Although he has been on the hot seat several times over the last couple of years, Auburn has now decided to pull the trigger on firing Gus Malzahn. Here are five potential head coach candidates for the Auburn Tigers.
1. Hugh Freeze
One of the reasons the Tigers decided to move on from Malzahn was his bad record against Alabama. They may opt to hire a coach who has proven he can beat Alabama. That person would be Hugh Freeze. When Freeze was the coach at Ole Miss, he won the last two meetings with Alabama, which is something only a few other coaches have been able to do in their careers.
Auburn would have to overlook some of Freeze’s past if they hire him. He had NCAA violations and dialed an escort service, which ended up getting him fired. Now, Freeze is coaching the Liberty Flames. He is in his second season with the team and has a 17-6 record. This year, Liberty has a 9-1 record. While he did have some issues, Freeze has proven to be able to coach well at the Division I level and knows how to be successful in the SEC.
2. Steve Sarkisian
Another way that Auburn can look to start having similar success as Alabama is hiring one of their coaches. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has helped the Crimson Tide have one of the best offenses in the country over the last few years. He also has experience as a head coach at both Washington and USC. Over his seven seasons as a head coach, Sarkisian posted a 46-35 record.
Sarkisian also has some things that Auburn will have to look into before hiring him. He had numerous incidents relating to alcohol at Washington and was fired at USC after a leave of absence due to him reportedly showing up intoxicated and missing practice. His time at Alabama should not only help him prove that he can handle the job, but also that he can coach well on the offensive end.
3. Rhett Lashlee
Last time Auburn needed to hire a head coach, they went with one of their former assistants. They may elect to do the same this time around. Rhett Lashlee was the offensive coordinator for the team from 2013-2016. He helped Auburn’s offense be great, especially in his first couple of years on the job, as he was a finalist for the Broyles award in 2013, as the country’s top assistant coach.
Lashlee surprisingly left Auburn to take a job at UCONN as an offensive coordinator. Since then, he has taken jobs at SMU and Miami, where he has improved their offenses.With Lashlee having experience at the school and as a good offensive coach, the Tigers may elect to bring him back.
4. Billy Napier
One of the best candidates who has a head coaching job right now is Billy Napier. Napier is the current head coach of Louisiana, where he has held the job for three seasons. In his first season, Napier went 7-7 at Louisiana. Since then he has really put his foot on the gas. In 2019, Napier went 11-3 and this season, the Ragin’ Cajuns are 9-1.
Over his career, Napier has had a lot of stops. He has spent time at Clemson, Alabama and Arizona State as an assistant. His recruiting ties from all of his stops will come into play to go along with his success as a head coach. Auburn getting Napier would not be a consolation prize to the other names on this list.
5. Bill Clark
Auburn could elect to stay in state for their next hire. One of the coaches who is doing some elite work is Bill Clark at UAB. He was the UAB head coach when they decided to end the program following the 2014 season. Clark then returned when they brought the program back in 2017. Despite not having great funding or even knowing what class a lot of his players were, Clark succeeded. The Blazers went 8-5 in their first season back. Clark then helped them go 11-3, 9-5 and 5-3 over the next three seasons.
Over his five years at UAB, Clark has proven he can do a lot of good work without a lot of resources. Auburn will have a lot more resources for him to work with. Clark knows the state and has succeeded under the worst circumstances, so he is more than qualified to take the leap to an SEC job.
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