August 19, 2005

Who is the next Urban Meyer?

The search for the next Urban Meyer has begun.

Meyer, of course, made the jump from the MAC to one of the most coveted jobs in college football as the head coach at Florida in just three years. Can anyone else do something similar? Absolutely.

There are several coaches outside of the major conferences who have proven they deserve a bigger challenge, and we took a look at the top 10 in Rivals.com's rising stars.

1. Dan Hawkins - Boise State

This offensive guru will be landing in a BCS conference and quite possibly at a major program. The only question is how soon.

Hawkins was particularly intrigued with the Notre Dame job, but he will have plenty of appealing offers to choose from. Athletic directors cannot help but be impressed with his success and the ridiculous amount of points his teams produce.

In Hawkins' four years as Boise State's head man, the Broncos have gone 44-6 and have won their last 26 games in the WAC. Over that stretch, they have averaged more than 43 points a game.

A nationally televised season opener at Georgia will put Hawkins and his seemingly unstoppable offense in the spotlight, and an upset from the Broncos would cause his already lofty stock to explode.

2. Pat Hill - Fresno State

No surprise that this name landed on the list. Until a major program is able to snag Hill, he will remain one of the biggest head coaching candidates, especially when Pac-10 jobs open up.

Since Hill took over at Fresno State nine years ago, the WAC program has featured one of the nation's most exciting and productive offenses and has been one of the most feared out of conference opponents for BCS schools. A signature season in 2001 included 11 wins, a top 10 ranking and triumphs over Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin and the Bulldogs have beaten Georgia Tech, UCLA and Virginia in bowl games over the last three seasons.

The main reason is Hill's sophisticated offense, and it looked more unstoppable than ever down the stretch last season, averaging 52.8 points in the Bulldogs' final six games.

3. Mike Price - UTEP

Several Alabama fans are wishing Price hadn't run into off-the-field problems during his short-lived tenure in Tuscaloosa. Last season, he showed once again why he is considered one of the top coaches in college football.

Price accepted a job that few coaches wanted, taking over a talent-depleted UTEP program that was coming off three consecutive two-win seasons. He immediately turned the Miners into a winning team, leading them to an 8-4 record, which included a seven-game winning streak and a trip to a bowl game. An excellent motivator who excels at working with quarterbacks, he led Washington State to its first 10-win season in 68 years in 1997, and he proceeded to put together back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2001 and 2002 - a run that landed him the Crimson Tide job.

Eventually someone else will give Price another chance. He is simply too good to ignore.

4. Paul Johnson - Navy

A 10-2 team at Navy? Nobody thought that was possible in this era, but Johnson made it happen in just three years in Annapolis, leading the Midshipmen to their first double-digit win season since 1905 and their second consecutive bowl game in 2004.

Johnson's trademark triple option offense may not sell record amounts of tickets, but it can be extremely tough to prepare for and often wears down defenses. He used the same system to turn Georgia Southern back into a Division I-AA power. He also showed an ability to run a more modern offense when working as the offensive coordinator at Hawaii from 1987-94.

Navy has locked Johnson up to an extension through 2009, but when the next head coaching vacancy opens up in the ACC or Big East his name will be one of the first to surface.

5. Joe Glenn - Wyoming

It would be very interesting to see what Glenn could do in the Pac-10 or Big 12. He has been very successful at every level he has coached at and made a big name for himself last season by leading the Cowboys to upsets over Ole Miss and UCLA. The surprising victory over the Bruins came in the Las Vegas Bowl, the school's first win in a bowl game in 38 years.

When Glenn and his staff took over the Mountain West program three years ago they were coming off a two-win season and hadn't been to a bowl game since 1993. He also won a I-AA title at Montana and a pair of Division-II titles at Northern Colorado.

It's no secret that Glenn wants to take over at Colorado and with Gary Barnett's job status remaining shaky he may get his wish soon.

6. Tom Amstutz - Toledo

The MAC has proven to be a hotbed for finding capable coaches and with Terry Hoeppner leaving Miami (Ohio) for Indiana, Amstutz might be the best of the bunch now. Since taking over the Toledo program in 2001, he has led the Rockets to a pair of outright MAC titles, three bowl games and five wins over Top 25 teams.

But, the big problem will be convincing Amstutz to leave. Few coaches have stronger roots at their current positions. Born and raised in Toledo, he was an assistant there for 21 years. Saying goodbye would be extraordinarily tough.

7. Jim Grobe - Wake Forest

Ignore the win-loss record with Grobe. He is the only coach on this list with a losing record (22-25) at his current school but is considered a master of X's and O's and adapting to his personnel.

Since leaving Ohio University for Winston-Salem, N.C., five years ago, Grobe has transformed Wake - one of the smallest schools in Division I-A - into a dangerous team. The Demon Deacons knocked off ACC newcomer Boston College twice in the last two seasons and put scares into more than of the rest of the league in 2004, losing by seven points or less to Clemson, Florida State, UNC, Maryland, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.

8. Gregg Brandon - Bowling Green

Meet the architect of Urban Meyer's spread option offense. After coaching at the D-I level for 22 years, including the last two underneath Meyer, Brandon got his chance to run his own program when Meyer left for Utah.

The Falcons have only gotten better since, going to back-to-back bowl games for only the second time in school history, winning a bowl game and landing in the top 25 last season. Only Louisville averaged more yards per game in 2004, and quarterback Omar Jacobs' remarkable 41-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the best in D-I history.

With the return of Jacobs, the Falcons are the clear favorite to win the MAC this fall, and with another strong season Brandon could be climbing the coaching ladder towards a big-time job just like his former boss.

9. Darryl Dickey - North Texas

Name the only active Division I-A coach to lead his team to four consecutive league titles? He doesn't come from any of the BCS conferences and chances are you've probably never even heard of him.

Darryl Dickey has directed the Mean Green to the Sun Belt championship every year since the conference started in 2001 and he has been selected as the league's coach of the year four consecutive times as well.

A former assistant at SMU and UTEP he is extremely familiar with the recruiting hotbeds in Texas and may be taking over one of the state's major programs someday.

10. Gary Patterson - TCU

Patterson's stock isn't as high as it was in 2002 and 2003 when he led TCU to 10-and 11-win seasons, but he remains one of the more coveted coaches from the mid-major ranks. He took over the program with no head coaching experience in 2000 and led the Horned Frogs to three consecutive bowl games.

Patterson could provide a quick solution for anyone searching for a defensive-minded coach. He has worked wonders with less than an abundunce of talent in the past, with the Horned Frogs boasting the nation's top-ranked defense in 2000 and 2002.


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