Let’s Speculate! Potential Nebraska head football coach candidates

Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.

Today’s program is Nebraska, coached for the past 4+ seasons by Scott Frost (fired on Sunday).

  • Mickey Joseph – Nebraska interim head coach
    • The guy who (sort of) has the job already, Joseph is a former Huskers QB who just joined the staff this season after spending the last five years at LSU. He won a National Championship in 2020 as the Tigers’ assistant HC at WRs coach and does have some head coaching experience, having led the NAIA Langston Lions for two seasons (2011-12). He will break an important barrier next weekend, becoming the first black head coach in UNL history (not just in football, but in ANY varsity sport).
  • Matt Campbell – Iowa State head coach
    • If Trev Alberts looks outside the family, then Campbell is definitely call number one. Like Frost, Campbell made a splash as the mid-major level that warranted getting a shot at a big conference school, but unlike Frost he would arrive in Lincoln with plenty of success at that next level already. Campbell will get mentioned for every job better than ISU this and every offseason until he takes one – he was rumored to have received a massive offer from the Detroit Lions a week ago – but until then he just continues to win in Ames. After a rebuilding year to start, Campbell has taken the Cyclones to five-straight bowl games, including a Fiesta Bowl win over Oregon two years ago. All other names on this list, in our humble opinion, are only needed if Campbell says no.
  • Chris Klieman – Kansas State head coach
    • While we’re on the subject of successful Big 12 head coaches, you have to look at K-State’s Chris Klieman. Two bowls in three years after taking over for the great Bill Snyder, Klieman is climbed the ladder from D-III to FCS and now to the FBS. If things continue on their current trajectory (the Wildcats are 2-0 and have outscored opponents 74-12 this year) it won’t be long before Klieman gets a bigger opportunity.
  • Lance Leipold – Kansas head coach
    • Leipold took a job last year that no one wanted and, somewhat remarkably, won two games at Kansas. But now in year two, the Jayhawks look like a completely new program and are ready to pull up from the Big 12 basement behind their leader Leipold. Before KU, he coached Buffalo for six years (24-10 over the last three years, 2-1 in bowls), and at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater, his alma mater, where he won SIX NATIONAL TITLES in eight years (not a typo – finished 2nd once, also). This man lost just 6 games total during that time, 3 of those losses happening in one season. It’s a bit surprising his name isn’t getting circulated more, but if the KU rebuild keeps rolling forward it definitely will be.
  • Bill O’Brien – Alabama offensive coordinator
    • Back on campus after a seven-year detour to the NFL, O’Brien holds the coveted OC position at Alabama that so often pushes guys right back into a collegiate head coaching gig. The Tide were of course national runner-up last year, Obie’s first in Tuscaloosa, and he had the offense ranked in the top 7 for yards and points per game. His lone collegiate head job was in the Big Ten, stepping into an unfathomable situation at Penn State in 2012 and somehow finishing above .500 in both years there. He was consistent with the Houston Texans, but was never able to get over the hump and he now finds himself in the Crimson Tide juggernaut, undoubtedly waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.
  • Jamey Chadwell – Coastal Carolina head coach
    • The 45-year old Chadwell is in his fifth year with the Chanticleers and is coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons. He runs a winning program with an exciting style of play that might be exactly what is needed after years of mediocre (or downright awful) play in Lincoln. The rub may be that he has never coached in a league bigger than the Sun Belt, but he’s already got the attention of power conference ADs across the country and it won’t be much longer before he makes the jump.
  • Gary Patterson – Texas assistant
    • In more than 21 years at TCU – during which time the Frogs competed in four different conferences ending – Patterson was 181-79 overall and 11-6 in bowl games. His credentials are staggering, 12 times ending the year in the AP Top 25 (9 of those as a mid-major) and three trips to NY6 bowls (2-1). His Frogs won the Rose Bowl in 2010 to cap a perfect 13-0 season that ultimately landed TCU in the Big 12 shortly thereafter. The program slumped for a few years and Patterson was let go after eight games last season, but the Kansas-native certainly has more coaching ahead of him.
  • Jim Leonhard – Wisconsin defensive coordinator
    • Certainly a future head coach, Leonhard joined the staff at alma mater Wisconsin in 2016 following a seven-year NFL playing career. After one season he was elevated to defensive coordinator and in the 5+ seasons since has overseen some of the most stifling defenses in the country. He’s a logical successor at UW, though there’s no reason to think the Paul Chryst Era will end any time soon.
  • Eric Bieniemy – Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator
    • Maybe a long-shot, but Bieniemy’s credentials in KC are indisputable and worthy of a head coaching opportunity. An opportunity that for some reason has yet to come his way in the NFL. He could definitely go back to college, having previously been an assistant for seven years at Colorado (2001-02, 2011-12) and UCLA (2003-05), but he could also continue working with the most electric QB in the NFL and wait for a pro team to call. There’s also a possibility that Colorado – where Bieniemy was a star player and Heisman finalist – might have an opening this offseason, too.
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