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Published: June 5, 2015 at 10:50 a.m.

15 for '15: Coordinators ready to be college head coaches

» Complete 15 for '15 series

Every athletic director (and, admit it, every fan) always is on the hunt for the next great coach, and in this "15 for '15" piece, we are spotlighting 15 "hot" coordinators who could become head coaches next season. (We're not necessarily spotlighting the best coordinators, just the ones we think could become head coaches next season.) Six coordinators became head coaches this offseason: Georgia OC Mike Bobo at Colorado State, Kentucky OC Neal Brown at Troy, Ohio State OC Tom Herman at Houston, Clemson OC Chad Morris at SMU, Baylor OC Philip Montgomery at Tulsa and Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi at Pittsburgh.

15 Photos Total

  • <b>Current job:</b> Minnesota offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Limegrover oversees a run-heavy offense that isn't for everyone, but his offenses have been successful wherever he has been with Golden Gophers coach Jerry Kill -- at FCS member Southern Illinois, then at Northern Illinois and now at Minnesota. The personable Limegrover, 46, also serves as Minnesota's offensive line coach, which usually is the Gophers' best position unit. An aside: He has an undergrad degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Northwestern, so what in the world is a guy that smart doing coaching football? 15

    Minnesota Athletic Communications

    15. Matt Limegrover

    Current job: Minnesota offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Limegrover oversees a run-heavy offense that isn't for everyone, but his offenses have been successful wherever he has been with Golden Gophers coach Jerry Kill -- at FCS member Southern Illinois, then at Northern Illinois and now at Minnesota. The personable Limegrover, 46, also serves as Minnesota's offensive line coach, which usually is the Gophers' best position unit. An aside: He has an undergrad degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Northwestern, so what in the world is a guy that smart doing coaching football?

  • <b>Current job:</b> Texas A&M offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Spavital is entering his third season at A&M and his second as the Aggies' coordinator; he turned 30 on May 1 and is one of the youngest coordinators in the nation. He has an excellent offensive pedigree, having worked for Gus Malzahn (at Tulsa), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia) and now Kevin Sumlin. He was Johnny Manziel's quarterback coach in 2013 and did good work with two quarterbacks last season (Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen). Yes, he is young. But if A&M's offense performs to expectations this season, Spavital's offensive pedigree is going to appeal to some athletic directors. Spavital comes from a football family: His grandfather, Jim, played in the NFL, his dad, Steve, is a high school coach in Oklahoma and his brother, Zac, is Texas Tech's secondary coach. 14

    Paul Abell/USA TODAY Sports

    14. Jake Spavital

    Current job: Texas A&M offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Spavital is entering his third season at A&M and his second as the Aggies' coordinator; he turned 30 on May 1 and is one of the youngest coordinators in the nation. He has an excellent offensive pedigree, having worked for Gus Malzahn (at Tulsa), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia) and now Kevin Sumlin. He was Johnny Manziel's quarterback coach in 2013 and did good work with two quarterbacks last season (Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen). Yes, he is young. But if A&M's offense performs to expectations this season, Spavital's offensive pedigree is going to appeal to some athletic directors. Spavital comes from a football family: His grandfather, Jim, played in the NFL, his dad, Steve, is a high school coach in Oklahoma and his brother, Zac, is Texas Tech's secondary coach.

  • <b>Current job:</b> TCU co-offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Cumbie, 33, is another coach with an intriguing offensive background. He began his college career as a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech for Mike Leach and started for the Red Raiders as a senior in 2004, leading the nation in passing (4,742 yards, which is 17th-best in FBS single-season history). After playing four seasons of indoor football, Cumbie joined Leach's staff at Texas Tech in 2009 as a graduate assistant. After two seasons in that role, he became Tech's inside receivers coach in 2011 under Tommy Tuberville. Cumbie then was made co-coordinator in 2013 by Kliff Kingsbury. Last season was his first at TCU, and as the Horned Frogs' quarterback coach, he is given a lot of credit for the strong play of Trevone Boykin. Cumbie's relative lack of experience is an issue, but if Boykin and TCU's offense put up the numbers expected of them, there likely will be an AD (or two or three) willing to overlook that. 13

    TCU Athletics Media Relations

    13. Sonny Cumbie

    Current job: TCU co-offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Cumbie, 33, is another coach with an intriguing offensive background. He began his college career as a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech for Mike Leach and started for the Red Raiders as a senior in 2004, leading the nation in passing (4,742 yards, which is 17th-best in FBS single-season history). After playing four seasons of indoor football, Cumbie joined Leach's staff at Texas Tech in 2009 as a graduate assistant. After two seasons in that role, he became Tech's inside receivers coach in 2011 under Tommy Tuberville. Cumbie then was made co-coordinator in 2013 by Kliff Kingsbury. Last season was his first at TCU, and as the Horned Frogs' quarterback coach, he is given a lot of credit for the strong play of Trevone Boykin. Cumbie's relative lack of experience is an issue, but if Boykin and TCU's offense put up the numbers expected of them, there likely will be an AD (or two or three) willing to overlook that.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Missouri offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Henson, who turns 40 in July, might elicit more than a few "Who's that?" comments. But he shouldn't. He is entering his third season as Mizzou's coordinator and has been the Tigers' offensive line coach since February of 2009. He has done yeoman's work with the line, taking overlooked recruits and turning them into NFL players. He also has instilled a toughness not seen all that often in spread offenses. That likely comes from his background with Les Miles. Henson was an offensive lineman at Oklahoma State and Miles was his position coach; Miles later hired him as an assistant at Oklahoma State. Henson then followed Miles to LSU, where he was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Henson left LSU for Missouri and definitely has improved Missouri's rushing attack. 12

    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    12. Josh Henson

    Current job: Missouri offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Henson, who turns 40 in July, might elicit more than a few "Who's that?" comments. But he shouldn't. He is entering his third season as Mizzou's coordinator and has been the Tigers' offensive line coach since February of 2009. He has done yeoman's work with the line, taking overlooked recruits and turning them into NFL players. He also has instilled a toughness not seen all that often in spread offenses. That likely comes from his background with Les Miles. Henson was an offensive lineman at Oklahoma State and Miles was his position coach; Miles later hired him as an assistant at Oklahoma State. Henson then followed Miles to LSU, where he was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Henson left LSU for Missouri and definitely has improved Missouri's rushing attack.

  • <b>Current job:</b> USC defensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Wilcox, 38, became a full-time college assistant when he was 26 -- at California, working for Jeff Tedford. It was an impressive first job, and he performed so well that he was hired as Boise State's defensive coordinator in 2006 at age 29. He spent four seasons in Boise, then was Tennessee's defensive coordinator for two seasons. Wilcox -- who was a safety at Oregon in college -- was hired away by Washington, where he worked in 2012 and 2013. He then moved south with Steve Sarkisian when Sarkisian was hired as USC's head coach. Wilcox has a solid pedigree (his dad, Dave, was a linebacker who is <a href="http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.aspx?PLAYER_ID=230" target="new">in the Pro Football Hall of Fame</a>) and likely will appeal to some West Coast ADs late this year, assuming USC's defense performs to expectations this fall. 11

    Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

    11. Justin Wilcox

    Current job: USC defensive coordinator
    The skinny: Wilcox, 38, became a full-time college assistant when he was 26 -- at California, working for Jeff Tedford. It was an impressive first job, and he performed so well that he was hired as Boise State's defensive coordinator in 2006 at age 29. He spent four seasons in Boise, then was Tennessee's defensive coordinator for two seasons. Wilcox -- who was a safety at Oregon in college -- was hired away by Washington, where he worked in 2012 and 2013. He then moved south with Steve Sarkisian when Sarkisian was hired as USC's head coach. Wilcox has a solid pedigree (his dad, Dave, was a linebacker who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and likely will appeal to some West Coast ADs late this year, assuming USC's defense performs to expectations this fall.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Clemson defensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Venables, 44, was seen as damaged goods when he was hired at Clemson in January of 2012 after 12 seasons at Oklahoma. While Venables had been defensive coordinator for eight years with the Sooners, the perception was that coach Bob Stoops oversaw the unit. In addition, in a paradox of sorts, OU's defense struggled a bit in Venables' final few seasons with the Sooners and he took the heat. But he has done excellent work with Clemson and again is a hot commodity; he also is an excellent recruiter. He played college ball at Kansas State under Bill Snyder and later spent six seasons as a Snyder assistant before moving on to OU. 10

    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    10. Brent Venables

    Current job: Clemson defensive coordinator
    The skinny: Venables, 44, was seen as damaged goods when he was hired at Clemson in January of 2012 after 12 seasons at Oklahoma. While Venables had been defensive coordinator for eight years with the Sooners, the perception was that coach Bob Stoops oversaw the unit. In addition, in a paradox of sorts, OU's defense struggled a bit in Venables' final few seasons with the Sooners and he took the heat. But he has done excellent work with Clemson and again is a hot commodity; he also is an excellent recruiter. He played college ball at Kansas State under Bill Snyder and later spent six seasons as a Snyder assistant before moving on to OU.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Cincinnati offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Gran, who turns 50 in July, has been coaching since he graduated from college at Cal Lutheran in 1987. He was a grad assistant for powerful Miami teams in 1990 and '91, then became a full-time FBS assistant in '92 -- coincidentally enough at Cincinnati. He was an SEC running backs coach from 1994-2009 at Mississippi, Auburn and Tennessee, then spent three seasons at Florida State before again being hired at Cincinnati before the 2013 season. He has experience in a variety of offensive sets and is known as one of the best recruiters of south Florida in the nation. His varied and extensive background, <i>and</i> his recruiting acumen, should appeal to some ADs later this year. 9

    Jay Yocis/UC Athletics

    9. Eddie Gran

    Current job: Cincinnati offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Gran, who turns 50 in July, has been coaching since he graduated from college at Cal Lutheran in 1987. He was a grad assistant for powerful Miami teams in 1990 and '91, then became a full-time FBS assistant in '92 -- coincidentally enough at Cincinnati. He was an SEC running backs coach from 1994-2009 at Mississippi, Auburn and Tennessee, then spent three seasons at Florida State before again being hired at Cincinnati before the 2013 season. He has experience in a variety of offensive sets and is known as one of the best recruiters of south Florida in the nation. His varied and extensive background, and his recruiting acumen, should appeal to some ADs later this year.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Nebraska offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Langsdorf is back with Mike Riley, his former boss at Oregon State, after one season as quarterback coach of the New York Giants. (Trust us: That one season as Eli Manning's quarterback coach will be mentioned frequently on the recruiting trail.) Langsdorf, who turns 43 in June, was Oregon State's offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 2005-13, and was known for offenses that featured both prolific passing attacks and productive running backs. He will be expected to rev up Nebraska's passing attack, though whether he has a quarterback suited for his offense is a legitimate question. Langsdorf also spent three seasons with the New Orleans Saints (2002-04) as a quality control coach and an assistant wide receiver coach, and that NFL experience plus the good work he did at Oregon State will make him a sought-after commodity should Nebraska's offense hum along this fall. 8

    University of Nebraska Athletics

    8. Danny Langsdorf

    Current job: Nebraska offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Langsdorf is back with Mike Riley, his former boss at Oregon State, after one season as quarterback coach of the New York Giants. (Trust us: That one season as Eli Manning's quarterback coach will be mentioned frequently on the recruiting trail.) Langsdorf, who turns 43 in June, was Oregon State's offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 2005-13, and was known for offenses that featured both prolific passing attacks and productive running backs. He will be expected to rev up Nebraska's passing attack, though whether he has a quarterback suited for his offense is a legitimate question. Langsdorf also spent three seasons with the New Orleans Saints (2002-04) as a quality control coach and an assistant wide receiver coach, and that NFL experience plus the good work he did at Oregon State will make him a sought-after commodity should Nebraska's offense hum along this fall.

  • <b>Current job:</b> TCU co-offensive coordinator<br >
<b>The skinny:</b> Meacham (who as an O-lineman blocked for Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State) is an example of an assistant who toiled for a while in the lower ranks -- among his past stops are two junior colleges, Jacksonville (Ala.) State and Henderson State -- before getting his first FBS job in 2005. This season will be just his third as a coordinator; he oversaw Houston's offense in 2013 before moving on to TCU in 2014. While he is co-coordinator at TCU, he calls plays for the Horned Frogs, and play-callers whose offenses routinely put up 40 or so points are in high demand every December and January when ADs are looking for new coaches. Meacham, 50, coached tight ends/inside receivers at Oklahoma State from 2005-12 for Mike Gundy. He showed enough at Houston in 2013 that defense-minded TCU coach Gary Patterson entrusted him and Sonny Cumbie with remaking the Horned Frogs' offense. The move paid off for TCU. 7

    TCU Athletics Media Relations

    7. Doug Meacham

    Current job: TCU co-offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Meacham (who as an O-lineman blocked for Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State) is an example of an assistant who toiled for a while in the lower ranks -- among his past stops are two junior colleges, Jacksonville (Ala.) State and Henderson State -- before getting his first FBS job in 2005. This season will be just his third as a coordinator; he oversaw Houston's offense in 2013 before moving on to TCU in 2014. While he is co-coordinator at TCU, he calls plays for the Horned Frogs, and play-callers whose offenses routinely put up 40 or so points are in high demand every December and January when ADs are looking for new coaches. Meacham, 50, coached tight ends/inside receivers at Oklahoma State from 2005-12 for Mike Gundy. He showed enough at Houston in 2013 that defense-minded TCU coach Gary Patterson entrusted him and Sonny Cumbie with remaking the Horned Frogs' offense. The move paid off for TCU.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Ohio State offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Warinner, who also is the Buckeyes' offensive line coach, was given coordinator duties in January, after predecessor Tom Herman left to become head coach at Houston. The well-traveled Warriner, 53, has been a college assistant since 1984, including a stint as Kansas' OC from 2007-09 -- back when KU actually had an offensive pulse and went to the Orange Bowl. He also has worked at Notre Dame, Illinois, Akron, Army and Air Force, and has had a hand in developing numerous types of offenses. He is a well-regarded line coach, and this season, given Ohio State's vast array of offensive weapons, he will get to show off his play-calling ability. Assuming everything goes well, Ohio State could be looking for another new coordinator in January. 6

    Ohio State Athletics

    6. Ed Warinner

    Current job: Ohio State offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Warinner, who also is the Buckeyes' offensive line coach, was given coordinator duties in January, after predecessor Tom Herman left to become head coach at Houston. The well-traveled Warriner, 53, has been a college assistant since 1984, including a stint as Kansas' OC from 2007-09 -- back when KU actually had an offensive pulse and went to the Orange Bowl. He also has worked at Notre Dame, Illinois, Akron, Army and Air Force, and has had a hand in developing numerous types of offenses. He is a well-regarded line coach, and this season, given Ohio State's vast array of offensive weapons, he will get to show off his play-calling ability. Assuming everything goes well, Ohio State could be looking for another new coordinator in January.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Virginia Tech defensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Foster has been at Virginia Tech since, what, the early 1960s? Actually, he has been there since 1987 and has been the Hokies' defensive coordinator since 1995. Foster annually oversees one of the nation's best defenses, but he also turns 56 in late July, and if he wants to be a head coach, the clock is ticking. When the "coach-in-waiting" title was in vogue, the assumption was he would get that moniker at Tech. But that never happened, and it might behoove him to move on from Frank Beamer's immense shadow. He will have some excellent talent with which to work this fall, so you can expect another top-20 defense. That, in turn, should lead to some head-coaching opportunities. 5

    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    5. Bud Foster

    Current job: Virginia Tech defensive coordinator
    The skinny: Foster has been at Virginia Tech since, what, the early 1960s? Actually, he has been there since 1987 and has been the Hokies' defensive coordinator since 1995. Foster annually oversees one of the nation's best defenses, but he also turns 56 in late July, and if he wants to be a head coach, the clock is ticking. When the "coach-in-waiting" title was in vogue, the assumption was he would get that moniker at Tech. But that never happened, and it might behoove him to move on from Frank Beamer's immense shadow. He will have some excellent talent with which to work this fall, so you can expect another top-20 defense. That, in turn, should lead to some head-coaching opportunities.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Arizona State offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Norvell is 33, but already has been a coordinator for four seasons. His first full-time assistant's job was at Tulsa in 2007, and he spent four seasons as the Golden Hurricane's wide receiver coach. He first became a coordinator at Pitt in 2011 and is entering his fourth season as the Sun Devils' coordinator. His Arizona State offenses have been both prolific and balanced (between 5,564 and 6,402 total yards every season, with at least 2,194 rushing yards and at least 3,370 passing yards each year). While he is young, that actually might appeal to some ADs, especially when they consider his body of work. 4

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    4. Mike Norvell

    Current job: Arizona State offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Norvell is 33, but already has been a coordinator for four seasons. His first full-time assistant's job was at Tulsa in 2007, and he spent four seasons as the Golden Hurricane's wide receiver coach. He first became a coordinator at Pitt in 2011 and is entering his fourth season as the Sun Devils' coordinator. His Arizona State offenses have been both prolific and balanced (between 5,564 and 6,402 total yards every season, with at least 2,194 rushing yards and at least 3,370 passing yards each year). While he is young, that actually might appeal to some ADs, especially when they consider his body of work.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Alabama defensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Smart, 39, has been a "hot coordinator" for a few years now, and because he makes upward of $1.3 million per season, he can afford to be picky when it comes to taking another job. But there is an undercurrent of the same thing that "afflicted" Venables -- that is, Alabama's defense is seen as Nick Saban's baby, and no matter how much Saban talks up Smart or how many stories are written that Smart makes the calls, there is going to be some skepticism until Smart moves out of Saban's vast shadow. 3

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    3. Kirby Smart

    Current job: Alabama defensive coordinator
    The skinny: Smart, 39, has been a "hot coordinator" for a few years now, and because he makes upward of $1.3 million per season, he can afford to be picky when it comes to taking another job. But there is an undercurrent of the same thing that "afflicted" Venables -- that is, Alabama's defense is seen as Nick Saban's baby, and no matter how much Saban talks up Smart or how many stories are written that Smart makes the calls, there is going to be some skepticism until Smart moves out of Saban's vast shadow.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Oklahoma offensive coordinator<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Riley has been at OU for a bit less than six months, but he still could be moving on soon. Riley will turn 32 on Sept. 5, the day the Sooners open the season. He spent the past five seasons overseeing East Carolina's pass-happy offense, and Pirates WR Justin Hardy ended his college career in 2014 as the NCAA's leading career receiver. Before he went to ECU, he spent three seasons as receivers coach for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Riley gets high marks for his understanding of spread passing attacks, and if he is able to get the Sooners' offense back on track, he will be a white-hot coaching commodity by the time the season ends. 2

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    2. Lincoln Riley

    Current job: Oklahoma offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Riley has been at OU for a bit less than six months, but he still could be moving on soon. Riley will turn 32 on Sept. 5, the day the Sooners open the season. He spent the past five seasons overseeing East Carolina's pass-happy offense, and Pirates WR Justin Hardy ended his college career in 2014 as the NCAA's leading career receiver. Before he went to ECU, he spent three seasons as receivers coach for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Riley gets high marks for his understanding of spread passing attacks, and if he is able to get the Sooners' offense back on track, he will be a white-hot coaching commodity by the time the season ends.

  • <b>Current job:</b> Oregon offensive coordinator<br >
<b>The skinny:</b> Some thought that Frost might become a head coach after last season, but he remains in charge of the Ducks' high-flying offense. Frost, 40, began his college career at Stanford and started at QB for Nebraska in his final two seasons of college eligibility (1996-97). He played six seasons as a safety in the NFL and became a full-time college assistant in 2007 at FCS member Northern Iowa -- as a LB coach. He was UNI's co-defensive coordinator in 2008, then was hired at Oregon by Mike Bellotti to be WRs coach. He became Oregon's coordinator and QB coach in 2013, after Chip Kelly left to become coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The offense has hummed along, and Frost is given a lot of credit for how well Marcus Mariota played the past two seasons. If Oregon's offense continues to produce big numbers, there's a good chance Frost will be implementing that offense elsewhere during the 2016 season as a head coach. 1

    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    1. Scott Frost

    Current job: Oregon offensive coordinator
    The skinny: Some thought that Frost might become a head coach after last season, but he remains in charge of the Ducks' high-flying offense. Frost, 40, began his college career at Stanford and started at QB for Nebraska in his final two seasons of college eligibility (1996-97). He played six seasons as a safety in the NFL and became a full-time college assistant in 2007 at FCS member Northern Iowa -- as a LB coach. He was UNI's co-defensive coordinator in 2008, then was hired at Oregon by Mike Bellotti to be WRs coach. He became Oregon's coordinator and QB coach in 2013, after Chip Kelly left to become coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The offense has hummed along, and Frost is given a lot of credit for how well Marcus Mariota played the past two seasons. If Oregon's offense continues to produce big numbers, there's a good chance Frost will be implementing that offense elsewhere during the 2016 season as a head coach.