There have been rumblings about purported candidates for the Ole Miss head job, with one in particular grabbing a few headlines.
And the Valley Shook posted their thoughts on this whole idea about Les Miles taking the Ole Miss job, essentially saying it’s a bad move. Not only because that would be treasonous in the minds of many LSU fans (actually the smallest reason in their minds), but because Miles is graying just a bit. Yes, he’s one of the best coaches of the past couple of decades, but the frenzy of being a football coach in the SEC may be a little much, especially if it’s a rebuilding project like Ole Miss seems destined to become. When Miles walked into the LSU job, he had a team just a year removed from a national title, and as fertile a recruiting ground as you can find (even more so since there’s no natural in-state rival to compete with). At Ole Miss, whoever gets hired will probably have NCAA sanctions to work around, but that excuse won’t last long. Ole Miss has been the most competitive team with Alabama over the past couple of seasons, beating them twice and coming fairly close a third time. Can whoever replaces Freeze replicate that? Even with the grace period afforded to the new guy, fans in Oxford will get restless if the same type of competitive success isn’t mirrored fairly soon.
So, as an Auburn fan, what should you think about all of this? What’s the roster of SEC West coaches look like without Hugh Freeze?
Alabama’s still got Nick Saban, and everyone is chasing them until something happens, but he may be the only guy not in any danger.
Bret Bielema has barely kept his head above water in Fayetteville, going just 25-26 through four years with some absolutely epic blowout losses. He needs to win nine this year to keep his job status out of jeopardy. Auburn blew him out one year ago.
Dan Mullen’s still feeding off of that 2014 campaign where Mississippi State reached #1 and won ten games. He’s got Nick Fitzgerald this year and will probably nip someone (please not Auburn), but they’re not a huge threat at the moment. Auburn blew him out one year ago.
Kevin Sumlin has slowed every year since his debut in College Station with Johnny Manziel. Three straight 8-5 seasons in a row have things a little tingly (and not in a good way). And this year Auburn plays at A&M, where they haven’t lost since the Aggies joined the SEC. They got the Tigers in 2016, but that was before the QB issue had been settled. Auburn won six straight after that loss.
Other than that you’re looking at the two new guys in the league. Matt Luke, who could turn out to be a success, or just a placeholder for now, and Ed Orgeron. Coach O did finish the year 6-2 after taking over for Miles at LSU last year, and his renown as a motivator is heavily documented. After that, we see a 10-25 record in his first stint as a head coach in the SEC West. He did grab Matt Canada to run the offense, but we’ll see how that goes with Danny Etling still under center. An Etling-run offense still managed just one touchdown last year against Kevin Steele’s defense.
In all honesty (and this will likely blow up in my face), none of the other SEC West coaches scare me. Gus Malzahn has beaten all the incumbents (at times in impressive blowout fashion) at least once, and hung tough with Alabama the last two years despite having severely shorthanded teams.
So, what about Ole Miss? Les Miles probably isn’t a serious candidate, so how about the other names on the list? The Rebs have had pretty solid success with Hugh Freeze’s system, so it makes sense that they’d go for a guy like Chad Morris, who’s number one on that last link. Morris learned under the Dabo tree, so that’s exceptionally attractive at the moment, especially since Clemson notched wins over Auburn and Georgia while he ran the offense there. Also an interesting candidate would be Lane Kiffin, who may not be quite as opaque in his intentions as he’d like. Kiffin can run an offense, but his ability to run a program is questionable (35-21 overall record as a head coach, among other things).
Or, if you like to believe such hearsay and grape-vining, the world could make sense again and ole Tubs could be in the mix for the job in Oxford... scope his Wikipedia page for absolute rock-solid confirmation in his candidacy.
All joking aside, this rambling is to say that there’s probably nobody that will be able to pull Ole Miss right out of where they currently stand, if in fact the NCAA hammers them and reduces their scholarships. Because they do have good SEC talent, with Shea Patterson under center (or in the shotgun, more likely), they’ll be able to compete with the rest of the league for a year or two. And Ole Miss should have first pick on seats when the coaching carousel begins, barring another huge vacancy overshadowing their own. We’ll likely have an entire football season before we really know anything concrete.