Over the coming weeks and months, the Maryland football program will search for a new head coach to replace the departed Randy Edsall. We know who the candidates are, but who should Maryland pick? We'll state every coach's case, whether he wants the job or not, in 500 words or fewer.
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan head coach
Possibility scale: 5/10
Fleck is a young 34, but he's bounced around quite a bit in an impressive and still nascent coaching career. He was a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel in 2006, and he cycled through positional coaching jobs at Northern Illinois, Rutgers and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.
Western Michigan hired Fleck as its head coach in 2013, and he's built an impressive MAC machine. The Broncos were a dreadful 1-11 in his first year, but he's recruited at the highest level of any team in his conference, and it started to show when WMU jumped to 8-5 last year. The Broncos are off to sort of a bad start in 2015, with understandable losses to Michigan State and Ohio State but a not-stellar bottom-40 ranking by S&P+.
Fleck recruits. He's grabbing high-end prospects at a rate never before seen at his Kalamazoo campus. He out-recruited the rest of the MAC in 2014 and 2015, and he's on pace to blow the competition out of the water in 2016. He coaches a fun offense and has developed WMU quarterback Zach Terrell into one of the better signal-callers in the country.
He's also young. Fleck's got the age and the look of someone who could inject some youthful enthusiasm into a major program, and he's probably going to get the chance to do it somewhere. If Kevin Anderson wants someone who's going to "excite the fan base," he could do a lot worse than Fleck, even if he isn't a huge name.
For one thing, Fleck's quite possibly going to take Illinois's open head coaching job and make this moot. He's a midwestern guy, and Illinois is a midwestern school. Maryland is not. But in the event Fleck did wind up at Maryland, he'd probably find it a lot harder to do his major thing – recruiting – than it's been for him at Western Michigan. Fleck did pull a three-star recruit out of Olney, Md., in 2014, but he's mostly recruited the Midwest and not this neck of the country. So he'd be on a new geographical terrain, and he'd also be put directly head-to-head against some of the Big Ten and ACC's most voracious recruiters. In this sense, Fleck isn't a known commodity.
In one sentence
Fleck might be punching above his weight class from an experiential standpoint, but he's clearly got the skills to lead a major program at some point.