For the first time in 6 years, the Colorado Buffaloes are looking for a new head coach. I’ll have more thoughts on how the Buffs got here and what and why the previous coach left, but for now, let’s focus on the fun stuff. One coach leaving means another enters. This hiring cycle should be relatively quiet for college football. The biggest job opening may in fact be Colorado. I am worried about USC and Ohio State, but for now, CU is top dog. That means some fun names can open up. Here is my list:
Dino Babers, Syracuse HC
This is my #1 candidate and probably the #1 candidate on every available P5 job. His situation is very similar to Mike MacIntyre’s in 2016. He has rebuilt a dormant P5 program, and after a surprising breakout year, he may be ready to move to a bigger team. There will be debate whether or not CU is realistically a better job than Syracuse, but I think it absolutely is. The Buffs have more prestige than ‘Cuse, are in a much better recruiting area, and have a much easier path to wins. The only thing Syracuse has over CU is money, which, admittedly, is a huge factor. But if CU pays Babers enough ($4 million a year, easily), Dino, who is older than you’d think at 57, has to be salivating over the offense that awaits him. It would also be great for Darrin Chiaverini to learn under an offensive mind like that.
Chip Long, Notre Dame OC
I was late to the Chip Long train, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. The 35-year old wunderkind has enjoyed a meteoric rise. He was a part of Arizona State’s staff from 2012-15 as a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator (read: recruiting star) and then moved to Memphis with Mike Norvell as OC. After a record-breaking year at Memphis, he was quickly hired by Brian Kelley at Notre Dame. Now, the OC for the Golden Domers is part of an amazing offense that is adapting to its personnel and is destroying plenty of good teams. Part or most of that is Brian Kelley, sure, but Long now has an impressive list of mentors and he hasn’t forgotten how to recruit. Long is very young, but so is Sean McVay, probably the best coach in all of football. Long would be a very fun hire that could pay off big-time. He would also be relatively cheap.
Jimmy Lake, Washington DC
This is one of the most logically linear hires out there. The Buffs are in the Pac-12, so they should hire the architect and coordinator of the best defense in the Pac-12. Simple. Lake is relatively young at 41 and is considered one of the best recruiters on the West Coast. His background in dynamite CBs would also keep CU’s #MoneyGang tradition alive. Lake would immediately vault CU into the top half of the Pac-12 in talent and would likely field a defensively nasty team. Please keep ShaDon Brown if this happens.
Matt Wells, Utah State HC
One of my least favorite coaches in the pool. MWC head coach has a huge season after slowly building a program back up behind a great college QB. Sound familiar? Wells unfortunately shares a resume with Mike MacIntyre pre-CU. Wells is an offensive coach by trade, and his offense is something to be admired this year, as it is explosive and balanced. Matt Wells would also be on the cheaper side, and I would guess his major downside would be recruiting.
Neal Brown, Troy HC
Neal Brown is a stretch, but one of my favorite options out there. Brown is still very young at 38 and he has spent almost all of his career in the South, save for one brief stint at Texas Tech. He runs a great, consistent program in the Sun Belt, and he frequently punches above his weight against P5 teams. This is just a reminder that both Troy and Colorado beat Nebraska this year. Brown may want to stay in the South and frankly may wait for Auburn or another big SEC job to open up.
Ryan Day, Ohio State OC
Day is far and away the best non-HC candidate on this list. As the OC at OSU and the interim HC for three games this year, he has experience and is a player favorite. There are very few reservations with Day. The main problem is his availability. Day may be elevated by OSU to replace Urban Meyer as early as this year. He may not want to leave that cushy situation for any job, even one as ready-made as CU.
Jedd Fisch, LA Rams Offensive Analyst
Jedd Fisch is an interesting candidate. The fast rising offensive mind has never held a job long, mostly because he keeps getting promoted. He has worked under Mike Shanahan, Brian Billick, Steve Spurrier, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Mora, and now Sean McVay. That’s a hell of a list of offensive mentors. Fisch is still young at 42 years old, a good recruiter, and is supposedly well-liked by his players. Some of his main negatives are the lack of longevity anywhere (which may be a positive) and the fact that it’s not very clear how much of the offense he ahs run in any of his stops. Other than UCLA in 2017 and his stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars OC (from which he was fired), he has always coached under a different play-caller. He has a lot of positives.
Mark Helfrich, Chicago Bears OC
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia HC
FORGET WHAT I SAID ABOUT DINO BABERS, HOLGORSEN is target #1. He was mentioned by ESPN as a possible top candidate, and it’s easy to see why. The dude just knows how to score points. He’s brash, confident in his players, and aggressively balding. Dana has been successful in a conference in which he is far from the geographic base (like CU with the Pac-12) and has plenty of experience recruiting Texas. I’m telling you right now, Montez and Shenault with Holgo as a play-caller leads to a division title contending team next year. This would be a slam dunk easy hire, but it’s hard to see why he would leave WVU.
Jim Leavitt, Oregon DC
I really didn’t want to put this name on here, but it will come up. Leavitt has obvious, recent connections to Boulder and was a player and fan favorite in his short time here. Unfortunately, it sounded like he was hard to work with and benefited from a stacked defense. Oregon has been underwhelming on defense this year and Leavitt is not known for his recruiting. He would be hungry for a job and would instill a tough, crazy attitude that is sorely missed in Boulder. I just don’t think he would be cheap or successful long term.
If you have any other names or hate mine, drop them in the comments. Optimism is abound, let’s get weird with some names.