Notre Dame Coaching Hot Board: Top 10 Potential Replacements For Brian Kelly (If He Gets Fired)

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have gotten off to a disastrous start this season, going just 2-5 - the program's worst start since 2007. Their dreadful play culminated with a home loss to Duke, and defensive coordinator Brian VanGroder was fired shortly thereafter. Many blame the defense for that record, but there are also rumors that it has put head coach Brian Kelly on the hot seat - rumors that only ramped up after their awful 10-3 loss to NC State. Now, they're at a fever pitch after the Irish lost 17-10 to a Stanford team without Christian McCaffrey.

It may seem strange to some that Kelly's job is in jeopardy (considering he has brought the Irish back to national relevancy, taken them to a national championship game and had them just a few seconds away from a playoff berth last season), but this season is close to being a disaster. If the struggles continue (what if they miss a bowl game?), those rumors will become more and more real.

So, if Notre Dame decides to part ways with Kelly, who will they target? Here are the top 10 potential replacements:

10) Kyle Whittingham, head coach, Utah

The Utah head coach led his squad to 10 wins last season, including wins over USC and Oregon. This year, he has duplicated that success, starting the season 4-0 to bring Utah back into the top 25. Whittingham is a very underrated coach, and while he wouldn't be a home-run hire, he is someone with a proven track record.

9) Jon Gruden, former NFL head coach, ESPN analyst

Gruden's name gets tossed around every time there's a major opening in college football. Though he hasn't coached in the college game since 1989 (when he was a wide receivers coach for Pacific) - or at any level since 2008 - Gruden has expressed interest in returning to the sidelines. Notre Dame certainly has the pedigree to spark his interest, and it would be worth at least giving him a call.

8) Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama

Yes, this may seem like a horrible idea, but Kiffin has rehabbed his image enough under Nick Saban for him to get another head coaching job. Notre Dame would undoubtedly quiz him on what he learned under Saban and wouldn't give him a long-term deal. It would be a gamble, but someone is going to take it. Remember, Kiffin is still young (41) and one of the best coordinators in the country. 

7) Bobby Petrino, head coach, Louisville

This is another risky gamble that may cause you to shake your head, but like Kiffin, Petrino has rehabbed his image at Louisville by winning. In just his third year since returning to the Cardinals, he has them ranked third in the country and looking like a legitimate playoff contender. The problem is his character questions and the scandal that caused him to be fired at Arkansas. Can/would Notre Dame look past that?

6) P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan

Fleck is one of the rising stars in the coaching world, taking the Broncos from a 1-11 team in 2013, his first year on the job, to 8-5 last year. This year, they're 3-0 with road wins over Northwestern and Illinois. At just 35 years old, he could bring a young energy to a Irish program that's looking for a spark.

5) Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State

Mullen showed what he can do by taking Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking in the country for most of the 2014 season, but it appears that he's taken the Bulldogs has far as he can take them and could be looking to a job upgrade. If he was able to make the Bulldogs one of the best teams in the country, imagine what he can do with everything Notre Dame has to offer.

4) Greg Schiano, defensive coordinator, Ohio State

Schiano made his name as head coach of Rutgers, bringing them to national dominance last decade, before a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't end well. He's now serving as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State, where he has eight new starters - yet has them as one of the country's best units. He's not flashy, but Schiano would be a quality hire.

3) Les Miles, former head coach, LSU

Miles had run his course at LSU, but he's still known as one of the best coaches in the country, particularly defensively - which Notre Dame really needs to upgrade. He is also one of the best recruiters in the country, and would bring a level of talent to South Bend that we haven't seen in quite some time. There are questions about what he can do offensively, but his track record speaks for itself.

2) Bob Stoops, head coach, Oklahoma

Stoops has presided over a sustained period of success at an elite program. While he doesn't have any ties to the Irish, Stoops is still a top-tier coach who could very well be available for the right price - especially since many OU fans are fed up with him. Notre Dame would be wise to kick the tires and see if he's interested. It may not come to fruition, but it's worth a look.

1) Tom Herman, head coach, Houston

No coach's star is burning brighter than Herman's right now, who has won a Peach Bowl and taking Houston to the No. 6 national ranking (before losing to Navy) - and he hasn't even had the job for a year and a half. Notre would obviously be a huge step up in pedigree, and the Cougars won't be able to match the kind of money the Irish will be able to throw at him. He's the best young coach in the sport, making him an easy target for Notre Dame. Herman will be in high demand, and will likely be offered every vacant job this offseason.

Follow our Notre Dame Fighting Irish news page for all the latest Notre Dame football news!

Back to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Newsfeed

Related Topics: Dan Mullen, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football, NCAA Football, Les Miles, Bobby Petrino, Bob Stoops, P.J. Fleck, Kyle Whittingham, Brian Kelly, Greg Schiano, Lane Kiffin, Tom Herman, Jon Gruden