I’m aiming for a baseball success rate here.

That means 3 out of 10 is Hall of Fame stuff. Four out of 10 is unspeakable.

Consider that my way of setting the bar low for projecting which SEC assistants could become head coaches. It’s tough.

Even in a cycle that saw 28 FBS programs making changes at head coach, I still only got 1 of 5 right last year.

  • Texas A&M DC Mike Elko, Yes (Duke)
  • Auburn DC Derek Mason, No
  • MSU DC Zach Arnett, No
  • LSU WRs Mickey Josephs, No
  • Ole Miss OC Jeff Lebby, No

Cheers to you, Elko. In hindsight, yes, leaving Dan Lanning off that list was a major miss. Oh well. Go figure that 3 of those coaches I projected to get FBS head coaching gigs left the conference for different assistant jobs. Arnett was the only assistant who stayed in the same role.

But if we really want to get specific, I did predict why I thought Barry Odom would still be at Arkansas even after he got multiple raises to stay in Year 1. I’m gonna count that as 2-for-6. By baseball standards, I’d take a .333 average all day, every day.

Of course, all of these predictions about SEC assistants who could become head coaches have merit. We’re not shooting from the hip here.

These are the 5 current SEC assistants who could be FBS head coaches at season’s end:

Bill O’Brien, Alabama OC

Let’s start with someone who continues to be weirdly disregarded by many both at the NFL and college ranks. All O’Brien did in his first season in Tuscaloosa was help Bryce Young become the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. Sure, many don’t like to give him credit for that because Young’s poise-ability combination is off the charts, but O’Brien still helped a young Alabama offense through some atypical ruts. Despite the issues against Auburn and LSU, O’Brien still had the No. 6 offense in FBS.

In other words, yes, I believe he’ll have Power 5 opportunities available at season’s end. Some Alabama fans wanted him on the first plane out of Tuscaloosa when vacancies like Virginia Tech and LSU were rumored to have interest in him. I suppose that’s what happens when you take over the best 2-year stretch from an assistant that we’ve ever seen at Alabama.

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Given his success rebuilding Penn State, O’Brien’s name could surface if we saw openings at places like Nebraska and Arizona State. The most intriguing potential opening for him, though? Auburn.

Matt House, LSU DC

LSU’s new defensive coordinator has been everywhere. College and NFL. East Coast, the Plains, the South. Defensive line coach, linebackers coach, secondary coach, defensive coordinator. Quietly, House built up quite the résumé over the last 2 decades. The Mark Stoops/Andy Reid/Paul Chryst disciple has a bright future, and it’ll open up even more if LSU’s defense can get back to its consistent ways.

House’s eye for talent could make him an intriguing Group of 5 option at season’s end. He’s never been a head coach at any level, so that might make his Power 5 opportunities few and far between. House would be an excellent candidate if we saw openings — for one reason or another — at places like Western Kentucky, UAB, Coastal Carolina or Bowling Green.

As we see the pendulum shift back to a more balanced approach with hiring defensive-minded coaches vs. offensive-minded coaches, House should have a market for his services as long as LSU can get back to being one of the league’s better defenses.

Cortez Hankton, LSU WRs/passing game coordinator

Sure, I’ll double down and say another LSU receivers coach is about to get a head coaching gig (Mickey Joseph got a promotion to leave for Nebraska instead of stay with the new staff).

LSU fans had to sweat out Hankton potentially getting the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator position. That ultimately went to Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Still, though. That tells you how highly regarded Hankton is. Brian Kelly poached the Lafayette, Louisiana, native from Kirby Smart’s national championship staff. That was a major development for the first-year LSU head coach.

Hankton now has the benefit of working with the SEC’s top returning group of receivers. If and when Kayshon Boutte becomes an All-American while Jake Bech, Brian Thomas Jr. and others blossom into prolific weapons for Myles Brennan, Hankton’s rising stock will reach a new level by season’s end.

Tulane would make a ton of sense for Hankton if Willie Fritz spirals for the second consecutive year. If a coach like Shawn Elliott were on the move at Georgia State, that would be another potential landing spot for the rising offensive assistant.

Todd Monken, Georgia OC

Say what you want about the future of Stetson Bennett IV. What cannot be denied was that Monken just dialed up a national championship-winning offense with a quarterback who won’t be drafted in the first 15 picks. That hadn’t happened since Jake Coker at the end of the 2015 season. Lane Kiffin was to Coker what Monken was to Bennett. The former walk-on mastered the offense in a way that nobody could’ve imagined, and he became one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country.

Whatever lingering doubt there was about Monken for not getting total say in the Cleveland Browns offense with Freddie Kitchens is now gone. He’s clearly one of the best offensive minds in the sport. In his mid-50s, there’s still plenty of time for him to circle back to being a college head coach. He turned around Southern Miss before ultimately bolting back to the NFL.

Monken is in a good enough situation with total autonomy — and a bevy of 5-star quarterbacks — to where he probably wouldn’t go the Group of 5 route again. Not at this stage of his career. What would be fascinating is if Geoff Collins struggled in Year 4 at Georgia Tech and Monken crossed enemy lines. Speaking of rivals, would Auburn seek out someone like Monken? Or what about another ACC job like Syracuse or Louisville?

Another season of Bennett’s brilliance would certainly open up some Power 5 doors for Monken.

Zach Arnett, Mississippi State DC

I’m just gonna put Arnett in this group every year until he takes a head coaching gig. Do you blame me? Georgia and Alabama were the only teams with a better run defense than MSU. The second-year defensive coordinator might not have led a top-20 scoring unit, but ask MSU fans about who did so much of the heavy lifting in 2021 while the offense had ice cold stretches during the first half of the season. It was Arnett’s 3-3-5 defense.

Besides the fact that his base defense is suited well for the modern era, Arnett is also poised to have his best unit yet. MSU is No. 8 in FBS in percentage of returning defensive production. Three years as an SEC coordinator with total autonomy should bode well for the 35-year-old Rocky Long disciple.

Arnett has shown interest in bigger defensive coordinator jobs like LSU and Oregon, so it’d be surprising to see him leave for another assistant gig. He’d be an excellent fit at his alma mater, New Mexico, fired former San Diego State colleague Danny Gonzales. Arnett could also be pursued by another Mountain West program like UNLV or perhaps if the bridge at Syracuse wasn’t burned with his 2-week stay as DC before leaving for MSU, that could be a Power 5 opportunity for Arnett.

And a long shot … Holmon Wiggins, Alabama WRs

A few things are true of Wiggins. One is that the dude walked into an incredible situation when he was hired in 2019. He took over a group that had Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. It might go down as the best receivers room in college football history. With Wiggins, that group soared to a new level.

Under his watch, Alabama became the first program to ever have consecutive years with multiple first-round receivers. Smith, of course, won the Heisman. Wiggins was then given the title of “assistant head coach of offense” heading into 2021. Then, Jameson Williams nearly won the Biletnikoff Award after transferring to Alabama because he was buried on the depth chart at Ohio State. By the time Williams and John Metchie were both out (each with separate post-regular season in-game ACL tears), Alabama’s receivers were about as young as can be, and they still almost won a title.

Wiggins is the unsung hero of Alabama’s passing game explosion. He’s a tremendous recruiter and developer of talent, which is why he could be coveted for Group of 5 vacancies. USF is a possible vacancy if Jeff Scott doesn’t turn it around in Year 3, as is Temple, where Wiggins could return to the East Coast after spending 3 years at Virginia Tech. There are worse things to have on a résumé than working on Nick Saban’s staff and being the position coach for arguably the most impressive 3-year run we’ve ever seen at the position.

Wiggins’ time is coming. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll be sooner rather than later.