Let's take a look at the coordinators who could be primed to land head-coaching gigs as early as this offseason.
Manny Diaz: The Texas defensive coordinator proved at Mississippi State that he could put together a fierce defense with good talent. In Austin, he has proven that he could make a very good defense great. His personality is infectious, so recruiting won't be an issue. And he has ties to very fruitful recruiting grounds. The Miami native has worked in the biggest conferences in the country, and he has been the main force behind the revived Longhorns' defensive attack. With Texas expected to have yet another dominant defensive campaign, Diaz could be the hottest commodity on the market. Expect his name to be linked to a variety of openings.
Pat Narduzzi is destined for big things after putting together consisent defenses in East Lansing.
Pat Narduzzi: The Michigan State defensive coordinator has been able to transform the Spartans into the most athletic team in the Big Ten. His defense is the closest thing the Big Ten has to SEC speed, and it showed its worth last year in the bowl win over Georgia. This is a defense that made sure it was not overshadowed by Kirk Cousins and the Spartans' sound offensive attack. A Rose Bowl berth is the next step for MSU, and it won't get there without yet another strong defensive campaign. And Narduzzi will provide it, which he should parlay into a head gig. His aggressive, multiple-look defense causes headaches for Big Ten offensive coordinators. And his personality would serve him well on the recruiting trail as a head coach.
Kirby Smart: While we know that Nick Saban is the architect of Alabama's annual physical and dominant 3-4 defense, Smart has been able to learn under arguably the best head coach in the country. The Crimson Tide defensive coordinator works in a highly organized, professional environment that Saban has created, and that includes a strong, dedicated commitment on the recruiting trail. Some wonder if Smart is ready right now for a head job. The same questions, however, were asked of Jimbo Fisher. And Florida State is once again in BCS discussions for 2012. Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley still have a lot to prove at Florida and Tennessee, of course, but being a Saban disciple has merit. I believe both Muschamp and Dooley were the right hires at their respective SEC schools, and it's very likely that Smart is going to get a chance to show his worth as the face of a program sooner rather than later. In fact, maybe Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart would look to Smart to replace Dooley if the Vols head coach has a rough 2012. After all, Hart came to Knoxville from Tuscaloosa.
Chad Morris: The Clemson offensive coordinator has seen his stock soar after the prolific unit he led last year in his first season as the Tigers' OC. Morris is making big money at over $1 million per season, so Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins can possibly help him make even more bank as a head coach if the Tigers can repeat their success this fall. Not a bad position to be in for a guy who was a high school head coach and one-year OC at Tulsa before being hired to run the offense of the Tigers.
Todd Monken: The former Jacksonville Jaguars assistant has a chance to really raise his stock this season after taking over for Dana Holgorsen last season and inheriting Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. Things will be a bit more difficult in Monken's second year because he will have a freshman QB and a new set of playmakers to mold. However, this is a situation where the best coaches prove their worth. So if the Pokes can have a successful transition post-Weeden, Monken could be a hot commodity. And keep in mind that he can put his stamp a little bit more on this offense one year removed from Holgorsen.
Other names to keep in mind: Stanford OC Pep Hamilton, Oregon OC Mark Helfrich, Georgia DC Todd Grantham and Florida State DC Mark Stoops.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave