November 25, 2008

Kelly could become Tennessee's top target

MORE: Coaching carousel | National Awards | Olin's Heisman Ballot

There has been little reported about the Tennessee football job, a post Vols athletic director Mike Hamilton has said he'd like to have filled by mid-December.

But some candidates have been contacted and talked to, and one thing seems certain: Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly soon may emerge as the top target.

He has the Bearcats poised to win the Big East and earn a BCS berth after successful runs at Central Michigan and Division II Grand Valley State (Mich.). But would Kelly jump into the SEC meat grinder, knowing he may be a prime candidate at Notre Dame if that job pops after the 2009 season?

Other names to watch are Texas Tech's Mike Leach, Air Force's Troy Calhoun, former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and maybe Oregon State's Mike Riley, who played his college ball for Bear Bryant at Alabama.

Stoops likely to stay at 'Zona

While Arizona lost Saturday at home to Oregon State, Wildcats coach Mike Stoops still figures to keep his job even if the Wildcats fall to Arizona State in the regular-season finale.

The Wildcats are 6-5 and headed for their first bowl under Stoops in his five seasons. That Arizona still must hire a basketball coach will be a factor in Stoops keeping his job win or lose against the Sun Devils. And if Stoops were canned, would A.D. Jim Livengood survive? He hired John Mackovic as football coach before he turned to Stoops.

Muschamp fallout

The recent announcement that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has reached an agreement to someday succeeded Mack Brown as Longhorns coach hurt several schools that were targeting Muschamp.

Washington and Tennessee had interest, but Clemson was hurt more than any other school.

Muschamp was in line to be coach at Arkansas last year before the Razorbacks pulled Bobby Petrino away from the Atlanta Falcons.

How long will Muschamp wait on Brown to step down? That's the $64,000 question. It is hard to envision Muschamp waiting five or six seasons to take over the Longhorns.

Texas isn't the only school with a coach-in-waiting plan. Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips is on deck to take over for Rich Brooks at Kentucky. At Florida State, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has been tabbed to replace Bobby Bowden. But unlike Muschamp's or Phillips' deal, the contract Fisher signed last December specifies that he be paid $2.5 million if he isn't named coach in three seasons. And if Fisher leaves before then, he would owe the university a similar amount.

Purdue named Danny Hope as a coach-in-waiting last winter with the understanding he would take over in 2009 with Joe Tiller retiring.

1. Alabama
2. Florida
4. Texas
5. USC
7. Utah
11. Georgia
13. Missouri
1. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
2. Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech
3. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

Davis staying put

I have been told by a source close to Butch Davis that we should believe the coach is sincere in his public comments about remaining at North Carolina. It was believed Davis was going to be a top target at Tennessee and Washington.

Tiger talk

There has been plenty of activity at Clemson, with reported interviews for Kiffin, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables and Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

Interim coach Dabo Swinney remains in the mix, and some say Ball State's Brady Hoke has been contacted. Air Force's Calhoun, Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson and TCU's Gary Patterson also may be involved. Clemson has said it wants to make a decision within weeks of the end of the season.

Syracuse search

Expect the Syracuse job search to pick up steam. The school wants a coach with strong Eastern ties. That Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis is a Syracuse alum likely hurts Kiffin.

It wouldn't be a shock if Buffalo coach Turner Gill emerges as a top target. Gill has done a fabulous job making the Bulls a strong program in just his third season on the job, with the program set to play in the MAC title game.

Others who could be in the mix are New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone, Florida offensive line coach Steve Addazio, East Carolina's Skip Holtz, UCF's George O'Leary, Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, Temple's Al Golden, Illinois' Locksley, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Philadelphia Eagles offensive assistant Mark Whipple.

The hottest names are Gill, Addazio, Holtz and Marrone.

Where does Washington turn?

With reports that Missouri soon will sign Gary Pinkel to a lucrative extension, Washington may have to scratch a top target off its wish list.

That would mean Washington may concentrate its focus on Kiffin, Montana's Bobby Hauck, Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, Boise State's Chris Petersen, USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker and Fresno State's Pat Hill.

It has been reported that Washington interviewed Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, but he would appear to be a long shot.

Another name to watch is Utah's Kyle Whittingham, who would be a good fit on many fronts in Seattle.

New Mexico starts search

Oklahoma State associate head coach/special teams Joe DeForest may be an early leader for the New Mexico job. Missouri's Christensen, Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, Oklahoma State running backs coach Curtis Luper, Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes and UCLA's Walker also may be on the radar for a job that some think will go to a minority. Luper was New Mexico's running backs coach from 2002-04 and has ties to the Lobos' A.D.

Former Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges also could be a factor. It wouldn't be a shock if this job went to a coach with an offensive background, considering outgoing coach Rocky Long was a defensive guy.

Wyoming begins process

As reported Sunday, Nebraska wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore will interview for the Wyoming job Tuesday.

Others who could be factors include former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, St. Louis Rams tight ends coach Jim Chaney and Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson.

K-State staff taking shape?

With Bill Snyder in place to take over Kansas State, there are whispers his staff could include Phil Bennett as defensive coordinator and Chuck Long as offensive coordinator. Bennett is a former Wildcats defensive coordinator under Snyder, while Long played at Iowa when Snyder was an assistant there.

Long was coach at San Diego State this season before being fired Sunday, and Bennett is Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator.

Aztecs looking to veteran?

Don't be surprised if San Diego State focuses its search on a proven, veteran coach after the Aztecs' gamble on the unproven Long failed. Targets could include Barnett, Franchione and former Minnesota coach Glen Mason.

Another Stoops to Toledo?

Without a doubt, Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is in the crosshairs of Toledo. And count on Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus being heavily involved. Eberflus is a Toledo native and former Rockets team captain who began his coaching career at Toledo under Pinkel. Another name to watch is Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

Grading the "Big Six"

Did your school and conference pass last week?

A: Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State
B: Boston College, Clemson
C: Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
D: Duke, Virginia
F: Maryland, Miami, North Carolina

Big East
A: Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse, West Virginia
B: Pittsburgh, USF
C: Connecticut
F: Louisville

Big 12
A: Oklahoma
B: Kansas State
D: Iowa State
F: Texas Tech

Big Ten
A: Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
D: Wisconsin
F: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota

A: California
B: Oregon State, Washington State
C: Arizona
D: Washington
F: Stanford

A: Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss
B: Tennessee
D: Arkansas, Vanderbilt

MORE: Coaching carousel | National Awards | Olin's Heisman Ballot

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for He can be reached at

FEATURED PRODUCT is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
Site-specific editorial/photos Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved. This website is an officially and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school or team.
About | Advertise with Us | Contact | Privacy Policy | About our Ads | Terms of Service | Copyright/IP policy | Yahoo! Sports - NBC Sports Network

Statistical information 2007 STATS LLC All Rights Reserved.