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Baylor Football: Coaching Candidates

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Mack Rhoades keeps it close, so anything is possible

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Day Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With Matt Rhule heading to the Panthers, Mack Rhoades will make his fourth head football coaching hire.

At Houston, he hired two football coaches. He promoted Tony Levine after Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M. Rhoades fired Levine after he started 21-17. He then hired Tom Herman. For whatever you want to say about Herman at Texas, he had a very successful tenure at Houston.

At Missouri, Rhoades promoted Barry Odom to head coach after Gary Pinkel left. While Odom had some good years at Missouri, he was just fired after going 25-25.

Rhoades’ nailed the Matt Rhule hire.

Rhoades will make his fifth head coaching hire at the American/SEC/Big 12 level. Given Rhule was a wildcard hire for many, here are the candidates I’d expect:

*Joey McGuire- Baylor’s interim coach and the former associate head coach. McGuire lead Cedar Hill to three state championships. He is the overwhelming choice of the team’s current players, and he has exceptional Texas ties.

I was adamant last time that Texas ties weren’t necessary to succeed, but they’re a huge gain when someone has them like McGuire. He’s noted as one of Baylor’s best recruiters, and without the idea of him leaving for the NFL every season, he could boost Baylor’s recruiting.

The knock on McGuire is that he has limited college experience. He’s never been a coordinator at this level, and running Baylor football—a major college program—is a challenge for even the most experienced group of five coach or major coordinator.

With far less information than Rhoades, McGuire would be my selection. His recruiting potential and love by the players is overwhelming. I think he could build a quality staff, including with several of Baylor’s current coaches and would win.

*Sonny Dykes, SMU- Dykes has deep Texas ties and did a great job at Louisiana Tech and just won 10 games at SMU. He’s recruiting well at a much worse job; he’s a brilliant offensive mind.

Dykes’ knock is that his Cal tenure didn’t end well. He was fired after four seasons and a 4-8 season.

The concern with Dykes is over how high his ceiling would be. Could he compete for Big 12 titles annually? Maybe holding Cal against him is ridiculous. And Dykes might have just made a mistake taking the Cal job. He’s been awfully good when coaching anywhere in Texas.

*Blake Anderson, Arkansas State- Anderson has gone over .500 in each of his six years at Arkansas State. He started his college playing career at Baylor before transferring to Sam Houston State. Rhoades considered him last time.

Anderson is charismatic, but the leap from Arkansas State to Baylor is massive. He probably has a lower floor than McGuire and Dykes.

*Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State- Gundy acted like he wouldn’t consider after last season. But Gundy’s problems with the budget at Oklahoma State are well known. He loses coordinators because of his limited coaching budget. And after 15 years at his alma mater, he might think things won’t get better than his peak, and that the fans no longer appreciate him. Baylor also pays way better than Oklahoma State, as Rhule was easily a top 10 paid coach.

There are two issues with Gundy: would he actually leave, and if he did, would he plan to stay long? The first question is a much bigger one than the second. Gundy should have had the chance to play for a national title in 2011. He’s won 10 games numerous times at Oklahoma State, which is a brutally tough place to win.

My belief is that Gundy will not leave Oklahoma State. I heard from one person very well connected to the athletic department that Gundy was seriously interested in leaving then. But there are Oklahoma State people that claim he was never going to leave. Gundy has gotten close before, especially with Tennessee, only to decide when the job gets close that he wants to stay.

I believe Gundy is unlikely to actually leave Oklahoma State. If he would, it would change everything for me.

*Jeff Brohm, Purdue- Brohm elected to go to Purdue when Baylor looked at him in 2016, and he passed up a chance to head to his alma mater, Louisville, two years ago.

Brohm might decide Purdue is a tougher job than he thought and it’s worth leaving for a slight raise. Purdue pays very well, but Baylor is a significantly better job.

I don’t expect Brohm to want to leave Purdue.

*Billy Napier, Louisiana-Lafayette- Napier has experience at Alabama and Clemson. He won 11 games at his current job and just won Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

Napier is the ultimate high risk-high reward guy. His ceiling might be higher than anyone else, and he matches a bit about the Rhule hire. He’s young, inspires people and gets the most of his talent. His recruiting skills are impressive.

Napier is very young, and he hasn’t shown yet that he could build a program for years. He also passed up interviewing for the Mississippi State job, so maybe he wants to stay at his current job. He would be my second choice for the job.

*Bryan Harsin, Boise State- Harsin needs to decide if he would leave his alma mater. Baylor gives him a chance to compete for a national title, and it pays substantially more than Boise State.

Harsin has won at least nine games all six seasons at Boise State. He is a former co-offensive coordinator at Texas.

*Wildcard- Rhoades kept the Rhule hire incredibly close last time. When Ashley Hodge of SicEm365 broke the story, few thought he was going to be the guy. This does not appear to be a search where Rhoades is leaking names to see how fans react.

Who I can’t see getting hired:

*Hugh Freeze, Liberty- This would be a disaster. Anyone that lists him thinks, “Liberty is a school with religion. Baylor is too. Baylor is probably okay with giving Freeze another shot!” Baylor can’t be the power five school where he gets a new shot.

*Urban Meyer, lots of places- It won’t happen, given his ending at Ohio State, and Meyer seems destined for the NFL or USC.

*Larry Fedora, North Carolina- Baylor can aim higher. Fedora might have wanted the job a few years ago, but after his ending at North Carolina, his stock isn’t what it was.

*Dino Babers, Syracuse- He won’t be returning to Baylor.

*Mike Leach, Washington State- I have some political disagreements with Leach, but I would seriously consider him for the job. I think he’d do a fantastic job here. But I’d be shocked if Baylor has him as the face of the program.