Jeff Brohm is leaving Purdue to return home to Louisville to start another Power 5 job. Brohm’s work with Boilermakers has been excellent and speaks highly of the program. He has won 17 games over the past two seasons, is in the Big Ten in the West this year and is 12-6 in Big Ten competition. Purdue is tough work, though, and as Michigan continues its ascent, Illinois adds top-tier head coaches Matt Lull and Luke Fickel in Brett Bielema and Nebraska and Wisconsin, respectively. It might just get tougher.
Purdue has produced a lot of great NFL talent, but great success in the Big Ten has been spotty. The program hasn’t won 10 games since 1979 — the school’s only 10-win season. Joe Tiller was good a generation ago, but Purdue had a decade of football before Brohm arrived. We suspect Boilermakers would be prone to aggressive thinking, since most of their success comes from Brohm and Tiller.
head coach candidate
Dino Babers, Syracuse: Barbers served as Purdue’s wide receiver coach for three seasons in the early 1990s. He’s a good offensive coach and has a lot of presence. Barbers is 61, but looks at least 10 years younger. He also knows the area inside and out over four impressive seasons as head coach of Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. His seven seasons at Syracuse have been up and down; this year, the Orange are 7-5 but top-ranked. Ranked 14th in the country before losing five games in a row. It’s a tough project to win right now.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Calhoun has long excelled in the Air Force. In the 1990s, he taught for six years at MAC in Ohio. Over the past four years, he has a record of 33 wins and 11 losses. He’s a very good coach and he’s very good offensively. The Oregon native is 56 years old and could mean a lot to the Boilermakers.
Jason Candle, Toledo: Candle, 43, is another so good offensive mind that Miami nearly hired him as its offensive coordinator a year ago. He just led Toledo to the MAC title, and he’s been on the radar of a lot of athletic executives for a while. He got off to a fast start there, taking over from his buddy and former Mount Union teammate Matt Campbell, who went 11-3 in his second season. Since then, his teams have not only been great, but he’s shown he can be a consistent winner.
Kane Womack, South Alabama: Womack has a solid defensive background and is a rising star in the coaching world. The 35-year-old knows the Big Ten very well. His defense in Indiana in 2020 played a huge role in Indiana’s No. 1 finish. 12. He takes over a program that hasn’t had a winning season at the FBS level in 11 years, and the Jaguars are 10-2; their two losses this year add up to five points, including a loss to top-10 Cal UCLA by one. If Purdue doesn’t lock down an offensive coach, he should get strong consideration.
assistant coach candidate
Of these No. 4 guys with strong ties to the Big Ten, we think they might get some consideration, and No. 5 could be an attractive option.
Todd Monken, Georgia OC: The latter was Monken, who was actually from Wheaton, Illinois, two and a half hours away. The 56-year-old won a national title last year and helped the Bulldogs to their second title. He helped turn former lackey Stetson Bennett into a Heisman finalist and created unique ways to capitalize on the talents of tight end Brock Bowers. A former NFL OC, Monken had a stellar stint as head coach of the Miss South, improving the Golden Eagles’ record from 1-11 in his first year to 9-5 in his third season despite enormous administrative challenges.
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin defensive coordinator: Leonhard, who went 4-3 this year as the Badgers’ interim head coach, will leave his alma mater after the bowl game. After he took over, the Badgers beat Brohm and the Boilermakers 35-24. He has proven that he is one of the smartest defenders in football. Expect Leonhard to be a hot commodity where colleges and the NFL look to upgrade defenses. Is it suitable for Purdue as a leader? wait and see.
Sherrone Moore, Michigan Union OC/offensive line coach: Moore has been a huge asset to Jim Harbaugh and has proven to be a very good conductor this year. The 36-year-old O-line won the Joe Moore Award, and this year’s unit is well deserved. Moore has been vital to Jim Harbaugh’s staff, turning the team into a Big Ten juggernaut and dominating archrival Ohio State over the past two years. In those two games, the Wolverines rushed for a total of 549 yards. We know Moore will be very picky about his next move and has been focused on winning a national title, but the Purdue Brass might still want to lend a hand.
Ryan Walters, Illinois, DC: Walters had a major impact in the Big Ten in helping the Illini break through, turning one of the worst defenses in the country into the second-best (4.26 yards allowed per game). The 36-year-old Colorado product from Missouri quickly rose through the ranks and is a name to remember.
Ohio State passing game coordinator Brian Hartline: Hartlin is a candidate in Cincinnati and could play a role here. The 36-year-old coach is arguably the top coach in college football because of his job recruiting and developing the Buckeyes’ incredible receiving room. If offered, the Ohio native would have to consider a steady Big Ten job. We know he can acquire talent.
Kevin Sumlin: The former Purdue guard has deep connections within the school. Sumlin, 58, was the hottest coach in college football a decade ago. After leading the Aggies to their first top-5 season in half a century, he failed at Texas A&M. (He went 51-26 there, which was actually better than his successor, Jimbo Fisher, after that.) Sumlin then took Arizona, which proved to be a big mistake for both him and the Wildcats . His performance was frustrating, leading 9-20. This could be an interesting option if he reenergizes and refocuses.
Dan Mullen: The former Florida State and Mississippi State head coach had two top-10 seasons before finishing at the bottom of the 2021 class because of a number of poor recruits in his scheme. Mullen, 50, spent a season doing TV. He could also be an attractive option if he recommits and can put together a good team.
(Dino Babers above: Rich Barnes/USA TODAY)