LSU Head Coach Candidates

With Ed Orgeron out after the season, who are the top candidates to take his place?

LSU head coach candidates
Associated Press

The Tigers and head coach Ed Orgeron reached a separation agreement today, in which Orgeron would finish out the rest of the 2021 season and not come back. Nearly two years after winning a National Championship, Ed is now out in Baton Rouge. The move raises a huge question: Who now coaches at arguably one of, if not the best, head coaching jobs in college football? 

Below, I list out the LSU head coach candidates separated by three tiers: 

  1. Hot Candidates – Those who have been garnering the most buzz among the fanbase, media, etc.
  2. Outside looking in – Those who either have ties or would make good candidates, but something is not letting them be in that top tier.
  3. The Others – Those who are long-shots and either are not as qualified or will be almost impossible to get.

Top “Hot” LSU Head Coach Candidates: 

  • Mel Tucker – Michigan State HC: 
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker looks on after a touchdown in the first quarter of their college football game against Western Kentucky at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, on Saturday, October 2, 2021. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

The current Michigan State head coach is in year two in East Lansing, and has done a great job so far. Tucker cleared out a good chunk of the roster after the 2020 season and replaced them with lots of transfers. He has also done a fairly nice job as a recruiter. It seems like a hard thing to do getting him to leave Michigan State. But, he has ties to the SEC under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart as an assistant.

Getting a chance to double his salary and having a large salary pool and recruiting base would be enticing enough for any candidate to leave. Tucker should be among the top candidates for the LSU head coach position 

  • Lane Kiffin – Mississippi HC: 
ESPN.com

Good ole Lane Kiffin. Coming off of a thrilling win against the Vols last night, Kiffin has his team rolling this year, getting out to a 6-1 start. We all know about Kiffin’s personality and his ability to mesh with his players. We also know about his ability to recruit anywhere at any time. The question is: can he succeed at a “blue blood” program? His results at USC and Tennessee aren’t that promising, and that may make a school like LSU hesitate. You cannot deny his offensive mind and the excitement that would bring to Baton Rouge, though. 

  • Billy Napier – Louisiana-Lafayette HC: 
Photo Courtesy: ragincajuns.com

Currently the coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, Napier has done an outstanding job of building that program. He has ties to Saban (WR coach at Alabama from 2013-2016) and is a great offensive mind, which is something the Tigers may need. Napier also has an idea of what it is like recruiting in-state, something LSU will need more of going forward. Napier may be a bit under the radar, but would make a great candidate for the vacant LSU head coach position.

  • Luke Fickell – Cincinnati HC: 
Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Notre Dame and Ohio State are the only two jobs I think Fickell would take. However, LSU sure as hell would give him something to think about. He has led the Bearcats to two 11-win seasons and is well on his way to another one. Fickell is as loyal as anyone when it comes to staying put, but the money, assistant salary pool, recruiting opportunities, etc may be too great to pass up. 

Outside Looking In:

  • James Franklin – Penn State HC: 
Getty Images

If it weren’t for the USC rumors, I would have put Franklin in that top tier. Instead, he falls into this second group due to his large buyout and his loyalty to Penn State (so far). He’s one of the best recruiters in the nation and has a knack for hiring good assistants. 

  • Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M HC: 
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, left, talks to quarterback Kellen Mond (11) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

Same as Franklin above in terms of a large buyout ($95 Million!!!) but isn’t necessarily tied to Texas A&M like Franklin is. Still, that buyout is insanely large and would be tough to justify paying $100+ million for any coach not named Nick Saban. 

  • Mario Cristobal – Oregon HC: 
USATSI

Cristobal is an excellent recruiter, and has done a great job at Oregon so far. I think Miami makes a ton more sense for him to go to rather than LSU, but he sure would make an impact in Baton Rouge. Cristobal also has SEC experience as an assistant under Saban. 

The “Others”:

  • Matt Campbell – Iowa State HC: 
AMES, IA – OCTOBER 10: Head coach Matt Campbell of the Iowa State Cyclones gives two thumbs up after his team scored a touchdown in the second half of the play at Jack Trice Stadium on October 10, 2020 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 31-15 over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

Campbell has done an outstanding job at Iowa State considering the lack of recruiting prowess. He can develop talent with the best of them, and always has his teams ready for big games.

However, Campbell is an extremely loyal person (turned down multiple jobs to stay in Ames) so it will be hard to see him leaving Iowa State until it happens. Still, he should at least be on the list of potential LSU head coach candidates.

  • Dave Aranda – Baylor HC: 
Oct 3, 2020; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Dave Aranda yells from the sidelines during the third quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The former LSU DC has done a nice job in Year Two at Baylor. He is someone that may be a hard sell for the fanbase, in comparison to the other candidates involved. He can recruit well and always had good defenses, but does lack experience as the Head Guy.

Joe Brady – Carolina Panthers OC: 

Robby Anderson #11 of the Carolina Panthers talks with Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady during the Carolina Panthers Training Camp at Bank of America Stadium on August 21, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

This is an under-the-radar candidate, but the former LSU OC seems happy in the NFL and it’s known that he does not enjoy recruiting that much.

Bill O’Brien – Alabama OC: 

New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien watches the quarterbacks work during practice. The Alabama Crimson Tide opened practice for the 2021 season as they prepare to defend the 2020 National Championship Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

He did a very solid job at Penn State, considering the circumstances. This will just be an extremely hard sell for everyone involved (fanbase, players, boosters, etc) and O’Brien may be looking to go back into the NFL instead. 

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