NCAA Football Penn State Nittany Lions

5 Head Coach Candidates for Penn State Nittany Lions

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5 Head Coach Candidates for Penn State Nittany Lions

bill o'brien
Matthew O'Haren - USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lions are in the market once again for a new head coach. Bill O’Brien will be taking his talents back to the NFL as the new head coach of the Houston Texans after two seasons as the leader of the Penn State program. O’Brien did a tremendous job guiding Penn State through tumultuous waters over the last two years and helped to keep the team together and competitive in the face of unprecedented NCAA sanctions. Can the Lions find another coach that is up to that challenge?

While the school will still be under the scrutiny of NCAA sanctions for a few more years, Penn State is still a very good college football job. It comes with its own set of challenges, to be sure, but the right man in the position can do plenty of good things as O’Brien has proven in his short stint with the school. The next head coach will have to be willing to take on those challenges and still find a way to keep the football team competitive on the field of play.

Thankfully for Penn State, there are plenty of coaching candidates available who appear like good fits to take over at Penn State. Athletic director Dave Joyner said that the school already had several "prominent" candidates and that the search would last "a matter of days rather than weeks." Some of the names attached to the position have ties to the program’s glory days while others have connections to the area around Penn State, and still others are just darn good coaches who deserve an opportunity to lead their own program. The question for Penn State will be which of them will be the right fit for the job.

Will the school go back to the NFL and pluck a promising coordinator to lead the team or will they stick to candidates with more college experience? Will they lean towards a coach with ties to the program or look outside the school’s history for its next leader? There are plenty of questions still left to be answered by the school as they move forward, but here are five early candidates to be the next head coach of the Penn State football program.

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5. Mike Munchak, HC Tennessee Titans

mike munchak
Don McPeak - USA TODAY Sports

Mike Munchak is a former Penn State offensive lineman who played for Joe Paterno in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. He’s been in the NFL for a very long time, most of it as an assistant coach, but has spent the last three seasons as head coach of the Tennessee Titans where he’s compiled a 22-26 record. Munchak’s status for next season with Tennessee is still uncertain and the 53-year-old was a candidate for the job the last time it was open a few years ago. Is now the time for him to return to Penn State?

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4. Greg Schiano, Former-HC Tampa Bay Buccaneers

greg schiano
Derick E. Hingle - USA TODAY Sports

While Greg Schiano may not be the hottest name in coaching after being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an 11-21 two-year stint in the NFL, the coach has ties to Penn State and a track record for rebuilding programs. He was a former assistant under Paterno before he took over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and achieved one of the most impressive rebuilding jobs in recent college football history. The question is now whether he can recapture that Rutgers’ magic or if he’s tainted by his failure in Tampa.

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3. Pat Narduzzi, DC Michigan State Spartans

pat narduzzi
Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans just completed one of their best seasons in school history, finishing the year 13-1 with a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl Championship to show for it. Pat Narduzzi has been a key piece of that success, building up one of the nation’s top defenses and making the Spartans a perennial Big Ten contender. He doesn’t have ties to the program but is one of the hottest names among assistant coaches looking to become head coaches. He was a candidate for the Connecticut Huskies job and seems like a lock to lead his own program sooner rather than later. Could he restore the defensive luster to Linebacker U?

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2. Greg Roman, OC San Francisco 49ers

greg roman
Cary Edmondson - USA TODAY Sports

Penn State had some pretty good luck the last time they plucked an offensive coordinator from the NFL, so why not try it again? Greg Roman is one of the most highly regarded offensive coaches in football and was a candidate for the Penn State job when O’Brien ultimately got it two years ago. He’s spent most of his time in the NFL but did coach under Jim Harbaugh for two years with the Stanford Cardinal before following Harbaugh to the San Francisco job. Could another highly regarded offensive coordinator from the NFL be the answer for Penn State?

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1. James Franklin, HC Vanderbilt Commodores

james franklin
Randy Sartin - USA TODAY Sports

The hottest name in coaching vacancies this offseason will be James Franklin of the Vanderbilt Commodores. Franklin has done a phenomenal job making Vanderbilt competitive with limited resources, taking the Commodores from the cellar of the SEC to three straight bowl appearances. There’s no doubt that Franklin would be a force if he were able to recruit for a historically powerful program like Penn State. He is a native of eastern Pennsylvania and was on the same staff as O’Brien as an assistant for the Maryland Terrapins in 2003-04. Is the hottest name the right name for Penn State’s job opening?