Rhett Lashlee — Offensive Coordinator, SMU
Lashlee goes way back with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn — he quarterbacked a record-setting offense for Malzahn at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas before following his mentor into the college game, first at Arkansas State (2012) followed by Auburn (2013-16). He transformed a previously stagnant offense at UConn last season before joining forces with Air Raid guru Sonny Dykes at SMU. Lashlee is still only 35 and has an infectious energy that pays dividends in recruiting. Look for him to get a head coaching shot sooner rather than later, most likely at a mid-major school in the south.
Neal Brown — Head Coach, Troy
Amazingly, Brown is still at Troy after a fantastic 2017 season that saw the Trojans stun LSU on the road and claim a share of a Sun Belt championship. Brown’s exciting Air Raid offenses have lit up the scoreboard frequently, while his defenses have been marked by speedy playmakers who create turnovers at just the right time. Brown has won two bowl games in two years and has a combined 13-3 record in conference play. While he has no shortage of big-time offers, don’t be surprised if Brown waits for the perfect opportunity to become a head coach at a higher-profile program.
Beau Baldwin — Offensive Coordinator, Cal
Born in Santa Barbara, California and raised in Spokane, Washington, Baldwin has a sterling resumé: he’s a former quarterback with plenty of experience in innovative offensive systems, and he’s also experienced at the lower levels of Division 1. Baldwin coached at Eastern Washington from 2008-2016, posting an overall 85-32 mark, six FCS playoff appearances, and one FCS national title (2010). Baldwin was rumored to be a finalist for the Oregon State job this past offseason until it went to Jonathan Smith, so look out for his name when the 2018-19 coaching carousel starts spinning.
Ryan Day — Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State
At this point, I’m basically contractually obligated to put at least one Urban Meyer assistant on these lists. What can I say? The Ohio State boss can flat-out coach. So can all of his assistants from top to bottom, and Day is no exception. In addition to Meyer, the 39-year-old Day coached under Chip Kelly at New Hampshire, Steve Addazio at Temple and Boston College, and even got some NFL experience under his belt (with the 49ers and Eagles). Day could be an ideal fit at a lower-level Group of Five program that needs a shot in the arm offensively.
Mike Elko — Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
Elko has been a high-riser in the coaching ranks in recent seasons, and for good reason. His defenses have been among the most statistically impressive in the FBS. He worked under Dave Clawson at Bowling Green (2009-2013) and Wake Forest (2014-2016) before engineering an eye-opening turnaround at Notre Dame last season. Seeing Elko’s lasting success, Jimbo Fisher immediately hired him when he took over at Texas A&M this past offseason. The jury’s still out on whether Fisher is the long-term right choice for the Aggies, but Elko is likely to get plenty of calls coming his way this coming winter for coaching vacancies.
Walt Bell — Offensive Coordinator, Florida State
There’s a lot to like about Bell, who cut his teeth under spread offense wizards like Larry Fedora (Southern Miss, North Carolina) and Blake Anderson (Arkansas State). In 2016, he was scooped up by D.J. Durkin at Maryland, where he made an offense hum for two seasons despite dealing with tons of injuries at quarterback. Seeing his potential, Willie Taggart tabbed him as his new coordinator this past winter in Tallahassee. If Florida State’s offense gets back to its lethal standard, watch out…
Alex Grinch — Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
The 37-year-old Ohio native is back in his home state after earning rave reviews for his revamping of the Washington State defense for the past three seasons. Grinch earned nominations for the Broyles Award all three years (given to the nation’s top assistant coach) and helped the Cougars improve dramatically in forced turnovers and yards allowed.
Chip Lindsey — Offensive Coordinator, Auburn
Another Gus Malzahn disciple, Lindsey first got into the college game in 2010. Since then, he’s been a coordinator for high-powered spread offenses at Southern Miss, Arizona State, and now Auburn. Given Malzahn’s coaching tree and their track record, Lindsey will certainly be another name to watch in the near future.
Manny Diaz — Defensive Coordinator, Miami
Remember Miami’s supersized turnover chain last year? You can thank Diaz for that. The well-traveled Florida native has managed to make an impact at every stop he’s been, starting with his first DC position at Middle Tennessee in 2006, followed by Mississippi State (twice), Louisiana Tech and Texas. He could be in high demand if the right job opens.
Seth Littrell — Head Coach, North Texas
A former Oklahoma Sooner running back, Littrell has already gotten Mean Green fans as excited as they’ve ever been in the modern era. While a 14-13 record in two seasons might not sound earth-shattering, Littrell’s teams have featured explosive offenses, gone 10-6 in conference play and been to back-to-back bowl games. With another big season in Denton, the 40-year-old Littrell might be on Power Five teams’ radars.