Hugh Freeze was once thought to be one of the best young coaches in college football. Freeze brought Ole Miss back to prominence with seven, eight, nine and ten-win seasons in his first four years.
Matt Luke was named the interim head coach, but Ole Miss will eventually have to decide who will be the new face of the program. What is most likely to happen is Luke coaches the entire 2017 season. Chances are Ole Miss will make a short list of candidates to be hired at the conclusion of the season. Ole Miss already self-imposed a bowl ban for this season making it a bit of a lost year.
Ole Miss will find out how attractive this job still is. The university will no doubt attract interest from coaches at less-established programs, but can they attract the brand named coaches with the black cloud that appears to be over Oxford?
Here’s a look at five names who could be candidates to become the new Ole Miss head coach.
No. 1 Les Miles, Former LSU Head Coach
Coaches often have shelf lives at places. While things at LSU were stuck in neutral, Miles is still highly regarded in college football. Questions surrounded Miles’ stubbornness to open up the LSU offense, but all indications are Miles ran a clean program in Baton Rouge.
The bigger question is whether Miles would want to head to Oxford amidst the ever-looming potential NCAA sanctions. ESPN reported during the 2016 season Miles had started to assemble a potential staff. It’s clear Miles wants to coach again, but would he prefer more solid footing than Oxford in what could be his last stop? Time will tell.
“I’m looking for a place dedicated to the players’ achievement in the classroom and that wants to win championships,” Miles told ESPN. “If there’s an athletic director and president that wants to do that, I’m in line…I’m excited to get another opportunity to take a team to the field and fight for victory. Right now that is my focus.”
Miles did not find a landing spot during the 2017 summer, but there are likely to be desirable suitors after the 2017 season.
No. 2 Chip Kelly, Former Oregon Head Coach
The Chip Kelly NFL experiment did not go as planned, but there is little doubt about Kelly’s college coaching ability. The job Kelly did at Oregon was one of the best we have seen this decade. That said, Kelly did not leave Oregon in the cleanest manner.
Kelly was linked to a recruiting service and sanctioned by the NCAA. Given all of the questions surrounding Ole Miss, he may not be the best fit at this time for the Rebels.
Kelly’s base was also in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast. While he would not bring immediate SEC recruiting inroads, Kelly has the best college football mind of anyone on the market. Kelly’s offense would thrive in the SEC with the type of talent he would have access to.
No. 3 Neal Brown, Troy Head Coach
Brown has turned Troy into a consistent Sun Belt power. It would no doubt be a jump up to the SEC, but Brown has been rooted in SEC country. Prior to turning around Troy (located in Alabama), Brown coached in Kentucky. Brown is one of the young up-and-coming coaches that will be coveted by bigger programs in the coming years.
Brown is not the household name many Ole Miss fans will want, but that may not be what the program needs.
No. 4 Matt Luke, Ole Miss Interim Head Coach
There is speculation Luke turned down a South Carolina offer for offensive line coach, because he was assured he would be named the interim coach if anything happened to Freeze. Fellow SEC coach Ed Orgeron proved an interim coach can indeed be permanently hired. LSU was a dream job for Orgeron, and it is hard to imagine a coach more fitting to coach at LSU.
Likewise, Luke is part of an Ole Miss legacy that spans multiple decades. He is a former Ole Miss offensive lineman whose father and brother also played at Oxford. He will need a strong 2017 for Ole Miss to seriously consider removing the interim tag.
No. 5 Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama Defensive Coordinator
The current defensive coordinator at Alabama has a rock solid pedigree. His resume reads like a rankings list of top southern football programs.
Prior to returning to Alabama to coach, Pruitt was the defensive coordinator at both Georgia and Florida State. Pruitt also played defensive back for Alabama. Programs love to hire coaches who have worked for Nick Saban even though the track record is far from a sure thing.