Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

Oregon's search for the a new head coach moved right through Sunday night with no resolution. 

Strong indications are that Oregon had its man in place but a deal fell through in the 11th hour. That man was likely Florida's Jim McElwain, whom on Sunday I ranked as the most likely replacement for Mark Helfrich.  

McElwain fits the bill as a relatively big name coming from a major program in a major conference. Those reasons might have led McElwain, who has openly denied being interested in Oregon's vacant job, to come to his senses and elect to remain at Florida.

So where does that leave Oregon and athletic director Rob Mullens? Scrambling.

The Ducks, who reportedly have already interviewed Boise State's Bryan Harsin and Southern Florida's Willie Taggart, are now conducting more interviews. On the list could be Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck.

But all indications are that Oregon wants a coach with a track record of success in a Power Five conference. That leads us to my new candidate rankings 2.0: 

1. Mystery candidate: Oregon wants to hire a coach with at least some name recognition out of a major conference. That person could have been McElwain, but now he is out. Expect UO to reach out to some similar candidates, if they haven't already. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen is a name that has been tossed around. Other names will likely be in the mix. 


2. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan: Fleck had not been interviewed by Oregon as of Sunday, confirmed by a UO source. That doesn't mean he won't be interviewed today or tomorrow. Fleck is all the rage right now, but could be more hype than substance at this point. His team does, however, play defense, an area where Oregon must improve. The Broncos rank 25th in the nation in total defense (353 yards allowed per game) and 16th in scoring defense (19.5). His team ranks 16th in total offense (496.7) and eighth in scoring offense (43.5).  

Fleck would be a gamble, and that might be what Oregon needs. Seeking a potential star coach would be far sexier and intriguing than hiring someone who has been strong but not great at another major program. Fleck, and other young coaches mentioned below, are on the rise. Who knows how great one of them could become?

Hiring a more proven major college coach that hasn't been to the national championship game or even won a major conference championship to replace someone in Helfrich who has done both would be rather ho-hum. At the very least, Fleck would win the press conference and re-energize the fan base with his rah-rah approach. 

3. Willie Taggart, South Florida: Out of all of the coaches from smaller conferences, Taggart, who has interviewed with Oregon, is the most intriguing. He has rebuilt Western Kentucky and South Florida. His offense ranks 10th in the nation (515 yards per game) and seventh in scoring 43.6). But his defense ranks 120th. Sound familiar? Still, the fact that he has rebuilt two programs should carry some weight. Just not sure he would beat out Fleck if the latter gets an interview. 

4. Bryan Harsin Boise State: Another guy that is on the rise. Intriguing choice who is 31-8 at Boise State. A source has confirmed reports stating Harsin has interviewed with UO. The question mark here is that Harsin took over a strong program from Chris Peterson after he left for Washington three years ago. Helfrich has been marginalized for taking over a well-oiled machine from Chip Kelly. 

5. Matt Rhule, Temple: I throw him in simply because, why not? He is a young coach at 39 with a strong record. Plus, folks are saying that Temple's recruiting coordinator is now following all of Oregon's recruiting commits on Twitter. Hmmm...