Each year a handful of top college football assistant coaches are plucked from their X's-and-O's role and placed in the position of Commander in Chief. Head coaches realize the value of an elite assistant and would rather take a budget hit than lose their right-hand man to another school. Hence, the million-dollar salary plateau reached by some of college football's top coordinators. Oftentimes, however, turnover is inevitable.
While the hiring of retreads such as Nick Saban (Alabama), Butch Davis (North Carolina), Tom O'Brien (NC State) and Steve Kragthorpe (Louisville) stole the headlines, it should be noted that eight of the 23 head-coaching hires came from the college assistant coaching ranks.
The following is not a ranking of the top coordinators/assistants from a scheming and play-calling perspective. That's a different debate altogether. Instead, here's a look at 10 current assistants that I believe rank as the top head-coaching prospects in college football right now:
1. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin offensive coordinator
Chryst is finally being recognized as one of the brightest minds in the college coaching profession. So much so that when the Dallas Cowboys offered him a job as quarterbacks coach, Wisconsin reacted by making Chryst the Big Ten's highest-paid coordinator.
Chryst made a name for himself as the offensive coordinator at Oregon State, where he molded quarterback Derek Anderson, and led the Beavers to a top-10 finish nationally in total offense during his final season in 2004.
In his first season as Wisconsin offensive coordinator in 2005, the Badgers set school records for points scored in a season (446) and season scoring average (34.3 ppg). Chryst's unit overcame the losses of running back Brian Calhoun to the NFL and wide receiver Marcus Randle El to injury in 2006, when the Badgers finished with the Big Ten's second-ranked scoring offense.