Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is Auburn, coached for the past 1+ seasons by Bryan Harsin (fired on Monday).
- Deion Sanders – Jackson State head coach
- Sanders did not get into coaching to stay at Jackson State and he has made a career shining under bright lights. Auburn provides a great opportunity for Sanders to show he can win at a higher level, as he has well-established star power in SEC country and the Tigers can benefit from some positive buzz. Regardless of what happens on the field, this hire would inject some much-needed excitement into the program, and there’s no reason to think he can’t win. Not to mention he is already in the Under Armour family.
- Lane Kiffin – Ole Miss head coach
- Kiffin has quickly brought Ole Miss back into the national conversation and has completely won over the fanbase (and, tbh, much of the college football world). He is (again) destined for a bigger job but it feels different this time, as he has had to work his way back into this position after the USC debacle by actually winning games. After two 10+ win seasons at FAU he is headed for his second in three years with the Rebs, having made the Sugar Bowl last season (10-3). You don’t often see coaches go from one job to another in the same conference, but if there is one place it happens it’s with SEC football.
- Hugh Freeze – Liberty head coach
- Speaking of Ole Miss, another realistic candidate at Auburn is current Liberty and former Rebs head coach Hugh Freeze. He won a ton of games in Oxford, though most of those were later vacated which should probably be an issue for big name programs but doesn’t really appear to be. Many of the violations within the program were financially-related and now that NIL has changed the college football landscape there is less worry about those types of things going on. Players can make their own money now and the more a program wins, the more money the program and its players are worth. Freeze can win: he’s 33–12 at Liberty and will play in his fourth bowl in four years next month.
- Matt Rhule – former Carolina Panthers, Baylor, Temple head coach
- Rhule was let go by Carolina in October after going 11-27 in 2+ seasons there and since then the already rampant chatter of him returning to the college game has grown out of control. In addition to nearly $40 million in buyouts, Rhule will have his pick of college jobs this winter. The sweepstakes for Rhule will be something to watch, but of all the jobs available at the time of this writing, Auburn is (by our measure) the highest profile.
- Jamey Chadwell – Coastal Carolina head coach
- The 45-year old Chadwell is in his fifth year with the Chanticleers and is coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons. He runs a winning program with an exciting style of play that might be exactly what is needed at Auburn. Chadwell has never coached in a league bigger than the Sun Belt, but he’s got the attention of power conference ADs across the country and it won’t be much longer before he makes the jump.
- Kevin Steele – Miami (FL) DC
- The former DC at both at Auburn and Alabama (and Clemson, LSU and now Miami), Steele has technically had the job once before, serving as interim head coach in the Citrus Bowl two years ago (a loss to Northwestern). He doesn’t have much head coaching experience (he was 9-36 in four seasons at Baylor more than 20 years ago) and he is also the oldest coach on this list (he’ll be 65 when next season starts). But he has deep ties to the SEC and the program, is well-respected in coaching circles and would certainly come at a lower price tag.
- Mike Stoops – Kentucky LBs coach
- Should Auburn hire a Stoops? It worked out very well for nearly two decades at Oklahoma and things at Kentucky are certainly going well at the moment. Maybe it’s time for the middle brother in the coaching family to get another shot. Mike is in his first year on his brother’s staff at Lexington but has significant experience on the sidelines, including stints at Alabama, Oklahoma and Kansas State. He also served as the head coach at Arizona for 7+ seasons, and while his 41-50 record seems less than impressive it is a better winning % than the two most recent Wildcats head coaches have managed.