Well, that was quick. LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has left for Auburn after serving as LSU’s defensive coordinator for one season, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told reporters on Wednesday.
That means it will be the second straight year that Les Miles has to hire a new coach to run the defense. Miles hired Steele, the former Alabama linebackers coach, to replace current Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis heading into 2015.
To varying degrees, Miles considered 25 coaches to replace Chavis last year, according to a report from The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger. At least a few of the names on that list could also be in consideration for the most recent vacancy on LSU’s coaching staff.
Here are some of the possible candidates to replace Steele along with their likelihood of joining LSU’s staff:
Aranda was one of the five coaches interviewed by Miles to replace Chavis last year. Aranda’s stock has only risen since. His Wisconsin Badgers led the nation in scoring defense with an average of just 13.1 points allowed per game. The Badgers also ranked third in total defense with an average of 267.1 yards allowed per game.
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Medium. Aranda is one of the top coordinators out there, so LSU will likely be very interested. The question is whether Aranda is looking for another defensive coordinator gig, or trying to land a head coaching job. Aranda has reportedly been linked to DC openings at Michigan and USC, so he will have plenty of options.
Shoop has risen back up in the coaching ranks after a rough tenure as Columbia’s head coach. He is another coveted coordinator who oversaw one of the top defenses in the Big Ten at Penn State. The Nittany Lions finished 15th in total defense and 28th in scoring defense in 2015.
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Medium. Shoop has already turned down an offer from Auburn that reportedly would have made him one of the highest-paid defensive coordinators in the country. He also has been tied to Penn State coach James Franklin — the two have worked together since 2011, when Franklin and Shoop were at Vanderbilt. Shoop said he hopes Penn State will keep him forever, but also said that he would consider the right opportunity. He did interview with Miles last year, so there could be a mutual interest.
Stoops was another coach who was interviewed by Miles last year and has done a good job coaching the Sooners’ defense into the College Football Playoff. The Sooners allowed just 20.8 points per game while playing in the high-powered Big 12. That’s quite a feat in that conference.
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Medium. Stoops has a strong pedigree as a defensive coordinator and was at least interested in joining LSU last year. The question is how hard it will be to pull Stoops away from an elite program and his brother, head coach Bob Stoops. Miles’ first interview to replace Chavis last January was with Stoops, according to Dellenger.
Roof has bounced around the collegiate ranks throughout his career. He was the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2009-11 and the defensive coordinator at Penn State in 2012 before winding up at Georgia Tech in 2013. This past season, the Yellow Jackets allowed 25.8 points per game (51st in the nation) and 368 total yards per game (43rd).
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Low. Roof may be a candidate, but he might not be at the top of the list. LSU could go after the previous three coordinators before targeting Roof. He also couldn’t get Auburn’s defense to the elite level LSU fans would expect. Auburn’s best season under Roof was in 2010, when the Tigers finished 53rd in scoring defense with an average of 24.1 points per game. That might not fly in the SEC West.
Grantham has spent the past two seasons leading Louisville’s defense. He also spent four seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator after an 11-year tenure in the NFL. Grantham’s Cardinals ranked 42nd in the nation with an average of 24.3 points allowed per game. In 2014, Louisville gave up an average of 21.8 points per game.
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Medium. Grantham spoke on the phone with LSU during last year’s coaching search and he could rise up the list this time around. Grantham is a quality defensive coordinator who had plenty of success at UGA, but the Tigers would have to get him to give up coaching alongside his brother Tony, Louisville’s current linebackers coach.
Venables may be the top coordinator on the rise. He has served as Clemson’s defensive coordinator since 2012 and his defenses have finished inside the top 25 in scoring defense in each of the past three seasons.
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Low. Venables said he is not interested in any new jobs, but many coaches have said that before. However, LSU would be a great opportunity to work with an elite SEC program. It appears Venables is not interested in leaving Clemson, but he did have a phone conversation with LSU about last year’s vacancy. Never say never.
Orgeron may be the in-house option, although he has never served as a defensive coordinator during his career. Orgeron is a strong recruiter and a well-respected defensive line coach with plenty of experience.
Likelihood of being promoted: Low. Orgeron shouldn’t be ruled out, but it’s uncertain whether Miles would promote him to manage the defense. He could be a sleeper if LSU is turned down by some of the other leading candidates.
A national championship-winning coach at Auburn, Chizik wrapped up his first season as the defensive coordinator for North Carolina. He has SEC ties having spent seven seasons coaching at Auburn and Miles considered him last year for the job. However, Chizik was never contacted for the vacancy. Chizik’s Tar Heels ranked 97th in the country in total defense with an average of 435.9 total yards.
Likelihood of coming to LSU: Very low. Chizik is a bit of a wild card. He has SEC experience, but did not do a great job in his first season in Chapel Hill, N.C. He also wasn’t interviewed by Miles last season.