'Group of Five' countdown, No. 1: Jason Candle, Toledo
Paul Brown, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, Chuck Knoll and Don Shula, Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops, Ara Parseghian and Jim Tressel, football coaching giants, every one of them.
The best college football coach you never heard of, who just might be the best college coach, period, also is from Ohio and boasts a .929 winning percentage, best at any division of college football among those who have coached at least 100 games.
Larry Kehres, retired after the 2012 season with a 332-24-3 record, 11 national titles and 10 undefeated seasons in 27 years at University of Mount Union where he is now the athletic director and the boss of his son the football coach, Vince Kehres, who has a 70-4 record (.946).
Everything about Ohio screams football, from the gray skies to the grounded, sports-crazed people who can trend toward gruffness around the edges. The area on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, where collars are blue, skin thick, is a particularly fertile coaching region. Mark Mangino, KU's lone winning head coach of the 21st century, is from New Castle, Pa.
There are those in and around the game who whisper that the next two great football coaches not only are Ohio-born but also branches of the fruitful Larry Kehres coaching tree.
Which brings us to:
No. 1 — Jason Candle, Toledo
Age: 38 Record at school: 21-7 Overall record: 21-7 Impressive win: vs. No. 24 Temple, 32-17, Marmot Boca Raton Bowl
Why he's on the list: Iowa State already scooped up Matt Campbell, 38, who in his second season in Ames coached the Cyclones to an 8-5 record, this at a school that had not won more than three games for four seasons in a row.
Campbell came to the Big 12 from Toledo, where he went 35-15 and had the Rockets ranked No. 20 in the country in 2015.
Campbell took Candle with him to Iowa State, for about a day. Candle went back to Toledo as head coach, where he took over for the bowl game and called plays from the press box.
A native of Salem, Ohio, Candle, never lost a game in two seasons as a wide receiver at Mount Union, after spending his first two seasons at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., hometown of New York Jets great Joe Namath.
This past season, Candle coached the Rockets to a 10-3 record and their first MAC championship since 2004. The Rockets ran out of fuel by the time the Dollar General Bowl arrived and lost to Appalachian State, 34-0, but that didn’t taint Candle’s growing reputation. Toledo ranks 29th in the nation in rushing and 26th in passing.
Campbell and Candle remain close.
“Jason’s got a great mind for the game of football, playing together then working together at Mount Union, then bringing him when I got the beach coaching job (at Toledo), for us I think it was great because we were so similar in terms of our tree and how we learned the game of football,” Campbell said at Big 12 Media Day.