Candidates are plenty should Carroll leave USC

Updated: January 10, 2010, 12:07 AM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

It's hard to imagine what coach USC would get to replace the megawatt presence that Pete Carroll became in his nine seasons as coach of the Trojans.

Then again, it was hard to imagine Carroll's ever becoming as successful as he did when he was essentially USC's fourth choice to succeed Paul Hackett in 2000.

If he does indeed leave USC to coach the Seattle Seahawks, seemingly a mere formality at this point, these are the names you'll probably be hearing a lot of in the next couple of days:

Mike Riley
Oregon State

Riley was one of USC's top choices in 2000 before it hired Carroll. He's viewed by USC brass as an excellent tactician, a people person and a great in-game coach. He has done nothing to diminish his reputation as one of the top coaches in the Pacific-10 Conference, having gone 56-33 with a 5-1 record in bowl games from 2003 to '09 with the Beavers. He also has defeated USC twice.

A source close to Riley said Friday he thought the coach "would definitely be interested" in the USC job, should Carroll indeed leave, but that "he's also in a good position at Oregon State and likes his life in Corvallis."

In 2000, USC athletic director Mike Garrett was quoted by the Los Angeles Daily News as saying, "I like Mike Riley. I think Mike is a great coach and he's always been in the back of my mind. I would always consider Mike Riley."

Herm Edwards
Former Chiefs/Jets coach

The personable and charismatic Edwards reminds a lot of people of Carroll both in style and substance: an enthusiastic former NFL coach who would instantly make a great recruiter but has little experience at the college level.

Edwards' name quickly picked up steam among prominent USC boosters on Saturday. Though his background is in the NFL, he did begin his career as an assistant at San Jose State from 1987 to '89. His primary recruiting area then was Los Angeles. If hired, he'd be USC's first African-American head football coach.

DeWayne Walker
New Mexico State

A source close to the New Mexico State coach, who has deep ties to USC and Carroll, said he would definitely be interested in the USC job. Although Walker is well-regarded by USC officials, he's also relatively inexperienced. This season was his first as a head coach, and the Aggies were 3-10. Still, USC loves his passion and personality.

Walker has proved himself as a recruiter at USC and UCLA and as a defensive coordinator. If hired, he also would be USC's first African-American head football coach.

Jim Harbaugh
Stanford

The fiery Stanford coach has been one of the hottest coaching commodities this offseason, drawing interest from Notre Dame and Kansas before signing a three-year extension to stay at Stanford. USC officials are known to think highly of the brash former NFL quarterback even though he sometimes makes controversial statements.

Jack Del Rio
Jacksonville Jaguars

The former All-American linebacker at USC (1981-84) is in a bit of hot water in his current NFL job, as the Jaguars went 7-9 after going 5-11 the season before that. Del Rio's contract reportedly has a $15 million buyout should the team fire him.

Jeff Fisher
Tennessee Titans

Vince Young is finally looking like an NFL quarterback; Chris Johnson rushed for 2,000 yards; and the Titans ended the season as one of the hottest teams in the league. So why would Fisher even entertain this job? The former USC cornerback (1977-80) has always had an interest in coaching at his alma mater.

Steve Sarkisian
Washington

The former wunderkind offensive coordinator went 5-7 in his first season with the Huskies. One of those five wins was a huge upset of USC on Sept. 19. He is familiar with many of the current USC players, is a charismatic leader and could step right in for Carroll without much disruption. The question is whether he'd leave Seattle after only one year. In radio interviews Friday, Sarkisian said he already had his dream job, at the University of Washington.

Ramona Shelburne is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.