First posted by Nick at Inside The Shoe
Part one of our in-depth look who could be on Gene Smith’s list of coaching candidates helped to lay out what we’re potentially looking for in a new field general and examined the backgrounds of candidates 10 through six. 10. Jon Gruden 9. Gary Patterson 8. Tim Beckman 7. Luke Fickell 6. Bo Pelini (ranking was made pre-Michigan v. Nebraska)
Just to recap, we’re evaluating the candidates based on three criteria:
1. Head coaching experience
2. Ohio ties
3. Offensive coaching background. (Although, it’s clear after watching Saturday’s Penn State game that we need help on both sides of the ball)
Let’s pick back up where we last left off and ponder whose names could appear at spots five through one.
5. Mark Dantonio - Michigan State head coach and Jim Tressel protégé Mark Dantonio could definitely receive some attention by Smith and the OSU brass. His successful turnarounds of Cincinnati and Sparty football programs give him a proven head coaching track record. Not to mention, his Spartans have clinched the Legends Division and will play in the first ever conference championship game on Dec. 5. Much like his fellow B1G coaching colleague Pelini, Dantonio is known as a defensive wizard. His 2002 unit was a monumental reason why Ohio State won the national championship.
While Dantonio has an impressive head coaching track record, Ohio ties and enjoyed a successful stint as an Ohio State assistant coach, I think it’s highly unlikely we’d turn to him to replace his mentor. His age (55) and history of health problems don’t exactly represent a long-term solution. In addition, the university will certainly shy away from hiring someone with such close ties to Tressel. Dantonio would likely retain several members of the current Ohio State coaching staff and bring Mike Tressel (Doc’s son and Jim’s nephew) with him to Columbus. We have to finally turn the page from the Tressel era and hiring one of his mentees and keeping a majority of the current coaching staff probably isn’t the way to do it.
4. Josh McDaniels - Every coaching candidate list needs a dark horse contender and ours is former Denver Broncos head coach and current St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The 35-year-old Barberton, Ohio native and son of legendary Canton McKinley High School head coach Thom McDaniels represents an intriguing potential head coaching choice.
As a long time assistant of the New England Patriots, where McDaniels served as a defensive coaching assistant, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, he was with the team for their all three of their Super Bowl championships. Even though McDaniels’ Ohio ties and offensive coaching experience is right up there with many of the other candidates on this list, his rocky tenure with the Broncos could work against him. He clashed regularly with players (Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall) and compiled an overall record of 11-17.
3. Chris Petersen - As one of the hottest names in coaching the past few years, this list wouldn’t be complete without Boise State’s Chris Petersen. Petersen has led the Broncos to two BCS bowl wins and beaten several major BCS conference schools in the regular season. Boise’s strength of schedule can certainly be debated, but what can’t argued is Petersen’s masterful offensive game planning and knack for getting the most out of his players against far-superior competition.
Who could possibly forget his “Statue of Liberty” two-point conversion call to beat Oklahoma in overtime during the 2007 Fiesta Bowl? While Petersen doesn’t have Ohio ties, his head track record as a head coach and reputation could help him overcome that deficiency. However, it’s very unlikely he would have an interest in the job. He’s been mentioned as a candidate for several openings over the past couple years and has decided to stay put at Boise. Plus, his team’s impending move to the Big East could also influence his decision. Nonetheless, Ohio State would be fool hearted not at least gauge his interest.
2. Patrick Fitzgerald - It’s hard not to like the job that Patrick Fitzgerald has done with Northwestern since taking over the program unexpectedly in 2006 after the sudden passing of head coach Randy Walker. The former two-time B1G Defensive Player of the Year has elevated the Northwestern out the conference’s cellar—leading the Wildcats to three straight bowl appearances.
Like many of the other candidates on this list, he’s shown an ability to coach up inferior talent to win football games. Even without offensive coaching experience, just think about how Fitzgerald would do at a school with less rigorous admissions requirements than Northwestern. Getting Fitzgerald to leave his alma mater will be tough. He’s already turned down Notre Dame and Michigan over the past couple years. But at only 36, one has to believe it will eventually be time for such a talented coach to move on. He’s served on the American Football Coaches Association’s Ethics Committee, which is a bonus for obvious reasons.
1. Urban Meyer - Unless you’ve been in hibernation, it should come as no surprise to anyone reading this list that the former Florida head coach and current ESPN college football analyst is Ohio State’s first and only choice to be its next head coach. The two-time BCS national championship winning coach is everything Ohio State is looking for in a coach and then some. He’s been successful everywhere he’s been (Bowling Green, Utah and Florida), has extensive Ohio ties (born in Toledo, raised in Ashtabula, attended Cincinnati for undergrad and Ohio State for grad school and coached TE and WR under former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce) and is known for his spread offense.
Meyer compiled a .817 winning percentage in 10 seasons, including a 7-1 record in bowl games and a 5-1 record against Florida’s in-state rival, Florida State. While the odds of Meyer returning to coaching next year and coming to Ohio State are very good, there are still a few hiccups that exist. Unlike what’s being reported in the media, I don’t think he’s too worried about NCAA sanctions. However, family and health concerns could still end up keeping him off the sidelines next year. Although there have been a number of reports about Meyer already agreeing to a deal, he’s issued a denial about Ohio State offering and him accepting the head coaching job. This is probably technically accurate and likely doesn't mean much.
The University and Meyer are most likely waiting until after Saturday’s Michigan game in order to show respect to Luke Fickell and not to be a distraction to the team. Regardless of who Ohio State ends up getting as the next head coach, hopefully it will bring closure to the numerous ordeals of the past year and allow us to get back to beating Michigan, winning B1G titles and playing in BCS games.