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Jeff Brohm’s departure to Louisville has left the Purdue program in limbo. Mike Bobinski and the Purdue athletic department’s most pressing issue will now be finding Brohm’s replacement.
Of the college football head coaching jobs currently open, Purdue is by far the best of the bunch. That might not be saying much with only Stanford being the lone Power 5 job open at the moment.
Being a part of the Big Ten, with all of the money set to flow in and the direction of college football, Purdue is in a great position. Purdue’s AD already has one successful head coaching hire under his belt, now he’ll have to do it again.
The question remaining now is who?
Here are 10 candidates for Purdue’s head coaching vacancy:
Mark Hagen: Purdue co-Defensive Coordinator & Defensive Line Coach
Hagen is the most likely candidate for the interim head coach title for the next month or so. The longtime coach gained a reputation for being a great recruiter and has sent many players to the NFL across the defensive.
A few of those names during his first stint at Purdue includes Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Spencer, Kawann Short, Cliff Avril and Bernard Pollard among others. His defensive line is also the strongest on the team this season.
Hagen is the easy choice for interim head coach and should be a candidate for the full-time gig once the season wraps up. Purdue should do everything they can to keep Hagen around even if he isn’t chosen as the Boilermakers’ next head coach.
Chris Klieman: Kansas State Head Coach
Klieman is fresh off a Big 12 Championship with Kansas State after upsetting No. 3 TCU last weekend.
After taking over for Bill Snyder in 2019, Klieman has won 8 or more games in three out of four years en route to a 30-19 record. Prior to his stay in Manhattan, he won four FCS National Championships at North Dakota State.
His .758 winning percentage ranks 7th among active FBS coaches with five or more seasons under their belt.
Klieman said he was happy at Kansas State earlier this year after some suggested he would be a candidate for the Nebraska job. Would he see Purdue as an upgrade over Kansas State? Purdue should try to lure Klieman away from Manhattan to come to the Big Ten if possible.
Jim Leonhard: Wisconsin Interim Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator
Leonhard has been a name that is brought up in head coaching searches for a couple of years now. He has spent five years as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator and was the interim head coach after Paul Chryst was fired mid-season.
Many thought that Leonhard would be the Badgers’ next head coach before they hired former Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell.
Leonhard has since announced via Twitter that he will not return to Wisconsin after his interim head coaching tag expires following the Badgers’ bowl game.
Leaving his alma mater may be a sign Leonhard is looking for a head coaching role in the near future. At 40 years old, Leonhard is one of the hottest up and coming names in the coaching ranks. His knowledge of the Big Ten landscape and track record as a players coach would fit in nicely at Purdue.
Dave Clawson: Wake Forest Head Coach
Clawson has turned around the Wake Forest program after 7 consecutive losing seasons in Winston-Salem. Since his first two years when he went 3-9, Clawson holds a 52-35 record with the Demon Deacons.
He has also lead Wake Forest to six bowl games in 9 years, including a Gator Bowl victory last season to finish the year with 11 wins which tied a school record from 2006.
Clawson could be in line for a step up to the Big Ten after spending nearly a decade in the ACC. He did just sign an extension in November 2021, so his buyout would be a hurdle to overcome, but Mike Bobinski would be wise to give Clawson a call. Also worth consideration is that his defensive coordinator, Brad Lambert, spent the 2021 season at Purdue overhauling the defense, and was quite successful at it.
JaMarcus Shephard: Washington Associate Head Coach, Passing Game Coordinator & Wide Receivers Coach
Shephard was a former assistant coach under Jeff Brohm for five seasons at Purdue and another two years at Western Kentucky before that. He was the co-offensive coordinator for four of those years and wide receivers coach for all five with the Boilermakers.
He left Purdue to go to Washington in January 2022. This season, Shephard coached two 1,000 receivers in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan for the Huskies’ high powered offense.
During his time with the Boilermakers, Shephard helped Purdue recruit and develop All-American receivers Rondale Moore and David Bell in West Lafayette.
He also has deep Indiana ties, being born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana and playing his college football at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
Shephard’s offensive mind and familiarity with the program would make for a nice reunion with Purdue. He does not have any head coaching experience at the collegiate level, which could deter Mike Bobinski from offering him the job at Purdue.
Paul Chryst: Former Wisconsin and Pittsburgh Head Coach
This is an interesting candidate. Paul Chryst was fired just a few months ago after a 2-3 start in his 8th year with Wisconsin. Chryst was looked at as one of the best head coaches in the Big Ten over the last decade, but was ultimately let go.
During his time in Wisconsin, Chryst owned a .720 winning percentage and finished with 10 or more wins four times.
Back in 2008, Chryst was rumored to be coming to Purdue to take over for the late Joe Tiller, who retired after that season. The Boilermakers instead hired Danny Hope, who was an assistant under Tiller and former Eastern Kentucky head coach.
His track record in the Big Ten is undeniable. The main critisism with his tenure in Madison was his play calling role with the team that ultimately led to his firing. As Chryst sits without a job, Mike Bobinski should be in contact with the former Badgers’ head coach.
Kevin Sumlin: Former Texas A&M, Houston & Arizona Head Coach
Another candidate with deep Purdue ties, Kevin Sumlin could be tabbed at the Boilermakers’ next head coach. He is currently the head coach of the Houston Gamblers, but would be enticed to leave to coach at his alma mater.
Sumlin was a linebacker for the Boilermakers from 1983-1986 and was an assistant coach under Joe Tiller from 1998-2000. Would he be interested in a move back home?
In his time as a head coach, Sumlin has had varying levels of success at different spots. He owns a 95-63 career record and was a Power 5 coach at Texas A&M for 6 seasons, coaching the likes of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and several other NFL players.
After being let go by Texas A&M, Sumlin had a failed stint with Arizona, going 9-20 over parts of three seasons. This would be an interesting hire by Mike Bobinski and Purdue. Sumlin has a track record of winning, but could be seen as a risky hire by Bobinski.
Jeff Traylor: UTSA Head Coach
One of the more underrated head coaching candidates in the country comes from UTSA in Jeff Traylor. In three seasons with the Roadrunners, Traylor has a 30-9 career record and has made a bowl game in all three years.
Over the last two seasons, Traylor has led UTSA to a 23-4 record in the Conference USA and has the Roadrunners ranked in the latest AP Top 25 poll.
Traylor has assistant coaching experience at the Power 5 level, spending time with Texas and Arkansas as an associate head coach and special teams coordinator. His UTSA offenses have been high powered during his tenure, ranking 11th this season averaging 37.6 points per game after being the 15th highest scoring offense in the country last season.
Jeff Brohm had similar roots, coming from a Group of 5 school and being the leader of a high scoring offensive squad. Traylor has deep ties to the state of Texas, so it could be difficult to get him to leave his home state. Mike Bobinski should reach out to the 55 year head coach and give him an opportunity to move up in the coaching ranks.
Lou Anarumo: Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Coordinator
Anarumo is the lone potential candidate that is currently in the NFL. This one is less likely given that NFL coaching positions are hard to come by, but Anarumo has Purdue ties dating back almost 20 years.
Anarumo was Purdue’s defensive backs coach from 2004-2011 under Joe Tiller and then Danny Hope. During that time, he helped Bernard Pollard and Ricardo Allen get to the NFL.
As I previously mentioned, Anarumo coming back from the professional ranks might be a stretch, but he does have 23 seasons in the college coaching ranks. Given his time with the program coming under Joe Tiller, the familiarity and respect will be there from Mike Bobinski.
Brian Hartline: Ohio State Passing Game Coordinator & Wide Receivers Coach
Similar to Jim Leonhard, it is just a matter of time before Ohio State Passing Game Coordinator & Wide Receivers Coach Brian Hartline becomes a head coach. He is one of the hottest up and coming coaches in the nation.
Hartline’s wide receivers group in Columbus is one of the best in the country, and is a testament to his recruiting ability. He has coached pros such as Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and future NFL draft picks Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Marvin Harrison Jr at Ohio State.
Without head coaching experience, Purdue might be open a little too early for Hartline. If the former NFL wide receiver is ready to make the jump, Purdue would be a great landing spot for the 36 year old.
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