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Here are 25 candidates who could be Nevada football's next head coach

Matt Wells
Matt Wells has had success in the Mountain West before with his tenure at Utah State. (Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images )

After five seasons as Nevada’s head football coach, Jay Norvell has agreed to take the same position at Colorado State. Here are 25 potential candidates to replace Norvell as Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth looks to fill the big void left by Norvell’s departure. Coaches are listed in alphabetical order with each subsection.

FBS head-coaching experience

Nevada will most likely select a candidate with previous head-coaching experience. Some options:

* Justin Fuente: Fuente turned around Memphis before getting the Virginia Tech gig where he went 43-31 overall and 28-20 in the ACC (not bad). Prior to being a head coach, he was in the Mountain West at TCU for five years, so he has experience in the conference.

* Tom Herman: Herman, who grew up in Southern California, an area Nevada recruits a lot, spent much of his career in Texas and could bring that recruiting pipeline to Nevada, too, after six seasons as the head coach at Houston and Texas where he went 54-22 overall. He’s currently an offensive analyst for the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

* Jimmy Lake: Lake’s head-coaching tenure at Washington lasted only 13 games, going 7-6. The ex-Boise State defensive coordinator was a fast riser before his flameout at UW. Could he be a good buy-low option? It'd be risky.

* Matt Wells: Wells coached Utah State, a MW program like Nevada in terms of budget, for six seasons, going 44-34 overall and 30-18 in the MW. He lasted only 2 1/2 years at Texas Tech, but his buyout money – estimated around $7 million – could allow Nevada to get a quality coach for below market value.

FCS coaches

And if Nevada tries to grab an up-and-comer from the FCS level, these coaches could be considered:

* Jay Hill: Hill is one of the most respected West-based FCS coaches after spending nearly a decade at Weber State, going 58-35 overall and 44-17 in the Big Sky. He seems overdue for an FBS opportunity.

* Matt Entz: North Dakota State has a pipeline of sending head coaches to the FBS, and Entz is next on that list after going 33-4 overall with the Bison, including the 2019 national title. He’s a rare defensive-minded head coach on this list.

* Dan Hawkins: I don’t see this one happening, but Hawkins had great success at Willamette and Boise State before struggling at Colorado. He’s 31-22 at UC Davis, just over the Sierra, the last five seasons.

* Troy Taylor: A long-time high school head coach in the Sacramento area, Taylor has been dynamite at Sac State, going 18-6 overall and 15-1 in the Big Sky, and would bring great NorCal recruiting ties.

* Brent Vigen: The offensive coordinator at MW school Wyoming from 2014-20, Vigen elevated to Montana State’s head coach this season and has had the Bobcats top 10 nationally most of the year.

Top college assistants

Assistants coaches who have never been Division I head coach who could be considered:

* Jeff Choate: Currently Texas’ co-defensive coordinator, Choate had a stint as DC at Boise State (from 2006-11) and has head-coaching experience after a successful four-year tenure at Montana State (28-22 overall, 18-14 Big Sky).

* Graham Harrell: For the last few years, Harrell’s name has been bandied about as a potential head coach. Harrell has been a coordinator for the last five seasons, including the last three at USC, and is currently a free agent.

* Ed Lamb: The former head coach at Southern Utah — he went 45-47 overall and 27-21 in conference with two FCS playoff appearances in his final three seasons — has been BYU's associate head coach/special teams coach since 2016.

* Aaron Roderick: The offensive coordinator at BYU, Roderick was in the mix for the Wolf Pack's OC job back when it went to Nick Rolovich in 2012. Since 2005, he's been on Utah or BYU's staff, and the 48-year-old could be in line for a head job soon.

* Morgan Scalley: The Utah DC – he was there when Doug Knuth was associate AD for the Utes – is an excellent coach and was Utah’s head-coach-in-waiting but went through a major scandal in 2020 stemming from using a racial slur in a text to a recruit in 2013, which could disqualify him from consideration.

Wolf Pack friends

Current or former members of the Nevada Wolf Pack staff who could be considered for the position:

* Tim DeRuyter: The former Nevada DC might never get another head job after how his Fresno State tenure ended – with 3-9 and 1-11 seasons – but he did win three West Division titles and two MW crowns with the Bulldogs.

* Scottie Hazelton: Hazelton was Nevada’s defensive coordinator for one season (2013) before moving to the NFL. He’s also had stops at USC, Wyoming, Kansas State and most recently Michigan State.

* Jim Mastro: If Mastro, the Pack’s former running backs coach, was going to get this position it probably would have happened in the last two cycles, but he’s done an excellent job as a Pac-12 assistant coach (now at Oregon). Add Ken Wilson, too.

* Matt Mumme: If Nevada went with an internal candidate – I don’t think it will – Mumme’s name would be atop the list. He has head-coaching experience at Division III LaGrange where he went 12-20.

* Brian Ward: Mumme is Nevada’s offensive coordinator and Ward was the team's defensive coordinator prior to a move to Washington State. He's well respected and was a head coach at NAIA McPherson and the interim at Bowling Green.

* Donte Williams: The interim head coach at USC this season, Williams was a defensive quality control coach at Nevada under Chris Ault in 2010. The 39-year-old is considered one of the West Coast’s top recruiters. He went 3-5 with the Trojans.

Wild cards

* Chris Ault: Not happening but fun to think about.

* Kellen Moore: Pretty sure this subsection will just be a bunch of joke candidates.

* Tony Reno: The Yale coach is not getting this job but imagine Nevada’s football coach being named “Reno.”

* Nick Rolovich: Also not happening unless he wanted to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

* Deion Sanders: I would donate money to make this happen.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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