt, is believed to be against hiring Urban Meyer because of his off the field history at Ohio State and Florida. Urban Meyer may not be the head coach at Jacksonville next year, but I also do not believe he will be the USC head coach. Odds: 2/10

Bill O’Brien (Alabama Offensive Coordinator) – Bill O’Brien is my sleeper pick and I think he would be a good hire for USC. He is at the Nick Saban school of coaching rehab and overseeing a young and talented offense at Alabama. The former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach will find a landing spot quickly. The Crimson Tide will have another elite offense which should help O’Brien find a new home. We saw O’Brien has success at Penn State which was under heavy sanctions and he recruited well for situation he was in. We saw how the Houston Texans unfolded and the NFL may not be the right spot for O’Brien. Keep an eye on the Alabama offense to see how they progress this season. Odds: 6.5/10

Tom Herman (Former Texas Head Coach) – I am kind of joking but kind of not with this one. Tom Herman obviously struggled at Texas but he had moments of success such as beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. If everyone else on this list says no, I could see Herman’s name coming up in discussions. He is currently unemployed following his firing from Texas and will be looking for work after this season is over. Herman has proven to be a good recruiter in the past but struggled at times with the Longhorns. Herman was able to get Ed Oliver, a five star defensive lineman, to stay home and attend Houston. Herman could use the same tactic at USC to get talent to stay in southern California. Odds: 2/10

Mario Cristobal (Oregon Head Coach) – The current rumors are saying Mario Cristobal is the top choice for USC and that could be because he just beat Ohio State and he has been torching the state of California in recruiting. Cristobal would be a good hire, but for him I’m not sure it makes a ton of sense. He is happy at Oregon and has rebuilt the program after Willie Taggert and Mark Helfrich left. USC should absolutely inquire with Cristobal but he has proven he can win at Oregon. The Ducks are recruiting at a level they have not reached since Chip Kelly was the coach and they were contending for national championships. Cristobal is most likely staying put in Eugene. Odds: 2/10

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