BOCA RATON – FAU’s coaching search is about to enter its second week. This far into a coaching search the list of potential candidates is usually narrowing. FAU may actually be adding names.
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was close to an agreement to become the Owls coach, but that deal fell apart on Friday night. He didn’t get the USF job, so FAU may start looking better and better, and the Owls are still interested, so he may come back into play, but for now that hasn’t happened.
Penn St. offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead reportedly turned down the Temple job, telling Yahoo he preferred to remain in Happy Valley. That likely means he’s off the table for the southern Owls, too.
Jacksonville offensive line coach Doug Marrone, the former head man at Syracuse and the Buffalo Bills, seems content in the NFL. After two weeks, if Marrone and the Owls were a match, it would seem to have happened by now.
So where does FAU turn?
Les Miles is still out there. The longer he’s there the better chance FAU has to land him. At the moment the only open head coaching jobs are at Western Kentucky, Temple and Florida Atlantic. (Both Temple and WKU saw their coaches leave in the past week to take different jobs). LSU’s offensive numbers dwindled during Miles’ final few seasons, which may explain why there’s so little current buzz about him. But he did win a national title. FAU may be able to take advantage of soft market to land a marquee name.
OwlAccess.com is opening its list to a few more potential candidates, coaches who fit the requirements FAU has been searching for: an offensive-minded guy with either college or NFL head coaching experience. FAU also wants someone currently at the FBS level, though it might be time for the Owls to grab a hot FCS coach like Jacksonville St.’s John Grass or James Madison head man Mike Houston.
With that in mind, here are some more names to consider.
FAU AD Pat Chun hails from the Big Ten and that’s where most of his contacts reside. If he went back to his former conference, he certainly heard a new name or two.
Tim Drevno (Michigan, OC) He’s not exactly what the Owls have been looking for – Drevno doesn’t have head coaching experience – but he has stewarded a high-powered Wolverines offense for the past two seasons. Michigan barely missed out on the College Football Playoff this year. The Wolverines averaged 41.0 points per game this season, playing the in country’s toughest conference. He has NFL experience as the offensive line coach at San Francisco from 2011-14. Drevno also has been an assistant at Southern Cal and Stanford.
It’s widely regarded as the worst conference in the FBS, although Conference USA is probably thankful that there isn’t a head-to-head postseason battle pitting all C-USA schools vs. all Sun Belt schools. It’s unlikely that the Owls would take an assistant from the Sun Belt, but FAU might try to poach a head coach. And those who have ever visited most of the Sun Belt towns understand why living in Boca Raton would be a massive selling point. Four Sun Belt teams posted winning regular seasons. Let’s examine them, doing so in the order they finished in the standings.
Scott Satterfield (Appalachian St., HC) – The Mountaineers are newbies to the FBS, but they keep winning, posting a 9-3 record this season that included a tight loss to Tennessee. Satterfield also recruits South Florida well. But he’s either played at or coached at App St. for 21 years. It’s his program, meaning it would probably take more than the FAU top spot to lure him away.
Blake Sanderson (Arkansas St., HC) – The Red Wolves went 7-5, 7-1 in the Sun Belt, and Sanderson was reportedly close to landing the Baylor job. While the desire to get out of Jonesboro is understandable, his reported $3 million buyout is certainly out of FAU’s ballpark. FAU could, though, find it fun to rattle the cage of former Owls’ assistant athletic director Terry Mohajir, who is now the ASU athletic director.
Neal Brown (Troy, HC) – Brown has been linked to several jobs but hasn’t landed one. He’s already making $700,000 per year, so how much more could FAU offer? Troy has a strong football history, so Brown could view the move as a lateral one at best. Might be worth a phone call, though.
Paul Petrino (Idaho, HC) – Now here’s an interesting profile. The brother of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Paul led Idaho to an 8-4 record this season, including a 6-2 record in the Sun Belt. Yes, it was the Sun Belt, but few people win at Idaho. This year the Vandals will make their third bowl appearance in program history. And the Vandals announced this year that they intend to drop down to the FCS level in 2018l Petrino’s been the head coach there since 2012 and received a contract extension through 2020 this summer, but his compensation package appears to be about $400,000 per year. FAU could double that. His record as a head coach is only 14-33, but that includes two one-win seasons after taking over an absolutely terrible Idaho team. He’s been an offensive coordinator at Arkansas, Illinois and Louisville. A lot of boxes checked. Plenty to like.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
While sometimes it may not always look that way on the field, the AAC is considered a step up from C-USA, so it’s likely that only coordinators and lower-level coaches would become candidates for the FAU job. With that in mind, there are a couple intriguing names.
T.J. Weist (USF, Interim HC/co-OC) – He became USF’s head man when Willie Taggart took the Oregon job. USF is 10-2 on the season and South Florida averaged 43.7 points per game, seventh-best nationally, under Weist. The Bulls’ 515.1 yards per game ranked No. 10. He’s been the interim coach at UConn, going 3-5 but those three wins came in his last three games. Weist served as an offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky and Connecticut previously. He won’t be promoted to the top spot at USF. Strong nabbed that job. Weist could follow Taggart to Oregon, but if he wants a head job, FAU seems ideal.
Tommy Tuberville (Cincinnati, former HC) – Tuberville resigned at Cincy and, according to the Palm Beach Post, reached out to FAU – making him one of about 50 coaches to do so. He’s been a head coach at Auburn, Mississippi and Texas Tech, winning at all schools. He’s a defensive guy, though, so FAU would have to shift its profile. Maybe the Owls are willing to do that now, but there hasn’t been any chatter about Tuberville in the last couple days that would indicate he’s anything more than an outside candidate.
Some ACC coordinators were included in our original list so we are not going to rehash them back in his one. We’re digging deeper. As it would be shocking that an ACC head coach would make the jump down to FAU, we’re focusing on assistants.
Robbie Caldwell (Clemson, OL) – The veteran coach has been a key component in the Tigers’ explosive offensive. He was Vanderbilt’s head coach in 2010 when the Commodores went 2-10, and he resigned prior to the final game. FAU president John Kelly came from Clemson, so there is a link.
Kevin Higgins (Wake Forest, WRs) – Higgins has a long resume of head coaching experience at the FCS level, guiding Citadel for nine seasons and Lehigh for six. He also served as the Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach. Higgins lacks coordinator experience at the FBS level, but at this point FAU might be willing to over look that.
Larry Porter (North Carolina, RB/ST) – Carolina’s running game is strong of late, and some of that is surely attributable to Porter. He was also the head coach at Memphis in 2010 and 2011, but won only three games, which hardly inspires confidence.