Skip to main content

Who Penn State Would Hire If James Franklin Leaves For USC

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on against the USC Trojans.

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on against the USC Trojans during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Earlier today, Penn State head coach James Franklin addressed rumors he's a potential coaching candidate for the USC job, should Clay Helton be fired. Of course, there are several factors at play, but when addressing the rumors, Franklin did not say he's not leaving Penn State.

To avoid the double negatives and confusion, Franklin did not rule out the possibility of leaving the Nittany Lions for the Trojans.

If he were to do so, who would take over for Franklin as Penn State's new head coach? Here are a few names to keep your eye on.

Joe Moorhead - Head coach, Mississippi State

Moorhead served as Penn State's offensive coordinator for two seasons from 2016-2017. In 2015 before Moorhead took over, the Nittany Lions had the No. 92 offense in college football and scored just over 23 points per game. Two years later, Penn State sat at No. 22 in the nation in total offense and pour in over 40 points per contest.

Moorhead left to take over for former Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, but Penn State is the better job. Should the Nittany Lions come calling, Moorhead, a Pennsylvania native, would have a tough time turning down the gig.

 Matt Campbell - Head coach, Iowa State

The hottest name in coaching over the past few years has been a battle between Scott Frost and Iowa State's Matt Campbell. After being named the MAC Coach of the Year in 2015, Campbell won the very same award in the Big 12 in just his second year with the Cyclones.

Seen as one of the best young coaches in college football, Campbell's name popped up as a potential fit for Ohio State and several NFL teams. Penn State should jump at the opportunity to lure Campbell away from the Buckeyes if Urban Meyer calls it a career after this season.

Matt Rhule - Head coach, Baylor

If Franklin moves on, the best bet for Penn State's next head coach might just be Matt Rhule. The current Baylor head coach grew up in State College and walked on to the Nittany Lions program under Joe Paterno.

Rhule took over Baylor after the program was rocked by scandal involving former head coach Art Briles. In two seasons at Baylor, Rhule racked up a 6-17 record, but improved by four wins from his first to his second year - with one more game to go.

The former Penn State linebacker showed his worth at Temple when he took the Owls from a two-win program to a 10-win program in just four years.


Franklin signed a six-year contract extension with Penn State after winning the Big Ten in 2016. Despite the wealthy contract extension, Franklin's buyout is relatively low. If he leaves the Nittany Lions after the 2018 season, Franklin owes the university just $1 million - which USC would gladly pay to land a top head coach.

Head coaching changes are a part of the college football beast, but this one will be interesting to follow.

Stay tuned.