Southern Mississippi is looking for a head coach, and it may be targeting some coaches in the SEC.
The program is looking to replace Todd Monken, who stepped down from the position to become the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Monken managed to turn the Golden Eagles around in three seasons, finishing the 2015 season with an impressive 9-5 record.
The SEC had several prominent assistants earn head coaching jobs throughout the 2015 coaching carousel. Here are some schools that should be worried about losing their prized assistants to Southern Mississippi, or other jobs down the road.
Alabama – Lane Kiffin
Kiffin won’t leave Alabama to coach at Southern Mississippi, but he could well be on several teams’ radars in 2016. The Tide finished 45th in the nation with an average of 427.1 yards per game and averaged 35.1 points per game.
The Crimson Tide didn’t have a proven quarterback entering the 2015 season, but Kiffin did a tremendous job of grooming Jake Coker into a reliable starter who was good enough to help win a national championship.
Kiffin obviously has the resume. The question is what job would lure him away from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Auburn – Rhett Lashlee
Lashlee is Gus Malzahn’s apprentice and has served as Auburn’s offensive coordinator since 2013. Auburn’s offense finished in the top 20 in total offense during his first two seasons under Lashlee, but bottomed out in 2015. The Tigers ranked 94th in the nation in total offense with 370 yards per game and finished 74th in the country with 27.5 points per game.
The 32-year-old coach may be a bit young for head coaching duties and only has four years of college coaching experience under his belt. However, Lashlee could be a great fit for any team looking to shift to a more modern spread offense.
Florida – Doug Nussmeier
UPDATE: Nussmeier is reportedly interested in the Southern Miss job.
Nussmeier has bounced around the college football landscape over the last seven years. He’s run offenses at Washington, Alabama, Michigan and is now at Florida under Jim McElwain.
The former NFL quarterback of five seasons did not have a tremendous first season in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators finished 112th in total offense with an average of 334 yards per game and 100th in scoring offense with 23.2 points per game. Nussmeier was unable to transform quarterback Treon Harris into a reliable asset after Will Grier was suspended for using illegal performance enhancing drugs.
Nussmeier has the pedigree and experience to become a head coach soon though, and could be considered for jobs as soon as next offseason.
Alabama – Jeremy Pruitt
Pruitt just got to Tuscaloosa, but he cannot be ruled out as a potential head coach in waiting. Pruitt is back at his alma mater after coaching defensive backs at Alabama from 2010-12. Pruitt spent one season as Florida State’s defensive coordinator — winning a national championship in the process — before running Georgia’s defense the past two seasons.
Georgia’s defense was outstanding in 2015, ranking seventh in the country in total defense and eighth in scoring defense. Pruitt should have similar success with the Crimson Tide next season. At age 41, Pruitt might be due for his first head coaching gig.
LSU – Dave Aranda
Aranda is another coordinator who will be entering his first season at a new school, but he is absolutely a coach on the rise. Aranda heads to Baton Rouge, La. after turning Wisconsin’s defense into one of the best units in college football.
Wisconsin’s defense was the stingiest in the nation, allowing only 13.7 points per game in 2015. The Badgers were second in total defense with an average of 268.5 yards allowed per game.
LSU may have hired Aranda as a contingency plan for Les Miles, but he could garner plenty of interest from other schools very soon.