Now that Chris Petersen has left Boise State for Washington, college football needs another coach from outside the so-called Big 5 conferences that will have his name come up for almost every big job.
Six coaches whose names are likely to come up often when the jobs start coming open this season.
Matt Campbell, Toledo.
At 34 years old, Campbell begins his third full season as the Rockets’ coach and is still one of the youngest head coaches in the country. The former quarterback at Division III powerhouse Mount Union is 17-9 with the Rockets, who are expected to contend for a MAC title again. If he’s not coaching in a Big 5 conference before he’s 40, it’ll be surprising.
Doc Holliday, Marshall.
It’s taken a few years for Holliday, a native of Hurricane, West Virginia, to sort things out at Marshall but he’s got it rolling now. The Thundering Herd went 10-4 last season and is primed for another big year in Conference USA. The 57-year-old former Mountaineers player and assistant coach also did a stint at Florida under Urban Meyer. If West Virginia were dive back into the coaching market, Holliday seems like an obvious candidate.
Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana.
Hudspeth has put up three straight 9-4 seasons in Lafayette, Louisiana, and become something of a social media sensation for his impressive work in the weight room — he bench presses about as much as a linebacker. The Ragin’ Cajuns are poised for another big year and with his roots in the south, he seems like a natural to eventually land in the SEC.
Pete Lembo, Ball State.
Wake Forest and Connecticut both gave Lembo a look after last season. It was a long look from Wake Forest. The 44-year-old Lembo has won everywhere he has been, including 25-13 in three years at Ball State, a program that had cratered before he took over. Lembo signed a new contract this offseason that makes him the highest-paid coach in the MAC. An even bigger payday might not be far away.
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State.
The Bulldogs had lost their way. In two years, DeRuyter (20-6) has helped them find it again. Things get tougher this season with quarterback Derek Carr gone and one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. If DeRuyter can navigate through those two obstacles and lead Fresno State on another Mountain West title run, interest will be high for the 51-year-old former defensive coordinator.
Willie Taggart, South Florida.
Taggart’s first season with the Bulls started so poorly, he never could dig out. Coming off 2-10 season, some of the shine is off the former Stanford assistant under Jim Harbaugh. Still, the 37-year-old appears to have a bright future and a quick turnaround could put him back on the fast track to bigger things.