The second thought every Husker fan had after learning that Bo Pelini had been dismissed (in other words, after the "OMG/WTF/YAY/FU" reflex) is who will replace him. We posted our list Sunday, as did most other media outlets. Somewhere inside of One Memorial Stadium, there's probably another list - and it's the only one that matters. It may not even be written down; it may have only been verbalized in phone conversations with University leaders with a need to know.
Who would be on that list? That's a good question, and one we'll probably never have any idea of until we start seeing signs of Eichorst in action. And even then, we'll probably miss a few names. But rather than look at specific names, let's group some of the candidates together and see if we can determine a direction.
The Hot Assistant
This is where Scott Frost comes in, though he's not the only one. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi are here as well. These names are the easy ones because they come from successful programs and are viewed as ready to run their own team. But is that what Eichorst is looking for? Frank Solich and Bo Pelini were hired at Nebraska as first time head coaches, while Bill Callahan only had two years as a head coach (working for Al Davis). So while Tom Osborne worked out in the end without having any head coaching expertise prior to Nebraska, going with coaches lacking head coaching experience in college hasn't worked for Nebraska lately.
The Mid-Major Head Coach
Colorado State's Jim McElwain and Memphis' Justin Fuente are the darlings of this bunch, who've done impressive things with their schools. But they have limited experience and and even more limited track record of success. Fuente went 3-9 last season, while McElwain went 8-6 in 2013. Are these guys "one year wonders"? We simply don't know.
Want a sobering thought? Dan Hawkins went 12-1, 13-1, and 11-1 for Boise State before going to Colorado. We know how that turned out.
Established Head Coaches
Minnesota's Jerry Kill fits in here, as does former Rutgers' coach Greg Schiano. Their resumes are impressive, and they seem like they would be near the top of the list. Each has questions, though. Schiano's reputation took a hit in Tampa Bay last season, and he's spent the last year refining his vision for his next job. He talks about "bringing the juice," which sounds an awful lot like a drink served on Eichorst's "Energy Bus." Kill's question mark revolves primarily around his past problems with epilepsy, which have been under control for a year (Also whether he'd leave Minneapolis for another Big Ten job in the same division.)
This is where we casually mention Jim Tressel and remind folks about his NCAA sanctions. Considering Nebraska's motto which begins with "integrity", we'll simply laugh that idea off and dismiss anybody that seriously advocates the notion of Tressel as either a troll stirring up trouble or a complete idiot.
The OMG/Bold Hire
After Alabama grew weary of rolling the dice on guys they hope would grow into the job, they went big and pursued Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins long and hard. It took weeks and 'Bama repeatedly came up short, but persevered and got the man they wanted. Did they spend a lot? Yep. Did it work out for them? What do you think?
I don't think Nebraska is going to pursue Saban. Texas tried - and failed. But right below the Saban line are other coaches that Nebraska might pursue. It'll cost, and cost a ridiculous amount of money. Saban money, in all likelihood. But it's not unprecedented: Ohio State hired Urban Meyer while Penn State hired James Franklin. Who would fit this role? I'll start with Baylor's Art Briles or TCU's Gary Patterson.
So what direction is Eichorst going? When you fire a coach like Bo Pelini and call him "good, but not great enough", you are setting your expectations high. Our own Brian Towle talked about how being merely "good" can keep you from being "great" after the Wisconsin game. So while some hot assistants are probably on Eichorst's list, I suspect they are down the list quite a way. Above that are likely several of the hot mid-major coaches. The established coaches are in there as well.
But deep down, I suspect that Eichorst is going big. So does ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, for what it's worth.
ESPN's Adam Rittenberg: In coaching search, Shawn Eichorst looking to land a 'big fish' http://t.co/TsOJAGLpCk— World-Herald Big Red (@OWHbigred) December 2, 2014
I don't know who it is...but I suspect that Eichorst's first choice is one that most of the major pundits aren't mentioning. And if we're to believe that Eichorst already has a good idea of who he wants, he may have him ready to announce after the final weekend of the college regular season.
So what do you think? What do you think Shawn Eichorst is thinking? What direction would you like to see him go?