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Ed Orgeron and LSU will part ways after the 2021 season. Who are 5 possible candidates to take over the job?
Ed Orgeron to leave LSU after the season. Good luck, new guy – just recreate the 2019 magic.
There was just no way to possibly follow up the mega-platinum hit album that took America by storm.
Ed Orgeron has always been a phenomenal recruiter and peerless line coach, and he got the job done at LSU. In a division with the Alabama machine never, ever slowing down, and in a conference that’s never, ever slowing down, LSU was able to hold its own.
It always gets lost among the expectations, but you can be phenomenal in the SEC and still not win much of anything. LSU was great under Orgeron, building up over his first three seasons before the epic 15-0 2019 season that ranks among the greatest of all-time.
But the program got hit with the perfect punch.
The 2019 team and coaching staff were gutted, the covid year kicked in and 2020 was rough in every way possible, and 2021 was supposed to be the real rebuilding year.
Everyone still seems tired after the 2019 season, and there were other issues including … uhhhhhh …
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) October 17, 2021
It’s been an emotional and intense going-to-be six seasons, Orgeron will always be a legend and made man around the program, and with the impending doom coming – at Ole Miss, at Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M, to go along with a date against ULM – the two sides cut to the chase.
So what’s next? Where does LSU go from here?
The job is one of the biggest and most prestigious in all of football, but 1) it’ll take a guy who has to deal with a fan base that’s old enough to remember 2019, 2) Alabama isn’t going away, 3) the rest of the SEC isn’t going away, and 4) 10-2 isn’t good enough.
So what kind of a powerhouse head coach could possibly handle the gig? Here are five – and more – coaches who should at least get an exploratory phone call from LSU athletic director Scott Woodward.
Let’s start with three big names that will be floated out there, but won’t happen …
5A. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M head coach
Why Jimbo Fisher will be the next head coach at LSU: He’s got the national championship win on the top line of the resumé. He’s one of the few head coaches in college football who got the trophy in the case and is also still at the top of his game, even if Texas A&M has been a bit of a disappointment. He’s the guy who punches his SEC weight with the rest of the league.
Why Jimbo Fisher won’t be the next head coach at LSU: Call this all a negotiating ploy to make an already insanely great deal even better. However, A&M is locked in to Fisher’s massive contract to the tune of close to $100 million after an extension. He’s very, very pricey, even for LSU.
5B. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss head coach
Why Lane Kiffin will be the next head coach at LSU: The guy wins. He was underappreciated at USC – he got the team just as it was getting hit with the Reggie Bush sanctions – and he quickly made Ole Miss a thing. He’s a brilliant offensive coach. Period.
Why he won’t be the next head coach at LSU: He’s Lane Kiffin. Period.
Again, Fisher and Kiffin will be thrown out there – because big-time programs like it when everyone thinks they can go get anyone they want. That also goes for …
5C. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach
Why Mike Gundy will be the next head coach at LSU: The move of Les Miles from Oklahoma State to LSU several years ago worked out just fine for a long time – at least on the field.
Things have been way-too-quiet about Gundy and moving from his alma mater, but he’s one of the few coaches out there who’s been able to survive and thrive for a long, long time despite his school being the clear No. 2 to the the monster rival program.
The expectations at Oklahoma State are a bit different. Of course the program wants to win national titles, but it’s more realistically about being very good every year, getting to good bowl games, and being in the Big 12 Championship chase on a consistent basis.
He’s one of those coaches who has been very good where he’s at, but if he had the elite program recruiting machine to work with, look out.
Why Mike Gundy won’t be the next head coach at LSU: If he was going to leave Oklahoma State, he would’ve left Oklahoma State by now. There’s also the problem of winning – he does it, but 2011 was the one Big 12 Championship and his Cowboys haven’t finished in the league’s top two since 2013.
And then there’s the issue of being Mike Gundy. He can be abrasive, he’s in his 17th year and hasn’t really been a candidate for other places, and there’s the too-recent issue with the One America News t-shirt controversy.
But in the Just Means More world of the SEC, the guy is 6-0 this year with a very, very solid team.
It’s not going to be Gundy.
NEXT: Mel Tucker, Michigan State head coach
4. Mel Tucker, Michigan State head coach
Why Mel Tucker will be the next head coach at LSU: Let’s see … did LSU have any success in the past getting a head coach from Michigan State?
And that’s the last time Mel Tucker and Nick Saban are in any sort of conversation together, at least for a little while.
However, when it comes to personality, the ability to quickly fire up a base, and the talent to get the players in the new world of the transfer portal to rock right away, Tucker has quickly turned Michigan State into a player in the Big Ten race.
Kenneth Walker has become one of the nation’s top running backs, and without the normal level of four-and-five star talent, he and his staff are putting together an amazing year.
Give this guy the LSU recruiting machine to work with, and that running game that showed up against Florida would likely be a regular thing.
He’s going to be the hot name at a lot of big openings very soon, but …
Why Mel Tucker won’t be the next head coach at LSU: Let’s do a little roll slowing here.
Yeah, Michigan State is 7-0, but as you’re probably reading this, it hasn’t faced Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State, and there’s a solid chance the team has yet to face anyone who’ll go bowling.
Again with the theme here, it’s LSU. It’s going to want a national title-level coach, and Tucker is just 14-12 so far. But if his Spartans win a few of those big games, he’s going to be deep in the mix for one of the huge gigs.
NEXT: Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator
3. Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator
Why Joe Brady will be the next head coach at LSU: There’s a sizable portion of the LSU world that will always credit Brady from being the reason Joe Burrow and that fantastic group of talents went from great to otherworldly in the 2019 dream season.
Brady wasn’t even the offensive coordinator in 2019, but his work as the passing game coordinator was enough to get Matt Rhule to make him his OC with the Carolina Panthers.
And, for the most part, the offense has been good. He hasn’t had a ton of elite talent to work with thanks to Christian McCaffrey being hurt, but even with pedestrian NFL quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold, he’s been solid.
Why Joe Brady won’t be the next head coach at LSU: It all depends on when someone wants to take the chance and go all in early on the NFT.
The guy is still only 32, he’s never been a head coach, and he’s barely been an offensive coordinator.
However, if the fan base can buy into the idea that there’s something special potentially there in a few years, and if someone gets the spark that he might really be a Sean McVay type when it comes to offensive innovation, he would be an interesting call.
NEXT: Billy Napier, Louisiana head coach
2. Billy Napier, Louisiana head coach
Why Billy Napier will be the next head coach at LSU: Napier was the high-rising assistant at Clemson, and later Alabama, and later Arizona State, but he was considered a bit young and with no head coaching experience when the Sun Devil coaching gig came open after the 2017 season.
ASU went with Herm Edwards, and Napier landed at Louisiana where he’s won 33 games in just over three years, has gone 26-5 in his last 2.5 seasons, and he took the program to a top 15 finish last year.
He might not have the high-octane passing game style LSU might like, but he’s been able to create a killer ground attack with what he had to work with, and he’s stuck with it.
The success is there, but there’s obviously a limit on what he can do in the Sun Belt.
Why Billy Napier won’t be the next head coach at LSU: Is coaching a Sun Belt team to success enough to make the giant jump up to the LSU gig?
He’s still only 42 and there might be a thought that he’s one mid-level Power Five coaching run away from being ready to step into the monster that’s this LSU job and all it entails.
Whatever – he’s really good. However, he’s more likely going to be the guy who replaces the guy who takes over the LSU job, like at …
NEXT: Dave Aranda, Baylor head coach
1. Dave Aranda, Baylor head coach
Why Dave Aranda will be the next head coach at LSU: For years he was everyone’s next hot head head coaching prospect.
He helped work rework a monster of a Wisconsin defense as the defensive coordinator, left for LSU and helped mold an eventual national championship D, and now he’s been able to turn Baylor around in just over a year.
Baylor needed a complete rebuild in 2020, and like almost all new head coaches last season, he didn’t have any time or the normal opportunities to get everything together.
This year, his team is 6-1, beat Iowa State, and he’s doing it with the third-best defense in the Big 12 and a good enough offense to be in the conference championship chase.
Why Dave Aranda won’t be the next head coach at LSU: Is he a big enough name for the powerhouse gig? Yeah, but more than that, is LSU going to want to go defensive-minded or try for the next hot shot coach for the offense?
LSU really and truly will be throwing out names like Jimbo, and Kiffin, and maybe even James Franklin, Luke Fickell, and other elite coaches doing elite things. Baylor being 6-1 in the Big 12 is nice, but …
Texas and Oklahoma are coming next. A whole lot might depend on the next six weeks.