Assistant coach Luke Fickell will serve as interim coach all of next season for Ohio State University, but Jim Tressel is a tough coach to lose, and now the search is on for a permanent replacement.

Ohio State has already said that they will not have a job search unil the end of the season.

It will be a very difficult task to replace Tressel. It's possible that Ohio State may audition Fickell for the full-time job in the upcoming season, and hand him the job in 2012 if the team over-achieves.

Here are some early candidates for the position no matter how Fickell does:

Urban Meyer. This is a no-brainer aside from Meyer being linked to possible violations at Florida. Meyer probably wants a year off to rest, as he took time away from his coaching duties in December 2009 for personal health reasons. At one point, Meyer claimed he suffered from chest pains and dehydration, and it seemed he was done at Florida. After stepping down after last season, one year away from the game might be enough, and Meyer can take charge of one of the most prestigious programs in college football.

Meyer was born in Toledo, and began his coaching career at Ohio State. The possible violations at Florida might raise a red flag with some, since the Buckeyes likely want someone who has a clean sheet after the turmoil that surrounded Tressel.

Chris Petersen. Whenever there's a major head coaching vacancy, this name always seems to pop up. The Boise State head coach has done wonders for the program, but a move to Columbus might not be a wise move for either party. Petersen is happy in Boise, and knows the fate of his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, who struggled when he moved to Colorado. Meanwhile, Ohio State is a traditional football program, and Petersen runs nontraditional plays.

But there's no arguing with success. Peterson is a hot commodity in college football, and there's no way athletic director Gene Smith should bypass giving him a look.

Tony Dungy. This is a longshot. Dungy has shown no desire to move to the college ranks, and seems content with his life as a broadcaster.

But Dungy would be a great fit for the Buckeyes. He would be a great recruiter, as many who know him rave about his character and personality. The former Indianapolis Colts head coach will have no problems landing a top high school quarterback after working for years with Peyton Manning.

Kyle Whittingham. Unlike the rest on this list, Whittingham would probably jump on the opportunity to coach the Buckeyes. Having coached Utah to a perfect season in 2008, Whittingham has proven he can win, and is a respected in coaching circles.

Whittingham has incentive to bolt from Utah. His reputation could falter should the Utes struggle in the Pac 12, which is a distinct possibility. Whittingham has a clean record of avoiding NCAA violations, and is an Urban Meyer understudy.

Many names will pop up, and it's certainly early to consider the multitude of choices.

But the four names above will garner some serious talk in the coming months.