SEC coordinators who could become head coaches
In college football, there are only a few scenarios for a coach.
They’re either getting hired, getting a raise or getting fired, with very little in between. That mentality around college football’s athletic departments leads to plenty of openings every December.
Which coordinators around the SEC could be in line for a promotion to a head coaching job after next season? We’ve made some early guesses.
LANE KIFFIN AND JEREMY PRUITT, ALABAMA
Most expected the “Kiffin experiment” to last less than three years in Tuscaloosa. Yet here we are, and barring some late NFL offensive coordinator hire, Kiffin will be back next fall, grooming his third new starting quarterback.
The number three is interesting — as in three times a head coach (Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, USC). After three years at Alabama, surely Kiffin will get an offer or two.
Pruitt is an outstanding recruiter who now has worked under Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher and Mark Richt. Given the plethora of talent coming back in 2016, including Jonathan Allen (!), Pruitt should be a sexy head coaching name as soon as December.
DAN ENOS, ARKANSAS
He already has been a decent head coach, leading Central Michigan to three consecutive seasons with at least 6 wins. But he made the rare move to migrate from an FBS head coaching job to a coordinator position at Arkansas, as the Chippewas did not pay very well.
Nominated for the Broyles Award after his first season at Arkansas in 2015, it took him a few games to find the right run/pass balance. But when he did, the Razorbacks’ offense was — gulp — explosive. Brandon Allen threw 30 touchdown passes and Alex Collins ran for nearly 1,600 yards in his offense.
If he repeats the feat with heavy offensive turnover in 2016, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a school like Houston or Cincinnati come after Enos.
RHETT LASHLEE, AUBURN
The 32-year-old has the distinction of holding a coordinator title at a school where everyone credits the head coach (Gus Malzahn) for the offense. That may be a good thing following a mediocre 2015, but usually it’s not a formula to earn a head coaching gig.
Still, Lashlee interviewed for the Louisiana-Monroe job after the 2015 season. And Malzahn insists that the day is coming.
“Rhett is a guy that every year is going to be in the conversation about a head coach, and he’ll be a head coach,” Malzahn said, according to AL.com. “He’ll be a head coach in the future. He has everything it takes to do that and every year there’s going to be rumors and talks and all that. He’s a good one.”
GEOFF COLLINS, FLORIDA
Collins reportedly interviewed at UCF just a few weeks ago before the Knights hired Scott Frost.
He’s worked his way up the coaching ladder at a steady pace for the last 21 years, and as recently as ’07, was director of player personnel at Alabama. From there he became defensive coordinator at Florida International, Mississippi State and now Florida.
Collins’ aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach worked well with the personnel left from the Will Muschamp era. In 2015, the Gators finished eighth nationally in yards allowed and 11th in points allowed, winning 10 games. Another season or two like that and Collins should get other interview requests in the least.
BILLY GONZALES, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Another assistant who doesn’t get full credit for the Bulldogs’ productive offense due to coach Dan Mullen’s involvement, Gonzales has been touted as a potential head coach for a few seasons now.
He reportedly interviewed for the Colorado State opening that former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo eventually took at the end of 2014.
Mississippi State finished No. 1 and No. 3 in the SEC in total offense the last two seasons. Gonzales has been a Mullen understudy for nearly a decade now, and the offensive system has proven to work whether via Urban Meyer or Mullen or Tom Herman. Why not give Gonzales a chance?
BOB SHOOP, TENNESSEE
He’s backed tremendous defenses, statistically, at both Vanderbilt and Penn State in the last several seasons. Ivy League educated, Shoop already has been a head coach for three seasons at Columbia University. He also claims a pedigree as an assistant that includes the SEC, Big Ten and ACC.
Tennessee could be a top 10 team preseason in 2016. Players like Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Derek Barnett, Kahlil McKenzie and Cam Sutton give him plenty of talent.
If Shoop propels Team 120 to an SEC East title, he could come up in conversation for open FBS jobs in the next year or two.