Who's next at Baylor after Matt Rhule's departure?

Stephen A. unsure Rhule is the right hire for Panthers (2:01)

Stephen A. Smith is uncertain of what Matt Rhule being hired as the Panthers' head coach could mean for Cam Newton's future. (2:01)

In December 2016, Baylor pulled off a coaching shocker, plucking Matt Rhule from Temple to lead its program.

Athletic director Mack Rhoades drew widespread praise for the hire, while many (including me) wondered why Rhule took the job. Sure, he received a very lucrative and secure contract, but he's a New Yorker who spent most of his life in the Northeast, passing up seemingly better offers to head to Waco, Texas, and lead a scandal-scarred program.

The hire worked out masterfully for both sides. Rhule guided Baylor from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 this past season. As NFL interest ramped up, Rhule could no longer say no to a career-long dream and Tuesday agreed to become Carolina Panthers' head coach.

Rhoades now must find Rhule's successor. Although the change is happening later than usual, Baylor also finds itself in a much stronger place than when Rhule arrived. The Bears will be among the Big 12 preseason favorites, as they return key contributors on both sides of the ball. Money also is not an obstacle for Baylor, which always has plenty and will receive a $6 million buyout, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, after reworking Rhule's contract in September.

Rhoades' recent coaching hires include two high-profile up-and-comers in Rhule and Tom Herman (hired at Houston). He also hired Barry Odom at Missouri, a move that seemed to work out well until a late-season slide in the fall. Rhoades has a strong internal candidate to consider, as well as several good choices outside the program.

Here's a look at the candidates to succeed Rhule at Baylor.