BIG BOARD: Six To Watch

Now that Tom O'Brien is no longer head coach, NC State athletics director Debbie Yow will be searching the country to find his replacement.

Now that Tom O'Brien is no longer head coach, NC State athletics director Debbie Yow will be searching the country to find his replacement.

Here is a quick list of coaches that could be in play for the Wolfpack, but that doesn't mean that each coach will be in the mix and a legitimate candidate as the process materializes. This is an opening board to begin the search with and we will continue to update the list, removing and adding potential candidates based on information that we gather.

Here are six names to watch as NC State begins its coaching search.

James Franklin has already worked with Debbie Yow.

CURRENT JOB: Head Coach, Vanderbilt

QUICK NOTES: Some considered him to be a reach when Debbie Yow named him coach-in-waiting while both were at Maryland, but he has proved he is one of the top young coaches in the country while at Vanderbilt.

He has led Vandy to bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, and his five conference wins is the highest at the school since 1935. The school has its first winning record since 1982 and is currently on a six-game winning streak.

Not to mention, he's a relentless recruiter who is bringing elite talent to Vanderbilt. Without a doubt, he will be a candidate for virtually every opening in the country.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: It would be no surprise if he is Debbie Yow's top target as she is a huge fan of Franklin's.

However, just how interested is he in the job? He'll likely get a crack at the SEC openings, but he is familiar with the ACC and could feel that a chance to reach the BCS is much easier in the ACC than having to go through the likes of Alabama, LSU, Florida, and Georgia who all have stable coaching situations.

Sonny Dykes has a reputation for being an offensive wizard.

CURRENT JOB: Head Coach, Lousiana Tech

QUICK NOTES: Dykes has a very, very good resume. He had multiple stops as an offensive coordinator at high-major programs (Texas Tech and Arizona) before being hired at La. Tech in 2010, and all he has done is turn that program around.

He led the school to its first Western Athletic Conference championship in a decade in 2011 and was named WAC Coach of the Year along the way. This season, he already has

Like Franklin, he'll be up for a plethora of jobs this offseason.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: Dykes really seems to fit the mold of the coaches that Yow targets. He has led a non-traditional power into the Top 25, is regarded as a great recruiter, has experience on all levels, and is a young at just 43.

The question is... would Dykes be interested in NC State? It's worth adding that Yow and State recently worked to add La. Tech to next year's schedule.

Butch Jones has won at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

CURRENT JOB: Head Coach, Cincinnati

QUICK NOTES: The 2011 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, Butch Jones has won three conference titles in four years (2007, 2009 at Central Michigan, 2011 at Cincinnati) and is in contention for another this year.

He has sent 11 players to the NFL while at Cincinnati, and he had eight players earn All-BIG EAST honors in 2011, including BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead and BIG EAST Co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe.

Jones was just 4-8 his first year at the school but is 18-6 over the past two seasons, and he has it rolling right now with the Bearcats.

CONNECTING THE DOTS -- Jones is an intriguing option. He has experience at two programs and has won at both, and with the question marks surrounding the BIG EAST he could be looking to make the jump to another job.

Jones was head coach at Cincy the two seasons they faced the Wolfpack and was in Raleigh in 2010 so he has had a chance to see some of the facilities and experience the fanbase.

He has proven he can coach, he is a solid recruiter, and has shown that he can develop players.

Willie Taggart has completely turned around the Western Kentucky program.


CURRENT JOB: Head Coach, Western Kentucky

QUICK NOTES: Taggart has generated a lot of interest after making Western Kentucky competitive. A former assistant at Stanford, Taggart has taken WKU from an 0-12 mark when he was hired in 2010 to a 7-5 record in 2011.

The 36-year old has experience as an assistant coach, offensive coordinator, and head coach, and he is regarded as a terrific recruiter.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: Rinse and repeat. Like with the previous candidate mentioned, Taggart fits a certain profile: young, energetic, active recruiter, winner.

Now, he is an alum of Western Kentucky, and it might take a lot for him to leave... would NC State be a big enough job to do the trick?

Darrell Hazell has led Kent State to 11 wins in 2012.


CURRENT JOB: Head Coach, Kent State

QUICK NOTES: A seasoned assistant, Hazell spent much of his coaching career at Ohio State under Jim Tressel before being named head coach at Kent State in 2011.

He inherited a program that hadn't had a winning season since 2002, and he began his tenure 1-6 before using a bye week to finish out the year with a 4-1 mark in the final five games. Kent State is now 11-1 in 2012 and went undefeated in the MAC, so over his last 17 games Hazell is 15-2.

A highly-regarded recruiter, Hazell has ties all across the east coast and midwest, which would certainly be a plus.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: Although he has just two years as a head coach under his belt, Hazell has a well-balanced resume that would be attractive to Yow.

He has served as an assistant head coach at one of the elite programs nationally in Ohio State, he has offensive coordinator experience, and he has spent time coaching on the east coast at Rutgers, Army, and West Virginia so he should have some recruiting ties in the region.

Chad Morris has been wildly successful running Clemson's offense.


CURRENT JOB: Offensive Coordinator, Clemson

QUICK NOTES: The only assistant coach on our list, he's included because Debbie Yow has had an up-close look at Morris and his effectiveness at Clemson. He's been outstanding as offensive coordinator and some say he has save Dabo Swinney's job.

A standout prep coach in Texas, Morris won 82 percent of his games as a high school coach. He led Lake Travis High School to back-to-back, undefeated (16-0) state championship seasons. He won three state titles overall and played in six state championship games in his high school coaching career. He also won a state title at Bay City High in 2000.

Before being hired at Clemson he spent one year at Tulsa, where he served as offensive coordinator and associate head coach in 2010. That offense was a big reason Tulsa improved from 5-7 in 2009 to 10-3 in 2010. The Golden Hurricane won its last seven games.

CONNECTING THE DOTS: Offenses win in college football these days and Morris knows how to light up the scoreboard.

He is innovative and fun to watch. Now, he is reportedly the highest-paid assistant in college football, but surely he wants to direct his own program again and should be familiar with NC State's facilities and roster having spent the last two years at Clemson.

Is he on Yow's list?

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