A new era is coming to Louisville football in 2019, as now former head coach Bobby Petrino was fired Sunday morning after a disappointing 2-8 season.
With Louisville’s search for a new head football coach presumably starting right away, the longtime consensus to replace Petrino has been Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm. We’ll take a look at Brohm’s resume, and why he might (or might not) be the best fit for Louisville.
Jeff Brohm’s Resume (as of 11/16/2018)
As of this posting, Jeff Brohm holds a 42-21 career record (30-10 at Western Kentucky, 12-11 at Purdue).
Brohm won back-to-back Conference USA titles with the Hilltoppers in 2015 and 2016, leading Western Kentucky to its first ever Top 25 ranking as an FBS program. The Hilltoppers offense was ranked in the top ten nationally each of his three years in Bowling Green, setting records behind quarterback Brandon Doughty.
At Purdue, Brohm is currently 12-11 in his career, but inherited a program that had won three total conference games in the four years prior to his arrival. Brohm has since led the Boilermakers to their first winning season since 2011 (including a bowl win over Arizona), and has wins over three ranked opponents in 2018 (including a 49-20 blowout of then No. 2 Ohio State).
Pro: The Brohm Legacy in Louisville
Did you know that the wife of Louisville head men’s basketball coach Chris Mack is from Louisville? Well, so are the Brohms.
The Brohms are Louisville’s unofficial first family of football, with a deep-rooted connection to both the city and the university. Jeff’s father, Oscar, was a quarterback at Louisville. Jeff was the starting quarterback for U of L in the early 90s, leading them to a Liberty Bowl win over Michigan State. His brothers, Greg and Brian, also played at Louisville, with Jeff coaching the latter in their 2006 Orange Bowl season.
If Louisville has any leverage in negotiations with Jeff Brohm, it will be selling him on returning home. U of L likely won’t see a hometown discount to sign him this season, but the allure of returning home is a big deal.
Pro: Brohm’s Recruiting Pipeline
One of the biggest attributes to hiring Brohm at Louisville would be restoring its pipeline in Kentucky. It sounds crazy to say to anyone outside of the Bluegrass State, but U of L’s previous regime has recently missed out on some high-end talent in its own state. That played a huge role in why Louisville fans quickly soured on Bobby Petrino and his staff in 2018.
Among those misses was Purdue freshman receiver Rondale Moore, who is turning out to be a damn good football player. With bringing Brohm back, the pipeline to some of Kentucky’s top recruits can open back up. Four-star receiver Milton Wright has already committed to Purdue, but could flip to Louisville in the event Brohm comes here. Some of Kentucky’s top prospects like J.J. Weaver are still available, and could always entertain the idea of staying home if Brohm were to come.
If Brohm can put together a top-25 class at Purdue, the ceiling could be higher at Louisville with recently upgraded facilities, as well as their relative success in the last 20 years.
Pro: Brohm’s Offenses Are Worth the Price of Admission
Ask any football-savvy analyst, and they will tell you that Jeff Brohm’s offense is really fascinating to watch.
At the front of his offenses are usually top-notch quarterbacks. Much like Nick Saban takes a personal investment in Alabama’s defensive backs as a former player himself, Brohm has developed a lot of high-end college talent at quarterback.
It started at Louisville, where he was an assistant under Bobby Petrino (version 1.0). There, he coached Stefan LeFors, who ended up becoming one of the most efficient quarterbacks in U of L history. He also coached his brother — and now Purdue co-offensive coordinator — Brian Brohm, who won the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award in 2005, and the Orange Bowl MVP in their 2006 BCS bowl win.
Fast forward from his stint at Louisville, and Brohm has continued to develop top quarterbacks. Nathan Scheelhaase had a serviceable 2010 season under Brohm at Illinois, posting a 2:1 TD-INT ratio. Brandon Doughty smashed several school records at Western Kentucky, throwing for 9,855 yards and 97 touchdowns with 19 interceptions in two years. Mike White threw for 4,363 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2016.
A really underrated component of Brohm’s offenses, though, is how well they can execute in the running game. Brohm’s teams typically haven’t ranked very high in the nation in rushing yards per game, but that’s mostly because his offenses have usually lead with a strong passing game. At Western Kentucky, he had a 1,000 yard rusher in each of his three years there, with each of those runners (Leon Allen in 2014, Anthony “Ace” Wales in 2015 and 2016) also averaging five yards per carry. Purdue running back DJ Knox is also flirting with a possible 1,000 yard season in 2018.
Given his acumen as an offensive playcaller, Louisville could see a stark improvement on offense under Brohm.
Con: Would Reaching for the Hometown Hero Cause Louisville to Potentially Miss Out?
Jeff Brohm will obviously be the first choice for Louisville, given his hometown ties and how successful he has been in both Bowling Green, Ky. and West Lafayette, In.
But remove the hometown ties to Louisville, and I don't know if the gap between Brohm and everybody else is as big as it is (to me, at least). There’s also concern surrounding Brohm’s brief Power Five head coaching record (consider this “Con 1B”). But given the proper context, I still think Brohm has done a fine job at Purdue, and should be the top candidate for Louisville.
Keith Wynne gave us a list of potential candidates as Louisville’s next head coach, sans Brohm. I think Mike Norvell and Ryan Day are very qualified to take the reins as Louisville’s next head coach. Norvell has led Memphis to a lot of success in a surprisingly strong American Athletic Conference, backed behind one of college football’s most explosive offenses. Ryan Day is one of college football’s top coordinators, and already has head coaching experience (albeit interim) at the highest level with Ohio State.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has also been a long time candidate for the Louisville head coaching position. You have to imagine he gets offered every offseason, but unless a blueblood job comes open (think USC or Oklahoma), I don’t think he even entertains the idea of leaving Clemson. I could even see him staying for a long time with Dabo, forming a head coach-defensive coordinator duo like what Frank Beamer and Bud Foster used to be at Virginia Tech.
There are some really under-the-radar candidates that Louisville should consider as well, like Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, North Texas’s Seth Littrell, and Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield. Both have been relatively successful to their program’s stature, and could have the potential to lead a program like Louisville into the upper echelon of the ACC.
Con: Lofty Expectations
This sort of ties into the first “con” that may come with hiring Jeff Brohm. Though he has been a winner at almost everywhere he has been, Brohm coming to Louisville would create massive expectations for both him and the program. If they didn’t come to fruition almost right away, there is the concern that Brohm may feel some early heat in his tenure at Louisville.
It always comes with the territory, if you are an alumni of the school or a former player (or coach) in a professional franchise. There are guys like Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), and Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) who have been relatively successful at their alma mater.
There’s also Scott Frost, who is 3-7 in his first year as Nebraska’s head coach. There’s also Kliff Kingsbury, who may be on the hot seat at Texas Tech. And in the pros, there’s Jon Gruden, whose Oakland Raiders team is 1-8.
That being said, I think fans who are leaning on this side of the spectrum should take a step back. Louisville has their 2019 recruiting class ranked 72nd in the country per 247Sports (and 13th out of 14 ACC schools). Looking ahead to 2019, they’ll also have a very tough schedule with Notre Dame and Clemson at home, as well as road trips to Miami, Florida State and Kentucky. I know it is way too early to be projecting records for next season, but Louisville could see some growing pains in 2019 before Brohm can really hit his stride.