NCAA Football Louisville Cardinals

5 Candidates for the Next Head Coach of Louisville Cardinals

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5 Candidates for the Next Head Coach of Louisville Cardinals

charlie strong
Andrew Weber - USA TODAY Sports

Charlie Strong has accepted the head coaching position with the Texas Longhorns, replacing long-time head coach Mack Brown in Austin with the job of rejuvenating the Longhorns in the Big 12. He leaves the Louisville Cardinals better than when he arrived there as the talent level in the program has made huge gaines over the last four seasons. Louisville has also upgraded their facilities greatly as they make the transition to the ACC in 2014.

It's an appealing job that has been very good to first-time head coaches like Strong. Louisville presents a great opportunity with the talent and the stage they offer for someone to come in and make a major impact as a head coach right away. The Cardinals definitely have something to offer prospective coaching candidates and will need to find the right coach to lead them through their transition next fall.

The school is sure to move quickly to find their next head coach to make sure the program maintains the momentum of the Strong era through the recruiting period. There are a number of excellent candidates out there to go after, but some are simply better fits for Louisville, either because of scheme, history, or mutual interest. It's a competitive market out there for the top coaches and Louisville will have to be aggressive to get the man they want to lead their team in 2014.

As the search begins in earnest, Louisville will narrow their search and go hard after some of the hot names in coaching right now. While they don't quite have the pull of a Texas to lure top head coaches away from their current programs, they do have an enticing opportunity for a coordinator to cut his teeth leading a program. With that being said, here are five names to watch for the next head coach of the Louisville Cardinals.

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5. Chad Morris, OC Clemson Tigers

chad morris
Joshua S. Kelly - USA TODAY Sports

Chad Morris has built a very impressive resume for himself as the offensive coordinator of the Clemson Tigers over the last three seasons. He's helped build Clemson into an elite offensive power and put himself at the top of a lot of coaching search wish-lists. Now might be the time for Morris to move on with both Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins leaving for the NFL this offseason and Morris does have experience coaching against the ACC.

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4. Kirby Smart, DC Alabama Crimson Tide

kirby smart
RVR Photos - USA TODAY Sports

The long-time defensive coordinator for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, Kirby Smart has consistently coached up the Tide D to be one of the best in the country year in and year out. The Georgia-native has a long run in the SEC as an assistant coach but did spend two seasons with the Florida State Seminoles as a graduate assistant in 2002-03. There's no questioning his ability to coach but is he ready to branch out on his own to take the job at Louisville?

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3. Mark Hudspeth, HC Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

mark hudspeth
Jim Brown - USA TODAY Sports

Mark Hudspeth took over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns in 2011 and turned them into one of the more exciting non-BCS teams to watch in recent years. He also guided ULL to their first bowl win in 41 years and has gone a perfect 3-0 in the postseason at the helm of the Cajun program. He's absolutely fearless as a coach and will lead his team with a high-energy approach and might just be ready to make a step up to a major program.

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2. Pat Narduzzi, DC Michigan State Spartans

pat narduzzi
Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans are perennial contenders in the Big Ten because of the work that Pat Narduzzi does with the Sparty defense. He's one of the best assistants in the country right now but has shown a great deal of loyalty to Mark Dantonio, passing on some opportunities to stay on the staff with MSU. The Spartans just gave the entire coaching staff a big raise following their Rose Bowl Game victory but Narduzzi may finally be ready to branch off on his own to lead his own program.

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1. Derek Mason, DC Stanford Cardinal

derek mason
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

According to reports, Louisville's preferred successor to Strong is defensive coordinator of the Stanford Cardinal, Derek Mason. Over the last three seasons, Mason has made the Stanford defense one of the toughest in the nation and been recognized as a top assistant coach as a finalist fo the 2012 Broyles Award and is a hot commodity for coaching jobs, though he's repeatedly stated that he is waiting for the "right" job to leave Palo Alto. Could Louisville be that job?