BATON ROUGE, La. — The Lane Kiffin Watch is over. Speculated about as an offensive coordinator candidate ever since Ed Orgeron was named LSU’s interim coach at the end of September, Kiffin is instead getting back into the head coaching game at Florida Atlantic.
But Orgeron has long known that Kiffin was likely to become a head coach and has been ready for this moment. The Advocate reports that three other finalists are on the table: Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Alabama offensive analyst Steve Sarkisian and recently fired Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich.
Here is a look at which each candidate has to offer.
2016: Pitt (10th nationally in scoring offense)
2013-2015: North Carolina State (’13: 98th, ’14: 57th, ’15: 42nd)
2012: Wisconsin (59th)
2011: Northern Illinois (12th)
2007-10: Indiana (OC) (’07: 39th, ’08: 97th, ’09: 84th, ’10: 56th)
2004-06: Indiana (QB)
2003: Northern Illinois (OC) (26th)
- Coordinated the highest-scoring offense in Pitt history this year — no small feat at a program that produced Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino.
- Knows how to play to his strengths. At Pitt that was running back James Conner. At Wisconsin, it was running back Montee Ball. He also coordinated a pass-first mobile QB in Jacoby Brissett at NC State and a 3,000-yard passer/1,000-yard rusher in Chandler Harnish at NIU in 2011.
- In 2007, helped Indiana to its first bowl appearance since 1993.
- The Indiana native can speak with LSU quarterback Danny Etling in authentic Hoosier dialect.
- He was fired by NC State just one year ago — albeit after his best season with an improved Wolfpack offense.
- On the heels of Cam Cameron, the phrase “Indiana graduate runs LSU offense” might cause some in the fanbase to convulse.
2016: Alabama offensive analyst
2014-15: Southern Cal head coach (12-6 overall)
2009-13: Washington head coach (34-29 overall)
2007-08: Southern Cal offensive coordinator (’07: 36th in scoring offense, ’08: 14th)
- If you can’t get Kiffin, get Kiffin Lite. Sarkisian replaced Lane as USC’s offensive coordinator in 2007 when Kiffin was hired by the Raiders. He’s following in his footsteps again at Alabama.
- If the goal is to weaken Bama, this is one way to do it.
- Sarkisian’s background is in quarterbacks, but he also had a 1,000-yard rusher every season he was a head coach.
- Sarkisian got the head coaching job at USC over Orgeron after the 2013 season, and at the time it seemed unfathomable the two would ever work together again. There was legitimate resentment from Orgeron’s corner. However, in the past Orgeron has indicated he’d be OK with reuniting.
- There’s no tap-dancing around the fact Sarkisian is only available because of personal issues regarding alcohol. Being an offensive analyst doesn’t carry the same stress levels as being an SEC coordinator. Ultimately Sarkisian himself has to decide how ready he is to jump back into that grueling life. The plus? In Orgeron, he has someone who has previously battled those demons and successfully stayed sober for a couple decades.
2013-2016: Oregon head coach (37-16)
2009-2012: Oregon (OC) (’09: 8th in scoring offense, ’10: 1st, ’11: 3rd, ’12: 2nd)
2006-08: Colorado (OC) (’06: 107th, ’07: 63rd, ’08: 100th)
- The most accomplished available offensive mind.
- Has the potential to bring a new flavor not only to LSU with an up-tempo spread. Ole Miss, which is the only school to give Alabama fits in recent years, fits that mold.
- He has principles. Refused to leave Colorado when originally offered the Oregon offensive coordinator job because he had only been with the Buffaloes for one season.
- He’s a West Coast guy with no Louisiana recruiting ties.
- His offenses at Colorado simply weren’t good. Canada had a similar talent disparity compared to his opponents while at Indiana but was able to get more out of it.
- Helfrich hasn’t been a team’s offensive playcaller since he was at CU. Chip Kelly called the plays while Oregon’s head coach, and when Helfrich was promoted he delegated the task to Scott Frost. This is likely to be LSU’s biggest sticking point compared to the other two finalists.
- Does going tempo run the risk of alienating Dave Aranda? Defensive coaches tend to be wary of that kind of thing. However, having coached under Mike Leach and June Jones, it’s unlikely Aranda will be fazed.
- Is Louisiana’s climate friendly to running a full-fledged tempo offense? Offseason conditioning would become even more crucial if LSU goes this direction. The Pacific Northwest is a much friendlier environment for running 80 snaps per game than Baton Rouge’s oppressive humidity. The plus? That same factor would make it even more tiring for opposing defenses.