This is the time of year in which athletics directors at smaller schools and search firms start looking over coaching staffs for assistants with upward mobility.
Of the 29 FBS jobs that opened in the last cycle, 17 were filled by assistant coaches, underscoring how important it is to be considered a hot commodity among that group.
Putting aside Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, whose history will make him a divisive figure in many coaching searches, several assistants have clearly raised their stock this year and will land on interview lists at the end of the season.
Among those in that group:
►Rhett Lashlee, Auburn OC: Still only 33, the Tigers’ offense has taken off since Gus Malzahn gave him total control of playcalling.
►Tim Drevno, Michigan OC: Longtime Jim Harbaugh assistant going back to University of San Diego is having a breakout season with the Wolverines’ rise to No. 2.
►Justin Wilcox, Wisconsin DC: Coaches the nation’s No. 9 defense; has been good everywhere in his career except Southern Cal.
►Kendal Briles, Baylor OC: Despite the scandal attached to his father, the Baylor system has brought instant offense everywhere it’s been imported.
►Jake Spavital, California OC: The former Texas A&M wunderkind is still just 31, and the move to Berkeley has paid big dividends. Cal is averaging 537 yards of offense per game.
►Matt Canada, Pittsburgh OC: Counting Thursday's loss to Virginia Tech, Pitt has scored 36-plus points in seven consecutive games, the longest such streak in school history.
►Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama DC: After a rough ending at Georgia, he returned to Alabama and has arguably produced the Tide’s best defense since Saban became head coach.
►Darrin Chiaverini, Colorado co-OC: The former Buffaloes and NFL receiver returned to his alma mater this year and helped engineer their 6-2 start.
►Ivin Jasper, Navy OC: With Ken Niumatalolo likely to stay for the long haul, don’t be surprised if his offensive coordinator starts to get serious looks as Navy’s ascent in the AAC continues.
►Manny Diaz, Miami DC: Has done a terrific job this year with a young defense and is well-connected in South Florida as a recruiter.