Central Michigan’s football program has been in this position before.
Head coach Dan Enos announced his resignation on Thursday morning after spending the last five seasons with the Chippewas, almost immediately accepting an offensive coordinator position on Bret Bielema’s Arkansas staff. He went 26-36 during his time in Mount Pleasant.
“We are thrilled to have Coach Enos joining us in Fayetteville,” Bret Bielema said in a release. “Dan is a great fit for our program. He runs a pro-style offense and brings expertise at the quarterback position as both a player and coach. We played against each other in college and he was a very intelligent and talented quarterback who showed great toughness and leadership. He has an outstanding reputation and will be a tremendous asset for Razorback football.”
Enos is the third CMU head coach to leave for a Power Five team since 2006, following in the footsteps of Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, though the two were leaving for head coaching opportunities (both for Cincinnati).
Now in the latter stages of January and less than two weeks away from National Signing Day, athletic director Dave Heeke is in quite the predicament – a situation I’m sure he didn’t expect to be in when Central Michigan’s season ended on Christmas Eve.
Heeke has already named special teams coordinator and linebackers coach Kyle Nystrom as interim coach, but should have no affect in his current scramble to find a long-term replacement as swiftly as possible. A hire could be made as soon as today, and you can expect it to be from one of these five names:
- John Bonamego, Special Teams Coordinator, Detroit Lions: Several rumors have surfaced that Bonamego was interviewed for the coaching vacancy on Sunday, making him the only – as far as we know – person to receive this kind of extensive interest from Heeke. Bonamego, 51, played wide receiver and quarterback for CMU back in the late 1980s and has over two decades of coaching experience, albeit none at the head coaching level. Still, he’s spent the last 16 years in the NFL, and that kind of professionalism would be welcomed with open arms.
- Tony Annese, Head Coach, Ferris State: Annese is an ideal candidate for his recruiting ties to surrounding Michigan high schools, as he was a three-time state title winner with Muskegon High School (2004, 2006, 2008). Annese is coming off an 11-0 regular season with Ferris State, and Central Michigan is not afraid to hire a head coach from Division II, circa Brian Kelly.
“I would think it would be a great fit for Central Michigan. I think he would be a top candidate,” said current Muskegon head coach Shane Fairfield, who served as an assistant coach at Muskegon for Annese. “He’s a Michigan guy and has been recruiting Michigan.”
- Zach Azzanni, Wide Receivers, Tennessee: Azzanni is probably the second Tennessee coach that Heeke would be interested next to Mike Bajakian, but the latter has already left for a position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Azzanni, however, would still be an excellent hire; he’s an Urban Meyer product (served as Bowling Green graduate assistant and then wide receivers coach at Florida in 2010), and was the wide receivers coach with the Chippewas for Butch Jones from 2007-09.
- Brady Hoke, Former Michigan HC: This is the “outside shot” candidate, but it would make sense. Hoke, who is out of a job after being fired from Michigan, has experience coaching (and winning) in the MAC as a former Ball State HC from 2003-08. Not only would it be a splash hire, but it’d also make sense from an X’s and O’s standpoint, as Hoke likes to run a similar pro-style system to the one Enos left.
- Kyle Nystrom, Interim HC, Central Michigan: If Heeke doesn’t feel like he can land the candidate he wants, there would be no shame in taking a step back and letting Nystrom take over full-time duties for the next 10 months. Nystrom is an experienced coach that has been on the Central Michigan staff for the last four years. There’s a chance a long-term hire is made without having to make a hire – that is, if Nystrom proves worthy, or if he even wants it.