Meet College Football’s Next Batch of Rising Star Coaches, Part III

Earlier this year, we took a look at numerous rising stars in the college football head coaching world. Those coaches should be receiving plenty of buzz for head coaching jobs or bigger jobs over the next few years.

They, however, aren’t the only ones.

Here, we highlight some more coaches that you will hear a lot about for years to come:

Ryan Walters – Illinois Defensive Coordinator

By the time this is published, there is a chance that Walters is already a head coach, or at least close to it. Colorado has an opening, and Walters is reportedly a finalist for the job. After all, he did spend his college days with Colorado. Prior to his most recent stop at Illinois, Walters spent 2015-2020 at Missouri, including the last 3 as defensive coordinator for Barry Odom. He had also spent time on staff at Memphis, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado. After the 2020 season, Walters went off to become the defensive coordinator at Illinois, where he has spent the last two seasons.

Under his control, Illinois has arguably the best defense in the country other than UGA, ranking 2nd nationally in scoring defense. Under his watch, players like Devon Witherspoon and Johnny Newton have blossomed into stars. By all accounts, he is a defensive mastermind and a well-respected coach in the industry. If he isn’t a head coach next year, the Broyles award nominee will be not too far from now.

Brian Hartline – Ohio State WRs/Passing Game Coordinator

This one was a no-brainer and is yet another candidate receiving some serious head coaching buzz at the moment. Hartline’s NFL days were over in 2015, and since joining Ohio State in 2017, he has solidified himself as an elite recruiter and probably the best wide receivers coach in college football. This season Hartline has helped build a loaded WRs group headlined by Marvin Harrison Jr. He was also a critical factor in recruiting prospects like Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and numerous others to Columbus.

Hartline has been mentioned in plenty of major offensive coordinator openings, but if he can continue to prove his worth as a recruiter and a developer, he might be able to skip the coordinator step and be a formidable head coach at a major school in a short amount of time. He certainly has the recruiting chops for it.

Charles Huff – Marshall Head Coach

At just 39 years old, Huff has an extremely impressive resume and has already climbed the ranks to become a head coach. Huff just finished his second year at Marshall at 8-4 after finishing year 1 at 7-5. If Marshall can continue to show more improvement under Huff and have a good year three, Huff’s name will start to pop up in some big-time coaching searches.

Huff has spent time under both James Franklin and Nick Saban in his career. Under Franklin, he played a role in building some of the best teams in Vanderbilt history and was later the RBs coach at Penn State where he had the chance to recruit and develop Saquan Barkley into one of the best RBs of our generation. Huff would later spend one year at Mississippi State in 2018 before spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with Nick Saban as the Tides’ RB coach. As you could expect, he continued to show his recruiting expertise there. Marshall has had two solid years, and should only continue to get better as Huff signed the highest-ranked class in school history. Huff is already an underrated HC candidate and could get a P5 opportunity with a big third season.

Brian Johnson – Philadelphia Eagles QB Coach

At 35 years old, Johnson, who happens to be the cover of NCAA 10, has already worked his way into some head coach opportunities. Johnson was reportedly in contention for the Auburn job before the Tigers hired Hugh Freeze. After speaking with sources, there is belief that he could work his way into an NFL head coaching role in the next few years as he has played a critical role in the development of Jalen Hurts. Prior to his stop in Philly, Johnson was the offensive coordinator for Dan Mullen at Florida before leaving prior to the 2021 season. Dan Mullen only made it a year without Johnson as his coordinator. He was also Mullen’s QB coach at Mississippi State and made stops at Utah and Utah State.

Whether or not Johnson wants to leave the NFL is up in the air. But if he does, he could be a collegiate head coach in a short amount of time. After all, he has already been a factor in the biggest coaching opening of this season.