Dallas Colleges: 20120713 next coaches

We're always looking for the next best thing. The coaching world isn't any different.

Who's the next Urban Meyer? The next Chris Petersen? What about another Brady Hoke?

Who's that next great assistant who rises up the ranks and takes over a major program ... and succeeds?

I'm not completely sure, but I have a few ideas. Here are some coaches lurking in the SEC who could be on their way to bigger and better things or are ready to take the next step with their current teams:

Head coaches
  • James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin became the only first-year coach in Vandy history to guide the Commodores to a bowl game. He surpassed the program's win totals in each of its previous two seasons and signed arguably the school's best recruiting class in 2012. He brought attitude, confidence and a bit of swagger to the program. He could have left after one year but is really looking to turn things around at Vanderbilt.
  • Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: Bulldogs fans probably don't like hearing this, but Mullen is becoming a hot name among the coaching ranks. In his three seasons in Starkville, he has guided Mississippi State to two straight bowl wins. In 2010, he led the Bulldogs to nine wins for the first time since 1999. Mullen says he is happy in Starkville, but if he continues to win, bigger schools won't hesitate to go after him.
Assistants
  • Shawn Elliott, South Carolina offensive line coach/running game coordinator: Steve Spurrier has raved about Elliott's impact on offense and bringing in the zone read package. Elliott has done wonders for South Carolina's offensive line, which was a continual sore spot in Spurrier's early years at the school. Elliott is also a dogged recruiter. Having grown up in Camden, S.C., Elliott is somebody to watch when Spurrier hangs it up. If he doesn't get that job, somebody is going to snap him up.
  • Rodney Garner, Georgia defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Georgia for a while and has been wooed several times by other schools. LSU went after him several years ago, and Lane Kiffin was interested in bringing him to Tennessee. In the past 12 years, he has coached plenty of NFL talent, including four first-round draft picks. He has consistently been one of the league's best recruiters as well.
  • Todd Grantham, Georgia defensive coordinator/associate head coach: He could start getting more looks for head-coaching gigs. He has vast NFL experience, including being a defensive coordinator at that level, and more schools are looking for coaches with NFL experience. Grantham has proven himself as a recruiter and worked under two of the best in the college ranks -- Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Nick Saban at Michigan State. He has made a tremendous difference in turning around Georgia's defense and has an edge about him that successful head coaches possess.
  • Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator for defense: He is one of the bright young names among the assistant ranks. As the defensive line coach at Arkansas State, he coached up Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Joiner, who tied for third in the nation in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss. Arkansas State also led the conference and ranked eighth nationally in tackles for loss (7.62 per game) and tied for 15th in sacks (2.69 per game). He is a tremendous recruiter and helped bring in a solid defensive class in a short amount of time this spring.
  • Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M offensive coordinator: After being a standout quarterback at Texas Tech, he is considered one of the top young assistants in college football. He came over with Kevin Sumlin from Houston, where he helped guide the Cougars' offense to its record-setting year in 2011. Houston led the nation in total offense, passing offense and scoring in 2011 behind quarterback Case Keenum. The Cougars averaged 599.1 total yards per game, including 450.1 through the air, while scoring more than 49 points per game.
  • Paul Petrino, Arkansas offensive coordinator: He came over to help run Arkansas' offense with his brother, but after Bobby Petrino was fired this spring, Paul Petrino assumed the role as primary playcaller. In 2010, he guided an Illinois offense that broke school records for total points (423) and points per game (32.54). The Illini averaged 42.1 points and 448.9 total yards over the final seven games of the season. If he can keep Arkansas' offense going this year, his phone might start ringing a little more.
  • Bob Shoop, Vanderbilt defensive coordinator/safeties coach: He has been a head coach at Columbia and is innovative on defense, playing the kind of attacking style that attracts great players. He helped orchestrate one of the most impressive defensive turnarounds in the country last year, as Vanderbilt ranked ninth nationally in pass defense efficiency and 18th in total defense. Vandy's defense also ranked among the nation's top units in interceptions, points allowed and rush defense.
  • Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator: He is one of the best defensive coordinators around, and it seems like only a matter of time before he is a head coach somewhere. Smart has already passed on a few head-coaching opportunities. He is making $950,000 a year and is in a position to be picky with coaching jobs.
  • Trooper Taylor, Auburn wide receivers coach/assistant head coach: He is one of the hottest and most successful recruiters in the SEC. He brought in and trained some elite receivers at Oklahoma State and Tennessee before making his way to Auburn. He is continuing that trend and has turned Emory Blake into one of the SEC's best pass-catchers. He was co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, and if Auburn's receivers make another jump, Taylor could be waving his towel elsewhere soon.
  • Frank Wilson, LSU running backs coach/recruiting coordinator: He has emerged as one of the sport's top recruiters. As a running backs coach, he has done a tremendous job with the Tigers. Last season, LSU averaged 202.6 rushing yards per game and tied a school record with 35 rushing touchdowns. Three backs eclipsed the 500-yard rushing mark. Wilson commands tremendous respect from his players.
  • David Yost, Missouri offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator: He has been at Missouri for 11 years, but he has to start getting more attention as an exceptional playcaller. He has a great eye for talent and pointing out mismatches in his spread scheme. In 2011, Mizzou ranked ninth nationally in rushing (244 yards per game) and had one of the most balanced offenses, as Mizzou was one of only two schools in the country to average at least 230 yards rushing and passing in each game.

The Big 12's next great coaches

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
8:00
AM CT
The Big 12 isn't stocked with many fresh-faced coaches, but the league's biggest rising star just finished his first season on the sideline.

It ended with a league title and a BCS bowl win -- rather emphatically, I might add -- but he just didn't do it in the Big 12. What did he do in the Big 12? Groom one of the game's best offensive minds underneath Mike Leach before helping revitalize offenses at Houston and Oklahoma State.

That earned Dana Holgorsen a heck of a first job -- West Virginia -- and earns him my pick as the Big 12's biggest rising star in the coaching profession.

It's really not even close. Holgorsen earned a strong reputation at Texas Tech, but he wasn't the man calling the plays. That changed with record-breaking quarterback Case Keenum at Houston. His prolific offenses persuaded Mike Gundy to reluctantly cede the play-calling duties at Oklahoma State.

That may have been the best decision of Gundy's career. Oklahoma State blossomed into a force in 2010 and kept an almost exact replica of Holgorsen's offense to win the Big 12 in 2011. Anybody else know the last time one coach's offense won two league titles in a single season?

Now West Virginia is reaping the benefits of Holgorsen's offensive expertise. At 41, he is the Big 12's youngest head coach (31 years younger than its oldest, Bill Snyder) and three years younger than anyone else in the league (Mike Gundy is 44).

West Virginia has proved that it may not be one of college football's ultimate destination jobs (Hi, RichRod!), but it's a place you can stay for a long time and win. Every indication is that is exactly what Holgorsen will do, and now he'll get a chance to do it in familiar territory in the Big 12.

Want a few other rising stars in the coaching game? They're roaming the sidelines as Mack Brown's right-hand men.

Manny Diaz is my No. 1 on the list. He has had the athletes, sure, but in one season, he turned Texas from a very good defense into the meanest in the Big 12 by far -- and one of the nation's best.

Despite losing tons of NFL talent at linebacker, the Longhorns are back this year and fit to lead the Big 12 in total defense for a fifth consecutive season. Diaz has helped turn his secondary into the league's best, built on toughness. Last season, Texas was the nation's last team to give up a touchdown pass longer than 20 yards, holding out until the season finale against Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. In today's Big 12, that's unbelievable.

Diaz has risen faster than anybody in coaching recently. Ten years ago, he was preparing for his first position coach job after serving as a graduate assistant at NC State. Now, he has a case as one of the nation's best coordinators. Two years ago, he was the coordinator at Middle Tennessee State, and now he has replaced Will Muschamp, who left the Texas DC spot to take the head-coaching job at Florida. Don't be surprised if a big boy job comes calling for Diaz, even with his inexperience, very soon.

Keep an eye on Oklahoma OC Josh Heupel, but my other coach to watch is Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. He has more experience as a playcaller and groomed his skills under one of the game's best coaches, Chris Petersen at Boise State. He spent five seasons calling plays at Boise, which calculates to approximately 464,126 pre-snap shifts from the time he was promoted after three seasons as tight ends coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

That's the title he holds in Austin, but it might not be for long if he can help usher in the balanced, power-running attack Texas has wanted since Colt McCoy left after the 2009 season. There is no more visible place to do it, and if Harsin succeeds, he'll be adjusting to the title of head coach at some place nice very soon.

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