December 9, 2008

Auburn coaching search still wide open

MORE: Coaching carousel | Dienhart's Week 15 Awards | Olin's Heisman Ballot

Who will be the next Auburn coach? It's anyone's guess at this point.

A source told me Monday that Buffalo's Turner Gill, Ball State's Brady Hoke, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher already have been contacted - or will be.

TCU's Gary Patterson would be a good fit. He was pursued by Washington, but rebuffed the Huskies' overtures. In recent years, he was offered the Minnesota job and was courted by Arkansas and Kansas State. Patterson told me over the weekend he has not been contacted by Auburn. Stay tuned.

Don't be shocked if USF's Jim Leavitt emerges. He has done a masterful job building a USF program from scratch. And a few years ago, he reportedly was offered the Alabama job.

Then there's Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, who has been a target at places such as Nebraska and Arkansas in recent years. And I am told not to close the book on Ole Miss' Houston Nutt, even though he received a recent extension.

A wild card: Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson.

No doubt replacing Tommy Tuberville will be difficult. He did a terrific job in 10 seasons on the Plains before resigning. And it was his decision to resign. So forget the notion that Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs wasn't being forthcoming in his statement. Word is Tuberville was told to devise a plan to address several areas on the team. He apparently refused to do so, or came up with a plan that didn't meet with the administration's approval. Therefore, he resigned.

Expect quick decision at Syracuse

The Syracuse search labors on, but a decision is expected soon.

It is believed East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is a front-runner, but Holtz twice responded to texts from Rivals.com on Sunday, saying he had not met with any schools before to the Pirates' C-USA title matchup at Tulsa. But it is believed Holtz will meet with Syracuse officials while in New York early this week for functions involving his father's induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

There were reports that Syracuse would talk to New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, but Gilbride removed his name from consideration Monday.

Buffalo's Turner Gill also is thought to be a target, and we confirmed that Syracuse has spoken with Harvard coach Tim Murphy.

Leach appears headed back to Lubbock

Despite all the jockeying and posturing, it looks certain Mike Leach will remain at Texas Tech.

Leach reportedly interviewed at Washington, and Tennessee sniffed around a bit. He is not a serious contender at Auburn.

The bottom line: Leach almost certainly will return to Lubbock, where he has been offered a five-year contract for $12.1 million.

MAC schools fishing from same pool

Bowling Green and Miami University are looking at a lot of the same candidates.

Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen may be the top target at Bowling Green, where he once was an assistant under Urban Meyer. There could be lots of interest in Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson at both schools. And don't be shocked if Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell is a prime contender at Miami, his alma mater.

Other names expected to be in the mix for both posts: Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, Iowa secondary coach Phil Parker, Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack, former Kansas State coach Ron Prince, California offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, former Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, Alabama quarterbacks coach Curt Cignetti and LSU offensive line coach Greg Studwara.

New Mexico State may turn to minority

Early word is New Mexico State will look hard to hire a minority. Cross-state rival New Mexico did just that in hiring Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson may be an early leader. Another name to watch: Nebraska secondary coach Marvin Sanders.

Mississippi State looking for offense-minded guy?

Don't be surprised if the Mississippi State search focuses on a coach with an offensive background.

A source close to Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley says he isn't interested. Keep an eye on New York Jets wide receivers coach Noel Mazzone (a former Auburn and Ole Miss offensive coordinator), Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. It also has been reported that Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen is a target and has spoken with school officials.

A guy who could emerge is Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Aztecs focusing on former coaches

San Diego State will interview 10-12 candidates, and expect the focus to be on former head coaches.

It is believed former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is a prime candidate. Others who could be on the radar are former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green, UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, former Minnesota coach Glen Mason and former Colorado coach Gary Barnett.

Eastern Michigan may turn to ex-Michigan assistant

The early names at Eastern Michigan are New Orleans Saints tight end coach Terry Malone, who also could be in the running at Bowling Green. Other possible candidates are Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell and Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English.

Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr is advising EMU athletic director Derrick Gregg, so the new Eagles coach could have Wolverines ties. Campbell, English and Malone are former Carr assistants.

Expect a decision soon.

MORE: Coaching carousel | Dienhart's Week 15 Awards | Olin's Heisman Ballot

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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