Two new head coaching positions have opened up in the last three days, as Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart announced on Friday that he was leaving the Hilltoppers for the South Florida head coaching job and Tommy Tuberville announced on Saturday that he was leaving Texas Tech for Cincinnati.Taggart takes over as Bulls coach after a three year run at his alma mater in which he led the Hilltoppers to an overall record of 16-20, including a berth in the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl, the team’s first ever bowl appearance.
A native of Bradenton, Florida, Taggart made it clear in his introductory press conference that he felt like South Florida could contend for national championship, something that he needed to see in his new team if he ever left Western Kentucky.
Tuberville leaves the Red Raiders’ program with a 20-17 record during his time in Lubbock, including a 7-5 record this year. Tuberville, who also has head coaching experience from his time at Ole Miss and Auburn, landed the Bearcats’ job just one day after former head coach Butch Jones resigned to become the Tennessee Volunteers head coach.
I like both hires by these two schools, and while the Tuberville move caught me very much off guard, I believe that Taggart and Tuberville have enough know-how to make their teams very competitive in the Big East. Don’t expect South Florida’s problems with finishing that plagued the Skip Holtz era to stick around.
While Cincinnati and South Florida are now sitting pretty now that they have their head coaches, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky are now in the driver’s seat, needing to land a coach that can continue with the school’s recent success.
Who should the new head coach be, you might ask? Here are candidates that I would definitely consider for these two jobs.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M OC – A former signal-caller for the Red Raiders during the Mike Leach era, Kingsbury had an outstanding first season as Aggies offensive coordinator, as the team finished the season 10-2 and quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman trophy. Only thirty-three years old, I would imagine the only thing that would keep Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt from offering Kingsbury the job is his lack of head coaching experience.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia HC – A Texas Tech assistant from 2000 to 2007, Holgorsen has put up some numbers in his tenure as Mountaineers head coach, but problems with getting consistent play on defense has left him with a still-respectable record of 17-8 through two seasons. Can Texas Tech match Holgorsen’s $2.3 million salary and lure him back to Lubbock?
Brent Venables, Clemson DC – A longtime Big 12 assistant with tenures at Kansas State and Oklahoma, Venables’ Clemson defense had an up-and-down 2012 season, giving up thirty points or more a discouraging four times in year in which the team still managed to go 10-2. While the play of the Tigers may hurt Venables’ chances, his connections with Hocutt, who was his teammate at Kansas State, may make him a legitimate candidate.
McNeill, Eastern Carolina HC – Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator from 2007 to 2009 and the interim head coach for the Raiders’ 2009 Alamo Bowl victory, McNeill has done a solid job at his alma mater, leading the Pirates to a 19-18 record over the past three seasons, including an 8-4 mark this season which was good enough for the team’s second bowl appearance under his watch. Although Texas Tech may want to go with an offensive coach as their head man, don’t be surprised if they consider McNeill, who spent ten seasons coaching the Red Raiders.
Todd Monken, Oklahoma State OC – Now in his second season as Cowboys offensive coordinator, Monken has done a great job in leading the Oklahoma State’s offense, as the team has averaged 46 points per game during his stint in Stillwater. If there’s one thing that works in Lubbock, it’s high-flying offenses, and Monken knows what it takes to run just that.
Mario Cristobal, former Florida International HC – I will get listed Cristobal for these lower level FBS jobs until he gets one simply because I believe he is one of the best at that particular level. A former Miami Hurricanes tight end, Cristobal was given the unbelievable task of righting the Golden Panthers’ ship back in 2007 and responded with back-to-back winning seasons in his fourth and fifth season, respectively. The 2012 season was a disappointment for the Golden Panthers, but the decision to fire Cristobal was honestly unjustifiable. Despite the mishap in Miami, expect Cristobal’s stock to continue rising.
Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas HC – Let’s face it: Bobby Petrino isn’t done coaching college football, and it has become more and more apparent that his first job back will be at a non-BCS school. Petrino has plenty of experience recruiting in the Bluegrass State from his four year run at Louisville in which the Cardinals went 41-9 and won two conference titles. Whoever Western Kentucky hires will undoubtedly be looking to eventually move up, so why not go out and hire the best head coach available and make the most of his time in Bowling Green.
Chris Hatcher, Murray State HC – A former assistant under Hal Mumme at Kentucky, Hatcher has done a fine job with the Racers, leading the team to an 18-15 record over his three years on the job. While he isn’t a very well-known name to the casual football fan, Hatcher seems to have what it takes to coach in Kentucky, which could result in Western Kentucky showing up at his door.
Lance Guidry, Western Kentucky DC & Interim HC – Western Kentucky’s defense played very well in 2012 under Guidry’s leadership, as the team ranked 23rd in total defense, 49th in forced turnovers, and 31st in pass defense in his second season on the job. The Hilltoppers need to find a way to maintain the success that Taggart established during his time on the job, so why not retain a coach like Guidry, who judging from his stint as the interim head coach at Miami (OH) seems to have what it takes to coach.