Who will replace Jeff Scott as USF football coach?

Monica Herndon/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

USF is looking for a new football coach after firing Jeff Scott on Sunday. So who is next for the Bulls?

Let’s address some realistic candidates and some long-shots:

Jackson State coach Deion Sanders

We’ll start here because multiple USF fans (and at least one former player) have brought up the Florida State and NFL legend. He would be a dynamic recruiter and bring the sizzle USF needs to stand out in a pro market. He is also 24-5 (9-0 this year) in three seasons at Jackson State. But we can’t see him leaving the HBCU for anything other than a Power Five job.

Former Houston/Texas coach Tom Herman

The Bulls have already failed with one former Longhorns coach (Charlie Strong), but Herman is intriguing and is believed to have interest in the job. His 22-4 stint in the AAC at Houston included a Peach Bowl win over FSU. He is working as a CBS Sports analyst this season.

Former USF coach Jim Leavitt

A section of the Bulls fan base will clamor for Leavitt, who coached the program from its first game until his controversial exit after the 2009 season. He took the Bulls to five bowl games and No. 2 in the country in 2007, but it’s hard to see USF going back to this well. He hasn’t been a head coach since the Bulls fired him after concluding he struck a player and interfered with the school’s investigation.

Former UCF/Nebraska coach Scott Frost

Like Herman, he failed in the Power Five but dominated the AAC; just ask the Knights about the national title they claim from 2017. The idea of Frost coaching UCF’s rival is juicy.

Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken

The former Bucs assistant helped the Bulldogs win it all last year and took Southern Miss from 1-11 to 9-5 as its head coach. Would this job interest him?

Indiana coach Tom Allen

No, we can’t envision Allen leaving a Big Ten job for the Bulls. But if things go south at Indiana — he’s 3-6 this season and 1-5 in the conference — maybe he’d go south to USF. He was the Bulls’ defensive coordinator in 2015 and started his coaching career in Hillsborough County at the now-defunct Christian high school, Temple Heights.

Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham

The former FSU assistant has ties to the state and is viewed as a rising star in the profession. We expect the Arizona native to be in the mix for the Sun Devils job, though he might need to start his head coaching career in the Group of Five.

Florida State offensive coordinator Alex Atkins

Like Dillingham, Atkins is a promising young assistant pegged as a future head coach after rebuilding a historically bad offensive line. His name has been mentioned in the Charlotte search, but USF would be a step up from that.

Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh

Golesh is involved in one of the best offenses in years, helping the Volunteers to a breakthrough season. He was also Josh Heupel’s co-offensive coordinator at UCF in 2020, so he has some history in the state and with the conference.

Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz

He was the architect of Miami’s elite 2017 defense but was fired after going 21-15 in three seasons as the Hurricanes’ head coach. The Miami native and FSU alumnus has connections all over the state. Would he generate enough buzz and wins for a Bulls program in need of both?

Former Florida coach Dan Mullen

We don’t expect Mullen to stay in his ESPN analyst role for long. We also wonder whether his sights are set on bigger jobs.

Former Memphis/Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente

Like Frost and Herman, Fuente succeeded in the AAC (19-6 in his last two years with one conference title) but failed at the Power Five. Unlike Frost, he doesn’t have any obvious Tampa or Florida ties.

Toledo co-offensive coordinator Robert Weiner

He coached Plant High to four state championships, so he is well known among area coaches. He is in his third season with the Rockets (who ended October with one of the nation’s top 25 scoring offenses) and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in the Mid-American Conference. Weiner also briefly took a job on USF’s staff in 2013 before changing his mind.

Howard coach Larry Scott

The Sebring native was a member of the Bulls’ inaugural recruiting class, worked at Tampa’s Freedom High and Wharton High, and was a USF assistant from 2005-12. He was also an assistant with the Gators’ and Miami’s interim coach in 2015, so he’s well established in the state. But he is only 6-16 since taking over Howard in 2020.

Former Florida coach Urban Meyer

An obligatory inclusion because we’ve been asked about the three-time national champion. It seems highly, highly unlikely that the Bulls would hire him after his turbulent tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars or that his ego would allow him to take this job.

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