College football teams in need of a new head coach often wind up poaching one of the hottest SEC assistants.
Temple snatched Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins this offseason. Former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart got his dream job at Georgia last year. Before that, Jim McElwain, Mike Bobo and Dan Mullen all parlayed successful runs as SEC assistants into quality head coaching jobs.
The conference comes into 2017 with some of the most well-regarded assistants in the country. With spring practice underway, most FBS coaching staffs are set for this season. But when the coaching carousel begins to turn again near the end of this year, here are some of SEC assistants who could get a lot of buzz for head coaching jobs.
Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama defensive coordinator
In his last three coaching stops, Pruitt has overseen some of the best defenses in the country. His 2013 Florida State defense gave up just 12.1 points per game, tops in the country. His second year at Georgia, the Bulldogs had a top-10 unit in pass defense and total defense. And last year’s Alabama defense may have been the best of the Nick Saban era.
That kind of consistent success will inevitably create some interest for him as a head coaching candidate. The question will be how he would handle overseeing an entire program — which includes managing and maintaining good relationships. But while there are concerns about his ability to work well with others, there are no questions about the results he gets.
Matt Canada, LSU offensive coordinator
Canada is barely in the door at LSU, but he’s already developed a great reputation for himself. He’s making good impressions on recruits and is finally bringing the Tigers’ offense into the 21st century.
His resume isn’t perfect. He’s barely a year removed from getting fired at N.C. State after the 2015 season. Teams will need more evidence than one good year at Pitt to be willing to hand him control of an entire program. However, if LSU makes major progress on offense in 2017, Group of 5 programs could be lining up to interview him at the end of the year.
Dave Aranda, LSU defensive coordinator
Aranda almost gets paid like a head coach already. And that may be enough for him. There wasn’t much buzz for him as a head coaching candidate this offseason, and he may be content in his current role for a while. However, with his continued success coaching defenses at LSU, and with his prior accomplishments doing the same at Wisconsin, someone will at least inquire about his interest in a head job.
Aranda took one of the nation’s best defenses and made it even better in 2016. At 40 years old, he could be the face of a program for a long time. It’s just a matter of who comes calling and whether he listens to those overtures. Next offseason will reveal a lot about how high his stock is, and what his long-term ambitions are.
Larry Scott, Tennessee offensive coordinator
Tennessee promoted Scott from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator this offseason. He inherits a tough task with QB Josh Dobbs, RB Alvin Kamara and WR Josh Malone heading to the NFL. So if he can keep Tennessee’s offense afloat with a new quarterback and possibly a true freshman running back, programs will take notice.
Scott already has head coaching experience. He was 4-2 as the interim boss at Miami (Fla.) in 2015, and he was reportedly up for the FAU job this offseason. Most of his coaching experience is in Florida, and he has good recruiting connections in the state. One of the smaller programs in the state could be very interested if an opening arises. But he would need Lane Kiffin (FAU), Butch Davis (FIU), Charlie Strong (USF) or Scott Frost (UCF) to bolt for another job first.
Chip Lindsey, Auburn offensive coordinator
Lindsey is another coach who could create some momentum with a solid first year at a new school. Auburn hired him to replace Rhett Lashlee in January, the latest step in his rapid rise through the college coaching ranks.
He was an analyst for the Tigers when they went to the national championship in 2013. Four years later, he’s running the team’s offense. He already appears to be getting more influence over the offense than Lashlee ever did. Should the Tigers get back on track offensively in 2017, he’ll be a very attractive candidate to programs looking for an offensive-minded head coach.