Friday Five: Ranking the top college football coaching candidates on the rise in 2018
These will be the names you hear on the 2018 coaching carousel
Over a year ago, in the final week of May 2017, I did a Friday Five I'd done a couple of times before. I ranked thefollowing the 2017 season. The list consisted of coordinators at Power Five schools as well as head coaches at Group of Five schools who I felt were destined to move on to bigger and better things.
Well, at No. 1 on the list was Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Less than two weeks later, Bob Stoops announced his retirement and Riley took over as head coach of the Sooners. Was it my Friday Five that led to this shocking result? Probably, yeah, but I suppose we'll never really know. It's best to leave some mystery behind the situation.
Anyway, I'm going to rank the five coaches I believe to be on the rise again in this week's Friday Five. Will one of them get a promotion in the next couple weeks? We'll have to wait and see, but if I can continue to toot my own horn a bit longer, I'd like to point out that I had Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead on the list along with Riley last year. Both of them are now head coaches at SEC schools (Tennessee and Mississippi State respectively).
Let's see how many names on this year's list will take that next step.
5. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy coach: I didn't have Niumatalolo on my list last season because I just wasn't sure how interested he was in leaving Navy. Even though his name had come up in the BYU coaching search, it felt like that was the only job where he'd consider leaving Annapolis. But then this offseason, we heard that Niumatalolo was seriously considering the Arizona job. Now I wonder if he's getting an itch to show what he can do outside of the service academy world. It's a move Niumatalolo's predecessor, Paul Johnson, made going to Georgia Tech, and I think Niumatalolo could be just as successful, if not more so. The problem is you have to find a program that would be willing to adopt an option system.
4. Neal Brown, Troy coach: Brown has done an excellent job turning around a Troy program that had gone 17-31 in the four seasons prior to his arrival. After a 4-8 start in 2015, the Trojans have gone 21-5 the last two seasons, and got everybody's attention last season with a 24-21 win over LSU in Baton Rouge. I thought Brown's name would be hotter on the coaching carousel this past winter (he was Honorable Mention in last year's Friday Five), but if he posts another 10-win season in 2018, I'd be shocked if he's back at Troy in 2019.
3. Greg Schiano, Ohio State defensive coordinator: Schiano came very close to becoming Tennessee's coach this offseason before his job was squashed by a fan revolt. Opinions vary wildly on Schiano depending on who you're talking to, but with his track record at Rutgers, and now the "Urban Meyer coaching tree" attached to his resume, he's going to come up for more jobs this winter. Considering Ohio State hired Alex Grinch away from Washington State to be its co-defensive coordinator, you have to think Urban Meyer is well aware of the likelihood.
2. Mike Norvell, Memphis coach: I was almost certain that Norvell was going to end up at Arkansas this offseason, but the Razorbacks went with Chad Morris instead. Well, Norvell should be a hot commodity again this winter. I think there had been some questioning of his coaching credentials considering he took over a program at Memphis that Justin Fuente had done a terrific job of building. But Norvell's shown the ability to maintain it thus far, going 18-8 in two seasons and his Memphis team took UCF to double-overtime in the AAC title game. The gap between Memphis and our fictional national champions wasn't large last year. Another such season should see Norvell command more attention on the job market.
1. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic coach: Maybe Kiffin is serious about staying at Florida Atlantic forever. Or, maybe he's just been around long enough and is wise enough at this point to stick around until the right job comes along. Either way, if Kiffin and the Owls lay waste to Conference USA yet again in 2018, he's going to be "The Name" that pops up at every Power Five school that might make a change. Sure, Kiffin's personality rubs some people the wrong way, but at the end of the day, if you're piling up wins, you can be whoever the hell you want. Just as long as you keep winning, and I don't see why FAU won't keep winning in 2018.
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