The Houston Cougars moved quickly to remove Dana Holgorsen from his post, firing the head coach on Sunday following a disappointing end to the 2023 season. Holgorsen limped to a 4-8 record in Houston’s first season in the Big 12.
For who replaces him at the helm of the Cougars, we take a look at five candidates who make sense.
Houston Coaching Candidates to Take Over for Dana Holgorsen
Taking over for Holgorsen won’t be an easy task as the roster is void of depth and talent at a bevy of positions. The roster itself will also be hurt by graduation and some potential next-level prospects jumping to the NFL.
Overall, recruiting may be the hardest thing for the Cougars to get back on track as they currently rank 48th in the country and 11th in the Big 12.
Jeff Traylor, UTSA Head Coach
If the Cougars want a documented program builder and incredibly strong recruiter, no one name should come before Jeff Traylor. The now-legendary UTSA head coach built the Roadrunners program from practical thin air and developed a culture of toughness and brotherhood.
Traylor is on the shortlist for every major college football opening at this rate, but staying at home in the state of Texas would behoove his next suitor. A legend in the Texas High School Football walls, Traylor should be able to recruit Houston’s home state perhaps better than any other coach on the market today.
Give Traylor the bag, Houston, that’s what it may take.
Brennan Marion, UNLV Offensive Coordinator
If Houston goes the young-gun route, Brennan Marion better be on the top of their list. Marion has developed talent at every stop along the way and that includes a stint at nearby Texas, where he mentored Xavier Worthy.
At his current spot, Marion has the UNLV Rebels in the Mountain West Championship Game and has developed one of the country’s best QB-WR duos in Jayden Maiava and Ricky White. Marion’s tutelage of Maiava has been quite the story as he’s taken the redshirt freshman quarterback and developed his skill set to an elite quarterback.
Marion has already interviewed for the open San Diego State position, but returning to the state of Texas may be too good to pass up if he were offered both gigs.
Sean Lewis, Colorado Offensive Coordinator
Once the hottest name on the college football coaching carousel as the head coach of Kent State, Sean Lewis took the proverbial backward step to take potentially a bigger step, if that makes sense. Lewis took a ‘demotion’ to become Colorado’s offensive coordinator following the 2022 season and took the Colorado offense to new heights, given their complete roster turnaround.
Lewis is an offensive genius, but so was Holgorsen, or at least that was his billing. That may scare some off given the similarities to Holgorsen, but Lewis is a much different coach with a different philosophy.
G.J. Kinne, Texas State Head Coach
Another who can recruit the state of Texas incredibly well, G.J. Kinne is likely sick of moving around, but he’s destined for a Power Five job sooner than later. Kinne took the reigns of Texas State this past offseason, brought in a nearly complete new roster, and saw immediate success.
The season saw some struggles at Texas State, but those trouble are likely not going to repeat themselves with a few years of continuity and the resources that Houston can provide. Kinne employs a similar system on offense that the Cougars are built for already, and his work may not be as difficult to turn this program around compared to what he did at Texas State in 2023.
Alex Atkins, Florida State Offensive Coordinator
Largely seen as a massive reason for Florida State’s success in 2023, Alex Atkins is somehow still underrated as a target in the college football coaching carousel. However, Houston could certainly target a rising coach like Atkins as he’d give the Cougars a competent offensive line for what feels like the first time in forever.
Atkins’ Seminoles are in the ACC Championship Game and eyeing the College Football Playoff, so don’t expect this to come to fruition any time soon if Atkins were the guy. His work on the recruiting trail has been solid at FSU, but his work in the portal to help the ‘Noles land some top targets is unmatched. He turned the Florida State offensive line from the laughing stock of the ACC to arguably the best unit in the conference.