Iowa State Coaching Hot Board 1.0

Iowa State is on the search for a new coach after Paul Rhoads was dismissed in his seventh season. Here's a list of who to watch for.

Willie Fritz | Head Coach, Georgia Southern | Age 55

Background: Fritz has been successful everywhere he's coached, moving up the ladder to each level. He got his head coaching start in the JUCO ranks at Blinn College (TX) from 1993 to 1996. There, Fritz won two NJCAA national titles and posted a 39-5-1 record before departing for Division II Central Missouri where he spent 13 seasons and compiled a 97-47 record. Next came FCS Sam Houston State, which Fritz took to the playoffs in three of four seasons (going 40-15). Now in his second season at Georgia Southern, Fritz has his team 7-3 after it went 9-3 in his first season.

Why he might fit: Fritz would give Iowa State a proven winner who has won at every level. While there are concerns over his system — Fritz runs a power option scheme — he has run various offensive systems in his career and his running style would differentiate Iowa State. Additionally, Iowa State has learned this season the importance of clock control and the running game in the Big 12. After Fritz's team led all FBS teams in rushing yards/game last season, they're back on top this season. Fritz also knows JUCO recruiting from his time at Blinn.

Scott Frost | Offensive Coordinator, Oregon | Age 40

Background: The former Nebraska quarterback, who, as a two-year starter led Nebraska to a national title and later played in the NFL, has racked up various college coaching experience since. He's been a graduate assistant at both Nebraska and Kansas State, spent a year coaching linebackers at Northern Iowa and has now been at Oregon since 2009, mostly recently as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordintor for the past three seasons out West. 

Why he might fit: Frost is a young, offensive-minded coach who might bring a new perspective to Iowa State and a program that has at times hired defensive-minded coaches. He has been a hot and often-rumored name in recent years and has been connected at Colorado State, Nebraska and othes. Frost has some familiarty with Iowa based on his year spent at Northern Iowa, he's a young recruiter and also knows the Midwest after spending a good chunk of his playing days and early coaching career here. Mostly, he brings a likeable offensive system.

Lincoln Riley | Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma | Age 32

Background: The former Texas Tech quarterback is still quite young and Iowa State might not be the type of job for a first-time head coach, but Riley is a name floating around in the many coaching searches. He spent time as an assistant at Texas Tech out of school before becoming the offensive coordaintor at Eastern Carolina, where he turned its offense into one of the best in college football. In his first season at Oklahoma this year, Riley has the Sooners' offense ranked sixth nationally. 

Why he might fit: The biggest concern with Riley is undoubtedly his youth at just 32. Nonetheless, Riley is considered to be one of the top up-and-coming offensive minds. Whether Iowa State is interested in going this young remains uncertain, but Riley would give the Cyclones a young recruiting mind with fresh offensive ideas and a good scope of what challenges a coach in the Big 12 faces both in recruiting and with its schedule.

Matt Wells | Head Coach, Utah State | Age 42

Background: Wells spent his playing career quarterbacking Utah State and is now in his third season as the head coach there. The 42-year old has spent time as an assistant at a number of places including Navy, Tulsa, New Mexico and Louisville before going to Utah State to be an assistant and ultimately the head coach in 2013. Wells took Utah State to bowl games (9-5 and 10-4) in his first two seasons and has it 6-5 heading into its 2015 finale. 

Why he might fit: Much like many of the rumored candidates for the Iowa State job, Wells is an offensive-minded coach. While Utah State ranks lower this season in total offense (No. 97), Wells has had it as a top-25 offense in his time there. Wells is a young and tenacious recruiter who has spent a lot of time on JUCO recruiting. There are also ties to Iowa State as his brother, Luke Wells, spent three seasons as an assistant at Iowa State from 2009-12. Luke is currently his co-offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Utah State. 

Bob Stitt | Head Coach, Montana | Age 51

Background: Stitt spent one season at Harvard in 1999 as its offensive coordinator before being hired as the head coach at Division II Colorado Mines. He would spend 15 seasons there, compliling a record of 108-62 before being hired at Montana last December. In his first season coaching FCS Montana, Stitt led the Grizzlies to a 7-5 record this season and to the playoffs. 

Why he might fit: Stitt would be a somewhat out-of-the-box hire but is considered a brilliant offensive mind who again fits the common trend of Iowa State potentially looking for an offensive-minded head coach. Though some have said Stitt's trickery is a gimmick, he has also been called a spread offense guru and would bring a uniqueness to Iowa State.

P.J. Fleck | Head Coach, Western Michigan | Age 34 

Background: The young Fleck has spent time coaching at both the major college football level and in the NFL. After graduating from Northern Illinois in 2004, where he was a receiver, Fleck spent a short period of time with the San Francisco 49ers. Since 2006, he has spent time at Ohio State (as a GA), Northern Illinois, Rutgers and with the Tampa Bay Bucs in the NFL. Fleck is now in his third season at Western Michigan where he has gone 8-5 and 6-5 in the last two seasons after going 1-11 in Year 1.

Why he might fit: Fleck's big mark is as a recruiter and his ability to draw talent to Western Michigan has the program bowl eligible for the second consecutive season. In his time at Western Michigan, Fleck has gotten recruits to choose his program over Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and others. His ability to relate to a younger generation and his outgoing personality have both paid dividends. Fleck is likely to be a candidate for the Illinois job and his name has been connected to others as well. 

Matt Campbell | Head Coach, Toledo | Age 35 

Background: After spending time at Bowling Green as an assistant (plus a short stint at Mount Union), Campbell arrived at Toledo in 2009. Within three years, Campbell was given the keys to the program, becoming the head coach in 2012. Since then, Campbell has turned Toledo into a power in the MAC. He's 35-14 in his time at the helm and has taken Toledo to two bowl games. This season Toledo, which beat Iowa State, is 9-1 and eligible for its thrid bowl game in four seasons. 

Why he might fit: Campbell is another young coach with a strong reputation as a recruiter. He built a young staff at Toledo and the program drew some under-the-radar talent in and ultimately led Toledo in the right direction. Campbell is the second-youngest FBS coach (Fleck is the youngest). Campbell is another offensive mind who has Toledo ranked No. 32 in total offense. He could be a hot commodity much like the young Fleck. Campbell is close friends with current Iowa State assistant Louis Ayeni.

Ken Niumatalolo | Head Coach, Navy | Age 50 

Background: A former quarterback at Hawaii, Niumatalolo has since spent the bulk of his coaching career at Navy. He was a running backs coach first (1995-96) and then the offensive coordinator (1997-98). After a short stint away to coach at UNLV, Niumatalolo returned to Navy to be its offensive coordinator from 2002-07 before taking over head coaching duties in 2008. In six of his first seven seasons, Niumatalolo led Navy to bowl games, and he has them eligible at 9-1 this season. Overall he has gone 66-36 in eight full seasons. 

Why he might fit: The biggest concern for some is that Niumatalolo runs a unique option system that may or may not transition well to the Big 12. With that said, Navy is the No. 2-rushing offense in the country this season. Niumatalolo might be a hard draw away from Navy but would bring a unique system to Iowa State and help differentiate the Cyclones. 

Troy Calhoun | Head Coach, Air Force | Age 49 

Background: Much like Niumatalolo at Navy, Calhoun has spent much of his coaching career at Air Force. After quarterbacking Air Force from 1985-88, Calhoun remained there as an assistant immediately after through 1994. He has also spent time at Ohio and Wake Forest in college football and with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texas (offensive coordinator) in the NFL. Since 2007, Calhoun has been the head coach at Air Force, where he's compiled a 67-47 mark and has gone to bowl games in seven of his first eight seasons. Air Force is 8-3 and bowl eligible this season.

Why he might fit: Calhoun is another proven winner and another offensive-minded head coach. Calhoun also runs an option offense which is worrisome in some regards as it's uncertain how it would translate to the Big 12. However, it would also differentiate the Cyclones. 

Rod Carey | Head Coach, Northern Illinois | Age 44

Background: Carey is a Midwest guy and has spent all of his career in the Midwest. A native of Wisconsin, Carey attended Indiana where he was an offensive lineman. He began his head coaching career in the high school ranks in Minnesota and has also spent time as an assistant at Minnesota, Illinois State, North Dakota and Northern Illinois. In 2013 he became the head coach at Northern Illinois (he coached the bowl in 2012) and he's done nothing but win going 12-2, 11-3 and now 8-3 this season.

Why he might fit: By now, the trend has set in. Carey is yet another offensive-minded head coach. He has Northern Illinois ranked No. 35 nationally in total offense and has turned the program into one of the best non-Power 5 programs. How easy it'll be to get Carey if Iowa State is interested remains to be seen. Much like P.J. Fleck, he's an Illinois guy and has been rumored to be a candidate for that job.

Justin Fuente | Head Coach, Memphis | Age 39

Background: Before arriving at Memphis to become its head coach in 2012, Fuente spent time as an assistant at both Illinois State and TCU (where he was the co-offensive coordinator). At Memphis, Fuente has made the program competitive, going 10-3 last season and 8-3 so far this season after building seasons in his first two years. 

Why he might fit: Memphis is ranked No. 11 nationally in total offense and Fuente is likely a longshot. First, Memphis has made him an offer somewhere between $2.5 million/year and $3 million/year to stay. Secondly, other major programs down south are already rumored to be interested. 

Dino Babers | Head Coach, Bowling Green | Age 54 

Background: The coaching list for Babers is too long to list, but the 54-year old offensive coach comes from the Art Briles tree and has found success offensively just like his mentor. Babers has been an offensive coordinator at Arizona and Texas A&M and spent time with Briles before getting his first head coaching opportunity in 2012 at Eastern Illinois. In two seasons there, Babers led the program to the playoffs twice and a 19-7 record overall. Babers is now at Bowling Green, and he led the program to an 8-6 record last season (with a bowl victory) and an 8-3 record this season.

Why he might fit: Babers, much like Fuente, is likely to be courted by bigger programs and could be a tough draw, though his offensive mind and success makes him an intriguing candidate. Bowling Green is No. 5 nationally in total offense and major programs are likely to step in for his services.


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