Pete Thamel recently dived into the head coaching situation at Michigan State on the College GameDay podcast and shared his shortlist of candidates.

Michigan State (2-2) is currently led by interim head coach Harlon Barnett in the wake of Mel Tucker being fired with cause for following a sexual harassment allegation from Brenda Tracy.

The ESPN reporter pegged 7 coaches spanning college and the pros that he believes would be a good fit with the Spartans.


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Thamel starts with Duke’s Mike Elko and Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck as candidates he expects will receive an early phone call. Elko has guided No. 17 Duke to a 4-0 start this season. Fleck was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2019.

Thamel mentions that Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, who was formerly Michigan State’s defensive coordinator from 2007-14, should get a “long look”. Narduzzi captured the ACC title in 2021.

“They went away from the tree. He was a giant part of those glory years at Michigan State. People could look at some recent results at Pitt and be a little bit poo-poo on Narduzzi. He’s really good,” Thamel said. “He won the ACC and he’s part of a DNA and knows what it takes to win there, which I think is critically important.”

Thamel also brings up New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as another option. O’Brien posted a 15-9 mark at Penn State in his 2 seasons after taking over for Joe Paterno.

“I think the name Bill O’Brien would be really interesting if he wants to go back to college,” Thamel said. “He obviously had a Big Ten job and did really well with it at Penn State.”

Then Thamel brings up Washington State’s Jake Dickert and Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith, who have both of their respective teams ranked as the remaining holdouts in the Pac-12.

“Two guys that have kind of surged into the spotlight with great teams and unfortunate circumstances at Washington State and at Oregon State,” Thamel said. “They’re really strong candidates there.”

Thamel caps off his list with Toledo’s Jason Candle. Toledo is off to a 3-1 start and Thamel believes Candle’s recruiting ability in the region is an asset.

“They’re having a fine season,” Thamel said. “He’d kind of be the hot MAC guy who could emerge and has been in that Midwest footprint for a long time.”