Deion Sanders is rivaling Lane Kiffin as the state of Mississippi's most visible football coach, social media presence and barn-storming recruiter for Jackson State football.
Sanders officially just started his first collegiate coaching job this week.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy already is again being linked to multiple NFL openings, perhaps most notably with the Houston Texans, and it seems inevitable that finally this is the pro carousel in which the former Colorado Buffaloes standout gets his overdue chance to become an NFL head coach.
Ditto San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, already gaining traction in Detroit this week after the Lions' firing of Matt Patricia following Detroit's blowout-loss at home on Thanksgiving.
Cincinnati's Marcus Freeman, architect of one of college football's best defenses this season for the undefeated and College Football Playoffs rankings No. 7 team, is unquestionably going to be a head coach sooner than later, his star so ascendant. It could happen this cycle, if Luke Fickell fields the multiple offers industry insiders believe are headed Fickell's way.
Still, back on track. Bieniemy, Freeman, Saleh and Sanders are but a handful of minority coaches throughout the ranks of football poised for head coaching opportunities, larger roles and greater visibility as the sport navigates an unprecedented crossroads with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, impending name, image and likeness changes sweeping into college athletics, social awareness initiatives and evolving transfer rules.
This story on FootballScoop, after numerous talks with coaches around the country, personnel directors, industry insiders and players, dives into the blossoming pool of minority candidates throughout the sport.
Some coaches are ready to run their own programs; others are on the verge of running their own offenses and defenses; additionally, plenty of coaches are finding their careers on upward trajectories.
Like Notre Dame defensive backs coach Mike Mickens, Brian Kelly's pick months ago from that Cincinnati staff after Mickens' playing career under Kelly at UC.
"I like the way he teaches," Kelly said of Mickens back before the start of what is, thus far, an undefeated season for the Fighting Irish. "He’s got a great style that’s unique in a sense that he’s a really good communicator, in terms of what he wants from you every snap.
"I mean every rep, every single practice rep there is some form of communication of what he wants from you. There’s a lot of dialogue, there’s a lot of teaching, but we’re moving as well; we are getting a lot of intensity through repetition, but there’s communication always. I really like that about Mike.”
At Florida, a one-loss team already owning a berth in the SEC Championship Game and a No. 6 CFP ranking, coach Dan Mullen is openly lobbying for his offensive coordinator, Brian Johnson, to get a head coaching opportunity.
“He’s obviously a great coach at his position,” Mullen said last month of Johnson, after Will Muschamp's firing at South Carolina and Mullen's vouching for Johnson to be a candidate. “Extremely smart, extremely involved in game-planning as far as an offensive guy goes. The ability to be a great play-caller and to design offenses. And even though he's young, a really mature guy for his age.”
Sanders isn't the only coach garnering notoriety among the Historically Black Colleges & Universities. Alcorn's Fred McNair, older brother of late Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl quarterback and former Heisman Trophy finalist Steve McNair, is a back-to-back winner of the SWAC's Coach of the Year award and his Braves' teams are four-time Eastern Division champions.
This list, despite our best efforts, won't touch every worthy candidate of any ethnicity among the thousands of coaches throughout football.
It is, however, an attempt to showcase and spotlight the important and undeniable rise of minority coaches in the game.
FootballScoop.com's Minority Coaches 2020-21 Watch List
Tony Alford, Ohio State, Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs
Robert Anae, Virginia Offensive Coordinator
Derrick Ansley, Tennessee Defensive Coordinator. Already with stints at Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and on Jon Gruden's Raiders staff before taking over the Vols' defense.
Andy Avalos, Oregon Defensive Coordinator
Dino Babers, Syracuse Head Coach
Tim Banks, Penn State Co-Defensive Coordinator
Reggie Barlow, Virginia State Head Coach
Eric Bieniemy, KC Chiefs Offensive Coordinator
Marcus Brady, Indianapolis Colts Quarterbacks Coach “Marcus Brady is one of a few guys (in the NFL) ready to be an offensive coordinator in the near future.”
Brian Bratton, Furman Special Teams Coordinator/WR Coach, former pro, has been in the NFL Minority internship programs, considered ready for the next step, was in play in SEC last year
Thomas Brown, LA Rams Running Backs Coach
Jamar Cain, Oklahoma OLB/DE Coach
Bernard Clark, Jr., Robert Morris Head Coach
Mike Daniels, Princeton High School (Cincinnati) & 2020 NFL Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship. Former UC Bearcats standout who already owns college experience at UC, Kennesaw State and Buffalo; has developed multiple high school All-Americans in the prep ranks.
Brad Davis, Arkansas Offensive Line Coach
Tony Elliott, Clemson Offensive Coordinator
Broderick Fobbs, Grambling State Head Coach
Marcus Freeman, Cincinnati Defensive Coordinator
Josh Gattis, Michigan Offensive Coordinator
Aaron Glenn, New Orleans Saints Defensive Backs Coach, former 15-year NFL veteran
Bush Hamdan, Missouri Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers Coach. Kuwaiti native already has stints with Davidson, University of Washington and Atlanta Falcons
Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator
Pep Hamilton, Los Angeles Chargers Quarterbacks Coach
Mike Hart, Indiana Running Backs Coach “Been a finalist for jobs at major P-5 programs. Helping put Indiana on national map. Definitely one to watch.”
Charles Huff, Alabama, Associate Head Coach/Running Backs, viable candidate for Vanderbilt head job
Ivin Jasper, Navy Offensive Coordinator
Brian Johnson, Florida, OC/QB Coach.
Larry Johnson, Ohio State, Associate Head Coach/Current Interim Coach (due to Ryan Day's COVID-19 positive test). Has been remarkably loyal to Buckeyes since 2014 but always a candidate to climb
Marcus Johnson, Missouri Offensive Line Coach
Brandon Jones, Houston co-OC / OL Coach
Des Kitchings, South Carolina, Running Backs Coach. Former N.C. State OC, nearly head coach at his alma mater, Furman, a few years ago
Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay Bucs Offensive Coordinator
Mike London, William & Mary HC, former UVA HC
Curtis Luper, Missouri Running Backs Coach, been close on a handful of head coach posts; should only be a matter of time
D'Anton Lynn, Houston Texans Secondary Coach. Son of Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, the younger Lynn is carving his own path in the NFL. Strong reputation as a defensive mind.
Skylor Magee, Coastal Carolina Defensive Line Coach
Van Malone, Kansas State, Cornerbacks Coach/Defensive Passing Game Coordinator
Brennan Marion, Hawaii Receivers Coach
Tee Martin, Tennessee, Assistant Head Coach/Pass Game Coordinator. Former Southern Cal OC has been in mix for multiple head coaching opportunities, career still has room to grow.
Dell McGee, Georgia Running Game Coordinator
Wes McGriff, Auburn, Defensive Backs Coach, former DC at Ole Miss under Hugh Freeze
Scottie Montgomery, Maryland Offensive Coordinator
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy Head Coach “Tough year this year, but a great leader who's done a remarkable job.”
Jeff Nixon, Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant/Running Backs. The Penn State grad and former Baylor Co-OC has been courted by multiple programs in the past couple of years as a head coaching candidate, including both Memphis last year and Southern Miss at the onset of this cycle.
Jay Norvell, Nevada Head Coach
Joker Phillips, Maryland Wide Receivers Coach & former UK head coach
Antonio Pierce, Arizona State, Associate Head Coach, Co-DC, NFL veteran
Kyle Pope, Memphis Defensive Line Coach
Kris Richard, Former Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator, elected to sit out this season with goal of better opportunities in upcoming coaching cycle.
Christian Robinson, Florida Linebackers Coach
Travaris Robinson, South Carolina Defensive Coordinator, was a finalist for Southern Miss head job.
TJ Rushing, Texas A&M Defensive Backs Coach
DeMeco Ryans, 49ers ILB Coach “DeMeco is going to be an NFL defensive coordinator in a few years.”
Robert Saleh, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator
Tony Sanchez, Former UNLV Head Coach who had remarkable prep run atop Bishop Gorman program
Deion Sanders, Jackson State Head coach
Cory Sanders, University of Pittsburgh Safeties Coach. Already has head coaching and defensive coordinator experience at the lower levels; elicited strong interest last cycle from a major college program.
Karl Scott, Alabama, Cornerbacks Coach. Already has D1 DC experience at Louisiana; expected to be in the mix for another defensive coordinator post in the upcoming cycle.
Larry Scott, Howard University Head Coach
Latrell Scott, Norfolk State Head Coach, former Tennessee and Virginia assistant also helped Dave Clawson's Richmond Spiders program to national success at the FCS level
Willie Simmons, Florida A&M Head Coach
Charlie Strong, Alabama Quality Control
Willie Taggart, FAU Head Coach
Lance Taylor, Notre Dane Running Backs Coach/Run Game Coordinator
Ryan Walters, Missouri, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
Clayton White, Western Kentucky DC/CBS Coach, two-time Broyles Award nominee. Already was in mix this cycle for the head job at Austin Peay
Frank Wilson, McNeese State Head Coach
Everett Withers, Texas QC (former North Carolina, James Madison and Texas State HC)
Demario Warren, Southern Utah Head Coach