Jeff Brohm leaves Purdue to return home to Louisville, opening another job at Power 5. Brohm did a great job with the Boilermakers and leaves the program on a high. He has won 17 games in the past two seasons, the Big Ten West this year, and finished 12-6 in Big Ten play. Purdue is a tough job, though, and it’s likely only gotten worse with Michigan continuing its rise, Illinois coming back to life under Bret Bielema and Nebraska and Wisconsin adding top-tier head coaches in Matt. Rhule and Luke Fickell respectively.
Purdue has produced plenty of good NFL talent, but big on-field success in the Big Ten has been spotty. The program hasn’t won 10 games since 1979 – the school’s only 10-game winning season. Joe Tiller did well a generation ago, but before Brohm arrived, Purdue had missed a decade of football. We suspect the Boilermakers will lean towards an attacking spirit, as most of their success has come from Brohm and Tiller.
Head Coach Candidates
Dino Babers, Syracuse: Babers spent three seasons as receivers coach at Purdue in the early 1990s. He’s a good offensive coach and has a lot of presence. Babers is 61, but looks at least 10 years younger. He also knows the area well from four impressive seasons as a head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. He had his ups and downs at Syracuse during his seven seasons there; this year, the Orange went 7-5 but peaked at No. 14 in the nation before dropping five in a row. And it’s a program that’s in a very tough spot to win right now.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Calhoun worked well in the Air Force for a long time. He coached the MAC in Ohio for half a dozen years in the 1990s. He’s 33-11 the past four years. He is a very good coach and very good in attack. The Oregon native is 56 and could mean a lot to the Boilermakers.
Jason Candle, Toledo: Candle, 43, is another very good offensive mind that Miami almost hired a year ago as an offensive coordinator. He just led Toledo to a MAC title and he’s been on many sporting directors’ radars for some time. He got off to a quick start there, succeeding pal and former Mount Union teammate Matt Campbell with an 11-3 record in his second season. Since then his teams have been good more than great, but he has shown he can be a consistent winner.
Kane Wommack, South Alabama: Wommack has solid defensive experience and is a rising star in coaching. The 35-year-old knows the Big Ten well. His defense at Indiana in 2020 played a huge role in finishing the Hoosiers No. 12. He resumed a program that has never had a winning season in 11 years at the FBS level and the Jaguars went 10-2; their two losses this year resulted in a total of five points, including a one-point loss to top-10 UCLA. If Purdue isn’t locked into an offensive coach, he should be heavily considered.
Assistant Coach Candidates
Of those tier four men with strong Big Ten ties, we think they could be considered and a fifth who could be an attractive option.
Todd Monken, Georgia OC: The latter is Monken, which is actually from Wheaton, Illinois, a two and a half hour drive away. The 56-year-old won the national title last year and put the Bulldogs in good stead for a second. He helped turn former walk-on Stetson Bennett into a Heisman runner-up and created unique ways to harness the talent of tight end Brock Bowers. A former NFL OC, Monken did a stellar job as head coach of Southern Miss, taking the Golden Eagles from 1-11 in his first year to 9-5 in his third season despite big administrative challenges.
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin defensive coordinator: Leonhard, who went 4-3 as the Badgers’ interim head coach this year, will leave his alma mater after the bowl game. Right after he took over, the Badgers beat Brohm and the Boilermakers 35-24. He has shown himself to be one of the brightest defensive minds in football. Expect Leonhard to be a hot commodity in college and the NFL for places looking to improve defense. Would he suit Purdue as a leader? We will see.
Sherrone Moore, Michigan Co-OC/Offensive Line Coach: Moore has been a huge asset to Jim Harbaugh and has proven to be a very good player this year. The 36-year-old’s O line won the Joe Moore Award and this year’s unit deserves it even more. Moore has been critical for Jim Harbaugh’s staff, turning that team into a Big Ten tyrant and dominating Ohio State for the past two years. The Wolverines rushed for 549 yards in those two games combined. We know Moore is going to be very selective about his next move and is stuck trying to win a national title, but Purdue Brass might still want to reach out.
Ryan Walters, Illinois DC: Walters had a big impact in the Big Ten by helping Illini break through, turning one of the worst defenses in the nation into the second-best (at 4.26 yards per play allowed). The 36-year-old Colorado product from Missouri has risen through the ranks quickly and is a name to remember.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State passing game coordinator: Hartline was a candidate in Cincinnati and could play here. The 36-year-old is arguably the best coach in college football for his work recruiting and developing the Buckeyes’ incredibly stacked reception hall. The Ohio native should consider a solid job in the Big Ten if offered. We know he can be talented.
Kevin Sumlin: The former Purdue linebacker has deep ties inside the school. Sumlin, 58, was college football’s hottest coach a decade ago. He crashed out at Texas A&M after leading the Aggies to their first top-5 season in half a century. (He went 51-26, which is actually better than his successor Jimbo Fisher since.) Sumlin then took on Arizona and it turned out to be a big mistake for him and the Wildcats. He had a dismal run, going 9-20. If reinvigorated and refocused, it could be an interesting adjustment.
Dan Mullen: The former Florida and Mississippi State head coach had two seasons in the top 10 before rock bottom hit him in 2021 after a slew of poor recruiting caught up with his program. Mullen, 50, spent a season doing television. If he is dedicated again and can build a good staff, he could also be an attractive option.
(Dino Babers top photo: Rich Barnes/USA Today)
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