Following Central Michigan's decision to move on from the John Bonamego era following a 1-11 finish to the 2018 season, we've been hearing a number of interesting names in connection with the Chippewas opening.
Candidates that have either expressed an interest in the CMU opening, or that CMU is targeting (both per our sources) run the gamut from coaches with previous major college head coaching experience, to very successful small college head coaches, to coordinators or assistants with no head coaching experience at all.
One of the more interesting names we continue to hear connected to Central Michigan is former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Stoops was let go back in early October following some defensive struggles with the Sooners. Of course, Stoops has midwest roots as a Youngstown, Ohio native and has previous head coaching experience leading the Arizona program from 2004-2011 where he went 41-50 overall, including back to back 8-5 seasons in 2009 and 2010.
Landing Stoops would create quite a buzz in MAC country, but there are a number of other coaches that seem to be in the mix as well.
The one name that seems to be garnering the most support from fans and many on campus in Mount Pleasant is Ferris State (D-II - MI) head coach Tony Annese. In what feels like the most natural fit, Annese has been a staple in the Michigan coaching ranks from his rise as a head coach at the high school ranks from his days leading programs at Montrose HS, Ann Arbor Pioneer HS, and Jenison HS before leading Muskegon HS to a few state titles, Annese compiled a record of 225-43 at the prep ranks. Since 2011 Annese has found himself winning at the college level in Michigan with a 30-4 mark at Grand Rapids CC (JC) before moving on to build Ferris into the national powerhouse and national title contender that they've been the last few seasons. He's been able to recruit the best players in Michigan, and attracted some of the top Division II talent nationally as well and is very well connected with high school coaches in Michigan and around the midwest.
Annese has been passed over for jobs at Western and CMU before in the past few years, leading many to question whether this opportunity at CMU, with a new AD in place since their last search, may be his best shot yet. His 2-seed undefeated Ferris State squad squares off against top-seed Ouachita Baptist this weekend on the road in the D-II quarterfinals.
Since the process began, we've heard from a number of folks that Michael Alford - who was named CMU's new athletic director back in May of 2017 - is reaching back to his roots during this search. Alford joined the Chips as AD after previously working as the senior associate athletics director for administration and development at Oklahoma. Based on what we've been hearing, Alford is drawing on his experience down south to shake the trees on a number of deserving coaches outside the midwest. His ties to Oklahoma obviously makes that connection with Mike Stoops even more intriguing... We also understand that Alford has interest in Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. It is not known whether Bedenbaugh would consider that path at this time. Bedenbaugh is considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the country and certainly has the leadership characteristics to step up to the head coaching role should he have that desire.
Other names we continue to hear connected to the search are Michigan State offensive line coach Mark Staten, Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House (another Stoops connection, although this time through Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops), as well as some whispers that Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurchich may also be getting some consideration.
In the past few seasons, Staten has been in the mix for at least one other head coaching opportunity, and his recent track record for developing NFL talent has been on the rise with relatively unheralded recruit Jack Conklin going from walk-on to a top 8 pick in the NFL Draft where he made the Pro Bowl as a first-team selection as a rookie. Although the Spartans struggled mightily on offense this season, Staten has no shortage of great recruiting relationships in the state that CMU may value tremendously.
Matt House is an interesting name as well. Kentucky just wrapped up one of the best seasons in school history, making the Wildcats defensive coordinator and interesting possibility for a lot of folks. To end the season, House's defense ranked 7th nationally in scoring defense (16 ppg), 18th in passing defense (181 ypg), while allowing just over 150 yards rushing per game.
Yurcich caught the eye of Mike Gundy after leading a prolific offensive attack at Shippensburg (D-II - PA). A relative unknown that Gundy sought out after his offensive coordinators continued to leave for head coaching jobs, Yurcich has been impressive since joining the staff in 2013 and has continued to improve the OK State offense. So if offensive acumen and ties to the midwest are on the wish list, he can check off both those boxes.
While support from the decision makers is unclear, in conversations with coaches and others connected to CMU, Jaguars running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley (a former Michigan running back and assistant coach under Jim Harbaugh), and current Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh are also guys with understandable support.
Stay tuned to The Scoop as this one continues to play out.