By now you have heard the news of Matt Luke being relieved of his duties as Ole Miss’ head football coach after Rebel Grove’s Neal McCready broke the news Sunday night. It has been a little over two years since the last time we saw you here at Red Cup Rebellion Hot Board Headquarters, but here we are again.
When the Rebs hired Luke, it was a band-aid for a program that was in the middle of recovering from a five-year NCAA investigation, recruiting sanctions, and the biggest black eye in years in the SEC, devastating recruiting classes, reputations, and prospective names to replace the ugliest con man this side of the Mississippi, Hugh Freeze.
So who does Ole Miss go after? Here are some names (in no particular order) that could be on the proverbial smokin’ hot board per our sources:
Head coach at Memphis
Salary: $2.66 million
A familiar name on the coaching search trail, the Tigers’ head coach has built quite the Group of Five empire in the Bluff City. The Central Arkansas native has paid his dues ranging from Tulsa to Pittsburgh to Arizona State and finally to Memphis. After a modest 8-5 season in year one, he has won 29 games his last three seasons despite not winning the AAC title. He has won three AAC West division titles, but has yet to win the big one. But, to be honest, that’s my only reservation about Norvell.
He has turned Memphis from a splash AAC team under Justin Fuente to a bonafide mini-power. His offense is ridiculously potent and he has shown the ability to not only find diamonds in the rough on the recruiting trail, but to develop them i.e. Kenny Gainwell this season. He is wanting to get out of Memphis, per sources, and seems poised for a Power 5 job. There have always been unsubstantiated concerns about his personal life, but the dude is a proven winner and would really move the needle, especially in the city of Memphis when it comes to recruiting.
He is the leader in the clubhouse, per sources, but there is a long way to go in this search. With that said, Norvell is one of the hottest names in college football right now and he would absolutely move the needle. And then some.
Head coach at Florida Atlantic
Salary: $2.375 million
Buyout: $5 million
Ole Miss desperately needs some excitement. They need a hire that will move the proverbial needle. And Joey Freshwater would do just that. The 44-year old (and my personal No. 1 target) is in his third year at FAU and will be competing for a Conference USA title for the second time on Saturday against UAB. In those three years, Kiffin is 25-13, owning 25% of the program’s wins all-time.
He has NFL head coaching experience (all jokes aside), won 10 games at Southern Cal amid NCAA sanctions, turned around Tennessee and won seven games in just one year, turned Blake Sims from a running back into a College Football Playoff semifinal quarterback, and guided Alabama to a national title as offensive coordinator with Jacob Coker as his quarterback. There’s no denying his ability to be creative and effective as an offensive play caller, but will he jump for a SEC West gig that, at best, is the 5th-best job in the division?
Money always talks and he could be ready to make the leap back to Power 5 after paying his dues In Boca Raton. Also, I’m sure Kiffin would love to get a crack at playing against Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron every year.
Head coach at Boise State
Salary: $1.75 million
His name might not be flashy but his Wikipedia sure as shit is. Since taking over for Chris Peterson in Idaho, all he has done is win 63 games and two Mountain West titles in six seasons. Harsin studied under the two Bronco greats, Dan Hawkins and Peterson, as offensive coordinator, coached for two seasons at Texas as their offensive coordinator, and coached one 7-5 season at Arkansas State before returning to his alma mater to replace Peterson when he left for Washington.
As the Broncos’ OC under Peterson, Boise State went 61–5(!) utilizing his wide open, multiple offensive scheme. Now, as head coach, he has kept the Smurf Turf dominance rolling, ripping through the MWC (40-8 record) and putting themselves in position for their third conference title this weekend.
Sure there might be questions about recruiting, but I am personally of the opinion that if you win, the recruits will come.
Head coach at Louisiana
The former Nick Saban assistant has burst onto the scene in 2019 after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 10-2 season in year two in Lafayette, La. After a 7-7 season in his first year there, he has orchestrated one of the best stories in 2019 and has won his second-straight Sun Belt West title. And now on Saturday, ULL will take on Appalachian State and another fantastic coaching candidate for the Sun Belt title.
His recruiting chops are well-documented during his time in Tuscaloosa, but can he do that outside of the walls of the Crimson Tide machine? He was at one time thought to be the No. 1 guy to replace Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State before he was retained after the Egg Bowl victory, but now he is “back on the market” and I think the Rebels will kick the proverbial tires. The Georgia native has ties in the Southeast and is a young, up-and-coming name that coaches respect. Need some more validation? Well, he was Dabo Swinney’s first offensive coordinator at Clemson before leaving for Alabama.
Head coach at Charlotte
The 34-year old coaching dynamo is a future star, in my opinion. He turned Austin Peay from a random school in Clarksville to an Under Armour program that went 8-4 one year removed from 0-11. Now, all he’s done is move on to C-USA program Charlotte only to go 7-5 in his first year, earning the 49ers first winning season in just their 6th year of existence.
He’s young and only coached four seasons, but he is impressive in the X’s and O’s and in the public speaking forum. Per sources, he is a guy that can engage an entire room and that only naturally translates to recruiting when trying to convince teenagers to come play football for you. He is probably down the list a little because of his age and lack of experience and moving the needle, but I personally think he is a future star.
Head coach at Wake Forest
Salary: $2.189 million
Sure, not a move the needle type name, but this is a program builder, through and through. At Fordham, he went from 0-11 to 10-3 in three seasons. At Richmond he went from 3-8 to 11-3 in three seasons. At Bowling Green he went from 2-10 to 10-3 in three seasons. And now at Wake Forest, he has now won seven or more games in four-straight seasons.
The Demon Deacons head coach is 3-0 in bowl games during his time in Winston-Salem and by God, that’s not an easy place to win games. With that said, will a journeyman move the needle to get a bunch of Road Rebs in Houston for the opener in 2020? Maybe not, but I think he is another proven winner who would be a great hire.
Head coach at Appalachian State
Buyout: $1.7 million
The second-youngest guy on this board has been a fantastic hire for the Mountaineers in Boone and is starting to gain some buzz in coaching search circles. Drinkwitz worked for Gus Malzahn at the high school level and college level before making the rounds at Arkansas State, Boise State, and NC State. Now, in just one year at App State, he is 11-1, the Sun Belt East champ, and playing against another member of this board on Saturday for the conference title.
Eli is in the same group as Healy in terms of “wish he had more experience”, but the dude has done a phenomenal job in year one with the ‘neers.