First up in our look at potential candidates is Bobby Petrino.
Playing at Carroll College in Montana he began his coaching career there as a gradudate assistant in 1983 before moving to Weber State to coach quarterbacks as a GA under Mike Price. He moved back and forth between the two schools before earning a gig as the quarterback coach at Idaho in 1989 under John L. Smith. The next two seasons he served as the offensive coordinator before getting his big break, coaching Jake Plummer and the quarterbacks at Arizona State.
Showing he had a knack for producing good quarterbacks and putting up big numbers on offense, Petrino moved to Nevada in 1994 under Chris Ault and put up huge numbers for the Wolf Pack. In his one season there his group finished second in the nation in both passing offense and total offense and third in scoring offense. His quarterback, Mike Maxwell ,threw for 3,537 yards and 29 touchdowns that season.
Following his successful season at Nevada, Petrino moved to Utah State for three seasons as the offensive coordinator for Smith before moving to the other side of the country at Louisville. Coaching with Smith one season for the Cardinals, Petrino made the move to the NFL as quarterback coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999. Spending three seasons in the NFL, Petrino made the move back to college football in 2002 when he joined Tommy Tuberville's staff at Auburn.
In his first season on the Plains, Petrino's offense averaged 29.8 points and 387.5 yards of total offense per game. That season Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell split time at quarterback for the Tigers, completing 58.2 percent of their passes for 2,390 yards and 18 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. It was the last game of the regular season that cemented Petrino's place in Auburn lore, however.
Playing without leading rushers Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams and no fullback due to injuries, Petrino improvised as little-used freshman Tre Smith rushed for 125 yards and Campbell hit tight end Robert Johnson for two touchdown passes as the Tigers defeated Alabama 17-7 in Tuscaloosa in a game most thought the Tigers had little chance to win.
Following the season Petrino was hired at Louisville and in four seasons with the Cardinals he took that program to unprecedented heights. With an overall record of 41-9, Louisville played in four bowl games, including an Orange Bowl win and a 12-1 record in 2006. Deciding to give the NFL another look, this time as a head coach with Atlanta, Petrino went just 3-10 in 2007 before leaving during the season to Arkansas to coach the Razorbacks.
After a slow start in his first season in Fayetteville with a 5-7 record, Petrino steadily improved the Razorbacks in his four seasons as they went 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 in 2010, and 11-2 in 2011. In his final two seasons Arkansas was a combined 12-4 in SEC play and finished 12th and fifth in the country respectively.
There is no doubt that Petrino is one of the top offensive minds in the country and has proven that he can get the most out of an offense during his career. A driven coach who demands the most out of his players, Petrino's teams rarely failed to show up and played hard until the final whistle.
Having coached in the SEC and also being very familiar with Auburn, Petrino is someone who understands the culture of Auburn football and what it takes to win on the Plains. He also knows exactly what he's up against in the toughest conference in the country.
While his offensive teams have always been among the best in the nation, defensively Petrino's teams at Arkansas occasionally struggled against top competition. That did improve in his last season at Arkansas as the Razorbacks finished 47th in total defense and 33rd in scoring defense in 2011.
The biggest concerns about Petrino come off the field, however, as he was involved in the Jetgate scandal in 2003 when the news leaked out he had been talking to Auburn officials about taking the job as head coach of the Tigers while Tuberville was still the coach of the Tigers. In 2007 he resigned with three games left in the season for the Falcons to take the job with Arkansas, something that angered many Falcons players and fans for the way it was handled by the coach.
His most recent off-the-field problem came during this past offseason at Arkansas when he was involved in a motorcycle crash while riding with Jessica Dorrell, an employee he had personally hired, on his bike. After Petrino admitted that the two had been having an affair, Athletic Director Jeff Long placed him on a leave of absence. Four days later Long fired Petrino with cause after learning Dorrell may have been given preferential treatment during the hiring process and had also received a $20,000 gift from Petrino.