College football coaches who could be ready to make a leap

Iowa State's Matt Campbell will have his most talented and experienced Cyclones team this fall. AP Photo/Eric Gay

When it comes to the college football coaching carousel, the supply of candidates will always outweigh the demand for their services.

Not every coach who appears below will move up to a head-coaching position -- or, in some cases, better lead gigs than they already have -- when the carousel stops spinning sometime this winter or next spring. As noted in our coaching hot seat breakdown, the upcoming cycle might feature fewer vacancies than initially projected. But there will be movement, as always, and the goal here is to identify the coaches who will be most coveted for job openings in the coming months.

Like in the past, this list was divided into four categories: Power 5 head coaches, Group of 5 head coaches, Power 5 coordinators and a miscellaneous category that includes mostly FCS head coaches. For example, Bret Bielema and Butch Jones were both in this category in 2019, and landed jobs (Illinois for Bielema, Arkansas State for Jones) after the 2020 season. Also, both the "Group of 5 coaches" and "Power 5 coordinators" categories have tiers based on how candidates are viewed in the marketplace.

The list is long, but I tried to reduce the number of names as much as possible, removing the category of coaches who could rise to the NFL (as well as NFL coaches who could land college jobs). While compiling the rundown, I was surprised at how many current Power 5 coaches could be on the move if the right jobs open. Another surprise: There are more candidates who are elite defensive coordinators than are offensive play-callers. There are some talented head coaches and assistants who didn't make the list, some of whom recently were candidates to move up, but the goal here is to identify the most realistic list, given the market and the potential vacancies in the 2021-22 carousel. I also tried to avoid including coaches with buyouts that make moves this year highly unlikely, such as Indiana's Tom Allen.

Let's get started.