Orgeron is Out: LSU Head Coaching Hot Board, Volume 1

by Connor Jackson
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Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletics

Earlier this year, we compiled a list of candidates to replace LSU head coach Ed Orgeron were he to be fired.

After a 4-3 start, LSU decided to part ways with the fourth-year head man on Sunday.

Orgeron led LSU to a national championship in 2019. Since then, the Tigers have gone 9-8. A 5-5 finish in 2020 marked the first time that they failed to finish with a winning record since 1999.

A new era is coming to Baton Rouge. Here are the top guys to replace Orgeron:

Louisiana HC Billy Napier

Why it Makes Sense

Napier not only has deep recruiting ties to the state of Louisiana, but he also has deep ties to the SEC. Napier served on both Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban’s staff. As wide receivers coach at Alabama, Napier proved to be one of the best recruiters in the country. He was a key factor in bringing guys like Jerry Jeudy and Calvin Ridley to Alabama.

Since becoming the head coach at Louisiana in 2018, he has led the Ragin Cajuns to a 21-5 conference record and three consecutive Sun Belt West division titles. Under his watch, running back Elijah Mitchell blossomed into a star and is currently putting up a decent rookie numbers with the San Francisco 49ers. The biggest highlight of his tenure might have been when his Ragin Cajuns walked into Ames and knocked off ranked Iowa State to open 2020.

Napier is an elite recruiter and has turned around the Louisiana football program. If LSU wants a young coach with connections to both the state and the Southeast, then this could be the guy.

Why it Doesn’t

Has Napier lost his mojo? The Tennessee native has been a major candidate in coaching searches the past two seasons, but has yet to take a job.

Napier was seen as a major player for the Mississippi State job after 2019, but the Bulldogs ultimately went with Mike Leach. He was also connected with the Ole Miss job in that same offseason. Baylor was seen as a major threat later in the cycle, but he opted to stay in Lafayette.

This past cycle, Napier was seen as the favorite for the Auburn opening at one point, but reports say he withdrew from consideration.

One has to wonder, what is Napier waiting on? Could it be a bigger job like LSU or Alabama? Or, is he simply just content with where he is? Either way is understandable, but if he waits too long, his name could lose some of its luster.

Carolina Panthers OC Joe Brady

Why it Makes Sense

Joe Brady completely transformed the LSU offense when he was hired as the passing game coordinator in 2019. Under his control, Joe Burrow threw for over 5,000 yards and won the Heisman Trophy. Jamaar Chase also won the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football. Most importantly, he helped lead LSU to a national championship while scoring more points than any FBS team ever.

When you have someone with such an impressive track record in just one season, he has to be mentioned for the job.

Brady is now the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and is considered a rising star in the NFL coaching sphere. In fact, he was even connected to some NFL head coach openings this past offseason.

Brady is a revolutionary mind and has seen LSU at its best.

Why it Doesn’t

Hiring a young coach with no prior head coaching experience is risky for obvious reasons. Regardless of how revolutionary Brady is, becoming the head man at a program like LSU is a big jump from where he is currently at. Being a good play-caller and offensive mind does not guarantee success. There are many different elements.

One has to be a CEO and has to recruit. Brady has an impressive track record that will make these things easier, but that does not guarantee success right away.

There are also rumors that Brady wants to stay in the NFL, and that he will be a head coach there soon. If that is the case, LSU may look somewhere else. The Tigers have lost coaches to the NFL before.

Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin

Why it Makes Sense

This is Lane Kiffin. He is one of the best offensive minds in the game, and has been for a long time. He has taken a dysfunctional Ole Miss program and turned it into a borderline top-10 team with a Heisman Trophy-caliber performer at quarterback.

His scheme and designs remain present at Alabama. As an assistant, Kiffin helped the Crimson Tide win the 2015 national championship.

On top of that, he is an elite recruiter. He has connections to practically everywhere in the nation. Being able to coach a national brand like LSU will allow him to expand his footprint into all parts of the country.

LSU might want a big fish, and Kiffin is certainly that. Does LSU have the power to pull Kiffin away from Ole Miss? One would have to think so.

Why it Doesn’t

Kiffin does come with some baggage. Wherever he goes, there will be a cloud that follows him. He has the tendency to not stay in one place too long. His longest stint as a head coach was just four seasons at USC.

Kiffin is a polarizing coach. Although Kiffin seems to have matured, he will say some things that get him in trouble, and it will bring both positive and negative attention to wherever he goes.

Is that worth the price of admission? That depends on who you ask.

Baylor HC Dave Aranda

Why it Makes Sense

There are not many people in college football who know LSU the way Aranda does. During his time as LSU defensive coordinator from 2016 to 2019, Aranda developed into one of the best in the nation and was instrumental in LSU’s 2019 national title.

After a shaky start at Baylor, things are turning around for Aranda in year two. The Bears are 6-1 and in the hunt in the Big 12 race.

Aranda has deep ties to LSU, and has done nothing to show that he is not qualified for the job. If LSU wants someone who already knows the program, this could be the guy.

Why it Doesn’t

Does LSU really want to go this route? After all, Orgeron was a former LSU defensive assistant before becoming head coach.

That doesn’t mean that Aranda is not qualified for the job, but does he stand out enough for LSU to pull the trigger? Who knows.

Texas A&M HC Jimbo Fisher

Why it Makes Sense

Fisher is as close to LSU Athletics Director Scott Woodward as a coach can be. In fact, there have been rumors of Fisher being interested in the LSU job for years now.

This is Jimbo Fisher. He has been one of the best coaches in college football for years now. He won a national championship at Florida State and has been close to winning a few more. The guy can recruit too. In fact, Fisher is turning Texas A&M into a program infested with 4- and 5-star talent.

Who knows if this is even realistic, but one would guess Woodward would at least try to pique Fisher’s interest.

Why it Doesn’t

This is at the bottom of the list for a reason. It does not seem realistic.

Fisher seems committed to Texas A&M for the long haul. After all, he did sign a 10-year, $75 million contract extension this year.

The Aggies are building something, and were dangerously close to making the College Football Playoff last season. A win over Alabama this year was also a very impressive feat for Fisher.

A move seems unlikely for the national championship-winning head coach, but for what it is worth, LSU might be the only school capable of pulling Fisher away.

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