For the last week, headlines across college football have been dominated by the allegations of hazing at Northwestern. On Monday night, news broke that Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald had been relieved of his duties. While the events reported to have occurred within the Northwestern football program are very serious, with the 2023 season less than two months away, the obvious next question is who will lead the Wildcats program moving forward. Recently, prominent assistant coaches from the two biggest rivals to Penn State football in the Big Ten East, Ohio State offensive coordinator Brian Hartline, and Michigan offensive line coach/coordinator Sherrone Moore, have been named as potential candidates for the Northwestern job.
Michigan and Ohio State assistant coaches mentioned in Northwestern coaching search
Since Fitzgerald was fired Monday night, Northwestern has named defensive coordinator David Braun as acting head coach. Last night, ESPN reported that the university will retain its assistant coaches and support staff for the 2023 season. Outside of those developments, there has been relatively little news from the school on how it will proceed with its coaching vacancy. It’s still unclear if Northwestern plans to keep Braun in his acting capacity for the entire season or if university leadership will try to fill the vacancy before fall camp starts in August.
However, the lack of news hasn’t kept college football experts and members of the media from compiling a list of potential candidates for the Northwestern coaching search. One of the most commonly circulated names right now is Michigan offensive line coach/coordinator Sherrone Moore. 247Sport’s Steve Wiltfong was among the first to mention Moore as a candidate for Northwestern’s shortlist. However, Michigan insider Brice Marich notes that Moore may soon have many more viable options than the Wildcats. Sherrone Moore is widely considered one of the top assistants in the Big Ten, producing the top-rated offensive line unit in the country last year. Moore is going into his first season as Michigan’s lone offensive coordinator after helping the Wolverines make back-to-back Playoff appearances in the co-coordinator position.
He’s definitely more than capable and ready to be a head coach, but not sure this is the most ideal job at the moment.
Will have plenty of options in the future.
— Brice Marich (@BriceMarich) July 11, 2023
Across state lines, another name that is commonly circulated is Ohio State offensive coordinator Brian Hartline. Hartline, who is in his first year as offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes, is consistently rated as one of the top recruiters in the nation at the wide receiver position. Most of the college football world believes Hartline will be a head coach one day. But again, Hartline will be on the shortlist for every head coaching vacancy come year’s end. It’s hard to believe that Brian Hartline would immediately jump at Northwestern when he could have his pick of the litter down the line. Many in the industry also openly question if Hartline is biding his time in Columbus, waiting for the Ohio State position to become available.
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) July 10, 2023
How could the Northwestern hire impact Penn State football?
The eventual choice to replace Pat Fitzgerald in Evanston could send ripple effects to Happy Valley. Obviously, Penn State faces the Wildcats as a Big Ten foe, most immediately on September 30 of this year. While several names have already been circulated as potential candidates by members of the media, a decision to hire Moore or Hartline would be the most impactful to the Nittany Lions.
Names that come to mind at NW: Willie Fritz, Dave Clawson, Mike Elko, Matt Campbell, Paul Chryst, Chris Petersen, Jonathan Smith, Dave Doeren, Matt Campbell, Sherrone Moore, David Shaw. https://t.co/RYoGPLB1WY
— Cooper Petagna (@cpetagna247) July 10, 2023
Both Moore and Hartline are top assistants in the game, who Penn State has to face year in and year out (for now). Even once they are off the annual schedule, Penn State will likely still have to get through Michigan and/or Ohio State to win the Big Ten.
More immediately, Penn State is viewed by many to be on the rise and a team that has the potential to catch up to Michigan and Ohio State this year. A critical part of Penn State’s hype in 2023 is the program’s consistency, retaining booth coordinators and mostly all its positional coaches from last year. A potential hire before the start of the 2023 season (which, again, it’s unclear if Northwestern will go this route) could create instability weeks before the year begins. While either Ohio State or Michigan will be able to attract a viable replacement, it would open the door for another slight edge for James Franklin and Penn State going into 2023.
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