Okay, Hear me out…
Zak Hill, Arizona State offensive coordinator
This is where you start thinking outside the box and Hill, who might raise some eyebrows as a former Boise State coach, could fit the bill if he’s looking for a bigger opportunity. He’s had a hand in developing some strong offensive talents throughout his coaching career, after all, from Vernon Adams at Eastern Washington to former Bronco Brett Rypien and current Sun Devil Jayden Daniels.
Arizona State hasn’t had quite the year it envisioned on the field, but they still rank 44th in points per drive, 35th overall by available yards percentage earned per drive, and 25th by offensive SP+. Considering that the Bulldogs haven’t been shy about bringing in other former Broncos like Lee Marks and Kirby Moore in recent years, what’s one more?
Vince Kehres, Toledo defensive coordinator
If the Bulldogs are interested in identifying someone with a DeBoer-like coaching background, Kehres could be an interesting candidate. Rockets head coach Jason Candle brought him in as a coordinator in 2020 after a wildly successful run as the head coach at Division III power Mount Union, where he compiled a 95-6 record and two national titles in seven years despite having to succeed his father, Larry, who won more national titles at Mount Union than any other coach at any level in the history of football.
Though Toledo has underperformed as a team in 2021, it’s hard to pin that on Kehres’s defense. The Rockets currently rank 21st by defensive SP+, 16th in available yards percentage allowed, and 15th in points per drive allowed, so there’s a decent case to be made that he’s something like the next Lance Leipold if he’s interested and the Bulldogs are eager to pounce.
Major Applewhite, South Alabama offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Applewhite’s first stint as a head coach at Houston didn’t go as well as Cougars fans would’ve hoped, but his 15-11 record there in two years isn’t terrible and he’s spent the last two years as an analyst at Alabama (2019) and a coordinator at South Alabama after a brief flirtation with the same role at Arkansas State. After years of lackluster performances, the Jaguars offense perked up in 2021 thanks to Applewhite’s efforts with transfer quarterback Jake Bentley, who enjoyed the best overall season of his career.
The drawback, of course, is that Applewhite doesn’t have any immediate ties to the West Coast. Then again, neither did DeBoer and that didn’t stop him from taking over for Tedford two years ago. As far as dark house picks go, you could do a lot worse and, at a minimum, eight wins aren’t likely to get him fired.
Brennan Marion, Pitt wide receivers coach
Marion is, without a doubt, a coach on the rise and his work in helping to improve what had traditionally been a bland Panthers offense is just the latest evidence. The architect of the Go-Go offense at Howard, he’s gotten huge results from his units at every stop, from the Bison to William and Mary and Hawaii and now Pitt, where Jordan Addison is now a Biletnikoff Award finalist.
While he may not be interested in leaving Pennsylvania, especially since there may be an offensive coordinator position opening should Mark Whipple decide to retire, it may be worth offering a bigger role through which he can fully realize his innovations.
Robbie Rouse, North Dakota running backs coach
Bulldogs fans will remember this running back great, who’s started building a pretty promising coaching career over the past couple years. In 2019, Rouse coaches the running backs at Division II Augustana, who went 9-3 and made the playoffs that year. That encouraged Fighting Hawks head coach Bubba Schwiegert to bring him to Grand Forks, where he’s helped star running back Otis Weah to back-to-back appearances on the all-Missouri Valley Conference team.
Granted, moving from a FCS position coach role to being a FBS head coach is probably a bridge too far, but the program has tended to value coaches with explicit ties in some way or other, so it could be worth reaching out simply to turn every stone over.