Keeping the flame burning

Urban Meyer has yet to comment on the Notre Dame opening, and is still preparing the Utes for their bowl game. So what better time to talk about his possible successors?

While the U is certainly a higher profile school than when Urban arrived, it’s no slam dunk that the Utes can woo a big-name coach. Even though he’s only been here two years, Meyer is a deity among Ute fans and incoming candidates know it will be virtually impossible to match the success and fan interest accrued during the Urban era.

But without further ado, here are some brave souls that may be called upon to replace The Legend:

Kyle Whittingham

Utah Defensive Coordinator

The Good: He’s been here since McBride’s early days, so he knows the university better than anyone. Whittingham has earned his shot at a head-coaching gig after overseeing one of the best defenses in the league year in and year out. Being that he is already in the program, his hiring would create the least amount of turmoil among players, and he would have a good shot of keeping Alex Smith from jumping to the NFL.

The Bad: He’s a BYU alum, which could lead to an interesting bidding war with the Cougars for his services. He was passed over for head coach two years ago, when Chris Hill wanted a new HC with more of an excitement factor. Will Ute fans embrace a defensive coach without Urban’s high-octane fireworks?

The Bottom Line: He would be a natural fit, but look for him to end up at BYU.

Mike Sanford

Utah Offensive Coordinator

The Good: Sanford and Meyer were co-architects of the spread offense when they were assistants at Notre Dame. He would keep the same system if he were promoted to head man. Sanford has been lauded as a good recruiter, and has a good rapport with the current players.

The Bad: When he was the OC at Stanford, his offenses were ordinary at best. He was Urban’s second choice for coordinator, and you wonder how much autonomy he has in his position.

The Bottom Line: Hill will probably look for someone with a better head coaching pedigree, and Sanford will go to UNLV.

Gregg Brandon

Bowling Green Head Coach

The Good: He would be as close to replacing Meyer with Meyer as you could get. Brandon has compiled a 19-6 record at BGSU, virtually the same as Urban had in his tenure their. He was Urban’s first choice for the Ute offensive coordinator, and would bring the same system. He is a Colorado native and has coached at Utah State and Weber State.

The Bad: Like Meyer, he could view the Ute job as a steppingstone. Hill would probably be leery hiring another coach that would likely break Ute fans’ hearts again.

Bottom Line: As much as the hire would infuriate Bowling Green fans, Brandon would be the best long-term fit. Even if Smith bolts, there is no reason why Brandon couldn’t eventually have the same success as Meyer.

Mike McCoy

Carolina Panthers

Quarterbacks coach

The Good: He’s one of the up and coming offensive minds in the NFL, receiving accolades for transforming Jake Delhomme from an average QB to a Super Bowl star. He was responsible for some great moments as a quarterback at Utah in the mid-’90s, and would have no reason to leave his alma mater for another job.

The Bad: He’s never even been a coordinator, and probably needs more coaching seasoning. McCoy is only 32, and would most likely be too big of a gamble at this point, with Hill wanting to maintain the current momentum.

The Bottom Line: Put Mike’s name in the Rolodex and check back in five years.

Pat Hill

Fresno State Head Coach

The Good: He has turned Fresno State from a bottom of the barrel California school to a year in and year out contender. His teams regularly upset BCS schools, and he has had success in developing rough talent into NFL players. He is Ron McBride’s son-in- law, and was an assistant coach at the U early in his career.

The Bad: While Meyer kept his team focused on one game at a time, Hill seems to have a tough time motivating the Bulldogs for the late-season cupcakes. Every year, Fresno gets its dream season derailed by looking past games they should win. Hill has been a hot name for a while, and you have to wonder why a big school hasn’t given him a shot yet.

The Bottom Line: He will probably get a look, but he just doesn’t seem to be the right fit for the Utes.

Steve Kragthorpe

Tulsa Head Coach

The Good: The son of a BYU assistant, Kragthorpe took over a two- win Golden Hurricane team, leading them to Tulsa’s first eight-win season in nearly 60 years and a bowl appearance.

In a state where Tulsa is third fiddle by a huge amount, he has managed to bring recruits and interest back into the program. He still has family in Salt Lake City, and was interested when the Ute job was open in 2002.

The Bad: His reputation took a mild hit this season, going 4-8 in his second year. While he has local ties, Kragthorpe wouldn’t be a splashy hire, especially given Tulsa’s low profile.

The Bottom Line: He could be a dark horse. This season not-withstanding, Kragthorpe has been a coach on the rise and would probably be comfortable building his career at Utah. Don’t bet against him coming out of the pack at the end.

Gary Crowton

Former BYU Head Coach

The Good: A proven recruiter, his head coaching experience would….. OK, OK, I’ll stop.

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