Jeff Brohm leaves Purdue to go home to Louisville, opening up another Power 5 job. Brohm did an excellent job with the Boilermakers and left the program ranked high. He won 17 games the past two seasons, Big Ten West this year, and finished 12-6 in Big Ten play. Purdue is a tough job, and it’s probably getting tougher as Michigan continues its rise, Illinois springs back to life under Brett Bielema and Nebraska and Wisconsin add top-notch coaches in Matt Rowley and Luke Fickel respectively.
Purdue has produced plenty of fine NFL talent but on-field success in the Big Ten has been sporadic. The program has not won 10 games since 1979 – the school’s only 10-win season. Joe Tiller had been doing well for a generation but before Broome arrived, Purdue had struggled with football for a decade. Boilermakers, we think, will lean toward an abusive mind, since most of their success has come under Brohm and Tiller.
Dino Papers, Syracuse: Babers spent three seasons as wide receivers coach at Purdue in the early 1990s. He is a good attacking coach and has a great presence. Babers is 61 years old, but he appears to be at least 10 years younger than him. He also knows the area well from four impressive seasons as head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. He’s been up and down for Syracuse in his seven seasons there; This year, the Orange went 7-5 but peaked at No. 14 in the country before losing five in a row. And that’s a program that’s in a really tough place to win right now.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Calhoun has been doing well in the Air Force for a long time. He coached at the MAC Center in Ohio for six years in the 1990s. It is from 33 to 11 in the last four years. He is a really good coach and very good in attack. The Oregon native is 56 years old and could make a lot of sense for the Boilermakers.
Jason Candle, Toledo: Candle, 43, is another really good offensive mind Miami hired about a year ago as its offensive coordinator. He just led Toledo to the MAC title and has been on a lot of sports directors’ radars for quite some time. He got off to a fast start there, trailing teammate and form Mount Union teammate Matt Campbell, and went 11-3 in his sophomore season. Since then, his teams have been more good than great, but he has shown that he can always be a winner.
Ken Womack, South Alabama: Wommack has a strong defensive background and is a rising star in coaching. The 35-year-old knows the Big Ten well. His Indiana defense in 2020 played a huge role in the Hoosiers’ 12th-place finish. He ran a program that hadn’t had a winning season in 11 years at the FBS level and the Jaguars went 10-2; Their losses this year came by five points combined, including a one-point loss to top 10 UCLA. If Purdue isn’t closed on an offensive coach, he should get a solid minded one.
Candidate assistant coach
Among those men are the fourth with strong connections among the big ten we think might get some consideration and the fifth who might be an attractive option.
Todd Monken, Georgia OC: The latter is Monken, which is actually from Wheaton, Illinois, two and a half hours away. The 56-year-old won the national title last year and put the Bulldogs in good stead to win their second title. He helped turn former Stetson Bennett into a Heisman finalist and devised unique ways to exploit Brock Bowers’ talent. Monken, a former NFL OC, did an outstanding job as head coach at Southern Miss, taking the Golden Eagles from 1-11 his freshman year to 9-5 in his third season despite significant managerial challenges.
Jim Leonard, Defensive Coordinator for Wisconsin: Leonard, who went 4-3 as the Badgers interim coach this year, will be leaving his school after the bowl game. Immediately after taking 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 upgrade the defense. Will he be a good fit for Bordeaux as a captain? we will see.
Sherwin Moore, OC Michigan co-coach/offensive line: Moore has been a huge asset to Jim Harbaugh and has proven to be a very good caller this year. The 36-year-old O-line won a Joe Moore Award and this year’s unit serves her the most. Moore has been crucial to Jim Harbaugh’s staff, turning that team into a Big Ten bully and dominating arch-rival Ohio State in the past two years. The Wolverines rushed for 549 yards in those two games combined. We know Moore will be very selective about his next move and he’s tied up trying to win the national title, but the Purdue brass might want to stick around.
Ryan Walters, Illinois DC: Walters made a huge impact in the Big Ten in helping to break through the Illini, turning one of the country’s worst defenses into the second best (at 4.26 yards per game allowed). The 36-year-old Colorado producer, who hails from Missouri, has risen quickly and is a name to remember.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State passing game coordinator: Hartline was a candidate in Cincinnati and may be playing here. The 36-year-old is arguably the best coach in college football for his work in recruiting and developing the Buckeyes’ incredibly stacked receiver room. The Ohio native will have to consider a solid Big Ten job if he is offered. We know he can have talent.
Kevin Sumlin: The former Purdue linebacker has deep connections within the school. Sumlin, 58, was the hottest college football coach a decade ago. He fell short at Texas A&M after leading the Aggies to their first top 5 season in a half century. (He went 51-26 there, which is actually better than what his successor Jimbo Fisher has done there since.) Then Sumlin took Arizona and that proved to be a huge mistake for him and the Wildcats. He had a dismal run, 9-20. If revitalized and refocused, this could be an interesting fit.
Dan Mullen: The former Florida and Mississippi head coach spent two top 10 seasons before dropping out of a low 2021 after putting too much bad recruiting into his program. Mullen, 50, has spent a season watching TV. If he is rededicated and can make a good work team, he can also be an attractive option.
(Top photo of Dino Papers: Rich Barnes/USA Today)