Our Status Report series looking at each league’s head coaches is now complete, and now it’s time to turn our gaze toward the assistant coaches of FBS.
We’re going to highlight coaches that are looking to take on more responsibility in their careers. That may be a head coaching position, a position coach-to-coordinator jump, a move to a higher-paying staff or simply an increased role within their own staff. This is based on conversations with coaches both on their own staffs and recommendations within the industry.
Before we get going, a disclaimer: This list is in no particular order, and is by no means a complete and total list.
Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator/linebackers coach: The most obvious pick not only in the conference, but in all of college football. Venables has been ready for years to make the leap to a Power 5 head coaching position, it’s just a matter of time.
Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator, running backs coach: Dabo Swinney’s staff is loaded with quality individuals, and Elliott is right at the top of the list. He and Jeff Scott took the reins of the offense from Chad Morris. Elliott would be a natural Group of 5 head coaching candidate.
Eliah Drinkwitz, NC State offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach: Rhett Lashlee gets the lion’s share of the attention as a Gus Malzahn protege, but Drinkwitz is another Gus Bus member that spread his wings earlier. He was the offensive coordinator at Springdale High School in Arkansas immediately following Malzahn’s departure, then joined him as a quality control at Auburn and followed him to Arkansas State, where he coached running backs for Malzahn and then latched on with Bryan Harsin in Jonesboro and at Boise State. Now in his second season at NC State, Drinkwitz is a possibility to attract suitors from other Power 5 schools looking for offensive coordinators.
Craig Candeto, Georgia Tech quarterbacks/B-backs coach: Georgia Southern is looking for a head coach. It’s an accepted truth that the Eagles will look for a triple option specialist to fill the role, and Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech staff and Ken Niumatalolo’s Navy staff are chock full of them. If that comes to pass, this former Navy quarterback and Division III head coach is an obvious candidate to slide into an larger role either on his current staff or at Navy.
Sean Lewis, Syracuse co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Lewis has been a Dino Babers disciple since the Eastern Illinois days. Anyone looking to hire a coordinator that runs the Briles-created offense that isn’t actually a member of the Briles tree will talk to Lewis.
Manny Diaz, Miami defensive coordinator/linebackers: Next to Venables, Diaz is the ACC’s best head coaching candidate. He owns coordinator experience in Conference USA, the Sun Belt, the Big 12, the SEC and now the ACC, and his top-20 defense has helped Miami go without a loss for a full calendar year now.
Ephraim Banda, Miami safeties coach: Banda has been Diaz’s right-hand man since the Texas days, where this grinder won Diaz over with his ability and willingness to do anything asked of him with a positive attitude. That reputation has spread beyond his own staff, too.
Brad Cornelsen, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: An Oklahoma native just like Justin Fuente, Cornelsen first worked with Fuente at Illinois State a decade ago and joined his staff at Memphis, where he streamlined 6-foot-7 quarterback Paxton Lynch into a first-round pick. Now he’s helped Virginia Tech post a top-15 ranking behind true freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, who ranks No. 16 nationally in passing efficiency.
Lyle Hemphill and Brad Sherrod, Wake Forest safeties and linebackers coaches: Dave Clawson’s Wake Forest teams have built a brand of strong defense, and this year’s staff features two valuable coaching prospects. Both Hemphill and Sherrod put together impressive runs as coordinators at the FCS level — Sherrod at Sam Houston State and Hemphill at Stony Brook, where his peers selected him the FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year in 2015 — and the pair have helped the Demon Deacons hold on to a top-30 ranking despite losing coordinator Mike Elko to Notre Dame. Any Group of 5 school looking to hire a defensive coordinator would be wise to speak with these two.