Last week, Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News reported that Kevin Sumlin is USC's top choice to be its next football coach. While Sumlin is certainly a hot name in coaching circles, USC should give strong consideration to the man currently leading on the sidelines.
Since Ed Orgeron took over as interim coach from Lane Kiffin, the Trojans have gone 4-1. Dealing with a rash of injuries and unfair sanctions, a severely outmanned Trojan squad has looked more impressive each week. They defeated a very good Oregon State team 31-14 and then thrashed Cal 62-28 in its two most recent games.
Orgeron has infused the program with the same positive energy that Pete Carroll brought to the sidelines. Some coaches motivate through fear, but Orgeron has his team playing hard because they love their coach. I don't think USC could have played any better since he took over.
Some critics of Orgeron point to his 10-25 record in three seasons as head coach of Ole Miss. But sometimes coaches struggle in their first jobs and learn from their mistakes when they get a second chance. Most notably, Bill Belichick failed as head coach of the Cleveland Browns before becoming a Hall of Fame coach with the New England Patriots.
Besides, Ole Miss is a really difficult place to coach, as it's in the toughest division in college football, but lacks the pedigree of programs like Alabama, LSU, and even Arkansas and Auburn. For what it's worth, Houston Nutt did take Ole Miss to two straight Cotton Bowls with a team consisting of mostly Orgeron recruits.
Orgeron may not have a perfect resume, but none of USC's other rumored candidates are perfect either.
Kevin Sumlin has won a lot of games, but his squads have always had horrible defenses. His success at Houston and Texas A&M has come with the help of two spectacular college quarterbacks in Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel. The one year that Keenum was hurt at Houston, Sumlin's team only went 5-7. I'm not convinced that Sumlin's spread offense is a good fit for USC, and I don't know if they have the right quarterback to run it on their roster.
Boise State's Chris Petersen is a popular name among some alumni. But Boise State has taken a bit of a step back since moving into the more difficult Mountain West Conference, and they haven't been as good since Bryan Harsin left as offensive coordinator three years ago. Petersen was preceded by Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins, both of whom failed as head coaches at Arizona State and Colorado, respectively.
Some people like Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who is a USC alum. But the Broncos defense has been really bad this year, and Del Rio is tied up as interim head coach for the foreseeable future. Del Rio has zero collegiate coaching experience, and he only went 68-71 as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
All of the names that USC is rumored to be interested in are excellent coaches. That includes Sumlin, Petersen, and Del Rio. But I'm not sure if they'll ultimately be the right fit at USC. I do know that Orgeron has proven to be a good fit at USC. He's a first-rate recruiter, he's empowered his coaches to succeed, he's won over his players, and the Trojan football community has embraced him. USC can consider all of the coaches they want, but the right guy might already have the job.
Who do you think is the right football coach for USC? You can use the Ranker poll to rate your favorites for the job: