After Baylor fired Art Briles, 29 college football teams have had coaching changes since the beginning of the 2015 season. Many more changes are sure to come by the end of 2016, with several notable coaches likely on the hot seat.
That leaves potential openings for several rising stars in the college football coaching world. Last year, head coaches like Justin Fuente and Dino Babers and assistants like Scott Frost and Kirby Smart were among the coaches who made the leap to bigger things. So which names could we be talking about when the coaching carousel gets rolling by the end of the 2016 season?
The following list covers 10 current Group of Five head coaches, 10 assistant coaches and three former head coaches who are now assistants, all of whom could be in the mix for promotions to bigger jobs elsewhere if things break right during the 2016 season.
Current Head Coaches
1. Tom Herman, Houston. No. 1 on this list couldn't be more obvious. Herman has assembled a sterling resume over the last few years to become the the biggest rising star in coaching as he turns 41. Herman quickly developed into a hot name in three years as offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, culminating in the 2014 national championship that included an impressive juggling act at quarterback. It's also clear that Ohio State's offense had some transitional struggles after Herman left last season.
As head coach at Houston, Herman quickly realized the potential of a school that should be a perennial power among Group of Five programs. Herman led the Cougars to a 13-1 record, including the American Athletic Conference title and a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, plus an early-season road win at Louisville. Houston finished ranked No. 8 in the AP poll -- its third-best final ranking ever -- and proceeded to sign the nation's No. 40 recruiting class, according to 247Sports, featuring five-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
Herman could have been one-and-done at Houston and bolted for a Power Five job -- according to USA Today, Herman was close to going to South Carolina until the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel -- but he can afford to be patient, especially after Houston gave him a new five-year contract worth $2.8 million per year. Herman has an excellent stepping-stone job that's better than some Power Five jobs in many respects, and given what the Cougars have coming back this season, there's a good chance that he'll be able to land a better job than South Carolina at the end of this season, especially with Texas and/or Texas A&M potentially opening.
2. Matt Rhule, Temple. From 1980-2008, Temple failed to taste the postseason, with only three winning seasons, the low point being its dismissal from the Big East. Al Golden finally changed things for the Owls and turned 9-4 and 8-4 seasons into the Miami job. Steve Addazio went 9-4 and 4-7 and got the Boston College job. Now, Rhule has been at Temple for three years, improving from 2-10 to 6-6 to 10-4. Last season was Temple's best since 1979, as it broke into the top 25 during the season, beat Penn State for the first time since 1941, hosted College Gameday before an ABC prime-time game vs. Notre Dame that it nearly won and produced a Bednarik Award-winning linebacker in Tyler Matakevich.
With several impact players gone from the defense, Temple will likely take a step back this season, but it's still in good position for a second straight bowl bid, something that has never happened before. Rhule has been around for all of Temple's recent success, coming aboard under Golden, but it's only a matter of time before he follows the lead of his predecessors and jumps to a bigger gig.
3. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan. After a 1-11 debut, Fleck has gone 8-5 each of the last two seasons with a pair of bowl bids. Now, expectations are higher than they have been in years, with team capable of winning the Broncos' first MAC championship since 1988 thanks to a loaded offense -- one that ranked 11th in yards per play -- led by standout receiver Corey Davis. Fleck is out-recruiting the rest of the MAC with his relentless energy, with 17 players already verbally committed to Western Michigan's class of 2017. He was given a raise to $800,000 per year after the 2014 season, and if the Broncos meet expectations this season, it's easy to see a Power Five program significantly increasing that number despite the fact that Fleck is only 35 years old.
4. Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers were already on an upward trajectory when Brohm became coach, first under Willie Taggart, then Bobby Petrino. Brohm was Petrino's offensive coordinator for his one season in charge, then got the promotion when Petrino went back to Louisville. It's paid off in a big way for Western Kentucky. Brohm, 45, has directed one of the nation's most prolific offenses the last two years. The Hilltoppers went 8-5 in 2014 and ranked fifth in yards per play, then went 12-2 and won Conference USA, finishing third in yards per play with a top-25 ranking in the AP poll in the school's ninth season since jumping to FBS competition. Brohm will somehow have to find a way to replace quarterback Brandon Doughty, who passed for 12,855 yards in his career, but most of the rest of the offense is back, including the entire line, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and the top two receivers. Western Kentucky can be a C-USA contender again, and Brohm's name has a chance to be on a lot of coaching search shortlists.
5. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State. Appalachian State is highly unlikely to pull off a stunning road upset at Tennessee in Week 1, but it does present a terrifying trap for a Power Five team when it hosts Miami in Week 3. Satterfield has done a phenomenal job leading the Mountaineers' transition from FCS power to competitive FBS program, and now he has a chance to capture even more attention with 16 starters returning -- including star QB Taylor Lamb and RB Marcus Cox -- to a team that went 11-2 overall and 7-1 in the Sun Belt. The 48-year-old Satterfield went 4-8 in his debut as head coach before Appalachian State jumped to the Sun Belt, but the Mountaineers have won 17 of their last 19 games after a rough start to the 2014 season. A former Appalachian State quarterback, Satterfield has deep ties to the program -- he was quarterbacks coach for the team that upset Michigan in 2007 -- but if he keeps this up, his alma mater will have a tough time keeping him home in the long run.
6. Willie Taggart, South Florida. Taggart is proof of how quickly the conversation can change about a young head coach. After a pair of winning seasons at Western Kentucky, the former Jim Harbaugh assistant went 2-10 and 4-8 in his first two seasons at South Florida, with an unwatchable offense much of the time. Last season, Taggart, who is 39, found his quarterback, and the Bulls experienced an impressive turnaround. After losses to Florida State, Maryland and Memphis, they beat Syracuse and proceeded to win seven of their last eight regular-season games, including blowout wins over AAC East foes Temple (44-23) and Cincinnati (65-27). Quarterback Quinton Flowers nearly rushed for 1,000 yards as a sophomore, and RB Marlon Mack averaged 6.6 yards per carry. With seven starters returning on both sides of the ball and an energized offense in particular, South Florida is the favorite in the ACC East this season. Taggart went from the hot seat to interviewing for the South Carolina job, which earned him a new South Florida contract.
7. Bryan Harsin, Boise State. It's remarkable how high expectations have risen, given that a 9-4 record last season was a disappointment. Harsin went 12-2 with a Fiesta Bowl win in his debut -- recapturing some of Chris Petersen's magic -- but the Broncos played touted freshman QB Brett Rypien most of the season after an injury to Ryan Finley, and they stumbled in some uncharacteristic losses, like the fluke eight-turnover debacle at Utah State. Despite that frustration, the Broncos return much of their offense, including standouts in Rypien and RB Jeremy McNichols, and they remain a contender for the Group of Five's major bowl bid. As long as Boise State continues to be a power among the Group of Five schools, its head coaches will be in demand.
8. Matt Wells, Utah State. Last season represented a step down for the Aggies, who went 6-7 after Wells began his head coaching career with records of 9-5 and 10-4. Chuckie Keeton's injury troubles didn't help, and the Aggies couldn't capitalize on a surprising 52-26 win over Boise State in the middle of the year. Wells is still 25-16 with three bowl appearances in three years, and he has produced tough defenses. This season, he'll have to replace eight starters on that unit, but there is hope that the offense will have a breakthrough season behind QB Kent Myers. Utah State should be in the Mountain West title hunt again, and Wells, 42, will remain on the coaching carousel radar.
9. Troy Calhoun, Air Force. It is not easy to win at military academies, but Calhoun has done a phenomenal job, taking Air Force to bowl games in seven of eight seasons since replacing Fisher DeBerry. Calhoun's squad slipped to a 2-10 record in 2013 but quickly rebounded to go 10-3 in 2014 and 8-6 last season, winning the Mountain West's Mountain Division. Calhoun is 49 years old with a record of 67-50 in Colorado Springs. He's known for the option now, but he branched out with NFL coaching experience (Broncos and Texans) before getting the head coaching job. This year's Air Force team has a chance to be as good as any that Calhoun has had.
10. Chad Morris, SMU. Morris has a 2-10 record as a college head coach, so yes it's a bit premature to anoint him as the next big thing. Still, as offensive coordinator at Clemson, he laid the foundation schematically for the Tigers' run to the national title game last season. He's a widely respected offensive mind, and upon taking the SMU job, he made tangible progress with a program that fell off a cliff the year before and required a big-time cleanup. Last year's team still wasn't particularly good, as shown by the horrific 60-0 loss to Memphis to end the season, but the offense showed signs of life before that. Year 1 was about refocusing the program and rebuilding the foundation. Behind an exciting quarterback in Matt Davis, SMU is a good bet to take a step forward this season, even if it doesn't result in a bowl game just yet. That may make Morris a long shot to actually get a Power Five job after this year -- it isn't easy to sell a coach with only losing records -- but he has a broken program on an upward trajectory, so he's worth keeping an eye on.
Current Assistant Coaches
1. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma. Riley is still only 32 years old, but he's been one of the biggest rising stars in coaching over the last few years. A Mike Leach disciple, his East Carolina offenses put up a ton of points. When Bob Stoops needed to reboot his offense, he brought in Riley, and Oklahoma ended up in the College Football Playoff with QB Baker Mayfield finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Riley has to replace star WR Sterling Shepard, but he gets Mayfield and RBs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon back. The Sooners are expected to be playoff contenders again, and with a little bit more experience, Riley's name will come up more and more often for head coaching jobs after he won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant last season.
2. Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, TCU. It's amazing that Gary Patterson has been able to keep both of his offensive coordinators. The Horned Frogs had a horrendous season in 2013, going 4-8 behind a stagnant offense, so Patterson brought in Cumbie (former Texas Tech quarterback) and Meacham (former Oklahoma State and Houston assistant) to bring a version of the air raid to Fort Worth. TCU has subsequently gone 23-3 the last two years, with QB Trevone Boykin becoming a star as the offense ranked second and seventh in scoring. Cumbie is only 34 and handles the quarterbacks. Meacham is 51 and calls the plays. Both have been mentioned for head coaching jobs, and it's only a matter of time before at least one of them makes the leap.
3. Mike Sanford, Notre Dame. A former Boise State quarterback from 2000-04, Sanford has already accumulated a wealth of coaching experience as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh, David Shaw and Brian Kelly. He served as offensive coordinator for Boise State's Fiesta Bowl team in 2014, and last season he helped guide the Fighting Irish to the Fiesta Bowl as well, despite a rash of injuries that included the starting quarterback, running back and tight end. Only 34 years old, Sanford has been an assistant for major bowl teams five years in a row at three schools, and last season the Irish ranked sixth in yards per play.
4. Dave Aranda, LSU. Wisconsin had excellent defenses under Aranda the last three seasons, including a unit that led the nation in points allowed in 2015. He jumped to LSU for the same job this year, and he'll inherit a defense loaded with blue-chip talent, from Arden Key to Jamal Adams to Tre'Davious White to Kendell Beckwith. LSU is a potential national title contender with what should be one of the nation's best defenses. The 39-year-old Aranda is undoubtedly on track for a head coaching position soon.
5. Brent Venables, Clemson. The 45-year-old Venables has a great gig right now. He's one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the country (he makes nearly $1.5 million, more than most Group of Five jobs pay), and he has transformed Clemson's defense over the last four years after the unit gave up 70 points in the Orange Bowl to West Virginia in 2011. Despite losing several standout players, Clemson had a top-20 defense again last season as it nearly won the national title. Venables faces another big challenge with most of the starting defense gone again, but he's earned the benefit of the doubt. Like Kirby Smart, he can afford to be patient and wait for the perfect opportunity. Like Smart, he also might be a great fit at his alma mater: He played and coached for Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and the 76-year-old Snyder is nearing retirement. For now, though, Venables hasn't shown much interest in leaving behind a good thing at Clemson.
6. Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama. Nick Saban plucked Pruitt from the high school ranks when he got the Alabama job, and since then Pruitt has been on a path toward becoming a college head coach. He was the defensive backs coach for Alabama's national championship teams in 2011 and '12, then the defensive coordinator for Florida State's championship team in 2013. He left after one season for the same position at Georgia, who ranked 17th and 13th in yards per play allowed under Pruitt. When Kirby Smart left Alabama to become head coach at Georgia, Pruitt, 42, was a natural choice to replace him in Tuscaloosa.
7. Geoff Collins, Florida. Collins helped lead Mississippi State's 2014 breakthrough as defensive coordinator Dan Mullen, and he used that season to join Jim McElwain's staff at Florida. There, he guided a defense that ranked eighth in yards per play, with the unit largely responsible for the Gators winning the SEC East. Collins interviewed for the UCF job last year, and while Florida has doesn't have the highest expectations this fall, it should still boast a terrific defense, meaning Collins will continue to be on the radar.
8. Pete Kwiatkowski, Washington. Kwiatkowski played at Boise State in the 1980s and has coached under Chris Petersen at Boise State and Washington since 2006. As defensive coordinator the last six seasons, Kwiatkowski has produced several stellar units. In 2010, the Broncos led the nation in yards per play allowed, and last year the Huskies led the Pac-12 despite losing several key players to the NFL. Washington is primed for a breakthrough season in 2016, and Kwiatkowski's defense has a chance to be the Pac-12's best behind standouts like safety Budda Baker, cornerback Sidney Jones and linebacker Azeem Victor. Oregon made overtures to Kwiatkowski regarding its defensive coordinator opening last fall, but if the Huskies meet heightened expectations in 2016, Kwiatkowski could become a target for head coach openings.
9. Bob Shoop, Tennessee. Shoop made a lateral move as defensive coordinator from Penn State to Tennessee, where he hopes to help lead the Volunteers to their first SEC East title since 2007. Shoop went only 7-23 as head coach of Columbia from 2003-05, but he's done a tremendous job as defensive coordinator under James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Penn State (14th in yards per play last season) and now has stellar talent to work with in Knoxville. Columbia is a tough Ivy League job. Given Shoop's track record since then, he's earned a chance at a program with better resources.
10. Tim Drevno, Michigan. Jim Harbaugh already lost one coordinator, as top defensive assistant D.J. Durkin took the Maryland head coaching job. Could Drevno be next? The 47-year-old Michigan offensive coordinator has coached the offensive line for Stanford, the 49ers and USC, and now the Michigan line has quickly gone from liability to strength, potentially the best in the Big Ten season. If the Wolverines continue their ascent, more branches will likely develop off the Harbaugh coaching tree.
Former Head Coaches
1. Greg Schiano, Ohio State. Rutgers is the oldest FBS program in the country, and yet Schiano basically invented Rutgers football in his stint as head coach from 2001-211 -- a time that included six bowls in his final seven seasons. After an unsuccessful two years in charge of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed by two years off, Schiano is back in the college ranks, running Urban Meyer's defense. The Buckeyes lose most of their defense but still have high expectations. Schiano name has been floated for marquee college jobs before, and he'll inevitably land a head coaching position soon.
2. Gene Chizik, North Carolina. Chizik has a strange head coaching resume in which he won two or three games in three of his six seasons, which is how he got fired by Auburn two years after winning a national championship. At Iowa State and Auburn, his record was 38-38, and last year he made his coaching comeback as North Carolina's defensive coordinator. While the Tar Heels still struggled to defend the run, they improved from 117th to 56th in yards per play allowed and 119th to 42nd in scoring defense. That allowed them to win the ACC Coastal and finish the season ranked for the first time since 1997.
3. Lane Kiffin, Alabama. Oh yes, it's inevitable. The 41-year-old Kiffin has already been fired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, left Tennessee after one season and been fired by USC. He's also been a key assistant for USC's glory years under Pete Carroll and has been able to rebuild his career while working as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator for a playoff team and a national champion. Kiffin has coached a Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, and helped Alabama incorporate tempo into its offense. He's learned from Saban, and if he stays on this path, Kiffin's reclamation in Tuscaloosa will result in another chance as head coach.