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The next wave of hot college football coaching candidates: 30 names you need to know

There have been 72 coaching changes the past three years in college football, including a record 30 last year. That has left the rising assistant coach and lower-level coaching ranks “picked over,” to borrow a term from multiple industry sources.

That statistic dovetails into a prediction — don’t be surprised to see a run on retread coaches in this upcoming cycle.

We only included Bill O’Brien atop our assistant list because he has spent multiple years as a college coordinator and looms as the most coveted coach — Group of 5 or assistant — in the cycle. We kept most of the other former head coaches off the assistant-coach list because we wanted to put a light on the rising faces in the industry.

But it’d be hard to ignore the crop of coaches looking for a second shot. There are those who are sitting out — Tom Herman, Dan Mullen, Justin Fuente, Skip Holtz. Does Mullen have the desire to coach in college again? Could an ambitious school hire Nick Rolovich and endure immediate backlash to secure a proven head coach?

Then there are coaches on the rebound who are trying to work their way back up — Manny Diaz (Penn State DC), Barry Odom (Arkansas DC), Al Golden (Notre Dame DC), Matt Wells (Oklahoma analyst), Derek Mason (Oklahoma State DC) and Major Applewhite (South Alabama OC).

Why a run on retreads? Among the 30 open jobs last season, we saw Joe Moorhead (Akron), Mike MacIntyre (FIU), Jeff Tedford (Fresno), Clay Helton (Georgia Southern), Jerry Kill (New Mexico State), Jim Mora (UConn) and Don Brown (UMass) emerge as former head coaches hired back as head coaches.

Perhaps fueling the trend is the notion that schools that move on early from their coaches now have a huge advantage by bringing in a coach and giving them a head start. Georgia Southern, Texas Tech and UConn all filled their jobs in early November, which gave the new coaches valuable weeks to evaluate the current one, monitor the portal and recruit high schools.

Clay Helton got hired on Nov. 2 at Georgia Southern, which allowed him to re-recruit his new roster, get a feel for its needs and get an early jump on staff hiring.

“It’s huge,” said Georgia Southern athletic director Jared Benko. “Most coaches, those first two weeks of December, they’re drinking from the fire hose and things are coming pretty quickly. The piece that allowed us and Clay to be aggressive was that he took those extra four weeks and get a better sense of roster management piece.”

The new debate for athletic directors will be whether to hire a retread — or a position coach like McGuire who can leave his school — and potentially get the advantage of an early start. Or sit around and wait out a sitting head coach or coordinator until they are available and risk whiffing on the first recruiting class.

Here are the top head coaches below the Power 5 who’ll be considered in this cycle, with Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Houston’s Dana Holgorsen and BYU’s Kalani Sitake not included because they are graduating up to the next level as they enter the Big 12 after next season.

Jump to: Assistants ready for a promotion


Group of 5 head coaches

The next wave of hot college football coaching candidates: 30 names you need to know

1. Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina: Is this the last hurrah in Mulletville? With quarterback Grayson McCall back, Coastal Carolina will again be in contention to be the darlings of the Sun Belt. Chadwell has interviewed at multiple Power 5 spots but yet to find a fit. His playcalling, innovation and experience will be sought after in this cycle.

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