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Ole Miss Head Coach Candidates: Buy or Sell

New Ole Miss Head Coach: Buy or Sell

In a shocking move Ole Miss fired former head coach Matt Luke on Sunday evening. The move came after the program had given Luke their stamp of approval going into the 2020 season. Fans and boosters alike had a change of heart after the fiasco in the Egg Bowl however.

In his first head coaching stint the former Ole Miss offensive lineman managed a 15-21 overall record and just a 6-18 record in conference play. Luke was the official head coach for two years after the interim title was removed at the end of the 2016 season.

Sportsline released the odds on who will be the next Ole Miss football coach on Monday night. Once again we’ll break down each candidate.

Billy Napier: Buy

Billy Napier would be a respectable hire for Ole Miss. He has found immediate success in his first season at Louisiana. He took over a 5-7 program and taken them to two Sun Belt Championship games in his first two year.

This year he has them rolling at 10-2. Their two losses were a 10-point loss to SEC for Mississippi State, and a 10-point loss to ranked Appalachian State. In all the 10 other games they’ve won they’ve had a margin of 10 or more in all the games, except for a one-point win to UL Monroe.

Napier has also had a fair amount of experience in the SEC as well as in the region. He’s spent three years as offensive coordinator at Clemson and spent several years under Nick Saban at Alabama. He knows how to recruit in the area and has SEC experience.

Lane Kiffin: Buy

The Lane Kiffin buzz in Oxford has reached an all-time high. This isn’t the first time the Rebel faithful have wanted to bring Kiffin to Oxford. During the 2016 head coaching search, Kiffin was the ideal candidate for the fans. Ultimately the looming NCAA sanctions and internal issues pushed him away.

New Ole Miss Head Coach: Buy or Sell
FAU plays UAB in the Conference USA Championship Saturday. (Photo by thespun.com).

This year’s different. The Rebels are finding stability and making moves past administrations weren’t making. There is a solid foundation, transfers pending, on both sides of the ball. The offensive production was nearly 90 percent from freshmen.

Kiffin, of course, is a proven candidate as well. He had success at Tennessee in one year. His time at USC started with a bang as he led an NCAA sanctioned, postseason banned Trojan team to 8 and 10 wins. He has taken FAU to their first two conference championship games in program history. His SEC experience both coaching and recruiting makes him a flashy candidate.

Bill Clark: Sell

It’s a soft sell that may gain steam later on but for now, Bill Clark is a sell. Clark really has the UAB program not only rising but finding consistency at the top. The Blazers finished 9-3 this season and will go to their third straight bowl game.

There’s no underselling the job Clark has done. The move to Arkansas may have been a little too much but a two and a half-hour drive west keeps him in his comfort zone. He’s familiar with the landscape and is still in comfortable ground.

For now, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in Clark by Ole Miss. It’s still unclear if Clark is terribly eager to make the jump to the Power 5 yet as well.

Eliah Drinkwitz: Sell

Eliah Drinkwitz has found immediate success at Appalachian State and would be a good hire. Minus a hiccup midseason, he would have had the Mountaineers in the midst of a perfect season and a nearly guaranteed New Year’s Six Bowl.

The trouble for Ole Miss is his name comes up a lot more for the Arkansas head coaching search. Drinkwitz is an Arkansas native having gone to college there, and has spent a significant chunk of his coaching career in the Natural State. If he makes a move it’s likely for the Arkansas job.

Willie Fritz: Buy

Fourth-year Tulane coach Willie Fritz is a soft buy at present time but may consider higher consideration depending on how the search plays out. Fritz found immediate success with Georgia Southern to start his career and has since stabilized a floundering Tulane program.

Fritz has experience and knowledge of the landscape all over the south having coached in Texas, Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana. He is far more a veteran than most of the candidates. His offensive coordinator Will Hall was a leading candidate for the offensive coordinator position last season at Ole Miss. His 23 years of coaching experience doesn’t hurt his chances.

Mike Leach: Sell

At the current time, the odds were released Mike Leach and Washington State had not yet come to an agreement about a contract extension. Regardless, he was still going to be a sell.

Leach has found his place at Washington State. Not to say he’ll stay forever but he’s had four years of tremendous success followed by a blip in this season’s 6-6. Regardless, it’s far more likely he stays in Pullman rather than tackle bottom feeder SEC West programs such as Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Mike Norvell: Buy

New Ole Miss Head Coach: Buy or Sell
Mike Norvell is 37-15 in his coaching career. (Photo by abcnews.go.com).

Earlier this week it would’ve been wise to bet the bank on Mike Norvell. Norvell is one of the hottest names in football at the moment. He’s continued the success Justin Fuente brought to Memphis and has caught the eye of programs such as Arkansas, Ole Miss and Florida State.

The sudden firing of Matt Luke raised the eyes of many and besides the disaster ending in the final game of the season, Mike Norvell may have been the reason why. According to sources, Ole Miss is willing to throw the house at Norvell and is just waiting for him to say yes or no.

It would not be shocking to think that Ole Miss and Norvell had been in discussion about the job over the weekend prior to Luke’s firing. Norvell appears to be down to just two schools now; Ole Miss and Florida State. Memphis will have their chance after the championship game Saturday to make one final offer to keep the coach, but it is likely it will come down to the Rebels and the Seminoles.

Rich Rodriguez/Mike MacIntyre: Sell

There is zero chance Rich Rodriguez or Mike MacIntyre will be chosen for the head coaching job. For one, MacIntyre has already been named interim head coach which rules out any possibility of Rich Rodriguez taking the job.

The strongest argument though is that the fans would riot. MacIntyre really wouldn’t be a bad hire. But it’s the process that would lead to his hiring that would doom the program. Ole Miss claimed they were doing a national search for candidates three years ago and ended up choosing interim head coach Matt Luke that got them in the position they’re in now.

More recently, they did a national search for Chancellor only to land on someone who was part of the search committee. And more recently than that, they conducted yet another national search for Athletic Director and once again landed on interim AD Keith Carter. For the record, Carter has garnered the confidence of much of the fanbase since taking over the interim position last summer.

Bonus – Will Healy: Buy

Will Healy has been a name coming up in conversations quite a bit recently. The Charlotte head coach has taken the 49er’s to their first bowl game since joining the FBS in 2015. He is one of the youngest coaches garnering the national attention he is at this stage in his career.

New Ole Miss Head Coach: Buy or Sell
Will Healy’s No.1 ranked recruiting class at Austin Peay came after an 0-11 season. (Photo by dnj.com).

The job done at Austin Peay is really what turns heads. He took a bottom feeder Austin Peay team from 0-11 to a program-record 8-4 season. He brought in two top-five recruiting classes at the FCS level. And he earned the FCS National Coach of the Year.

The caution comes from his youth and inexperience at the next level. He’s been at the FBS level for just one season. A jump from C-USA Charlotte to the SEC is one that the crowd against his hiring thinks is a little too soon. Regardless, he’d be a thrilling hire to follow.

Bonus – Bryan Harsin: Buy

Bryan Harsin has held steady at Boise State since taking over in 2014. Chris Petersen continued the group of 5 powerhouse that Dan Hawkins built. Harsin has tallied double-digit win totals in all but one of his six seasons at Boise State. He is 3-1 in bowl games with another coming this season.

The 1999 Boise quarterback has spent most of his coaching career at Boise State; a quick head coaching stint at Arkansas State before coming back to coach the Broncos is his only time away from the program since 2001.

Sources around football speculate that Harsin thinks he’s plateaued at Boise State. He’s ready for the next challenge, the next stage. Whether or not he’s ready to take on the SEC remains a question. It’s a whole new challenge and platform than he’s used to. All that said, if he is seriously considered he’s a viable candidate for the head coaching job.

Final Contenders

  • Billy Napier: +250
  • Lane Kiffin: +400
  • Willie Fritz: +800
  • Mike Norvell: +1200
  • Will Healy: Bonus
  • Bryan Harsin: Bonus

The race comes down to Mike Norvell and Lane Kiffin. They are the two leading candidates for the job with Billy Napier, Will Healy and Willie Fritz as options if both leaders don’t work out.

Since the firing on Sunday night the leading candidate has been Mike Norvell. It’s believed that conversations with him may have been a big reason leading to the firing. At this point it’s safe to say Norvell pretty much knows what Ole Miss and Florida State are going to offer.

Norvell is focused on earning an AAC Championship and a berth to a New Year’s Six Bowl. It’s possible an announcement or leak is made Sunday Monday. Memphis will have a shot to make an offer but Ole Miss’s main focus should be pulling him away from Florida State.

If Norvell does go to Florida State the next option should be Lane Kiffin. Sources close to Kiffin earlier in the week said if Ole Miss offered Kiffin he would allegedly take the job in a heartbeat. The reason push back from the Arkansas boosters about hiring Kiffin keeps him in the running for the Ole Miss job. If they were smart, they’d have an offer ready to pitch to Kiffin in the event Norvell does not work out.

If neither option works, Billy Napier should be the go to. He is 40 years young with plenty of experience around the SEC and the region. He’s found immediate success at Louisiana. Napier would bring a buzz to Oxford that hasn’t been replicated since the Hugh Freeze hire.

  1. Lane Kiffin
  2. Mike Norvell
  3. Billy Napier
  4. Will Healy
  5. Bryan Harsin
  6. Willie Fritz

 

 

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