Now that we’ve got a new A.D. in place, it’s time to move to Danny White’s first and biggest task – hiring a new head football coach.
I know I’m a bit late to the party on this, but I now have the advantage of seeing whom everyone has tossed around as potential good options for UCF to hire for the head coaching job. Some of them are serious candidates, some of them are familiar names looking for a landing spot, and some are just hilarious.
Unfortunately, UCF is in a seller’s market for coaches, competing with the likes of USC, Miami, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Mizzou, Illinois and Maryland, among others. So they’re going to have to get either a diamond in the rough, or bust out the checkbook.
Here’s who I’d like to see UCF at least give a phone call. Again, all of this is completely speculative, so just roll with me here:
Movers and Shakers
Jeff Brohm – Head Coach, Western Kentucky
Brohm is a former Louisville quarterback who bounced around the NFL from 1994-2000. After a rather successful season in Orlando with the Rage of the ill-fated XFL (where he was first-team all-XFL and led Vince McMahon’s league in passer rating), Brohm went into coaching, bouncing from his alma mater to FAU to Illinois to UAB and finally to WKU.
About those XFL days, by the way – Remember this?
His offense has been something to behold. In his first year at WKU (as offensive coordinator and QB coach in 2013), the Hilltoppers ranked 30th in FBS in total offense and 35th in passing offense, up from 74th and 90th in those respective categories the year before.
Then in 2014, when Brohm took over the head coaching job, the Hilltoppers finished 4th in the nation in total offense (534.6 yards/game), second in passing offense (374.3 yards/game), and sixth in scoring (44.4 points/game).
Now this year: 12th in total offense (521.3 yards/game), 6th in passing offense (374.6 yards/game), and 10th in scoring (41.8 points/game). So a slight drop-off, but still insane.
That’s the kind of offensive production UCF has missed since the halcyon days of Mike Kruczek, and that recruits would love to be a part of.
Oh, and Brohm’s record: 8-5 in 2014 (won the Bahamas Bowl) and 8-2 this year (6-0 in Conference USA). At Western Kentucky.
Geoff Collins – Defensive Coordinator, Florida
Collins should be a familiar name to UCF fans. He was George O’Leary’s linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator (!) in 2008 and 2009. He had a saying that we in the video department thought was funny – “Get yo’ chili hot!”
Collins moved up quick, taking the defensive coordinator job at FIU in 2010 before going to Mississippi State as DC and LB coach from 2011-2014. When Jim McElwain took over at Florida, Collins followed him.
Right this instant, Collins’ UF defense is:
- 5th in the nation in total defense (280 yards allowed/game)
- 10th in rushing defense (105.1 yards allowed/game)
- 10th in passing defense (174.9 yards allowed/game)
- 4th in scoring defense (14.7 points allowed/game)
- 16th in third down percentage allowed (31.8%)
Considering where UCF is right now in all of those categories, he’d be an upgrade. Plus, Collins is well-connected enough to get an offensive coordinator who can finally take the reins off that side of the ball.
The downside (or upside, depending on your perspective) is that he’s an old O’Leary connection, having been a student assistant under him at Georgia Tech in the late 1990s. But he’s enough of a good recruiter where that shouldn’t hurt him, and likely hasn’t. There’s already enough buzz surrounding him and a potential move up, but he’ll also be a candidate for plenty of other jobs, including potentially in the SEC.
Darin Hinshaw – Passing Game Coordinator/QB Coach, Cincinnati
If Hinshaw’s name sounds familiar, it should. It’s all over the UCF offensive record books from his time as the Knights’ starting QB from 1992-94 (Daunte Culpepper took over from there), where he led UCF to a Division I-AA playoff berth in ’93. He’s still tops at UCF all-time in passing yards per completion, third in passing yards and completions, fifth in passer rating, tied for second in touchdowns.
After bouncing around the pros for a few years (including the Browns and the Orlando Predators), he went into coaching,with stops at Georgia Southern, Middle Tennessee, Memphis and Tennessee before landing in Cincinnati, where his Bearcats are currently fourth in the nation in passing offense (387.4 yards/game), and eighth in yards per completion (14.7)
Here’s Hinshaw in action at Cincy:
He’s also got a solid reputation as a recruiter, having nabbed several key players for the Bearcats and the Vols, including Cordarrelle Patterson.
Did I mention he’s also a UCF alum? Yeah, I did mention that. So there’s that.
Rick Stockstill – Head Coach, Middle Tennessee State
Stockstill has enjoyed moderate success at MTSU over his ten years, and might be ready for a move up. But a career 62-60 record (5-5 this year)with one bowl win and only three seasons better than one game above .500 won’t help him. After all, ten years at MTSU without a call up out of there is a bit of a red flag.
He does have connections to UCF, as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach from 1985-1988.
Dino Babers – Head Coach, Bowling Green
Not having his old boss as his new boss shouldn’t hurt Babers, who is 35-16 in four seasons (two at Eastern Illinois and two at BGSU).
Also, the offense:
- 5th in FBS in total offense (565.1 yards/game)
- 2nd in passing offense (401.4 yards/game)
- 5th in scoring (43.8 points/game)
- 6th in team pass efficiency (168.5)
Still, something tells me he’ll be up for other jobs.
Greg Schiano – Former Head Coach, Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Don’t laugh. Did you hear me? I said stop laughing.
All you Bucs fans only remember Schiano’s ill-fated most recent job. I won’t deny it was a failure. But oh, how quickly you forget Schiano’s success at Rutgers. Please allow this New Jersey native to remind you:
First, remember that college football was invented at Rutgers in 1869.
Before Schiano got to Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights had been to one bowl game (the 1978 Garden State Bowl). From that season on (1979-2004), Rutgers had exactly five winning seasons, and no more than seven wins in one season from 1980 until Schiano’s arrival. Rutgers was a football wasteland.
It took Schiano four seasons to clean the funk out of that program before things got going. Starting in 2005 through his departure after 2011, Rutgers went to six bowl games in seven seasons, winning five of them (including the 2009 St. Pete Bowl against UCF), and win at least eight games in each season but two. More importantly, he laid the groundwork for three more bowl appearances for his successor, Kyle Flood.
Make no mistake about it: Greg Schiano knows how to coach in college. He has solid recruiting ties in Florida from his days at Miami, and you should also read this piece from the MMQB about how much he learned from his ill-fated stop in Tampa.
I think he’s worth a good look, if UCF goes the previous experience route.
Mario Cristobal – Former Head Coach, FIU/Offensive Line Coach, Alabama
Cristobal was a hot item when he was at FIU. A former UM offensive lineman with a couple National Championship rings on his fingers, he took a glorified commuter school from 1-11 in his first year in 2007 to its first two bowl games, winning one in 2010. He beat UCF in 2011. He also gained a hell of a reputation as a recruiter in the Sunshine State, which you have to be in order to get FIU to go anywhere.
And then, in 2012, his A.D., Pete Garcia, made the stupid decision to chase after Butch Davis, firing Cristobal, and infamously saying the team had “gone backwards” when it had gone 3-9 the year after a bowl season with multiple graduation departures (including T.Y. Hilton). Then Davis himself turned the job down, leaving FIU with Ron Turner.
Cristobal landed on his feet at his alma mater, and then took the job as Nick Saban’s offensive line coach. And right now, that group is steamrolling people in front of Derrick Henry.
Cristobal will be back as a head coach somewhere, probably even in Florida. The question would be if he is on UCF’s target list, or Miami’s. He should be on both.
Gene Chizik – Former Head Coach, Auburn/Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina
Don’t laugh here, either.
Chizik is, of course, the former Auburn head coach, with a National Title in his back pocket, and also was Mike Kruczek’s defensive coordinator at UCF from 1998-2001. He then stopped at Auburn and Texas as defensive coordinator before landing the head job at Iowa State, which is a supermassive black hole of a program that Knute Rockne couldn’t get above .500. Chizik went 5-19.
Then Auburn controversially snapped him up. After an 8-5 campaign, Chizik’s Tigers scored Cam Newton from the junior college ranks, went 14-0, and lifted the Crystal Football in 2011.
Then it was another 8-5 after Cam left, then 3-9, then game over for Chizik in a move that reeked of overly-inflated SEC expectations. Never mind the fact that Chizik led Auburn, with its characteristically strong defense, to its first national title since Sputnik was launched.
However, and perhaps unfairly, Chizik’s tenure at Auburn is known more for one player he had for one season – Cam Newton. He’s already said he’s not all that interested in becoming a head coach again, but maybe he’ll change his mind.
Mark Richt – Head Coach, Georgia
Richt is under fire at Georgia, which drives me nuts, because I covered him for two years and I know for a fact that Georgia fans have that overly-inflated-expectations thing down pat. He’s done wonders at a program that is not as attractive to recruits as everyone around it seems to think it is. I’m also a bit biased, though.
After leaving Florida State, where he was Bobby Bowden’s imaginative offensive coordinator (Charlie Ward, Thad Busby, Chris Weinke – Remember that whole thing?), he’s been at UGA since 2001, where he’s won ten games or more nine times, six SEC East titles, two SEC titles, damn near a few National Titles, and has never NOT been to a bowl game.
But apparently he needs to win nine games to keep his job, according to some of the geniuses in Athens.
If Georgia does the dumb thing and Richt gets the gate, UCF should be on the horn immediately. He’s an offensive mind who has worked miracles in recruiting. That’s perfect for UCF.
Personally, I think Richt would be a better fit in Miami, being that he’s an alumnus (he backed up Jim Kelly when he was there), but that’s just me.
Pat O’Hara – Offensive Assistant Coach, Houston Texans
Currently with the Texans in a general offensive coaching capacity, you remember him as Marc Daniels’ analyst for UCF’s radio broadcasts prior to this year. Pat also has been involved locally with the Orlando Predators as a player, and later head coach. In fact, O’Hara has had four head coaching gigs in the Arena Football League.
I don’t know if O’Hara would be interested in becoming a college head coach, but if he is, he’s got enough connections at UCF and around the state (he was a high school coach at Olympia and New Smyrna Beach High Schools) to warrant consideration. And he might also be an interesting choice for offensive coordinator if UCF hires a defensive-minded head coach.
Jay Gruden – Head Coach, Washington Professional Football Franchise
Gruden’s career path has been meteoric to this point, but he was mired in a terrible situation in Washington, caught between Robert Griffin and Daniel Snyder. However, things look like they’re turning around slowly but surely, as the franchise looks to have moved on from Griffin, while Gruden has gone about the difficult business of turning Kirk Cousins into a viable NFL quarterback.
However, if things deteriorate the rest of this season with Daniel Snyder (and they always do at some point), and Gruden is back on the market, UCF might be a good place for him to land. After all, he’s intimately familiar with Orlando, being with the Predators as a quarterback and later head coach, as well as coaching the short-lived Florida Tuskers of the UFL. So a move to the college ranks would not be all that far-fetched.
Steve Spurrier – Retired Ball Coach
“Hi, Coach? This is [REDACTED] from UCF calling. How’s everything going? You enjoying the golf? Cool.”
“Hey, you wouldn’t be interested in…”
“OK, that’s what we thought too. Thanks anyway! Oh, and can you do us a favor? Can you tell Chesney…”
“You know what, never mind. Take it easy. Thanks Coach.”
Kirby Smart – Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Talked to a friend of mine recently who is more familiar with SEC Football than you or I are. He told me that some other SEC school is going to get suckered into hiring Smart away from Alabama, and they’re going to regret it.
“He’s not a head coach,” he said, stating that it’s Nick Saban who calls the shots with that defense, and Smart is simply there to coach them up when they’re in practice and/or on the sideline.
We’ll see. Either way, Smart wouldn’t be long for UCF if he decided to come here. Word is that South Carolina wants him bad. Like, really bad. So it might not be worth the phone call.
Doc Holliday – Head Coach, Marshall
Lane Kiffin – Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
You know what, never mind. Forget I even said that.
Randy Shannon – Former Head Coach, Miami (Currently Florida’s Co-Defensive Coordinator/LB Coach/Associate Head Coach)
Remember when Shannon, a former player during the glory days of UM, came back to coach the Canes? Remember how excited everyone was?
Yeah, that didn’t work out.
Credit to Shannon for reviving his coaching career at Florida, where so far the reviews have been solid. But recruiting-wise, Shannon didn’t do as well in Miami as everyone hoped, even though he reportedly warned players to stay away from the guy who nearly brought the whole program down.
Maybe somewhere, but not here.
So that’s my working holiday shopping list of coaches for now.
If you’re holding me at gunpoint, I’d like to see Hinshaw, and then Brohm, Collins (with a good OC), Schiano and Cristobal in that order.
Let me know if you have any other suggestions or which one you prefer over the others. In the meantime, we wait.