Baylor is in rebuilding mode after an internal review revealed — among other disappointing disclosures — the football program’s improper handling of various sexual assault allegations Thursday.
Coach Art Briles was shown the door soon after the announcement, and most of his staff will follow.
With the Bears in need of a completely fresh start, the university may well turn to the country’s premier brand of college football for a coach.
It’s highly unlikely that any of the SEC’s head coaches — from Alabama’s Nick Saban to Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason — would be interested in the gig, so that leaves us with a talented group of assistant coaches to review.
Of course, any discussion of SEC football assistants begins with Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
The 41-year-old crashed and burned at three separate stops (the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, the University of Tennessee and the University of Southern California) before settling in under Saban two years ago.
Kiffin has revamped the Crimson Tide’s offense to feature a more balanced attack, most notably during the 2014 season when senior wideout Amari Cooper caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards — both school records — while Alabama cruised into the College Football Playoffs.
His name was tossed around the rumor mill several times last season, including a disputed report that he met with Maryland to discuss its coaching vacancy.
For now, Kiffin is ready to guide another potent offensive attack at Alabama, but if Baylor came calling, the talented play-caller would undoubtedly consider leading one of the country’s most successful programs of the past few years.
On the other side of the ball, Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt just returned to Tuscaloosa after one year with Florida State and a two-year stint with Georgia.
Like Kiffin, Pruitt is 41 years old, but has no head coaching experience at any level and has only three total seasons as a Division I coordinator under his belt. Success tends to follow the Saban discipline, though — Pruitt has collected four rings (three at Alabama, one at Florida State) since getting called up to the big leagues in 2007 — and he will likely have other suitors asking him to interview by next spring if Baylor doesn’t show any interest.
Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is known as the “Minister of Mayhem” for his tendency to field units that fly around the field looking to make big plays. He built up a sterling reputation at Mississippi State for four seasons before heading to Gainesville last season.
The most recent Gators defense was one of the best in the country, helping drag a stagnant offense to the SEC title game while finishing No. 8 in the country in total yards allowed.
Collins’ experience might not align with Baylor’s efficient Big 12 passing attack, but if the Bears are looking to dominate the defensive side of the ball, there are few candidates who would bring more promise to that area than Collins.
Chances are, though, Baylor wants to keep its focus on scoring as many touchdowns as possible.
That’s where Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee might be able to help. He nearly guided the Tigers to a national title in 2013, and — alongside coach Gus Malzahn — established Auburn as an offensive-minded football team.
But following quarterback Nick Marshall’s departure, the Tigers fell from No. 16 to No. 94 in total offense last season while heavily-hyped passer Jeremy Johnson fell on his face. Lashlee’s offense struggled to find a rhythm without a capable player under center, and Auburn’s offense quickly went from juggernaut to laughingstock.
It’s a tough task to decipher how much responsibility Lashlee — or any other coordinator — is ready to take on, so Baylor might simply opt for a candidate who has already been a head coach.
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron held Indiana’s top job from 1997-2001 and then took over the Miami Dolphins in 2007 after Saban left South Beach.
Neither of those stops was particularly successful, though, especially the latter (Cameron went 1-15 with the Dolphins). He has shown flashes of brilliance since then, most notably as the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator during their Super Bowl season in 2012.
However, Cameron’s LSU offenses have not been elite, and he hid a questionable passing attack behind Leonard Fournette during last season’s 7-0 start and eventual 9-3 finish.
At age 60, Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord is one of the conference’s oldest assistants, and his resumé includes a four-season stop as Central Michigan’s head coach.
DeBord spent 2013-2014 away from the sideline as the University of Michigan’s sports administrator for Olympic teams, and then returned to the field when Tennessee coach Butch Jones brought him on board last spring. The No. 52-ranked Volunteers offense underachieved slightly, but DeBord has his offensive squad in position to propel one of the country’s most talented teams to the College Football Playoffs this year.
Another former Central Michigan head coach is Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who has a non-compete clause in his Razorbacks contract that keeps him from interviewing with other SEC schools… but not Baylor.
Enos was fairly successful in Mount Pleasant, where he led the Chippewas to their first winning season (7-6) in three years and finished his final three seasons 20-18 before taking over the offense in Fayetteville.
Recently-hired Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele would be an interesting option if he hadn’t already tried and failed in Waco. The former assistant for Alabama, Clemson and LSU went 9-36 in four seasons as Baylor’s boss from 1999-2002. That run included a 1-31 record in conference play (the lone win was a nailbiter against a Kansas team that finished 2-10).
So we’re guessing he won’t get a call from Bears brass, but one never really knows. Maybe he still has some friends in high places out there.
SEC Country will keep you updated on any conference-related developments during Baylor’s hiring process.