Speculation on coaching candidates begins again



USC head coach Lane Kiffin jogs off the field after losing, 62-51, to Oregon at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday, November 3, 2012, in Los Angeles, California.

By Charlotte Carroll and Michal Dwojak, Staff writers

While the search for a new Illinois head coach won’t officially begin for a few months, there has been plenty of speculation on who will be given the job. Here is a list of the top names being talked about currently. Many of these names have been discussed during Illini struggles over the past few years.

P.J. Fleck

One of the most talked-about options is the current head coach at Western Michigan, who replaced interim Illini head coach Bill Cubit there in 2012. In 2014, Fleck orchestrated the best turnaround in school history and the second-best turnaround in MAC history: The Broncos went from a 1-11 record in 2013 to a 8-4 record in 2014. Fleck was named MAC Coach of the Year for this achievement.

Lane Kiffin

Kiffin had two unceremonious exits from his two previous head coaching jobs: at Tennessee and USC. Currently he is Alabama’s offensive coordinator — he’s the biggest name on this list.

Bill Cubit

Now the interim head coach, performance and investigation results will determine whether Cubit sticks around longer than this year. The Illini offense has been much-improved under Cubit, jumping from 122nd to 71st in his first year alone. He could provide continuity, and is one of only two Beckman assistants who remains under contract past 2014, earning an added $100,000 extra a month for four months as interim coach.

Justin Fuente

In 2014, Fuente’s third season as the head coach at Memphis, the Tigers posted a 7-3 record. He made the third-year jump at Memphis that Beckman couldn’t make at Illinois. He also was an assistant at Illinois State for six years and knows the Midwest, which is valuable for recruiting

Brock Spack

Illinois State head coach since 2009, Spack led the Redbirds to a 2014 Missouri Valley Football Conference championship. Illinois State appeared in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs two times in the last three seasons. With seven Illinois State players from Chicago, Spack could also get Illinois back in the Chicago recruiting game.

Ed Orgeron

Orgeron last served as interim head coach leading USC to a 6-2 record in the last eight games of the 2012 season — the year the university fired Lane Kiffin. However, this season he will be coaching the defensive line at LSU. He was out of coaching for a year before taking this job and perhaps a head spot is in his future at Illinois. He is best known for his enthusiasm and his successful recruitment of Michael Oher when Orgeron was the head coach at Mississippi.

Luke Fickell

Fickell was Jim Tressel’s interim replacement at Ohio State in 2011, but was passed over in favor of Urban Meyer for the starting job. Despite that, Fickell remains as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator. He has proven he can lead a team in crisis, and has spent 12 years in the Big Ten, all at Ohio State. If he’s willing to depart from his beloved Buckeyes, Illinois is an ideal place for him to land.

Dino Babers

Entering his second season at Bowling Green, Babers is ready to improve his 8-6 record with the Falcons. His team won the inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl over South Alabama to cap off his first season.

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