Colorado Football Coaching Hot Board: 1.0

SO! The Colorado Buffaloes are hiring a new head coach. We all know this. Please listen to our podcast from a few weeks ago that explains each candidate.

As a follow up to that research, this is the official Ralphie Report hot board! We’ve listed two buckets – “no-brainers”, the candidates that could draw a straight line to the CU job, and the farther out options, that could add some fun. These are names that are within the realm of possibility for CU, in our opinion. Take a read and let us know some of your favorites!

Immediate “No-Brainers”

Jeff Grimes, OC, Baylor

Jeff Grimes is a staple on these lists for a reason. The Baylor offensive coordinator is a great fit for the job. He has coached at Colorado before, as the offensive line coach under Hawkins, and gone on to bigger and better things since then. He has never headed up a program, but that seems to be more of a fit thing. He coached Auburn’s OL during their national championship run, and he coached BYU’s offense during some of their best years under Kilani Sitake.

Grimes’ offense at Baylor is all him. His RVO, Reliable, Violent Offense, uses a lot of motion and relies on a great line up front. If you hire Grimes, you guarantee that your OL will be mediocre at worst, His deep Texas connections are definitely a plus in recruiting.

Bronco Mendenhall, Former HC, Virginia/BYU

Bronco Mendenhall is a name you are seeing more and more of. Mendenhall was the coach for BYU for 11 years before jumping to Virginia, where he coached for six more years. After last season, he retired and built himself a house in Montana, but through his podcast, Head Coach U, he has made it known that he is ready to get back into the game. And I believe him.

Mendenhall is a pretty great fit, in terms of candidate profile. He is an extremely established head coach, with 17 seasons under his belt, while still being relatively young at 55. He has finished with a losing record just twice in those 17 seasons, with one of those records being 6-7 at Virginia. He is an obvious regional fit, with strong Utah ties and experience at Oregon State, and an obvious institutional fit, having won at Virginia, where the academic situation is even stricter than CU and the apathy even higher from the administration. BYU has obvious institutional advantages at BYU, but he also won a LOT, and did it in fun ways.

The other thing that makes Bronco a good fit for the CU job: he’s a weird guy. Bronco definitely can nerd out and would absolutely fit in to the culture of Boulder win some ways. He is also a practicing Mormon, which may not play well within the Boulder bubble, but I don’t think that matters if he runs a clean, winning program. And after 17 years, that’s a pretty sure bet.

Ryan Walters, DC, Illinois

We’ve come the “alumni” portion of this list, but fortunately for us, this alum happens to be one of the hottest young coaches in the country. Ryan Walters comes from a long line of Buffs and is a Colorado native himself. He played from 2004-2008 before entering his coaching career. After a stop as Missouri’s DC, he is now helming Illinois’ unit. They are currently the best defense in the country statistically. That’s hard not to like!

Walters is 36, so he has plenty of time left in his career. He is also working under Bret Bielema, so the defense is pretty much all his doing. What he is working with at Illinois certainly doesn’t look like the talent at OSU or Michigan or even Iowa, so it is all points to great coaching by Walters. Young, good coach, alum, should be a slam dunk!

In my opinion, this is not the right move. Throwing Walters into a situation where he is taking over a program that is deficient in talent and wins seems like a recipe for disaster. I’d rather that he take a smaller job first, or even succeed elsewhere, as opposed to burning that bridge.

Jeff Traylor, HC, UTSA

Jeff Traylor would take quite a bit of money to uproot, but he’s worth it. The UTSA coach is a Texas high school legend and he recruits like it. He is UTSA’s third coach EVER, and he took over a rudderless program and immediately took it to respectability. He went 7-4 his first season and 11-1 his second season. His 3rd season, 2022, seems similarly destined for greatness.

He’s a recruiter and a culture guy, first and foremost. That sounds like something that Boulder needs right now. His buyout is pretty big, so he’s not popping up on a lost of lists, but Traylor would be a huge get.

Tom Herman, Former HC, Texas

Tom Herman is probably the most high profile name on this list. Herman was last seen dismantling the Colorado Buffaloes in the Alamo Bowl in 2020. He was fired after that game, spent a season trying to help the Chicago Bears on offense, and is now on TV. Herman is still young, under 50, and has plenty of juice on his name. He is a proven winner everywhere he goes, even if he doesn’t win at the level that some want. He is known as a bit of an asshole, depending on who you ask, but his offense scores points and he wins more than he loses. With connections in California and Texas, he has the right recruiting bonafides for the CU job. His coaching tree is deep and vast, so he should be able to grab a staff that could do good things.

Herman would certainly view CU as a stepping stone job, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, there are questions about how his tenure ended at Texas, as well as if CU is the right fit for him. Herman makes more sense to me at a place like ASU.

Farther Out Choices

Ricky Rahne, HC, Old Dominion

Love me some Ricky Rahne. He is a Colorado native son, who starred at Bear Creek High School before going to Cornell, and he has recently taken over and Old Dominion program that was down in the dumps. Rahne is a James Franklin disciple, who was with him at Kansas State, Vanderbilt and Penn State as the TE coach, QB coach, RB coach and OC at various points in his coaching career. He recruited gems like Pat Freiermuth and Trace McSorely, and while he wasn’t Joe Moorehead on offense, he wasn’t bad. Rahne is a program CEO guy more than an offense guy

Sean Lewis, HC, Kent State

Sean Lewis is another young coaching name that is frequently mentioned for bigger jobs. At Kent State, he has led an exciting offense for the team that consistently tests itself against the best teams in the country. Prior to Kent State, he was the offensive coordinator for Syracuse during their first miracle run under Dino Babers.

Lewis has plenty of experience running a program, especially for someone so young. He took over a disaster of a program, went 2-10 his first year, but then he immediately went 7-6 and 3-1 in his next two years. Lewis has a fun, up-tempo offense that works with a lot of rushes. Sounds like great synergy with altitude.

However, his results really aren’t eye-popping. He’s 21-29 overall and only 16-15 in conference. That’s not great.

Troy Taylor, HC, Sacramento State

These last two names reside in the Big Sky, the best conference in college football. I’m very intrigued by these two names. Taylor has an interesting history. A record-setting QB at California, he was a 3rd round draft pick and stuck around the NFL for a bit. After that, he went to Colorado as a grad assistant under Rick Neuheisel and then Ca as the WR coach, QB coach and TE coach. After that, he was Folsom High School’s head coach for 13 years, a long time to be a head coach anywhere. He was then plucked by Eastern Washington as their offensive coordinator and then boosted Tyler Huntley’s stock up as the OC for the Utah Utes for two years. Finally, he’s been the head coach of Sacramento State until 2019. They are one of the Big Sky’s biggest success stories and are currently in the FCS top ten.

Taylor is an offensive coach, and a pass-heavy head coach at that. If you are hiring him, you are betting that the will recruit and develop the QB position in a way that hasn’t happened for 20 years. It’s a huge jump up for Taylor, but he is familiar with Pac-12 football. This hire would need a lot of money invested into the defensive side of the ball.

Jay Hill, HC, Weber State

Hill is one of my favorite characters in this coaching carousel. His history is easy to read through. He played at Utah until 1999, and then coached at Utah until 2013. Since then, he’s been the head coach at Weber State University. Simple. Hill is a UTAH GUY. But past that, he is one of the most successful coaches West of the Mississippi. His first year at Weber State, they went 2-10. Since then, 2020 is the only year that had less than 6 wins, and that’s because they went 5-1. He’s reached the FCS quarterfinal twice and the semifinal once. He’s won 11 games in two seasons, 10 games in one seasons, and 2022 is currently sitting at 6-0.

Jay Hill knows defense. Weber State is stingy as hell and does not give up easy points. They have given up just 66 points in all of 2022. 66 POINTS! As an FCS team, they played Utah State this year and blew the absolute doors off of them.

FCS to Pac-12 is a HUGE jump, and this would be a risk. However, Hill’s coaching pedigree is fantastic and spending time around Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham is certainly a great start.

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