In case you haven’t heard, Ole Miss fired Hugh Freeze. You can checkout the sordid details here, here, and here. Hugh Freeze was an up-and-coming head coach who established his name by leading Arkansas State to a 10-2 season and a Sun Belt title before leaving for The Grove in 2012.
Will Ole Miss go to the Group of Five ranks again for their next head coach? The 2017 coaching carousel is officially underway y’all! Let’s get to who we think are the best G5 candidates for the Ole Miss opening.
Neal Brown, Troy
Cyrus Smith: Neal Brown is only 37 years old and has gone 14-11 in his two years as a head coach but don’t let the record fool you. The guy can coach. He’s built Troy from the ground up and has the Trojans near the top of the Sun Belt entering 2017 after going 10-3 last season.
Jared Kalmus: If Ole Miss doesn’t make a move on Neal Brown then some other P5 school will. Troy is going to be a force again this season and Brown got them to this level with a speed rarely seen at the Sun Belt level. Technically speaking, Troy’s 2016 squad is the best Sun Belt team of all-time as they were the first Sun Belt team to ever earn a Top 25 AP ranking. A strong recruiter with an attractive offense and attacking defense, Brown is a terrific coach and Ole Miss is likely the biggest name gig he could land at this point in his career.
Joey Broback: Along with Jared and Cyrus, I agree that Brown won’t be at Troy for long. I mean, the man has made the Trojans a competitor in the conference, and he certainly could turn around the Rebels program.
Charlie Strong, USF
Cyrus: This would be a reach to me. Charlie Strong wasn’t a good fit at the pressure-cooker that is Texas and jumping to the SEC is arguably more intense. Strong is an excellent recruiter and a good head coach but I see Strong looking for a more ideal P5 situation should he leave USF.
Jared: College football is such a weird game. If current Texas head coach Tom Herman has immediate success it will do wonders to affirm speculation that Charlie Strong was a great coach that just wasn’t afforded enough time to turn around the Longhorns. I personally think Strong is a worthy coach for this job but he’ll need to do a much better job at hiring high-quality staff members than he did in Austin.
Joey: If I had to pick a coach to take over Ole Miss, Strong would be one of the top candidates. He has the ability to recruit (the right way), and has shown that, given time, he can coach that talent to produce on the field. You want the opposite of Hugh Freeze? Hire Charlie Strong.
Lane Kiffin, FAU
Cyrus: If Lane Kiffin guides FAU to a 9-3 record or so and is on his best behavior during the season he’s probably going to get calls from several Power Five schools. However, given that his brother and former Ole Miss defensive line coach - and current FAU defensive coordinator - Chris Kiffin is facing NCAA allegations during his time there, I’d be surprised if Ole Miss called. Besides, Kiffin knows the SEC landscape and has had bigger jobs. Also Ole Miss is probably going to hammered by the NCAA. He’s been there and done that at USC and I doubt he wants to experience that again. People are going to speculate about Kiffin’s name with just about any P5 job but I don’t see it here. They both would be better off quite frankly.
Then again, they might be perfect for each other.
Jared: Nope, not buying it. Next.
Joey: See Jared’s response. I don’t buy the Lane Kiffin hype at all. He needs to prove he can build a program before he takes over one that’s in shambles.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
Cyrus: Another Sun Belt coach who’s proved his worth, Satterfield would be a brilliant hire for Ole Miss. But will he ever leave his alma mater? If Satterfield guides App State to their first outright Sun Belt title and a third straight 10-win season this year, he might feel like he’s done all that he can in Boone and head to the SEC. If App pulls off the upset against Georgia in the opener the talk of Satterfield going to Ole Miss should be immense.
Jared: Now this is an interesting one. I could see Satterfield being an App State lifer but if he’s ever going to leave then this is probably the job to do it for. A $4 million pay day is always hard to turn down. No doubt Ole Miss fans will remember Satterfield’s team taking Tennessee to the wire in 2016.
Joey: Satterfield’s popularity is going to skyrocket after this season should the Mountaineers win the Sun Belt. The transition to FBS has gone smoothly and, even though Ole Miss would be an extremely difficult challenge, he has the coaching chops to bring the Rebels back to relevance.
Frank Wilson, UTSA
Cyrus: Wilson’s ties to the SEC are well-known. He was an ace recruiter under Les Miles at LSU and used to be a recruiting coordinator for Ole Miss too. If Wilson ends up in Oxford I doubt we’d hear any jokes about how Ole Miss is signing top-tier recruits. If the Roadunners contend for a division title he will warrant serious consideration.
Jared: Obviously Wilson’s chances at this job are entirely dependent on UTSA’s performance this season but his ties to Ole Miss are strong. Wilson rose to prominence as a recruiting coordinator, running backs coach, and special teams coordinator at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron. If UTSA wins eight games or more this year I think Wilson will get an interview. Anything less than that probably takes him out of the running.
Joey: Wait until after this season before jumping on Wilson. If he can get eight wins like Jared said, he should be a strong candidate for the job. Wilson, like Charlie Strong, works his tail off year-round, and will do things ethically. My belief is that he would wait for a cleaner program to have a vacancy before jumping on board.
Mike Norvell, Memphis
Cyrus: Ole Miss hiring Norvell away from their rivals in Memphis would be a solid move. Norvell has had dynamite offenses everywhere he’s been from Arizona State to his first year at Memphis. The Tigers should be in contention for the AAC title this year. He’d be a young, exciting hire that Ole Miss fans could get around.
Jared: Potential sneaky good hire. Norvell has lit up scoreboards through each stop in his career and should already have a pretty good grasp on the recruiting tundra in Mississippi as Memphis is just 85 miles from Oxford.
Joey: Mark my words, Norvell is going to be the most popular G5 coach after this season. He has kept Memphis on the same level that Justin Fuente left it, and the Tigers success in 2017 will put his name at the top of the list of coveted coaches. Every year, there are multiple vacancies available for various reasons. I just think a better offer than Ole Miss will come across his desk (one that doesn’t involve cleaning up a mess), and he’s going to head for greener pastures.