Hugh Freeze as the Ole Miss head coach is no longer, following the school’s announcement of his resignation in connection with a lawsuit by his predecessor, some suspect phone records, and a call to an escort service.
With the Freeze era officially over, it’s time to start talking about the candidates who could replace him.
There are a lot of big-name candidates being thrown around already.
First, if you’d like to know what the betting markets think or lay money on any of this, here’s how Bet Online ranks some potential candidates, with quite a few strange names thrown in:
- Chad Morris, SMU HC
- Derek Dooley, Cowboys assistant
- Les Miles, former LSU HC
- Chip Kelly, former 49ers HC
- Mike Norvell, Memphis HC
- Blake Anderson, Arkansas State HC
- Brent Venables, Clemson DC
- Lane Kiffin, FAU HC
- Scott Frost, UCF HC
- Bobby Petrino, Louisville HC
- Mike MacIntyre, Colorado HC
- Charlie Strong, USF HC
- Bryan Harsin, Boise State HC
- Neal Brown, Troy HC
- Willie Fritz, Tulane HC
- Matt Luke, Ole Miss interim
There are a few good suggestions in there (Norvell, Anderson, Brown, etc.), but a lot of weird ones.
Dooley was disastrous at Tennessee, coaches like Morris and Frost likely have their eyes on big jobs that don’t include NCAA baggage (A&M and Nebraska, respectively), Kelly is surely way too big a target, Venables will likely be able to land just about any job he wants, Petrino arguably already has a better job, some of these coaches have no connection to the Southeast, and so on.
As for what Ole Miss fans and actual reporters think ...
Charlie Strong’s name had been mentioned a lot even before Freeze’s exit, and Red Cup Rebellion mentions him first on its unordered list of potential candidates. The legendary SEC defensive coordinator won as a head coach at Louisville, didn’t win much at Texas, and sets up to have an excellent 2017 at USF.
Well-connected reporter Bruce Feldman lists: UTSA head coach Frank Wilson, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun (who appears in every rumor list, ever), Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield, Norvell, Morris, Brown, and Anderson.
Don’t forget about the Rebels’ interim head coach, Matt Luke.
Luke has spent the last five seasons with the Rebels, coaching the offensive line and being the co-offensive coordinator. He’s from Mississippi and played offensive lineman for Ole Miss from 1995-98. Luke is the guy Ole Miss targeted to be the interim ahead of time, in case Freeze fell through.
As far as Matt Luke is concerned, multiple sources told SB Nation that he entertained an offer from South Carolina to take the vacant OL position in the offseason. Ole Miss officials retained Luke with an aggressive offer specifically as a fallback interim coach if Freeze didn't survive.
We’ve seen interim head coaches earn the full job before, and Feldman says “it wouldn’t shock” him if Luke did it. Most recently, LSU named Ed Orgeron its head coach.
Luke has a chance, because he takes over a team with a potentially explosive offense, led by gifted sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson and an athletic crew of skill guys. There’s also a case for saving money on this hire, since it’ll involve NCAA sanctions, and then spending big on the next hire.
Oh yeah, and we have to include Kiffin here.
He recently followed five of Ole Miss’ assistants on Twitter on Friday morning, drawing some attention online. Kiffin was just playing a joke, SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey reported.
For now, Luke is Ole Miss’ guy. Although a coach would have to take the job with the impending threat of whatever sanctions or penalties the NCAA hands down after its investigation is over, the reward might be greater than the risk.