UNLV Football: Five Deep Cut Coaching Candidates To Replace Tony Sanchez
Who will become the next head football coach of the UNLV Rebels? There are names out there, but we have some ideas.
An attractive job for the right coach.
Another disappointing UNLV football season comes to a close on Saturday and it will bring Tony Sanchez’s five-year stint as head coach to an end. That’s when the real work begins: The next man up will inherit a program which has made substantial investment in becoming successful without much luck thus far.
There are plenty of names attached to the job but, rather than repeat those same candidates here, we’d like to add a few ourselves that may appear off the beaten path. This is more of a thought exercise rooted in conjecture rather than any sources and if you have any names that you think the Rebels should consider, feel free to let us know on Twitter.
1. Troy Taylor, Sacramento State head coach (school bio). It isn’t often we pay attention to big turnarounds at the FCS level, but Taylor’s first year with the Hornets has been a huge success. After building offenses that ranked 45th and 53rd at Utah in 2017 and 2018, he earned Sac State’s first share of a Big Sky title ever this fall.
He’s also a Southern California native, which could be a draw for a program which typically courts recruits from the area, but it’s also anyone’s guess as to whether the one year of head coaching experience is enough to entice UNLV to take a long look.
2. Graham Harrell, USC offensive coordinator (school bio). The Trojans may have had a wildly uneven year, but it’s hard to place too much blame on Harrell’s offense. By SP+, the Trojans enter the season’s final weekend ranked ninth overall on the strength of a passing attack that has largely thrived despite turnover at quarterback.
It isn’t the first time he’s had success developing an offense, either, guiding Mason Fine and the North Texas Mean Green to three straight bowl appearances as Seth Littrell’s offensive coordinator. The Rebels might have to back up the Brinks truck to pull Harrell away from Heritage Hall, though.
3. Ruffin McNeill, Oklahoma assistant head coach/outside linebackers coach (school bio). There are still those people out there who question why East Carolina ever let McNeill go, but he’s done pretty well for himself since landing on his feet in Norman. He’s also spent time in Las Vegas before, too, as the defensive coordinator under Jeff Horton in 1997 and 1998.
At 61 years old, McNeill may be more of a steward than a long-term solution at this point, but that might be all the Rebels need to finally get over the hump with his 42-34 record over six years in Greenville.
4. Keenan McCardell, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers coach (team bio). If the program is giving consideration to those with ties to UNLV, the former Rebel receiver should be worth a look. McCardell might be something of a Brent Brennan-esque hire given his exclusive experience working with wide receivers, but he did have a hand in developing Stefon Diggs at Maryland and deserves some credit for D.J. Chark’s breakout in Jacksonville this season.
That narrow band of experience may ultimately be a drawback, however, since Brennan himself had experience in a number of position coach roles for well over a decade before taking the head job at San Jose State.
5. DeMarco Murray, Arizona running backs coach (school bio). A Las Vegas native, Murray is the deepest of deep cuts. He joined Kevin Sumlin’s staff in Tucson this fall and the early returns have been pretty solid: Four different Wildcat running backs have combined for 264 carries and averaged 5.55 yards per carry.
The fact he has just the one year of coaching experience, however, might be a bridge too far for a program so close to breaking through.