Who's ready to be a head coach?

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
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ESPN.com's week of looking at coaches continues with the question: Which assistant coaches are ready to move up to the big office?

There are several in the Pac-12. Here are a few:

Justin Wilcox, Washington, defensive coordinator: It seems like it's just a matter of time for Wilcox, who has been a hot assistant coach for years after building an elite defense at Boise State under Chris Petersen. He is young -- 35 -- and has been around. If he transforms the rotten Huskies defense into a top-ranked unit, he'll have his pick of jobs. By the way, Brock Huard beat me to the punch on this one.

Mark Helfrich, Oregon, offensive coordinator: Word on the street was that if Chip Kelly had left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Helfrich would have been promoted to replace him, a decision made behind the scenes by the same folks who identified Kelly's talent. While folks see the Ducks' high-powered offense as Kelly's baby -- and it is -- Helfrich's role is underrated. He also understands how Kelly built a culture, which is more important for a head coach than X's and O's.

Pep Hamilton, Stanford, offensive coordinator: Hey, he is the Andrew Luck Director of Offense! Hamilton has been around -- both in college and the NFL -- and he has a way about him that suggests he would be a capable team CEO. He is a charismatic guy who is a good teacher and likes a smashmouth style of play. And the Cardinal offense has been a thing of beauty for three seasons.

Noel Mazzone, UCLA, offensive coordinator: Mazzone is old, 55, and follically challenged, but if he creates a strong offense at UCLA after doing the same at Arizona State, it's hard to imagine that some smart athletic director out there won't bite. Mazzone has coached just about everywhere, and a few years ago he reinvented himself as a spread offense/quarterback guru. He is an outgoing, likable guy who is great with the media, but that shouldn't be held against him. At least no more than his haircut.

Kalani Fifita Sitake, Utah, defensive coordinator: Sitake has a few things going for him. For one, it's become clear that he can coach the heck out of a defense. Second, he has risen through the ranks at Utah learning from Kyle Whittingham, one of the nation's best coaches. Third, some AD at some point is going to go: "If we hire a native Tongan, I wonder if that might help us recruit the thousands of Polynesian athletes who scatter across the college football nation annually?"

Ted Miller | email

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