Candidates to replace Herm Edwards as ASU football’s head coach
Arizona State vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson gets to right his wrong.
His controversial hire of long-time friend and former client Herm Edwards did not reset how college football teams assess head-coaching candidates. The successes of Edwards’ tenure were about recruiting and retainment of players.
Failed development of some of those players, then poor management and turnover of his staff culminating in an NCAA investigation made any of Edwards’ successes as football CEO unsustainable.
Now, Anderson will be “involved” in a coaching search where his out-of-the-box track record could be reined in — or not.
Anderson suggested a younger coach with the ability to keep pace in a quickly changing college football landscape will be targeted. Sorry, big Urb. There’s an assumption that any new head coaching hire will be in the college game right now or not far removed from it.
With that little tidbit of information, let’s look at big names who could be available as replacements for Edwards. And to be clear: This is not reporting with any information about what ASU is eyeing. It’s more of a talking-through-it exercise to explain why types of coaches are on the market.
Coaches without a job right now
Tom Herman — Herman spent last season in relative anonymity as an offensive analyst for the Chicago Bears under offensive-oriented head coach Matt Nagy. He checks tons of boxes with experience as head coach at Houston (2015-16) and Texas (2017-2020), has experience in other high-profile recruiting landing spots at Ohio State (2012-14) and fits under the youthful category at 47 years old.
While lots of his time has been spent in Texas over the course of his career, he was raised in California and has experience recruiting out west. Notably, before being forced out at Texas, Herman as head coach grabbed five-star running back Bijan Robinson out of Salpointe High School in Tucson.
Scott Frost — At ASU, there would be relatively low expectations compared to his very ugly Nebraska run (16-31) from 2018-2022. Frost, remember, helped Central Florida run the table at 13-0 in 2017, and before that saw the most recent heights of the Oregon Ducks’ success as receivers coach and OC from 2009-2015.
Dan Mullen — While his Florida tenure didn’t last long, he still went 34-15 there from 2018-2021 and only posted one losing season — his first one — at Mississippi State. There is not much for West Coast ties, but he did spend a stint as quarterbacks coach at Utah in 2003-04.
Coaches who might be without a job soon
Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers head coach — He’s a defensive head coach who resuscitated a reputation-plagued Baylor team (2017-19) quite quickly and before that brought any life at all to Temple (2013-16). Regarding the former, the man flipped a one-win team into an 11-win squad in two years. He turned a two-win team into a 10-win team in two years at the latter. That is good stuff.
It’s hard to judge his pro credentials much based on leading an NFL squad that’s been primarily led by Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
Mike Norvell, Florida State head coach — Norvell went 3-6 and 5-7 in his first two seasons at Florida State, putting him squarely on the hot seat before he — for the moment — pulled himself out of consideration for lesser jobs with a 3-0 start for the Seminoles. ASU fans know from his stint leading the Sun Devils offense (2012-15) that he can coach.
Bryan Harsin, Auburn head coach — Reputationally, he managed to keep Chris Petersen’s legacy of building a small-school football power at Boise State afloat with a 69-19 record from 2014-2020. But his brief time at Auburn has been a PR nightmare. The Tigers went 6-7 last year and beat Mercer and San Jose State to begin this season before getting pummeled this weekend against No. 22 Penn State, 41-12.
Current head coaches who see ASU as a step up
Deion Sanders, Jackson State — Hiring a younger, more energetic personality who was a superior pro might seem like a rehashing of the Edwards’ hire, but Sanders’ age, energy and outspokenness would certainly put ASU on the map. Sanders went 11-2 in his first non-COVID-19 impacted season, though his lack of FBS staff-leading experience could be a hold-up.
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State — Smith has been doing more with less. He’s a Beaver graduate, and Arizona State would need to convince him that its resources are indeed enticing enough to build a better college football product. ASU fans have to ask: At the moment, is it a step up?
Matt Campbell, Iowa State — The 42-year-old posted a 35-15 record at Toledo (2011-15) before making the jump to Iowa State. Amenities in Ames might be limited, but he’s gone to five straight bowl games. However, he might have bigger opportunities with bigger legacy programs like Nebraska.
Coordinators looking for a head-coaching gig
Derek Mason, Oklahoma State DC — Mason has strong ties to the state of Arizona, attending Camelback High School and Northern Arizona. He’s coached on both sides of the ball all across the country — literally from California to Auburn. Mason was head coach at Vanderbilt (2014-2020) but has a reputation to rebuild after a rough 2021 season at Auburn.
Kenny Dillingham, Oregon OC — A quarterbacks coach who got his start at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Dillingham latched on with the Sun Devils in 2014-15 as an offensive assistant for Todd Graham’s staff and quickly rose up the ranks by following former ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to Memphis. He made the leap as OC to Auburn under Gus Malzahn in 2019 before re-joining Norvell at Florida State the past two years and jumping to Oregon with Dan Lanning this year.
Alex Grinch, USC DC — Grinch caught most people’s attention out west from 2015-17, building an underrated defense under Mike Leach at Washington State. Ohio State and Urban Meyer hired him away in 2018 before he side-stepped to coach for current Trojans coach Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma from 2019-2021. He’s about as well-respected across college football as you can find, but it’s hard to say what his interest is in head coaching.
Todd Monken, Georgia OC — His head-coaching experience ends at Southern Miss (2013-15), but Monken does have a very long resume for coaching offenses at LSU, Oklahoma State and in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. Lately, he’s helped build Georgia into a powerhouse alongside Alabama and Clemson.