UCF football coaching rumors: Who will replace Josh Heupel at UCF?

With Josh Heupel leaving to take the job at Tennessee, who will be the next UCF football coach?

Danny White left UCF to become the new athletic director at Tennessee last week, and now he’s taking his former football coach with him. On Wednesday morning, Josh Heupel was hired to replace Jeremy Pruitt as the Volunteers’ football coach.

Heupel had a 28-8 record over three seasons as UCF’s head coach, as he succeeded Scott Frost in his first head coaching job. Now he heads to the Power 5, and the SEC.

Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon has been named UCF’s interim head coach in the immediate wake of Heupel’s departure. Following the hiring of a new permanent athletic director will come the search for a new football coach. Shannon and offensive coordinator Alex Golesh are the internal candidates.

So who could be the next football coach at UCF?

Yahoo’s Pete Thamel has offered a long list of candidates to replace Heupel. But let’s put some focus on the head coaches he highlighted first.

  • Lance Leipold – Buffalo
  • Jamey Chadwell – Coastal Carolina
  • Sean Lewis – Kent State
  • Skip Holtz – Louisiana Tech
  • Mike Neu – Ball State
  • Gus Malzahn – Former Auburn head coach
  • Philip Montgomery – Tulsa
  • Bill Clark – UAB
  • Will Healy – Charlotte
  • Jason Candle – Toledo
  • Brent Brennan – San Jose State
  • Jay Norvell – Nevada

Malzahn is the biggest name on the list, and he was naturally in the rumor mill attached to the Tennessee job. Clark turned down a possible chance to replace Malzahn at Auburn, so leaving for UCF feels unlikely. It seems inevitable that Leipold will get a bigger job at some point. At a glance Norvell, Chadwell, Brennan, Candle, Lewis, Healy and Holtz are all pretty interesting in some way, with Neu and Montgomery a little less interesting.

Having coaches leave the way Frost and now Heupel have for Nebraska and Tennessee, respectively, is a testament to the success UCF has had. It also lines them up to be searching for a new coach more often than they’d like, along with finding a new AD right now too. But if recent history is any indicator, even with a late coaching search, they’ll get the right guy.

Among the assistants who could be in the running for the UCF job, Thamel suggests Clemson’s Tony Elliott, Texas A&M’s Mike Elko, newly-hired Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, North Carolina’s Phil Longo, Oklahoma’s Alex Grinch, USC’s Graham Harrell and Georgia’s Dan Lanning among the high-profile coaches who could be in the mix.

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