With Mel Tucker suspended, five possible replacement candidates for Michigan State

Michigan State has suspended fourth-year coach Mel Tucker without pay amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving prominent activist Brenda Tracy, who has accused Tucker of inappropriate behavior during a phone call in April 2022.

While a formal hearing to determine if these actions violated school policy won't occur until early October, Tucker is not expected to retain his position. He was signed to a 10-year, $95 million contract extension in 2021, which at the time was the largest ever given to a college football coach in terms of overall value.

If so, Michigan State would be in the market for the program's third head coach since 2007. The potential candidates include several coaches with current or former ties to the program, most notably interim coach Harlon Barnett and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, who was previously an assistant with the Spartans for more than a decade. Another possible contender is Tucker's predecessor, former successful Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who returned to the program this week in the role of associate head coach.

But given what the program can offer on the open market, including the chance to coach in the Big Ten and the possibility of a significant salary, the Spartans would be able to parse through a bevy of qualified candidates.

Here are five established Bowl Subdivision head coaches Michigan State could and should consider if, as expected, Tucker has coached his last game with the program:

Elko pulled off a borderline miraculous nine-win season in 2022, his head-coaching debut on any level, and has No. 20 Duke on an early roll after opening the year with a decisive win against No. 22 Clemson. He already had extensive Power Five assistant experience, most recently at No. 11 Notre Dame and Texas A&M, and spent seven seasons at two different stops under one of college football's great builders in Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. Elko knows defense, has proven himself as a turnaround artist and has shown a knack for quickly developing a winning culture, three assets that would make him an extremely strong fit with the Spartans.

Duke coach Mike Elko reacts after an interception against Central Florida during the second half in the 2022 Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh

Narduzzi has deep Power Five experience at Pittsburgh, where he has gone 63-41 with an ACC championship since 2015, and was one of the most decorated assistants in the Bowl Subdivision during his eight-year stint as Michigan State's defensive coordinator from 2007-14. That connection to the program, and specifically to the heights of the Dantonio era, makes it extremely likely Narduzzi would be at or near the top of the list should the Spartans conduct a national search for Tucker's replacement. There would be questions about his preferred offense given the Panthers' hit-and-miss track record on that side of the ball, but Narduzzi fits the ethos of the program and would fix a defense that hasn't finished in the top four in the Big Ten in yards allowed per play since 2018.

BOWL PROJECTIONS:Texas moves into playoff spot after big win

CALM DOWN: Five biggest overreactions after college football's Week 2

Jonathan Smith, Oregon State

The former Oregon State quarterback is very much at home with the Beavers, who won just nine games in his first three seasons but have since gone 19-9 since 2021. This year's team has climbed to No. 17 in the US LBM AFCA Coaches Poll and is one of the favorites to win the crowded Pac-12 thanks in part to the addition of Clemson quarterback transfer DJ Uiagalelei. Smith knows offense, he knows quarterback play and he has a blueprint for developing an unsteady program into a Top 25 contender. While it might be difficult to convince him to leave Corvallis, that Oregon State is poised to exit the Power Five with the Pac-12's likely demise after this season should pique his interest in exploring the opportunity to coach in one of the top leagues in the country.

Lance Leipold, Kansas

Leipold is a winner, pure and simple, with a track record that includes a historic run of six Division III national championships at Wisconsin-Whitewater, two MAC championship game appearances at Buffalo and, perhaps most impressive of all, a bowl bid in just his second season at Kansas. He has the Jayhawks back on track for the postseason after last weekend's very impressive 34-23 win against Illinois. It's all about the offense: KU ranked sixth nationally in yards per play last season and ranks 11th through two games in 2023. Michigan State is obviously the better position, with deeper resources, higher expectations and an established commitment bridging multiple coaching tenures. But the Jayhawks have made immense investments in the football program under Leipold, who has zigged where others have zagged as a college coach and sought out two of the most difficult places to win in the FBS. Having said that, he might find that Michigan State hits the sweet spot of high-level Power Five football and the chance to put his own stamp on the program during what could be a similarly quick rebuilding process.

Jason Candle, Toledo

Lastly, Candle would pass muster as a candidate despite his lack of Power Five experience. In fact, he's the decidedly rare college coach who has spent two decades in the profession at just two stops: Mount Union, one of college football's cradle of coaches, from 2003-08, and Toledo since 2009. He was promoted from offensive coordinator to be current Iowa State coach Matt Campbell's successor late in 2015 and has gone 55-33 since with two MAC championships and no losing seasons. While the Rockets suffered a painful loss to Illinois in the season opener, this year's team is expected to be among his best. Like Smith and Leipold, he brings very strong offensive credentials to the table. Unlike this pair, however, the Ohio-born Candle has spent his entire career in the Big Ten footprint, likely broadening his appeal.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.