The SEC will have one position available this winter. It could be as many as four. We know Arkansas won’t retain John L. Smith. Barring a turn around, it’s hard to see Kentucky keeping Joker Phillips. Though the Vols have improved, Derek Dooley may emerge from a brutal three-game stretch 3-5. With Auburn terrible in year four, Gene Chizik might want to start showing urgency. If those coaches depart this offseason, here are ten candidates to replace them.
Charlie Strong [Louisville] Strong will be the first call for multiple schools. He’s an SEC-caliber coach and he has extensive SEC experience from his time at Florida. The trouble is he’s loyal to Louisville. He has a loaded team returning next season. He also gets paid well for a Big East coach, earning nearly $3 million per year with bonuses. He’s a possibility for the future, Big East uncertainty will be used against him in recruiting, but it may be hard to pry him for 2013.
Gus Malzahn [Arkansas State] Malzahn is well-liked in his home state. He has a track record of success as a coordinator at Auburn. His Arkansas State team has started off 3-3, but had to play both Oregon and Nebraska. The Red Wolves’ offense ranks in the Top 40 in yards per play. Malzahn would be a popular candidate. Few at Arkansas State would begrudge him moving on up to Fayetteville.
Bobby Petrino [Unemployed] Petrino is an unsavory personality. He has professional baggage. He’s also had an unquestionable run of success at a backwater program in the SEC, without taking any NCAA heat. Could Kentucky, who hired Calipari, really take a moral stand against hiring him? This would not be the first time he has been a candidate at Auburn…
Kirby Smart [Alabama - DC] It is a surprise Smart has not received a head coaching job already. He has won a Broyles award. He coordinated one of college football’s best historical defenses last season. The issue for him is he’s only 36 and he’s making good money with a stable gig at Alabama. Is Tennessee or Arkansas the right opportunity? Or, does Smart hang around a few years to see if Alabama or his alma-mater Georgia opens up? Saban is in his sixth-year at Alabama. That is the longest he has stayed at any head coaching job.
Sonny Dykes [Louisiana Tech] Dykes is the latest Leach disciple to begin making a name for himself. He went 8-5 last year, with one-score losses at Southern Miss, vs. Houston, at Mississippi State (overtime) and to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. This year, his bulldogs are 5-0 with two AQ conference scalps and another chance against Texas A&M. Dykes, the son of longtime coach Spike Dykes, would have made tremendous sense at Texas Tech, though it appears Tuberville has some life left. He won’t be at Louisiana Tech for long.
Mario Cristobal [FIU] Cristobal built the Golden Panthers from nothing (program has not had enough money in recent years to fund the band and cheerleading) into a consecutive bowl team the past two years. He turned down Rutgers last winter. A 1-5 start in 2012 has dulled his glimmer a bit since. He knows how to construct a program. He has recruiting ties in South Florida. This would seem way more likely if he was 5-1 right now though.
Garrick McGee [UAB] He would be a popular choice within the Arkansas program, serving as offensive coordinator under Petrino before taking the UAB job this season. He’s off to a 1-4 start with the Blazers, though he inherited an awful team and did have them competing against Ohio State in the horseshoe. He would have made much more sense last April. Now, as the season turns sour, Jeff Long may want to move in a different direction.
Todd Monken [Oklahoma State - OC] Monken is one of those hot assistants ADs like to ogle and make eyes at. He’s done very well continuing Holgorsen’s work at Oklahoma State. He has NFL experience with the Jaguars. He was also LSU’s passing game coordinator, when such a thing existed. He should be in line for a head job after this season.
Mark Hudspeth [Louisiana-Lafayette] Hudspeth has a great track record as a head coach. He led North Alabama to five 10-win seasons in six years at Division II. He joined Dan Mullen’s staff at Mississippi State. He won nine games last year with the Ragin Cajuns and is now off to a 4-1 start. He could be the next to follow Hugh Freeze from the Sun Belt to the SEC.
Phillip Fulmer [Unemployed] Fulmer is a longshot. But, he did not want to leave Tennessee when he was forced out in 2008. He’s desperate to get back into coaching at a reasonably high-level and has expressed interest in Louisville, Connecticut, Arkansas and basically any conceivable job that has come available. He could have a few more years left at 62…
[Photo via Presswire]