So, things have changed since just the other day when I was primarily convinced the hire was going to be Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Yesterday, Yurcich removed his name from the pool of possible candidates.
Sometimes, that's an indication that a school has zeroed in on their man and it's a way to say "I listened, but I really like my job at __" so you don't upset your own fan base. Or, it could be that he didn't like the situation at Auburn and decided he didn't want the job. We'll probably know which it was based on how quickly Auburn announces a hire.
We don't know who that hire is going to be. Here's the thing about the candidates that have been floated, so far: no one really knows if most of them are actually on Gus Malzahn's list that he is talking to. The initial reports listed a whole bunch of names like Eli Drinkwitz, Chip Lindsey, and the two Briles. When they weren't pursued, the narrative suddenly became "Gus is being told he can't hire __" or we start to hear that maybe some of the candidates have turned Auburn down.
Gus is very secretive in his coaching searches. Again, remember that the last three coaching hires weren't even on anyone's radar as someone Auburn is pursuing. The candidates that the media and even myself named the night Rhett Lashlee left? Those were pure guesses based on the "coaching tree" and other factors like Gus' known friendships. The only candidate we know (or least has been reported to have actually interviewed) to really have been a candidate is Yurcich.
So, where do we stand? I have no idea.
Now you know I'm not going to just leave it at that, though. The other day, in the article linked above, I mentioned Helfrich and Sterlin Gilbert as two other primary candidates. I doubt it'll be Helfrich. Though, if he wants to get back into coaching for next year, this is really the only shot at a major school. Will it be Gilbert? The Tigers will have to lure him away from Charlie Strong and USF where he just accepted a job after following Strong from Texas.
Of the two, I like Gilbert the most. He's actually called plays in the college game, recently. His offenses at Texas were potent while the defense struggled. In fact, I remember tweets from the Notre Dame game at the beginning of last season praising the way he used his players and wishing Auburn could do more of what he's doing.
Are there other candidates out there? Sure. I've even seen rumors that Auburn is trying to lure the OC from Auburn's bowl opponent. Personally, I'd take Lincoln Riley in a heartbeat, even if it means making him the highest paid coordinator in the nation. I have no idea if that's remotely a possibility, though or just a message board rumor. I'd find it hard to believe since Riley has Baker Mayfield returning and is set up for a head coaching job somewhere after next season if he wants it.*
Here are some things we know. Or at least we think we know. It's Gus Malzahn, so who the hell really knows? We know he wants an OC/QB coach. However, that could change if the NCAA approves a 10th on-field coach. Then he could get an OC with other experience and hire a QB coach. We know he wants someone with experience.
If you want to go out to left field (as we often need to do with Gus, it appears), then there's the possibility of picking an FCS head coach who is also the play caller. Cal just did that when they hired Eastern Washington's head coach. If Gus goes that route, I'm calling Bob Stitt, the Montana head coach. No, I really don't think he's a candidate. I can dream, though, right? I would have offered up Charleston Southern's Jamey Chadwell, too, but he took the Coastal Carolina offensive coordinator job as they transition to FBS. Of course, if we can pull Gilbert from USF, we could pull Chadwell from Coastal.
I've now written close to 700 words and really can't offer you a good legitimate candidate that I think Auburn is aiming for. That's just the nature of coaching searches with Gus Malzahn. If I had to guess, I'd say Lincoln Riley IS on the radar, but not a legitimate possibility. I'd guess Sterlin Gilbert is on the radar and is a legitimate possibility. I'd also guess that because of the way Gus seems to work, the person actually hired is going to be someone we never expected and/or considered to begin with. Or, it could end up still being Chip Lindsey even after he was supposedly ruled out days ago. I'd be fine with that, personally, though I know many would think he's a "yes man" to Gus like they though Lashlee was
Hopefully, this search ends soon. Auburn's big recruiting weekend is coming up this weekend and I'm sure Gus would prefer to have an offensive coordinator in place. If he doesn't, then this is going to extend into next week because they're going to be focused on the recruits all weekend long.
War Eagle. Always.
*In fact, if this whole experiment in a new OC fails and Gus & Company are let go, Lincoln Riley is probably Candidate #1 for me for the Auburn job.