Now that Charlie Strong to Texas is official, I can tell you that behind the scenes the search for the next Head Football Coach at the University of Louisville has been happening since no later than Wednesday.
Behind the scenes things have been crazy. Publicly the focus has been on retaining Charlie Strong. Privately the effort has been locating his replacement. Tom Jurich is famous for his “List” of candidates for all Head Jobs within his athletics department. The fact is that the Louisville job in 2014 is in a MUCH better plan than it was in December 2009 when Charlie Strong arrived. Coaches are lining up with interest, but Tom Jurich is going to play this close to the vest. I actually fielded a phone call from an agent of an NFL Offensive Coordinator tonight (Saturday Night) looking for Tom Jurich’s phone number, to say that this Louisville job is “Hot” is an understatement.
There is no particular order here. I’ve talked to several people, none of them are Tom Jurich (and that’s all that really matters here).
Pat Narduzzi: Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State
The Spartans finished 2nd only to the Cards in Total Defense in 2013. Narduzzi put together an aggressive style of defense in 2013 that earned him the Broyles Award for Top College Assistant Coach. Fresh off a Rose Bowl win over Stanford Narduzzi was offered the Head Coaching position at Connecticut in December and turned it down. Narduzzi might be looking for the perfect transition to be a head coach and Louisville could be the perfect fit with the current roster and Louisville’s commitment to recruit Ohio. I would like this hire, but I would be keen on Narduzzi’s choice of Offensive Coordinator.
Derek Mason: Defensive Coordinator, Stanford
A young man still, Mason lead the Stanford Cardinal to the Rose Bowl with the #12 ranked defense that was able to shut down Oregon earlier in the regular season. Mason is interesting as a candidate because of his ties to Tom Jurich’s alma mater Northern Arizona. Mason specializes in coaching Defensive Backs and was the DBs coach for the Minnesota Vikings for the 2007-09 season. Stanford has been VERY solid on defense since his arrival. Mason seems extremely well-connected but has primarily been on the West Coast during his collegiate tenure sans a 2-year stint with the Ohio Bobcats. Certainly would want to keep a close watch on the assistants that Mason brings in to help shore up relationship with Louisville’s current targeted areas.
Chad Morris: Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
It’s kind of hard to believe that Chad Morris is not yet a Head Coach. But working with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins has a way of keeping a guy around. Morris is fresh off an Orange Bowl win over Ohio State has done a fantastic job at Clemson in a short period of time. Morris interviewed for the Texas Tech at the end of last season and has strong ties to the South and Texas. Clemson was a Top 10 offense in 2012 & 2013, and made a jump from 88th to 26th in his first season (2011). Morris has been a Head Coach at the High School level, and really has only been in the college game since 2010. Morris would likely be exciting for Cardinal fans. My main question would be in his ability to build a strong staff having been a High School coach until 2009. That said, Louisville’s remaining assistant coaches might be ripe for Morris.
Bobby Petrino: Head Coach, Western Kentucky
Ole 41-9 is back. Petrino still comes around Louisville as he has two children that attend UofL. A Homecoming for Bobby Petrino would be……interesting. There is no question regarding Petrino’s ability to coach young people and get them prepared each week. The biggest issues here revolve around the professional relationship between Tom Jurich and Bobby Petrino. It’s no secret how things went down during & after Petrino’s exit to the Atlanta Falcons and his flirtations with LSU, Auburn, and Notre Dame. Bobby Petrino is a much more humble man now, but that ship may have sailed for Jurich professionally. Personally I do know that the relationship is a good one, but whether or not these two will work together again is a different matter. Keep an eye out on this one. The big drawbacks are Petrino’s ability to recruit, but a large buyout may ensure that Louisville is his last stop. Currently Petrino has Nick Holt, Jeff Brohm, Mike Cassity, LD Scott, and Kolby Smith on staff.
Rich Rodriguez: Head Coach, Arizona
Louisville fans can’t forget Rich Rodriguez and his run at West Virginia with Pat White & Steve Slaton. The WVU grad left his alma mater to become the Head Coach at Michigan and just wrapped up 2 consecutive 8-5 seasons at Arizona. Rich Rod may be a realistic candidate, but he certainly isn’t the only one at the moment. Rodriguez took some heat at Michigan for his style and practice habits, but is certainly an accomplished head coach familiar with all aspects of a high profile position.
David Cutcliffe: Head Coach, Duke
Cutcliffe will turn 60 during the 2014 season and I’ve heard his name here and there. Cutcliffe won Coach of the Year honors this year after a 10-3 season with Duke. The winning mark is the 1st winning season for Cutcliffe since his arrival in 2008 and he had a similar arc at Ole Miss from 1998 to 2004 as Head Coach. Cutcliffe’s biggest achievement thus far in his career has been his involvement with Peyton Manning at Tennessee. I’m not sold on this hire, and I’m not sure how serious interest would be. But Cutcliffe does know the ACC Coastal Divison and he is a well-connected candidate. That said, I doubt he is the next football coach at Louisville.
Kirby Smart: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Defense & Alabama. Need I say more? Kirby is 38 years old and is the next Nick Saban disciple that will get a Head Coaching position and potentially the biggest catch since Saban has been at Alabama. Smart led the Tide to the 5th Best Defensive Unit in the country in 2013 and has extensive experience in the SEC & recruiting the south. Smart likely knows the quality of Louisville’s remaining assistants but also is likely to be able to put together a blockbuster staff himself. Smart would be a fantastic addition.
Jay Gruden: Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
A Louisville Alumnus that has spent his entire coaching career in Pro Football. Gruden has seen a lot of his passing records fall since his playing days. It is hard to see this going very far as Gruden really is solidly entrenched in the NFL but I know fans would love to see a former Louisville QB come back and take over the Head Job.
Jim McElwain: Head Coach, Colorado State
We all know about Tom Jurich’s ties to Colorado State, but McElwain was the WR/Special Teams Coach from 2000-2002 under John L. Smith. McElwain followed Smith to Michigan State before a very successful tenure at Alabama propelled him into his current role. Former Louisville assistant Art Valero is his Tight Ends Coach in Ft. Collins and in Year 2 McElwain led the Rams to an 8-4 record (4-8 in Year 1) and a win in the New Mexico Bowl. McElwain has a lot of experience recruiting the South and competing against SEC schools for top talent.
Shawn Watson: Offensive Coordinator, Lousville
It wouldn’t be the first time a successful assistant was elevated to the Head Job at the same school. Watson developed Teddy Bridgewater, but still drew the ire of a segment of the Louisville fan base. Watson is extremely intelligent and has stated his desire to be a Head Coach. My bet is that Watson interviews for the position, and while I do really think a great deal of Watson I’m not certain he has the ‘charisma’ of a Head Coach. Not a knock on him, his work with Teddy has been outstanding, I just wonder about Watson as the alpha male in a Football program. Would be interesting.
Tony Levine: Head Coach, Houston
Coach Levine is still loved by many of his former Louisville players from his time here as an assistant. Levine has done a fantastic job in 3 years as the Houston Cougars Head Coach. Levine has been with the Cougars since 2008, and was in Louisville for 3 seasons under Bobby Petrino.
Other Names we are Hearing: Ed Orgeron, Aaron Kromer, Tom Herman, Mark Hudspeth, Pete Lambo.
This is EARLY in the process. Determining between FACT & Conjecture is really too soon to determine. In the end, there are not this many names on Tom Jurich’s “list” but I think we’ve illustrated that there are plenty of qualified candidates that Louisville can target. Stay tuned, Tom Jurich is known for acting quickly. We will keep you posted as we hear credible information.