Jeff Brohm is leaving Purdue to return to Louisville to open another Power 5 job. Brohm has done an excellent job at the Boilermakers and leaves the program on a high note. He won 17 games in the last two seasons, the Big Ten West this year, finishing the Big Ten game 12-6. Purdue is a tough job, though, and it’s likely only gotten tougher as Michigan continued its rise, Illinois came back to life under Bret Bielema and Nebraska and Wisconsin added top-notch head coaches in Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell, respectively.
Purdue has produced plenty of fine NFL talent, but big success on the field in the Big Ten has been spotted. The program has not won 10 games since 1979 — the school’s only 10-win season. Joe Tiller was good a generation ago, but before Brohm’s arrival, Purdue had a dud of a decade of football. We suspect the Boilermakers will lean towards an offensive mindset as most of their success lay under Brohm and Tiller.
Head coach contender
Dino Babers, Syracuse: Babers spent three seasons as coach of the Purdue wide receivers in the early 1990s. He is a good attacking coach and has a lot of presence. Babers is 61 but looks at least 10 years younger. He also knows the area from four impressive seasons as head coach at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. He’s paced Syracuse in his seven seasons; That year, the Orange went 7-5 but peaked at No. 14 in the nation before losing five straight. And that’s a program that’s really hard to win now.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Calhoun has done well in the Air Force for a long time. He trained at the MAC in Ohio for half a dozen years in the 1990s. He’s 33-11 in the last four years. He’s a really good coach and very good on offense. The Oregon native is 56 and could make a lot of sense for the Boilermakers.
Jason Candle, Toledo: Candle, 43, is another really good offensive head that Miami almost hired as offensive coordinator a year ago. He just guided Toledo to a MAC title and has been on the radar of many sporting directors for some time. He got off to a quick start there, trailing his buddy and former Mount Union teammate Matt Campbell 11-3 in his sophomore season. Since then, his teams have been beyond amazing, but he’s shown he can be a consistent winner.
Kane Wommack, South Alabama: Wommack comes from a strong defensive background and is a rising star in coaching. The 35-year-old knows the Big Ten well. His defense in Indiana in 2020 played a big part in the Hoosiers finishing 12th overall. He took over a program that had never had a successful season in 11 years at the FBS level, and the Jaguars went 10-2; Their two losses that year totaled five points, including a one-point loss to UCLA’s top-10. Unless Purdue is tied to an offense coach, he should be heavily considered.
Candidates for assistant coaches
Among these fourth-ranked men with strong ties to the Big Ten, we think there might be some considerations, and a fifth that could be an attractive option.
Todd Monken, OK Georgia: The latter is Monken, who is actually two and a half hours away from Wheaton, Illinois. The 56-year-old won the national title last year and has put the Bulldogs in good position to claim a second win. He helped transform former walk-on Stetson Bennett into a Heisman finalist and created unique opportunities to capitalize on tight end Brock Bowers’ talent. Monken, a former NFL OC, did an excellent job as the head coach at Southern Miss, leading the Golden Eagles from 1-11 in his freshman 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 the Badgers’ interim head coach, will leave his alma mater after the bowl game. Immediately after his acquisition, the Badgers beat Brohm and the Boilermakers 35-24. He’s proven to be one of the smartest defenders in football. Expect Leonhard to be a hot commodity in college and in the NFL for places looking to improve defense. Would be a fit for Purdue as a leader? We will see.
Sherrone Moore, Michigan Co-OC/Offensive Line Coach: Moore has been a great asset to Jim Harbaugh and has proven to be a very good play caller this year. The 36-year-old’s O-line has won the Joe Moore Award, and this year’s unit deserves it even more. Moore was vital to Jim Harbaugh’s staff, making that team the bully of the Big Ten for the past two years and dominating arch-rivals Ohio State. The Wolverines rushed for a combined 549 yards in those two games. We know Moore will be very picky about his next move and is determined to win a national title, but Purdue Brass might still want to reach out.
Ryan Walters, Illinois DC: Walters made a big impression in the Big Ten by helping Illini break through and turning one of the worst defenses in the country into the second best (at 4.26 yards per play allowed). The 36-year-old Colorado product, who hails from Missouri, has risen quickly through the ranks and is a name to remember.
Ohio State Passing Coordinator Brian Hartline: Hartline was a candidate at Cincinnati and could be in the game here. The 36-year-old is arguably the top coach in college football for his work recruiting and developing the Buckeyes’ incredibly stacked receiver space. The Ohio native would have to consider a solid Big Ten job if offered. We know he can get talent.
Kevin Sumlin: The former Purdue linebacker has close ties to the school. Sumlin, 58, was college football’s hottest coach a decade ago. He fizzled out at Texas A&M after leading the Aggies to their first top-five season in half a century. (He went 51-26 there, which is actually better than his successor Jimbo Fisher has been since.) Sumlin then took Arizona and that proved to be a huge mistake for him and the Wildcats. He had a dismal run, going 9-20. If he’s re-energized and refocused, this could be an interesting fit.
Dan Mullen: The former Florida and Mississippi State head coach had two top-10 seasons before catching up with his program in 2021 after a slew of poor recruiting. Mullen, 50, spent one season in television. If he signs up and can put together a good staff, he could also be an attractive option.
(Top Photo by Dino Babers: Rich Barnes/USA Today)