It's hard to believe that just two seasons removed from a national championship, LSU and head coach Ed Orgeron have mutually agreed to part ways following the 2021 season.
In 2019, Coach O led the LSU Tigers to a 15-0 national championship season that many experts, myself included, have declared the "best team ever." LSU has gone 9-8 since they beat Clemson in the title game and the Tigers are a disappointing 7-6 in the SEC in that time. That 2019 squad was loaded with NFL talent and it was expected that they see a decline in play, but to barely be a .500 team at LSU just was not going to cut it.
LSU has a rich history of winning and now the Tigers are in the market for a new head coach. Whoever LSU hires, they will follow three consecutive coaches who have all won a title while at LSU (Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Orgeron.)
Naturally, we have decided to list the best candidates to take over as LSU's head coach in 2022.
The "Make Them Say No" Candidates:
Dabo Swinney, Head Coach, Clemson
There is very little chance that Swinney ever leaves Clemson, especially for another college job. Swinney is just a cultural fit in Clemson, and he has full control over the entire football operation.
LSU would be a natural transition for Swinney, though. The powerhouse program is in the same geographical location and it is a big recruiting hotbed. If Swinney was to leave Clemson, now is the time with his team having a down year in the post-Trevor Lawrence era.
Urban Meyer, Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars
While Meyer got his first win in the NFL last week, it is still clear that he is not cut out for the pros. He is too much of a control freak to coach a group of guys that have more control than him. His tenure in Jacksonville has been a complete disaster.
At the college level, Meyer thrived in recruiting and was able to have full control over everything. He certainly had massive success in college, but the NFL is a different beast. Following Meyer's transgressions, he's already on the hot seat and could be one-and-done with the Jags. If that happens then LSU should jump at the opportunity to add Meyer, but they might have to compete with USC first.
Bob Stoops, Former Oklahoma Head Coach
Stoops had an extremely successful career as the head coach of the Sooners and even won a national championship in 2000. At only 61-years-old, Stoops, who is currently a Fox Sports analyst, most recently coached the Dallas Renegades of the XFL in 2020 after a four-year break from coaching. It is clear that he still has the itch to coach and he will be an obvious candidate for a big job like LSU.
It feels like a matter of time until Stoops is back on the sidelines.
The Realistic Candidates:
Joe Brady, Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers
Brady is going to be a highly sought-after coach for both the NFL and the college level. He famously was the mastermind behind LSU's 2019 record-setting offense as their passing coordinator and wide receivers coach. After the 2019 campaign, he was immediately hired by the Panthers to be their offensive coordinator and has done fairly well this season considering a lack of talent and injuries to the Panthers' offense.
He may be a little too young as he is only 32-years-old and the fact that he has never been a head coach could scare LSU away. But with how successful Ohio State has been in a similar situation when they promoted Ryan Day to head coach during the 2019 season, Brady is an obvious candidate to take over where he made a name for himself.
Mel Tucker, Head Coach, Michigan State
In just his second season with the Spartans, Tucker has Michigan State at 7-0 and a hopeful for the College Football Playoff in 2021. Tucker has ties to LSU as he was a defensive secondary assistant in 2000 and has made many stops in the SEC along the way.
After one season as the head coach of Colorado, Tucker bolted for Michigan State when long-time Spartans coach Mark Dantonio decided to retire. This may mean nothing, or it may mean that Tucker has his eyes on leading a big-time program. Michigan State is one of the more recognizable names in college football, but they are no LSU.
James Franklin, Head Coach, Penn State
Franklin has taken two programs that are on wildly different sides of relevancy and has made them winners. Penn State has consistently been a threat in the Big Ten since he took over and Vanderbilt, which is quite possibly the worst Power Five program in the country, was able to reach a bowl game in each of his three seasons as head coach.
Under Franklin, Penn State is one of the top programs in the country and that is because he recruits so well. Penn State is absolutely a football school, but LSU is a different animal. If he is offered the job there, he will be given more resources and support than he could even imagine. He is a big-name coach and LSU is a big-name school, it is a perfect fit.
Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, Ole Miss
Kiffin has turned Ole Miss into a powerhouse, especially on the offensive side of the ball. If he can turn Ole Miss, a fairly average football program, into one of the most feared offenses in the country, why couldn't he do it at LSU?
While you can make the argument that he was a disaster at Tennessee and USC for two different reasons, he was young and the moment was too bright for him. Since Kiffin took the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic in 2017, he has a record of 36-19. If Kiffin has been able to recruit well at both Ole Miss and Florida Atlantic, he could build something very special at LSU.
Luke Fickell, Head Coach, Cincinnati
No non-Power Five head coach has gotten as much buzz to take over a big-time job as Fickell has. He has completely changed the course of the Bearcats program and currently has them as the No. 2 team in the country. Since he took over the program in 2017, he has a record of 41-14 and has really done a great job recruiting in the same state as Ohio State.
He did get his head coaching career started at Ohio State when he was named the interim head coach for the Buckeyes in 2011 following the tattoo scandal. Things did not go well and the Buckeyes finished the season 6-7. He returned to Ohio State the next year as a defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and played a big role in Ohio State's 2014 national championship team.
It is only a matter of time before Fickell gets offered a blue-blood job like LSU. The question is, does Fickell want the job?
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