(Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times)
After an extremely disappointing loss to Stanford over the weekend, USC has decided to make a change of leadership for their football program. Head Coach Clay Helton was relieved of his coaching duties, and one of the most successful college football programs of all time is now beginning the search for their next leader.
Clay Helton will get another job. He is still a very good coach. However, being the head coach for USC is not an easy job. Only the best of the best can truly succeed there.
When the head coach position opens up at a historic program like USC, the list of possible candidates is always very impressive. Some candidates are coaches that seem to be in the running for every big time opening. Some coaches may be a head scratcher, but some possible candidates could come from left field.
The Popular Candidates
James Franklin: Current Head Coach for Penn State
Coach Franklin took a struggling program and in 3 years he made them into a national contender. In 2016, he led Penn State to an upset victory over #2 Ohio State, a Big Ten Championship, and berth in the Rose Bowl game. His teams have finsihed inside the top 25 four out of the last five seasons. He has a $4 million dollar buyout which is pocket change for USC. With his incredible recruiting skills and a bad Pac-12 conference, he would be in a prime scenario to run the table in that conference.
Matt Campbell: Current Head Coach for Iowa State
Between his time at Kent State and Iowa State, he has had 1 losing season. He has brought a struggling Iowa State program to the top of college football in a very short amount of time. Campbell has been getting attention from NFL franchises about making the jump from college to the NFL. He is not ready for the NFL, but bringing USC back to the top of college football could help him eventually make that jump.
Luke Fickell: Current Head Coach for Cincinnati
In 5 seasons at Cincy, Fickell has made them into a national power. He has won 2 coach of the year awards and has taken a mediocre G5 program into a program that is better than most power 5 schools. He brings with him two national championships as an assistant at Ohio State. He is a top 5 coach in college football, and USC could use that to help regain its glory.
Bill O'Brien: Former Head Coach for Penn State and Houston Texans; Current Alabama OC
As the head coach at Penn State O'Brien took on the worst situation in college football history. 4 year bowl ban, half the amount of scholarships as every other school, and had to deal with the aftermath of one of the biggest scandals in all of sports. He took that program that was expected to be winless and had winning seasons in both his years at Penn State. While the head coach of the Houston Texans, he led them to 4 playoff appearances and 4 division titles. Now he has an opportunity to regain his magic under Nick Saban and his electric Alabama offense. We have all seen how Nick Saban assistants pan out, I am sure USC has already been in contact.
The Stretch Candidates
Greg Schiano: Current Rutgers Head Coach
In his second tenure as the Rutgers Head Coach, Schiano is finding himself as a candidate for this job. In his first run as the head coach of the Scarlet Knights, he led them to 5 bowl victories and multiple national rankings. He took a job with the Buccaneers and was quickly fired. However, after many OC stops he was brought back to Rutgers and is starting to regain his old success back. I still think he is a few years away from getting a bigger job, but if USC wants to get a hold of him early this may be their only opportunity.
Eric Bieniemy: Current Offensive Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs
(Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)
Current USC athletic director Mike Bohn has a relationship with Bieniemy already. Bohn hired him to be the offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado in 2011. Bieniemy has had tremendous success in the NFL organizing the electric Chiefs offense. He has been getting a lot of attention for possible NFL head coaching vacancies, but he has not been given a shot yet. If the NFL does not give him a chance, could you imagine Bienemy's offense at USC?
Jeff Hafley: Current Boston College Head Coach
Another coach from a successful coaching tree. Urban Meyer has had great assistant go on to become incredible head coaches. Hafley is starting to turn around the BC program. Even though the program is not where it should be, the turn around has been quick. Hafley is a defensive guru and USC could be intrigued. I can not see Hafley getting a big time job before Luke Fickell does.
Urban Meyer: Former Florida and Ohio State Head Coach; Current Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach (for now)
(Photo Courtesy of SportsIllustrated.com)
Urban Meyer has been rumored for this job and the Texas job ever since he announced his "retirement" from Ohio State. However, Jacksonville hired him before the Texas job was open. We all know the success he has had in college. He is well on his way to the College Football Hall of Fame. Even though it has been 1 game, the NFL is going to be very rough for Meyer. If after one year he is ready to get back to college, could USC be big enough program to convince him to leave Jacksonville? Saban made the jump to the NFL for a hot minute and realized his mistake. He turned out all right, and so can Urban Meyer.
Ed Orgeron: Current Head Coach for LSU
Did Coach O not just win a National Championship at LSU and have one of the best college football teams of all time? He absolutely did. Was Coach O not already the head coach at USC and get fired. Yes he was. He was given a tough break when he was the head coach at USC. Taking over for the Lane Kiffin disaster at USC was a true impossible task. He is struggling at LSU currently, but with the resources at USC, and he could look to make a change. LSU could look to move on from Coach O. The program is getting worse and worse, and if Coach O wants to avoid being fired, he may want to leave before they have a chance. This is a longshot, but never say never.
Jamey Chadwell: Current Head Coach for Costal Carolina.
In 3 years, Chadwell took Costal Carolina to multiple top 25 rankings and is making Costal into a top G5 program. Chadwell will be getting a bigger job at a power 5 school this off-season. However, if USC wants to take a giant risk they will go for someone like Chadwell. He has turned the program around in a very short amount of time, could he do the same at USC?
Deion Sanders: Current Jackson State Head Coach
(Photo courtesty of Bleacher Report)
Here me out. The money that Sanders can bring to the program should make USC interested on its own. Sanders will be able to get into every recruits home. Even though he is not ready to take on this role, he can still succeed. Sometimes head coaches are just be for publicity and he can be one of them. If he hires incredible coordinators and assistant he can coast as the head coach. This would be a giant hire for USC.
Other candidates to keep an eye on for
Kyle Whittingham; Current Head Coach for Utah
PJ Fleck; Current Head Coach for Minnesota
Chris Petersen; Former Washington and Boise State Head Coach
Bill Napier; Current Head Coach for Louisiana
Pat Fitzgerald; Current Head Coach for Northwestern
Tony Ellitot and Brent Venables; Clemson Offensive and Defensive Coordinators
Bob Stoops; Former Oklahoma Head Coach
Doug Pederson; Former Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach
Matt Leinhart; Former USC QB and Heisman Trophy Winner
My Prediction: Bill O'Brien
O'Brien has tremendous success in college after being handed the worst situation in sports history. He also had great success in the NFL. After a season regaining his magic under the game's best coach and best coach developer, O'Brien will be the best to take USC back to its glory. Even though it is a risk to take a coach who is not a head coach from the previous season, he has proven success at multiple levels. If he can continue with the dominating Alabama offense, than schools will be calling him to help take over their programs.