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Top Auburn coaching candidates: Deion Sanders, Lane Kiffin, and more


The coaching carousel can usually get a little bit off-axis and spin in wildly totally different instructions over the course of a college football season. That’s what results in surprises like Wisconsin letting go of Paul Chryst mid-season, or TCU exhibiting the door to Gary Patterson in the midst of final yr.

But there are different occasions when issues are merely fait accompli in terms of firing a head coach. Such was the case on Monday when Auburn lastly made the inevitable announcement that they have been letting head coach Bryan Harsin go after lower than two seasons.

The Tigers have been coming off a 41-27 dwelling loss to Arkansas on Saturday that dropped Harsin to 9-12 over his quick tenure and simply 4-9 in SEC play. On prime of the disappointing outcomes on the sector, the previous Boise State coach (who went 69-19 with the Broncos and had a New Year’s Six bowl win) by no means appeared like a cultural match for some of the demanding jobs within the nation.

Between Harsin and predecessor Gus Malzahn, the Tigers have paid roughly $37 million in buyouts to simply two head coaches up to now 687 days — almost $54,900 per day in that point span. Add in assistant salaries and the price of hiring a brand new employees, and the determine shoots even greater. That’s a mirrored image on simply what sort of hectic and pressure-packed job it may be on the Plains — but additionally underscores the varsity’s dedication to successful on the highest degree after the earlier 5 head coaches led Auburn to both a nationwide and/or SEC title.

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The determination to maneuver on from Harsin additionally marks a near-complete management turnover with the Tigers that, more or much less, clears the decks for a reboot that goes far past the soccer staff however is mainly targeted on making the game a winner once more. School president Chris Roberts was employed in February, and it’s extensively reported that Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen shall be taking on the identical place with AU within the coming days.

What route might the Tigers go in changing Harsin? In what is certain to be some of the mentioned job openings of the 2022 carousel, here’s a have a look at potential candidates to take over at Auburn:

Deion Sanders, Jackson State head coach

Prime to the Plains? There’s a definite risk of it occurring, and Sanders has indicated he would hear to greater jobs like this one. He’s rapidly rotated JSU right into a marquee program on the FCS degree, going 23-5 in three seasons as a head coach. On prime of that, he’s confirmed he can usher in gamers on the highest degree after beating out his alma mater Florida State for No. 1 general recruit Travis Hunter final yr. Don’t low cost the coach’s reference to Under Armour, a notable faculty sponsor, both. On prime of the plain victory through the introductory press convention that hiring Sanders would characterize, his potential to inject a little bit of swagger into this system that has been lacking simply such a factor the previous few years could be a fair larger win. It would additionally add a little bit of spice going in opposition to Aflac industrial co-host Nick Saban throughout the state as properly.

Evaluating Deion Sanders’ coaching future

RJ Young explains why he believes Deion Sanders will NOT go away Jackson State for the foreseeable future.

Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss head coach

If the varsity needs somebody with confirmed head coaching expertise within the SEC, Kiffin must be the primary identify on the decision sheet. He’s gotten the Rebels to a New Year’s Six bowl and has the staff off to its finest begin because the Nineteen Sixties. There are apparent parallels to hiring Tommy Tuberville from Ole Miss again within the day, however Kiffin would carry an thrilling offense and the power to recruit in opposition to the perfect, too. His utilization of the Transfer Portal could be an asset in turning issues round rapidly, and the mixture of that and the Tigers’ NIL battle chest would make for a reasonably formidable opponent for the remainder of the SEC. There usually are not many strikes that might lure Kiffin out of Oxford in the meanwhile, however the potential to needle Saban at Alabama’s biggest rival could be simply as engaging because the hefty payday.

Hugh Freeze, Liberty head coach

Freeze not too long ago signed an extension with the Flames, however the buyout on that deal isn’t anticipated to get in the way in which of a departure to a spot resembling Auburn. Notably, he is among the uncommon coaches to beat Alabama in back-to-back video games — one thing that carries added weight at a spot just like the Plains. Freeze’s offenses are entertaining, and he is aware of what it takes to assemble a roster that may compete for convention and nationwide titles from his stint at Ole Miss. He’s elevated Liberty right into a top-25 staff and gone 33-12 general whereas juggling the schedule of a soccer unbiased. One complicating issue for Freeze is the potential for the convention workplace not trying too favorably on such a rent, however maybe sufficient distance from a scandal with the Rebels would make directors more amenable to the thought.

Matt Rhule, former Carolina Panthers head coach

Rhule’s identify is certain to give you nearly each faculty opening after performing turnaround miracles at Temple and Baylor. Auburn received’t be fairly as massive of a rebuilding job as both of these two, however will carry a distinct degree of stress in comparison with even an NFL gig. Rhule has performed properly just about all over the place he’s been on the faculty degree, shaking off his Northern roots to thrive within the coronary heart of Texas and parlay that into a professional job. He’s nonetheless being paid by the Panthers, which may very well be a pleasant cherry on prime for Auburn given the quantity the Tigers have dedicated to buyouts, too.

Is Baker Mayfield accountable for Matt Rhule’s firing?

Shannon Sharpe takes a have a look at what went flawed in Carolina.

Dave Doeren, NC State head coach

Doeren may very well be one of many few coaches with out SEC expertise which will get a glance from the Tigers after just about maxing out what the Wolfpack can do, successful at the least eight video games in 4 of the previous 5 years earlier than this one (NC State is presently within the AP Top 25 at 6-2). He’s a wonderful developer of expertise, particularly within the trenches, and has defenses that would slot in properly contained in the convention. He’s flirted with openings like Tennessee up to now and may very well be a veteran possibility that will get the Tigers again on observe to being a constant program.

Jamie Chadwell, Coastal Carolina head coach

Chadwell is 29-4 up to now three seasons at Coastal, elevating this system into one of many Sun Belt’s finest and into the AP Top 25 frequently. His offenses are extraordinarily enjoyable to observe and his variations of unfold possibility appears to be like could be fairly the curveball within the SEC. The Tennessee native has received all over the place he’s been, however Auburn must be snug given his lack of SEC or Power 5 expertise.

Charles Huff, Marshall head coach

Huff led the Thundering Herd to a bowl recreation in his first season and has them aggressive of their first yr within the Sun Belt. He overlapped at Mississippi State as an assistant underneath incoming AD John Cohen and was extensively thought to be the most effective recruiters within the nation as Alabama’s affiliate head coach.

Kevin Steele, Miami defensive coordinator

Steele has been synonymous with the SEC, main gritty defenses the previous 20 years at stops resembling Alabama, LSU and Tennessee. He was briefly Auburn’s interim head coach after Malzahn was let go and has head coaching expertise at Baylor. Steele is shut with a number of key figures at Auburn and in all probability will garner loads of help if an enormous identify is skittish over the scenario across the program.

Todd Monken, Georgia offensive coordinator

File this underneath serving to your individual program whereas additionally hurting a rival. Monken is a former head coach at Southern Miss and has intensive NFL expertise. He additionally has been a veteran within the SEC, with stops at LSU and in serving to lead the Bulldogs to the nationwide title a yr in the past. His offenses are identified for the power to create massive performs, and he’s recruited at a excessive degree underneath Kirby Smart, too. 

Bobby Petrino, Missouri State head coach

If Auburn actually solely cares about successful, might reviving Petrino’s profession within the SEC make sense? He led Arkansas to a top-five rating earlier than issues got here crashing down in Fayetteville, and he made Lamar Jackson a Heisman winner at Louisville. Petrino was an OC on the Plains years in the past and has been severely related to the highest job at AU twice earlier than (together with, infamously, the scandal referred to as JetGate). Could the third time be the appeal? Nothing at Auburn will ever shock and that features the return of Petrino.

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Bryan Fischer is a school soccer author for FOX Sports. He has been protecting faculty athletics for almost 20 years at retailers resembling NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com amongst others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.


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