Tom Herman will reportedly leave Houston after two seasons to take over at Texas. The Cougars are now looking for a new head coach to continue the program’s run of success. Here’s a coaching candidate wish list with five potential replacements for Herman.
Tom Herman has decided to leave Houston and pursue a bigger job, as Texas hired the former Ohio State offensive coordinator who led the Cougars to several high-profile wins in his two seasons at the helm.
At the end of the day, Houston could not overcome Herman’s lure of running the state’s top program, so the goal for the Houston administration is to get someone who can continue the upward trajectory of the program.
Which replacements might athletic director Hunter Yurachek be looking at as he composes his coaching wish list?
Let’s take a look at five names that ultimately could emerge as potential candidates.
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator
The Sooners offensive coordinator was raised in Lubbock and was a walk-on for Texas Tech, playing quarterback behind Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons. Following an assistant gig under Mike Leach, Riley served as offensive coordinator for five seasons at East Carolina under Ruffin McNeill. He made the move to OU before last season and helped jump-start the offense in Norman, leading the Sooners to the No. 7 unit in the country as well as a berth in the College Football Playoff. He also won the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach. OU has looked like one of the best offenses in the country this year after a rough start, and there’s no doubt that Riley will be a head coach one day. Houston would provide a great opportunity.
Major Applewhite, Houston Offensive Coordinator
Promoting from within makes a lot of sense, and Applewhite should get his shot at running a Group of Five program sooner than later. The former Texas Longhorns signal-caller has a long history as a quarterbacks coach and was Nick Saban’s first offensive coordinator at Alabama. He’s also had stops at Rice and Texas as an assistant before becoming Herman’s OC last year. The high-powered Cougars offense is fun to watch and would not miss a beat schematically. While the defense has shined in some of the team’s spotlight games, the offense has remained the bread-and-butter of the operation. If Applewhite is not the internal choice, then…
Todd Orlando, Houston Defensive Coordinator
…Expect Orlando to get the call if he does not go with Herman to Texas as his DC. After helping Utah State rank seventh nationally in scoring defense in 2013 and No. 12 in 2014, he joined Herman shortly after the former Ohio State OC was hired by the Cougars. He has an aggressive mindset when it comes to defense, which is exactly what we saw when Houston blew out Florida State and Louisville this fall. Prior to Utah State, Orlando spent two years as the defensive coordinator at FIU, where he helped mentor safety Jonathan Cyprien, who was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 33rd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. In 2010, Orlando’s defense helped UConn capture the Big East Championship and play in the Fiesta Bowl. He’s been a great DC but deserves a shot at the head gig, and the current group of players would love the move.
Philip Montgomery, Tulsa Head Coach
The 44-year-old was hired by the Golden Hurricane in December 2014 after previously serving as the offensive coordinator at Baylor. In 2013, he was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, which helped propel him to his current gig. Montgomery won six games in his first season and took the program to its first bowl game since 2012. He has been speculated as a potential candidate to take over the program in Waco, but that won’t happen because Art Briles was his mentor and Baylor obviously wants to move on from that era. He served as an assistant under Briles for 16 seasons at Baylor, Houston and Stephenville (TX) High School. Montgomery, who coordinated Baylor’s high-powered offense and called plays during his last four seasons in Waco, would be able to keep the Houston offense exciting. The move would be a little odd considering that both Tulsa and Houston occupy the AAC West, but this would be an obvious upgrade for Montgomery.
Seth Littrell, North Texas Head Coach
The Mean Green won just one game in 2015. Enter Littrell, who has North Texas at 5-6 entering its regular-season finale and on the cusp of a possible bowl bid in his first season. The former Oklahoma team captain, who won the 2000 national championship in Norman, coached under Mike Leach at Texas Tech from 2005 to 2008 and was at Arizona from 2009 to 2011. He really started to turn heads after he moved on to work under Larry Fedora at North Carolina in 2014 and was part of the Tar Heels’ 11-3 team in his final season before he moved onto UNT. He has only been there a year, but he has already started to re-establish himself in the Lone Star State. He is bound for a bigger job sooner than later.