Jeff Brohm leaves Purdue to return home to Louisville, where he opens another Power 5 job. Brohm has done an excellent job with the Boilermakers and is leaving the program with a good feeling. He won 17 games over the past two seasons, the Big Ten West this year, finishing 12-6 in Big Ten play. Purdue is a tough job though, and it’s probably only gotten harder as Michigan continues its rise, Illinois comes back to life under Bret Bielema and Nebraska and Wisconsin adding top-level head coaches, Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell, respectively.
Purdue has produced a lot of great NFL talent, but its major on-field success in the Big Ten has been spotty. The program has not won 10 games since 1979—the school’s only 10-win season. Joe Tiller was doing well a generation ago, but before Brohm arrived, Purdue had a dud of a decade of football. We suspect the Boilermakers lean towards an offensive spirit as most of their success came under Brohm and Tiller.
Head Coach Candidates
Dino Babers, Syracuse: Babers spent three seasons as Purdue wide receivers coach in the early 1990s. He is a good attacking coach and has a lot of charisma. Babers is 61, but looks at least 10 years younger. He also knows the area well from four impressive seasons as head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. He’s been up and down Syracuse in his seven seasons there; this year, the Orange went 7-5, but peaked at No. 14 in the country before losing five in a row. And that is a program that is now very difficult to win.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Calhoun has done well in the Air Force for a long time. He coached in the Ohio MAC for half a dozen years in the 1990s. He’s 33-11 for the past four years. He is a very good coach and very good in attack. The Oregon native is 56 and could make a lot of sense for the Boilermakers.
Jason Kaars, Toledo: Candle, 43, is another really good offensive spirit that Miami nearly hired as offensive coordinator a year ago. He just guided Toledo to a MAC title and he’s been on the radar of many athletic directors for a while now. He got off to a fast start there and succeeded his mate and former Mount Union teammate Matt Campbell to go 11-3 in his sophomore season. Since then his teams have been more than amazing, but he has shown that he can win consistently.
Kane Wommack, South Alabama: Wommack has a strong defensive background and is a rising star in coaching. The 35-year-old knows the Big Ten well. His 2020 Indiana defense played a big part in the Hoosiers finishing No. 12. He took over a program that has never had a winning season at the FBS level in 11 years and the Jaguars went 10-2; their two losses this year were five points combined, including a one-point loss to top-10 UCLA. If Purdue isn’t tied to an offensive coach, he should get a lot of attention.
Assistant coach candidates
Among this rank four men with strong Big Ten ties, we think they could get some attention and a fifth that might be an attractive option.
Todd Monken, Georgia OC: The last is Monken, who is actually from Wheaton, Illinois, two and a half hours away. The 56-year-old won the league title last year and has put the Bulldogs in good position to win a second. He has helped turn former walk-on Stetson Bennett into a Heisman finalist and has come up with unique ways to exploit the talent of sleek Brock Bowers. A former NFL OC, Monken did an outstanding job as head coach at Southern Miss, taking the Golden Eagles from 1-11 in his first year to 9-5 in his third season, despite major administrative challenges.
Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin Defense Coordinator: Leonhard, who won 4-3 this year as interim head coach of the Badgers, will leave his alma mater after the bowl game. Immediately after he took over, the Badgers defeated Brohm and the Boilermakers 35-24. He has shown himself to be one of the brightest defensive minds in football. Expect Leonhard to be a hot commodity in college and the NFL for places looking to improve defense. Does Purdue fit as a leader? We will see.
Sherrone Moore, Michigan co-OC/offensive line coach: Moore has been a huge asset to Jim Harbaugh and has proven to be a very good play-caller this year. The 36-year-old’s O-line won the Joe Moore Award, and this year’s unit deserves it even more. Moore was critical of Jim Harbaugh’s staff, leading this team to become the bully of the Big Ten and dominate arch-rival Ohio State for the past two years. The Wolverines rushed for 549 yards in those two games combined. We know that Moore will be very picky about his next move and determined to win a national title, but Purdue Brass may still want to get in touch.
Ryan Walters, Illinois DC: Walters made a big impact in the Big Ten by helping Illini’s breakthrough, transforming one of the nation’s worst defenses into the second best (with 4.26 yards allowed per play). Hailing from Missouri, the 36-year-old Colorado product has quickly risen through the ranks and is a name to remember.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State Passing Game Coordinator: Hartline was a candidate at Cincinnati and could be in play here. The 36-year-old is arguably the top coach in college football for his work recruiting and developing the Buckeyes’ incredibly stacked reception area. The Ohio native should consider a solid Big Ten job if offered. We know he can get talent.
Kevin Sumlin: The former Purdue linebacker has deep ties within the school. Sumlin, 58, was the most popular coach in college football a decade ago. He fell out of Texas A&M after leading the Aggies to their first top-5 season in half a century. (He went 51-26 there, which is actually better than his successor Jimbo Fisher has since done there.) Sumlin then took Arizona, and that turned out to be a big mistake for both him and the Wildcats. He had a dismal run, going 9-20. If he regains energy and is focused, this could be an interesting match.
Dan Mullen: The former Florida and Mississippi State head coach had two top-10 seasons before the bottom dropped him in 2021 after a lot of poor recruiting overtook his program. Mullen, 50, spent a season watching TV. If he’s re-committed and can put together a good staff, he could also be an attractive option.
(Top photo from Dino Babers: Rich Barnes/USA Today)