10 candidates for UNC coaching job: Will Tar Heels target top assistant or Group of Five boss?

Pete Thamel
Where will North Carolina turn next after firing head coach Larry Fedora? (AP)
Where will North Carolina turn next after firing head coach Larry Fedora? (AP)

With the news that North Carolina has parted ways with coach Larry Fedora, here are the top 10 possible replacements for athletic director Bubba Cunningham to consider in Chapel Hill.

1. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

He’s won nearly 80 percent of his games the last four years and can be picky, as he’ll return a loaded team next year. His deep ties in the Carolinas make him an obvious choice for the reboot at UNC. He’s got a deep and successful history with offensive football, which will be attractive to Cunningham.

2. Tony Elliott, Clemson Co-OC

He’s the top coordinator in the ACC right now, with an impeccable reputation both for his offensive play calling and high character. He’s also the caliber of recruiter who could help UNC fend off out-of-state recruiters for the top local prospects. He’s been picky about jobs, but this one may be hard to resist.

3. Mike Norvell, Memphis

His penchant for high-octane offenses would sell well in North Carolina. He’s been consistently good at Memphis and could give some juice to a program that’s faded behind Duke, NC State and Wake Forest locally. Lacks ACC experience, as his tenure at Pittsburgh was during Big East days.

4. Neal Brown, Troy

He’s the other regional Group of Five candidate, and he brings experience as a coordinator in both the SEC and Big 12. Brown’s signature upsets of Nebraska and LSU the past two seasons at Troy have ignited high-end interest. He’s got an engaging personality that will help sell UNC football in The Triangle.

5. Seth Littrell, North Texas

Last seen in Chapel Hill as the associate head coach and offensive coordinator of a team that finished 11-3 and in the top 20 in both scoring offense and total offense. Littrell has thrived in three seasons at North Texas, flipping the Mean Green into an immediate bowl team in all three seasons and Conference USA contender the past two seasons. Cunningham knows exactly what he’d have in Littrell, as they overlapped in Chapel Hill.

6. Ryan Day, Ohio State OC

He’d be a great cultural fit at UNC, as he has an understated personality that would go well in Chapel Hill. His Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer roots would be a magnet for quarterbacks and skill-position players to help make UNC football fun again.

7. Jason Candle, Toledo

He comes from the Mount Union tree, which has represented relentless winning. The easiest sell for an AD is that he can become the ACC’s version of his old boss, Matt Campbell, at Iowa State. Candle can mold an offensively explosive and tough-minded football program in a division filled with mediocrity and regression.

8. Bill Clark, UAB

Hard to ignore all the winning, as Clark has not only successfully revived the UAB program, he’s continued to win relentlessly. The dominance of Conference USA this season has rocketed him onto athletic directors’ radars, especially in the South. He deserves serious consideration for national Coach of the Year honors.

9. Mel Tucker, Georgia DC

The veteran coordinator has been a stalwart at both Georgia and Alabama, giving him the ability to implement the vaunted “Process” at UNC. He’s worked at both LSU and Ohio State, along with NFL stints in Cleveland as defensive coordinator and Jacksonville as the coordinator and interim head coach.

10. Mike Elko, Texas A&M DC

He had prolific success during his stint as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator. That has carried on to Notre Dame and Texas A&M, where the Aggies are No. 2 in rushing defense this season. He has strong East Coast roots as he’s from New Jersey, graduated from Penn and has worked at Richmond and Wake Forest.

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