After three-plus unsuccessful seasons in West Lafayette, the Darrell Hazell era at Purdue came to an end on Sunday when the Boilermakers fired the former Ohio State wide receivers coach.
But just because Hazell didn’t work out well for Purdue doesn’t mean the Boilermakers should be shy about going back to the Buckeyes coaching tree. According to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken, every Ohio State assistant will be considered as a possible candidate.
Pretty much every assistant at Ohio State and some at Michigan are likely to be candidates for Purdue, I’m told.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 16, 2016
It makes sense. Urban Meyer’s staff is currently the gold standard in the Big Ten, as the Buckeyes have amassed a 56-4 record in Meyer’s 4-1/2 seasons in Columbus. If Purdue’s plan is to find a way to no longer be the doormat for the rest of the league, why not get a coach from the top team in the conference?
Considering every Ohio State assistant, though? That might be a stretch. But if the Boilermakers are serious about hiring a coach currently located in Columbus, here are the three who make the most sense:
Ed Warinner, offensive coordinator / tight ends
Warinner spent four seasons in charge of the Buckeyes’ offensive line before taking over tight ends this season. He is also calling plays from the booth for the first time this season, his second as Meyer’s sole offensive coordinator. As such, Warinner’s name has come up in head coaching conversations before. In 2014, Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported he interviewed for the opening at Kansas that ultimately went to David Beaty. A year earlier, Warinner interviewed for the head coaching job at Army, according to CBSSports’ Jeremy Fowler.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an offensive line coach with a more impressive resume than Warinner, who has developed Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell and Taylor Decker into NFL starters in his time at Ohio State. Warinner’s tenure as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator got off to a rough start a season ago, but since moving to coaching from the booth on game days at the end of the 2015 campaign, OSU’s offense, which currently ranks 12th nationally in 2016, has been one of college football’s best.
Having coached under Meyer at Ohio State and Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, Warinner possesses an impressive recruiting portfolio, which includes ties to the Northeast and Midwest. His lack of head-coaching experience could be a cause for concern, but at this point in his career, it’s clear he’s prepared to run a program on his own.
Luke Fickell, defensive coordinator / linebackers
Another longtime assistant who appears seasoned enough to become a head coach, Fickell brings with him a more polarizing tenure at his alma mater — where he has served as a coach in some capacity since 2002.
A one-time up-and-comer in the coaching ranks, Fickell’s reputation, fair or not, took a hit in 2011 when he served as the interim head coach in Ohio State’s 6-7 season after Jim Tressel’s resignation. After returning to defensive coordinator duties following Meyer’s arrival, two years of disappointing defenses followed for Fickell, making the 42-year-old a popular target for frustrated fans.
But in the past 2-1/2 seasons, Ohio State’s defense has returned to its ‘Silver Bullets,’ form, currently ranking sixth nationally in 2016. And while Fickell has had help from co-defensive coordinators in that time, he’s ultimately the coach who has final say over the Buckeyes defense.
More than that, Fickell has become one of the top recruiters on the Ohio State staff, luring the likes of 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan and 4-star linebacker Jerome Baker to Columbus. Purdue could have concern over Fickell being originally groomed under Tressel — as Hazell was — but with five years of coaching alongside Meyer now under his belt, the former Ohio State nose guard’s most recent experience could be what matters most to the powers that be in West Lafayette.
Greg Schiano, Associate head coach / co-defensive coordinator
On multiple occasions, Meyer has let it be known that he typically asks for a two-year commitment from his assistant coaches to stay in Columbus,
First-year co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano might be the exception.
“Truthfully as an assistant, it would have really been with only very few people,” Schiano said of his return to coaching this season. “Coach Meyer being at the head of the list.”
The reality is that Schiano isn’t only overqualified to be an assistant at the college level, but he might be in a position to land a head-coaching job at a place better than Purdue as early as this offseason. Before signing on with Meyer in Columbus, the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach interviewed to be the head coach at Miami (Fla.) last December, according to Feldman.
With the way his two-year stint in the NFL ended, Schiano had some image repairing to do and thus far at Ohio State, he’s done just that. Furthermore, Schiano only signed a one-year deal with the Buckeyes, although he chalked that up to nothing more than “a business thing.”
Nevertheless, Schiano’s history as a program-builder at Rutgers speaks for itself. But outside of Meyer, there may not be a coach at Ohio State who would tougher to lure to West Lafayette than Schiano, who could find himself in high demand this offseason.