Analysis: No shortage of candidates to take over Terps football program

Things have been quiet in College Park the past couple of weeks regarding the search for fired football coach Randy Edsall's successor.

Athletic director Kevin Anderson, whose own legacy with the Terps will certainly be tied to this hire, has declined to discuss who he might be looking at since saying on the day of Edsall's firing that Maryland wanted a coach "to excite the fan base."


Many names have surfaced in a variety of media outlets, a few that seem to have validity and others that appear far-fetched.

The one likelihood is that interim coach Mike Locksley will only be retained if he and the next coach can figure out a role that works for both. As good of a job as Locksley has done in keeping the team together after the tumultuous midseason firing, he hasn't done enough on the field to merit strong consideration.


Out of reach

CHIP KELLY: The Philadelphia Eagles coach was mentioned early on by a few in the media — as well as by university president Wallace Loh — as someone who could turn the Terps into legitimate contenders in the Big Ten East. The longer the search goes on, the less it seems that Kelly is going to wind up at Maryland even if he gets canned after the season. Not that Kelly seems like a perfect fit for either of the USCs (Southern Cal or South Carolina) but given how big a salary he will command and the increase in salary for the staff he would bring with him compared to Maryland's current staff, finances alone might end any serious flirtation unless Under Armour's Kevin Plank goes all in.

Long shots

DAN MULLEN: The Mississippi State coach certainly has the pedigree, coming off the Urban Meyer coaching tree as a former offensive coordinator at Florida and quarterbacks coach at Utah. Mullen, 43, who is in his seventh year with the Bulldogs, has had chances to leave in recent seasons, and signed an extension through the 2018 season in February with a raise to around $4 million annually. Given that Mullen could have put himself in serious contention with the Gators after Will Muschamp was fired last season, and has stated that his children consider Starkville, Miss., home, it seems unlikely that another rebuilding job is something that he really wants, especially one against his old boss and other heavyweights in the Big Ten East.

BILL O'BRIEN: After a decent start (9-7) with the Houston Texans last season, the former Penn State coach (and Maryland assistant under Ralph Friedgen in 2003-04) has watched his team implode this season, mostly surrounding former quarterback Ryan Mallett. Even with Mallett gone, it doesn't appear that things will get much better. While Texans owner Bob McNair is known to be a patient man — look at how long it took him to fire Gary Kubiak — the impatience might be on the coach's part. O'Brien, 46, would be a home-run hire for Anderson and would certainly put the Big Ten East on notice that the Terps are serious about being contenders. It would also heat up a pretty good restart to the rivalry with Penn State.

TOM HERMAN: As long as Houston stays unbeaten and in contention for a College Football Playoff appearance, its first-year coach's stock is going to stay pretty high. Considering his own connections to Meyer and Ohio State, it seems unlikely that Herman, 40, would jump right back into the Big Ten with a bottom-feeder, regardless of the recruiting class he might inherit. Herman and fellow American Athletic Conference coach Justin Fuente of Memphis will likely be the hottest candidates heading into the offseason, meaning Herman could be headed to one of the USCs or Miami with Fuente going to one of them or Virginia Tech. Another possible landing spot could be Texas, after Charlie Strong's honeymoon following the Oklahoma win ended with an embarrassing 24-0 loss last Saturday at Iowa State.

JUSTIN FUENTE: You could say and write the same things about Fuente that you would for Herman. Fuente might have been a more legitimate option for the Terps until his Tigers beat then-No. 13 Mississippi on national television last month — a couple of weeks after taking care of Cincinnati at home — to thrust the fast-rising 39-year-old Oklahoman to the top of the list of coaches ready to move up. Maryland could still have a chance if some of those other jobs considered more prestigious fill up with candidates other than Fuente, but that seems doubtful. Fuente's five-year run as an assistant at TCU might help make him attractive to the power brokers in Austin.

Becoming a possibility


MARK RICHT: With three defeats in four games since a 4-0 start — the latest being a 27-3 loss to Florida in the annual "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" game in Jacksonville, Fla. — the longtime Georgia coach is moving closer to parting ways with the school. While Georgia fans have tired of Richt's inability to consistently win big games, Terps fans look at a record that includes 13 winning seasons in 14 years in Athens. Though everything about Richt, 55, says he will stay in the South, his connection to Maryland senior associate athletic director Damon Evans could be a draw to College Park. Then again, if Evans winds up as the athletic director at Central Florida, which has been mentioned recently by Sports Illustrated, Richt could return to his roots (he played at Miami and coached for more than a decade at Florida State) to rebuild the program in Orlando, Fla.

PEP HAMILTON: Despite being fired this week as Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator, Hamilton's stock in the eyes of college athletic directors shouldn't be hurt that much based on what he did the past two years with Andrew Luck as well as at Stanford. The 41-year-old Hamilton has roots in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, having played quarterback at Howard. He also has connections to Locksley, having gone to work for him briefly at New Mexico before Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh called Hamilton. Hamilton helped develop Luck at Stanford and could do the same with Dwayne Haskins Jr. in College Park. It would be interesting to see if Locksley would stick around to work for Hamilton after Hamilton bolted from New Mexico for a better job. However, Hamilton did turn down the top job at Vanderbilt when former Maryland coach-in-waiting James Franklin left the Tennessee school for Penn State.

Legitimate chance

MATT RHULE: With Saturday's near-victory over Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field, the third-year coach of 7-1 Temple received some pretty good national exposure. A win over the Irish could have put the 40-year-old Rhule into the same conversation with both Fuente and Herman among potential AAC coaching poaches, so maybe losing can help Maryland's cause. There's a question whether one great year after turning around the Owls is enough to excite the fan base. Bringing in a coach with as much of a defensive background as Rhule might also help keep Locksley in College Park, if that's what Anderson wants. An Owls victory over Memphis later in the season might get Rhule enough credibility to sell with the Terps — or another team.

MATT CAMPBELL: He might be the most intriguing candidate on anyone's list, given his age (35, the third-youngest in the Football Bowl Subdivision) and record in four years at Toledo (33-14, including 7-1 this season after Tuesday's loss to Northern Illinois). Campbell's Ohio roots — he grew up there, played and coached at Division III power Mount Union, and also coached at Bowling Green — could make him a perfect fit for the Big Ten. With two Big Ten jobs open (Minnesota as well) and one more possible (Purdue), it seems that Campbell would get a crack at one of them. The Rockets were 15th in the country last year offensively and are currently 28th. Some believe that Rhule could have a similar career arc as another Ohioan by the name of Urban Meyer, who didn't get his first head coaching job until he was 37.

DINO BABERS: With the country's top passing offense this season — something Anderson saw first-hand in Maryland's 48-27 loss to Bowling Green on Sept. 12 in College Park — Babers is certainly going to get some serious consideration from a Power Five team. A drawback is that Babers didn't get his first head coaching shot until 2012, when he was 51 and had already been an assistant with 12 different programs. He helped develop New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois and has done the same with fifth-year senior Matt Johnson, who has returned from a hip injury suffered in last season's opener to be the FBS' leading passer this year. Baber has a connection to Anderson, whose son worked for him at Bowling Green as a graduate assistant.


SCOTT FROST: The Oregon offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been on Maryland's radar for a couple of years as a possibility to replace Edsall. The 40-year-old's star has fallen a bit this season as the Ducks have dipped out of the top 10 offensively after finishing third last season and second the year before with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback, might still bring a certain amount of buzz as a reasonable substitute for Kelly, who coached Oregon before becoming a hot name after replacing Mike Bellotti. Given the uncertainty at quarterback next season in Eugene, Ore., Frost might want to step in where a promising talent such as Haskins is on board. Frost might also want to jump into the Big Ten after being snubbed by his alma mater last winter, though the Cornhuskers' job might reopen sooner rather than later after the 3-6 start by Mike Riley in Lincoln.