The college football coaching carousel seems to start earlier and earlier each year, as we’ve just wrapped the fourth official week of the season and we’ve already seen three Power Five conference jobs come open in Nebraska, Arizona State, and most recently Georgia Tech.
You’ll come across a dozen articles on the internet telling you who the rumored candidates are for each job, but I am here to do my best consulting cosplay and tell you who the hire should be at each opening (as realistically as possible, of course) and why. I’ll be posting new editions after every couple firings throughout the season.
Nebraska: Kansas Head Coach Lance Leipold
Nebraska made the decision to fire Scott Frost early in the season to boost morale around a stagnant program and to get a head start on the coaching carousel. The Cornhuskers are well positioned to be one of the premier jobs available this go around, with Auburn potentially joining them later, and it seems as though all the change last offseason will lighten the openings in this go around. With new, massive Big Ten media dollars coming into the program it seems as though money will not be an issue should Nebraska attempt to find a big game catch, but its best option in my opinion isn’t far away in Lawrence, Kansas.
Would hiring Leipold be a leap? I might have thought so before the season, but its becoming increasingly less like one as his Jayhawks sit at a 4-0 record to start the 2022 season. For those unfamiliar, Leipold presided over a Wisconsin-Whitewater program in Division III that saw him win six National Championships, accumulating a 109-6 overall record and going 34-1 in the DIII Tournament, with his only loss to fellow powerhouse Mount Union in the 2008 Finals. He then made the move to Buffalo, where after a few turnaround seasons he went 24-10 in his final three seasons and had the Bulls ranked in the Top 25 at the end of the COVID shortened 2020 season before departing for Kansas.
Had the Jayhawks turn around not been so swift, the thought of hiring Leipold would be hard to justify at this point for a program of Nebraska’s stature, but he’s a proven winner and builder and while Nebraska may not be looking for someone with ties to the area, Leipold did serve as an assistant there from 2001-2003.
Arizona State: Carolina Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule
It feels as though Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers are well on the the way to a split by seasons end, and if so, Rhule should be a commodity back in the college ranks. Fans with short attention spans will see his stark lack of NFL success and say he’s a bad coach, but truthfully, some coaches are just meant for the college ranks. Ask Nick Saban.
A quick refresher on Rhule’s tenure. He took over a Temple program, and after a 2-10 opening season, had the Owls back to 6-6 followed by back-to-back ten win seasons and a Top 25 AP ranking when he departed for Baylor at the end of 2016. He then took a Baylor program fresh off a massive sexual assault scandal and after a 1-11 season that saw a massively depleted talent roster, flipped them to a 7-6 record and followed it up with an 11-3 record in year three that saw the Bears finish 13th in the AP Poll. He then departed for Carolina afterwards.
So why Rhule at Arizona State? Because the Sun Devils are in a tough spot after the recruiting transgressions that took place throughout the pandemic and a roster that has gone south fairly quickly ever since. Herm Edwards somehow held his job throughout the Spring and Summer, but a loss at home to Eastern Michigan was the last straw and Edwards was canned. Arizona State is a good job, though. It’s a recruitable program, with plenty of talent in the state and hotbed California right next door and Texas just two doors down to the east.
This is why I settled on Rhule over my secondary choice, Dan Mullen. Rhule is a very proven program builder with a successful recruiting background. He turned around a Baylor team that was in a much worse spot than Arizona State, and left Dave Aranda with a full cupboard of talent that allowed the Bears to keep chugging along. With USC and UCLA on the way out of the Pac 12, Rhule could settle in quickly at the top of the conference. Would Rhule want another building job? That remains to be seen, but should he be searching for a job soon, I think he’d be the smart pick for this Sun Devil program.
Georgia Tech: Coastal Carolina Head Coach Jamey Chadwell
After three consecutive seasons of only three wins and an uninspiring 1-3 open to 2022, Georgia Tech opted to move on from athletic director Todd Stansbury and head coach Geoff Collins. Unlike the other two openings, Georgia Tech will need to fill its athletic director position before hiring a coach, so this will likely be a much slower process for the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech is in an interesting position. They have the advantage of playing in Atlanta and within the talent rich state of Georgia, but academic requirements will ultimately always prevent the Yellow Jackets from being a national power. They also need to look to change the culture of the program and begin embracing their own location. The first name that pops up for many is Deion Sanders. Sanders is a legend in the city of Atlanta, having played for both the Falcons and Braves. He’s a proven recruiter at Jackson State, managing to bring in some top tier recruits in his short stint at the HBCU, and he would absolutely change the culture of the program and breathe new life into Georgia Tech. However, Sanders is only my runner-up here because I think the recruiting limitations make this a less desirable landing for the eventual FBS coach.
My top pick is Jamey Chadwell. As of this writing, Chadwell is 26-3 in his last 29 games at the helm of Coastal Carolina. He has had the Chants in the Top 25 each of the last two seasons, and very well may end up back there as this season rolls along. He’s helped develop one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Grayson McCall, and he runs a thrilling offense that merges option play with explosiveness. Much like Dave Clawson at fellow ACC school Wake Forest, Chadwell’s ability to scheme and game plan should help offset some of the recruiting concerns at Tech. Chadwell has also spent his entire professional career coaching in the South, so he’s well versed in the area.
It’s been noted that Chadwell has been passed on by other programs because he’s not a “buttoned up” guy, and I think that’s perfect for a Tech program that needs to unbutton their shirt, make a cocktail, and live a little. Georgia Tech is never going to be a power, so why not go the same route as, say, a Mississippi State and hire the guy who’s going to put an entertaining offense on the field every week, score points, and maybe win 7-10 games a season?