Charlie Strong becoming the next defensive coordinator at Ole Miss was always a long shot given the abundance of opportunities elsewhere and the shadow cast by the NCAA investigation in Oxford. That dream, which had been harbored by Rebel fans since Dave Wommack announced his retirement before the Egg Bowl, has died with the news that South Florida has hired Strong as its next head coach.
ESPN is reporting that Strong has accepted the position. Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated had previously reported that the two sides were closing in on a five-year deal. Strong, who was fired as the head coach of Texas after three disappointing seasons, traveled to Tampa on Friday to meet with USF officials.
As of Friday morning, Strong was reportedly still considering taking a defensive coordinator job, and 247Sports claimed that two unnamed schools had offered him a DC position. It’s possible that one of those was Ole Miss, which Strong was rumored to have visited earlier in the week.
In any event, Strong’s impending hiring in Tampa means another potential candidate off the board for Hugh Freeze. It’s likely that Freeze had already lost his top choice when Indiana defensive coordinator and former Rebel assistant Tom Allen was promoted to the head job in Bloomington. Among the names still available are former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter, Colorado DC Jim Leavitt, Wake Forest DC Mike Elko and Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff (read more about the top candidates here).
As much as most Rebel fans hate to hear it, McGriff might be the favorite at this point. Auburn has denied that he’s been in contact with Ole Miss, but its impossible to believe that Freeze hasn’t reached out to his former assistant. McGriff would represent the kind of hire most fans have dreaded—one made from Freeze’s inner circle and based more on personal connection than experience and qualifications. Still, with the NCAA probe likely scaring off top candidates, bagging a big name might be out of the question.