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Discussing Jim Harbaugh’s job security and future with Michigan football is becoming an annual tradition in Ann Arbor. For most fans, it’s not a question of whether or not it’s time to move on - but rather, “who are you going to replace him with”?

If the last six years have taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to coaching hires. If there were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now. With that being said, here some coaching candidates to replace Jim Harbaugh when/if the time comes to do so.

Jason Candle - Toledo, HC ($1.1 mil)

Why it makes sense: Candle is an Ohio native giving him a good understanding of the Midwest footprint and Michigan's background and long list of traditions. He's only 40 years old and has climbed the ladder quickly after being linked to Matt Campbell. Iowa State's head man retained Candle when he took over and eventually promoted him to offensive coordinator. Candle added the title of associate head coach in 2014. His offenses average top-20 finishes in the country indicating that he's ready for a bigger job. Is Michigan too big? Probably, but he's 35-19 at Toledo. He can handle a more prominent position right now.

Matt Campbell - Iowa State, HC ($3.5 mil)

Why it makes sense: Campbell’s overall winning percentage at Iowa State isn’t overly impressive (just over 53%). At the same time, Campbell has shown that he can get the best out of his roster and that his teams can play with anyone on any given Saturday. Just this year alone, Campbell’s Cyclones are sitting at the top spot within the Big 12 with a 5-2 record that includes an upset win over the No.18 ranked Sooners. The Cyclones suffered a three-point loss two weeks ago to No.6 Oklahoma State, but still remain atop the Big 12 standings. If Campbell can compete for conference titles with Iowa State in the Big 12, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t do the same at Michigan within the Big 10.

Tony Elliott - Clemson, OC ($1.6 mil)

Why it makes sense: Elliott has risen up the coaching ranks and is given a lot of credit for the Tigers’ climb to success. Clemson is 70–13 and have 10-plus win seasons in his six years on staff. Last season as the Tigers’ play-caller he helped light up Alabama’s No. 1 defense for over 500 yards on 99 plays — all but two snaps came out of the shotgun indicating that his offense is modern, effective and efficient. Elliott is going to be in the mix for head coaching vacancies, but how big of a job is he ready for? At 40 years old, he might just be the next Lincoln Riley.

Luke Fickell - Cincinnati, HC ($3.4 mil)

Why it makes sense: Fickell is probably the hottest commodity in college football right now to land a head coaching position with a premier power five program. After spending 14 seasons in Columbus and in various roles, Fickell took over the head coaching position for the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2017. In his first year at the helm, Fickell led the Bearcats to a less than ideal 4-8 record. The following year, however, Fickell notched an 11 win season as a head coach in 2018 - just the third 11 win season in Cincinnati Bearcat history. That same season, Fickell was named AAC Coach of the Year.. The following year, Fickell did it again - putting together another 11 win season in 2019 and winning the first AAC east divisional championship in school history. Now in 2020, Fickell appears to be at it again - as his Bearcats are currently 6-0 and looking like a legitimate threat to disrupt the College Football Playoff.

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Alex Grinch - Oklahoma, DC ($1.4 mil)

Why it makes sense: Grinch has become known as one of the top assistant coaches likely to land a power five head coaching position. He inherited a defense ranked 101st in the nation in 2018 and propelled them to 64th in the nation just a year later. In 2020, Grinch appears to be doing it again as his defensive unit currently ranked 36th in the nation. Grinch has experience with winning programs, most notably with Ohio State in 2018. The familiarity with the Big Ten and the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State makes Grinch an intriguing candidate when/if the Wolverines once again find themselves in the hunt for a new savior in Ann Arbor.

Josh Heupel - UCF, HC ($2.3 mil)

Why it makes sense: Heupel is an offensive mastermind. He's a former Oklahoma quarterback and is 25-6 in a little over two seasons with the Knights. He runs a fun, explosive and wide open brand of offense that would be a great and necessary change of pace at Michigan. He has Texas roots but has experience recruiting all over the country, including obviously in Florida now that he's been at UCF. He's just 42 years old and seems ready to take a step up in levels.

Dan Lanning - Georgia, DC ($1.25 mil)

Why it makes sense: Lanning was hired by the Georgia Bulldogs in 2018 as an OLB coach. Interestingly, Lanning took over the defensive coordinator job in Athens once a man by the name of Mel Tucker accepted the head coaching job at the University of Colorado. Lanning’s defensive unit finished No.1 in the nation in total defense back in 2019, surrendering just 12.6 points per game. Lanning is young, but he’s also been recognized as one of the top candidates to land a power five head coaching position.

Brent Venables - Clemson, DC ($2.2 mil)

Why it makes sense: Venables is one of the most intriguing head coaching options in all of college football. He’s been with the Clemson Tigers since 2012 and is a proven winner, having won three national championships as a defensive coordinator (2000, 2016, 2018). Given Venables track record and notoriety, his hiring would provide instant reassurance to any current/future Wolverine commits that the University of Michigan is committed to chasing titles.

Honorable Mentions

Matt Entz - North Dakota State, HC ($380,000) — The 48-year old is 17-0 at powerhouse NDSU but the verdict is still out on him. Is he as good as he appears or is he riding Chris Klieman's wave after he went 69-6 over the course of five years? 

Rhett Lashlee - Miami, OC ($350,000) — Lashlee has shown that he can coach offense at several different places, but there are some issues with that as well — he's been at six schools in 10 years. He's only 37 years old and is a big reason why Miami is 6-1 with the No. 33 offense in the country.

Lance Leipold - Buffalo, HC ($465,000) — Leipold can obviously coach. He went an insane 109-6 and won six Division III national titles during his eight years as the head coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater. Now the head coach at Buffalo, he's 32-32 over the last six seasons. He appears to have righted the ship in Buffalo coming off an 10-4 season in 2018 and an 8-5 campaign last year. How he'd do on a big stage is very intriguing because he clearly knows how to run a program. The knocks — he's the same age as Jim Harbaugh (56) and simply doesn't have any experience at the highest level.