Missouri coaching candidates: Mike Norvell, Bryan Harsin lead replacements for Barry Odom

If you read between the lines, Missouri will be focusing on a veteran head coach to replace Barry Odom. CBS Sports spoke to Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk on Saturday night as he embarked on his search.

"The early signing [period] has complicated football searches," Sterk said. "Speed is important. I'm looking for a high-quality individual who has a background of success. If a coordinator has a lot of experience, I would look at that. Mostly, having a veteran who can handle the day to day of SEC football [is important]."

That would suggest a sitting FBS coach or a Power Five coordinator. Those being the parameters, Missouri no doubt will find itself competing in the same coaching pool as Florida State and Arkansas.

There are 20 days left until that early signing period. Sterk will be in New York next week for the National Football Foundation dinner on Tuesday, no doubt interviewing candidates between bites. The NFF dinner is considered college football's summit where a lot of coaching search business is conducted. 

Almost a certainty: Figure on an offensive coach to replace Odom, a former Missouri linebacker and defensive coordinator at Memphis.

Sterk's previous football hiring experience was at Washington State. He hired both Bill Doba and Paul Wulff; their combined record was 39-69. Doba was Pac-10 Coach of the Year his first season in 2003 but went 20-26 in the four seasons after that. Wulff came from FCS Eastern Washington and went 9-40 in four seasons.

Missouri is using the Parker Search Firm to assist. Among its latest placements were Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State), Mario Cristobal (Oregon) and Josh Heupel (UCF) after the 2017 season. 

Here are the top candidates to replace Odom at Mizzou.

Mike Norvell, Memphis coach: Norvell seemingly now has his choice of jobs: Florida State, Arkansas and Missouri. FSU is the best job with a championship pedigree. Arkansas and Missouri are SEC bottom feeders at the moment. Is there a hotter coach right now? Memphis is 11-1 hosting Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State coach: Considering the West Coast-leaning Sterk, Harsin could be a surprise candidate. He has steadfastly stuck at Boise State, leading it to similar heights as Chris Petersen. The Broncos will play for another Mountain West title this week and a possible Cotton Bowl berth. Harsin would be a huge get for Mizzou.

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest coach: Clawson is one of the more innovative offensive minds in the game. A proven program builder, he's turned around the fortunes of Bowling Green and Wake. At only 52, Clawson is just hitting his career sweet spot.

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati coach: Fickell is solid. He is a defensive mind who might play well competitively in the SEC. Fickell might not win the press conference, but who cares? If he leads Cincinnati to the Cotton Bowl, he'll be one of the most sought-after coaches in the country.

Alex Grinch, Oklahoma defensive coordinator: Grinch basically got his start as Gary Pinkel's safeties coach. He'd be coming "home" to where he spent six years as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach. While Oklahoma's defense has improved, it may be the fact the OU defense is still leaking oil a bit that keeps the Sooners out of the College Football Playoff.

Troy Calhoun, Air Force coach: One of the most respected coaches in the game just completed his third 10-win season since 2014. Calhoun runs the option at Air Force but is comfortable running any offense as a former offensive coordinator at Ohio and Wake Forest. Calhoun's name often comes up for NFL jobs as well.

Mike Leach, Washington State coach: The outspoken Leach might have hurt his chances for any opening with his "sanctimonious troll" comment to a Spokane writer on Friday. Leach is going to win wherever he goes, but he is an acquired taste. Mizzou could do a lot worse.

Josh Heupel UCF coach: When Heupel left Missouri, it was a bit of a surprise that he departed to become a head coach, especially at UCF. Here's the issue: Currently, Heupel is closer to a New Year's Six bowl than he would be at Missouri. But a 21-5 career record doesn't suck.

Eli Drinkwitz, Appalachian State coach: I pointed out when mentioning Drinkwitz for the Florida State job that it might too quick for Drinkwitz to go from NC State offensive coordinator to App. State coach to Power Five coach. But his star just keeps rising after an 11-1 debut with the Mountaineers.

Billy Napier, Louisiana-Lafayette coach: Alabama's former receivers coach has SEC blood running through him: four years at Bama as a GA and receivers coach. He also has five years at Clemson, including being Dabo Swinney's first offensive coordinator. The Ragin' Cajuns will play for the Sun Belt title in Napier's second season. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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