Every type of position is available ranging from high profile (Penn State, UCLA) to one that could jump start someone's career (Akron, FAU, UAB). All types of candidates have been rumored for every open position from established head coaches (Dan Mullen, Butch Jones) and hot-shot assistants (Brent Venables, Paul Chryst) to young, up-and-coming coaches (Mark Hudspeth, Hugh Freeze). Retired coaches that have remained popular in coaching searches (Mike Bellotti, Tommy Bowden) and NFL assistants (Ken Norton Jr, Marc Whipple) are also brought up as universities leave no stone unturned to make a hire that will resurrect their programs from the damage done to them.
I'm no expert when it comes to predicting who will land where, but the following is my attempt to be Nostradamus.
Former coach: Rob Ianello
The Zips aren't the class of the MAC, but they have the potential to compete. Rob Ianello was about as awful as possible going 2-22 in two seasons at Akron. The administration shouldn't have to look far to replace Ianello as his replacement is coaching just across the border in Michigan at Wayne State. Paul Winters is an "Akron man" -- he's a football alumnus, having played running back for the Zips in the '70s and began his coaching career there following his time on the gridiron. He has previous MAC experience having been a position coach at Toledo and offensive coordinator/running backs coach at his alma mater for a decade.
Prediction: Paul Winters (current Wayne State head coach)
Dark horse: Matt Campbell
Former Coach: Dennis Erickson
The 64-year-old Erickson was the epitome of failing to live up to expectations. Some predicted Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South this year and Erickson awarded those that picked the Sun Devils to finish first with a third-place finish behind USC and UCLA. That's saying a lot if you saw any UCLA games this year as they were down right frightening (in a bad way). The Sun Devils are hoping to make a splash with their next head coach, someone that can make them exciting to watch and get the most out of the talent assembled there. They would also like to get a younger head coach as all of the candidates are at least two decades younger than Erickson. My prediction is Kevin Sumlin, the current head coach of Houston. Sumlin has the Houston Cougars undefeated this season and has gone 35-16 in four seasons with two first place finishes in C-USA West. A Bob Stoops disciple, Sumlin coaches an exciting brand of football with teams that always light up the scoreboard.
Prediction: Kevin Sumlin (Houston Cougars head coach)
Dark horse: Dave Christensen (Wyoming head coach)
Former coach: Howard Schnellenberger
The Owls are losing a legendary coach in Schnellenberger, who obtained legendary status before going to Boca Raton. FAU likely won't be able to land a big name or even that of a premier coaching assistant so they will more than likely have to settle for a coach that is looking for a shot at redemption. Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon and former USF head coach Jim Leavitt are rumored to be in the running. Both could receive second chances at FAU, which some coaches view as a university brimming with potential.
Prediction: Randy Shannon (former Miami Hurricanes head coach)
Dark horse: Jim Leavitt (former USF Bulls head coach)
Former coach: Ron Zook
SEC fans know how bipolar Zook's teams are and eventually that's what cost him his job at Illinois. For his replacement, there should be someone that knows how to recruit in the Big Ten, knows the history, culture and expectations for a Big Ten program, and will know how to compete and win in the conference. As soon as this job opened, I only thought of one name: Paul Chryst, the Wisconsin offensive coordinator. A former Wisconsin quarterback, Chryst has coached the Wisconsin offense into a behemoth and could be exactly what the Illini expect out of Zook's predecessor.
Prediction: Paul Chryst (Wisconsin offensive coordinator)
Dark horse: Ron English (Eastern Michigan head coach)
Former coach: Turner Gill
Gill's expectations were lofty upon his arrival in Lawrence and he rewarded the Kansas administration by posting abysmal records and putting one of the poorest products on the field out of all FBS programs. This year, his team was at or near the bottom of almost every football statistic. Kansas tasted success before Gill's arrival with Mark Mangino, and the Jayhawks brass expects that whoever is brought will at least make Kansas competitive and bring them to a bowl game every year. There is a man out there with Big 12 experience who has learned under Bob Stoops and Bill Snyder, two men who are two of the best coaches in college football. He also is a former player under Synder, started his coaching career under Snyder, and is born and raised in the state of Kansas.
Former Coach: Andy Morris
UMass will be moving up to play in the MAC shortly so they will need a new coach to guide them and new compared to who should be the next head coach. Mark Whipple has a history at UMass as he was their head coach from 1998-2003 before leaving to become a position coach in the NFL. He posted a 49-26 record during his tenure with the Minutemen. His name has been brought up for the previous job openings at N.C. State and Boston College so it's looking like he wants to return to college. Why not go back home?
Prediction: Mark Whipple (Cleveland Browns QB coach)
Dark horse: Don Brown (Uconn assistant)
Former coach: Larry Porter
Former LSU running backs coach Larry Porter wasn't even remotely successful at Memphis. For a team that's located in a hot bed for recruiting, the Tigers should be better than they are. The team's brass are wanting to make a splash with this hire so look to Hugh Freeze, a 13-year head coach at a local Memphis high school, but he's a likely candidate at Ole Miss. In the end, they could make a splash with a former SEC head coach.
Prediction: Houston Nutt (former Ole Miss head coach)
Dark horse: Hugh Freeze (Arkansas St. head coach)
Former coach: Houston Nutt
After back-to-back Cotton Bowl appearances, Nutt's Rebel Black Bears took a nose dive and set SEC records for futility. Ole Miss is tough to recruit for as it's sandwiched among powerhouses Alabama, Auburn, and LSU and they're even competition with a resurgent Mississippi State team. The opportunity is there for a savvy coach to be brought in that knows the in's and out's of recruiting in Mississippi, can approach the recruits to keep them in-state, and make the most out of three- and four-star talent when they're brought in. Basically, Ole Miss needs a coach who will do what Gary Patterson has done at TCU. There are two candidates that Ole Miss is looking at in Hugh Freeze and Larry Fedora, who know what it's like to recruit in Mississippi and have had success in doing so. Another front-runner is recruiting guru and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who seems to be the favorite in Oxford but with Derek Dooley being on the hot seat at Tennessee and the Volunteer brass having connections to Smart, he could be waiting out for that job that is far more attractive than Ole Miss.
Prediction: Hugh Freeze (Arkansas St. head coach)
Dark horse: Larry Fedora (Southern Miss head coach)
Former coach: Butch Davis
Davis did some good things during his brief stint at UNC, but the worst thing he did was embroiling the university in a NCAA investigation concerning players having illegal contact with agents. The replacement for Davis will have to run a clean program while continuing to build the program into an ACC contender. Auburn coordinator Gus Malzahn was the front-runner for quite some time, but now it seems that Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun may now top the list. I don't see Calhoun leaving Air Force, which is his alma mater, which means UNC will have to look elsewhere. They should only look to a few states south at a coach that has been successful everywhere he's turned. He's also someone that would endear the fan base to him with outgoing personality.
Prediction: Skip Holtz (USF head coach)
Dark horse: Bud Foster (Virginia Tech defensive coordinator)
Former coach: Joe Paterno
Whoever Penn State picks, they will be replacing a disgraced legend who still has a very strong and loyal following. The Penn State job will be a tough sell as the university is currently battling perhaps the most shocking, disturbing, and revolting scandal in college football history. That hasn't seemed to disuadetheir leading candidate and that candidate has not refuted his interest in Penn State.
Prediction: Dan Mullen (current Mississippi State head coach)
Dark horse: Tim Murphy (Harvard head coach)
Former coach: Bob Toledo
The Green Wave haven't been to a bowl game since Chris Scelfo and haven't been competitive in C-USA since Tommy Bowden. Recently, the Green Wave are rededicated to their football and are hoping to make a flashy hire with someone that can recruit the New Orleans area high schools. Mike Leach has had their names brought up and so has Mark Hudspeth, the head coach at UL-L. The leading candidate, however, is now from the beloved New Orleans Saints.
Prediction: Curtis Johnson (New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach)
Dark horse: Burton Burns (Alabama running backs coach)
Former coach: Neil Calloway
The UAB is a difficult job to sell as they haven't had a winning season since 2004, play in a dilapidated stadium, and have to fight for recruits with the SEC schools located close to Birmingham as well as other C-USA schools located near there. UAB can be turned into a contender, but it will take a coach who knows how to get it done and runs a system that can be successful in C-USA.
Prediction: Jeff Monken (Georgia Southern head coach)
Dark horse: Garrick McGee (Arkansas offensive coordinator & quarterbacks coach)
Former coach: Rick Neuheisel
There was a time when UCLA could compete and occasionally win the Pac-12, but the program has recently fallen on hard times and former coach Rick Neuheisel didn't make it any better. The progam needs a coach that can recruit the Los Angeles area and compete with USC head coach Lane Kiffin. That's easier said than done and it looks like the Bruins are going after someone in the similar vein as Kiffin.