LSU reportedly has Jimbo Fisher atop its list to be the Tigers’ next head coach. Should Fisher actually leave FSU, a coaching carousel already primed for madness could spin wildly out of control.
We could be embarking on a wild, crazy ride on the college football coaching carousel very, very soon.
Slowly but surely, we’ve seen levers pulled and gears turning. It began with Art Briles’ abrupt departure from Baylor this past offseason. The Bears brought on Jim Grobe with the unwritten expectation he’d be a one-year stopgap before they found their long-term answer.
Then, four games into the 2016 season, we saw the bubble burst on Les Miles’ time with LSU, and that flung the door wide open. Now, there could be any number of athletic directors with boosters breathing down their necks, pressuring them to throw back their medium-sized catches in hope of landing a great white shark like Miles. There are plenty of programs with good coaches that might be one great coach away from a College Football Playoff run — maybe a team like Oregon, which will suffer its first losing season since 2004.
And we can’t forget about the mid-tiered programs — like Boston College or Kansas — who could be looking for a change.
The next big domino in this whole mess of potential coaching moves could already be wobbling.
On Tuesday morning, it was reported that LSU had contacted a number of high-profile coaches about its head coaching vacancy. While Ed Orgeron, the Tigers’ interim head coach, is among the candidates being considered, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher is reportedly the program’s top choice. Moreover, Fisher would reportedly leave Tallahassee should LSU empty the piggy bank.
If that were to happen, it would most likely take place before the recruiting dead period starts on Dec. 12, as the Tigers expect to have a new coach in place for recruits to meet on their official visits. And — assuming he takes the job —Fisher would set fire to a chain reaction that’s been simmering in wait.
Given that we’re nearing a time of year where the hypothetical overtakes reality, let’s take a wild ride down the rabbit hole and examine how the offseason would play out if Fisher were to pack up and move westward down I-10 to Baton Rouge, as well as other ripple effects around the college football landscape.
Florida State Seminoles Hire Tom Herman
Charlie Strong could get fired after this season, but it’s basically a coin flip at this point. A lot hinges on how the Longhorns finish. Strong has recruited well and has a young, talented quarterback in Shane Buechele to build around. The defense is also young and has shown improvement since Strong started calling plays. Again, though, anything is possible in Austin given the boosters’ temperament on a given day. Tom Herman would likely take over the Longhorns if Strong were to be let go, but for this hypothetical let’s assume Texas holds on to its coach.
Fisher’s departure from FSU would open the door for Herman in Tallahassee, at a time when his stock is peaking. He’d transition from a school on the upswing to a national championship-caliber program with all of the pieces in place to immediately compete for a title.
Herman has proven he can recruit at a high level. He landed former 5-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver, former 4-star wide receiver Courtney Lark and a bunch of other talented prospects in the 2016 recruiting class. Imagine what he could do in the state of Florida, the most talent-rich pipeline in the country, especially with the kind of facilities the ‘Noles possess.
He’d clean up with the Sunshine State recruits (while still having an arm in Texas and Louisiana) and would add a spark to FSU at a time when Jim McElwain is turning the ship around in Gainesville, and Mark Richt is refreshing the Miami Hurricanes.
Houston Cougars Hire Jake Spavital
Keeping in line with what Houston has done in previous years, it would look to hire a young, enthusiastic, offensive coach to take over for Herman.
That’s where Jake Spavital comes into play. He was a graduate assistant with the Cougars in 2009, and served as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator from 2013-15. Suffice to say, he knows the area very well and could keep Houston’s stock high on the recruiting trail.
After all, Spavital helped lure former 5-star prospect Demetris Robertson to Cal from the state of Georgia, and the true freshman has put up incredibly impressive numbers early on in his college career. That’s partly because Spavital is at the helm of the Bear Raid offense in Berkeley, where Davis Webb has orchestrated a high-octane passing attack.
Oregon Ducks Hire Les Miles
There is no doubt Mark Helfrich is on the hot seat. Les Miles has a national championship on his resume. Recruits love him, so someone else will give him an opportunity. Why not Oregon, who has ascended to the level of expecting teams that annually compete for a title.
He’d have a young quarterback in Justin Herbert, who has a ton of potential, a live arm and some running ability. And Miles would help build the defense back up – a neccessity for a team that gives up 535 yards (No. 126 nationally) and 43.5 points per game (No. 127 nationally).
With the Ducks, Miles would bring that SEC mentality to Eugene. More importantly, he’d lure SEC recruits to Eugene. Imagine what Miles could do on the recruiting trail with all of those uniforms and the top-notch facilities. The Ducks would be pulling in prospects from all across the country.
Baylor Bears Hire Ed Orgeron
The man has earned another head coaching job. He has. It’s that simple. Orgeron has led LSU to a 4-1 record, and its only loss was to No. 1-ranked Alabama, 10-0. Let’s not forget that he also stabilized LSU’s recruiting class, which ranks No. 6 in the nation.
Prospects love him, and Orgeron has proved he can keep the ship afloat when times are rough and a transitionary phase is needed (remember: he did the same at USC). It just so happens a transitionary phase is happening in Waco as we speak. Jim Grobe has done a nice job filling in this season, but the Bears need to think long-term, and Orgeron can help pull recruits to Baylor.
Mark Helfrich, Jim Grobe Settle
If Helfrich were to get the fired by Oregon, he could take the coordinator route again somewhere — maybe even LSU. He may even look to try his hand at the NFL as an offensive coordinator or an assistant coach.
However, there will be a few more jobs opening up this offseason. Steve Addazio could be on the way out at Boston College. David Beaty at Kansas could be gone. Rich Rodriguez, Kliff Kingsbury and a few other coaches could be fired as well.
It seems as though Arizona would be the best landing spot for Helfrich. But he may have to wait a year before that job opens up, depending on whether or not the Wildcats go full steam ahead on a coaching change. If the Wildcats let go of Rich Rod, Helfrich could step in on Day 1, implement that uptempo offensive playbook and recruit the same Pac-12 areas he’s been recruiting the past few years. Arizona has the means to compete in the Pac-12 (the Wildcats were in the 2014 conference title game), and a fresh start with a coach who is only two seasons removed from a berth in the national championship game could be the answer.
As for Grobe, why not give him a chance at Boston College or Texas Tech? He’s done a solid job with Baylor and could parlay that into another head coaching job. He could fit in well with the Red Raiders or the Eagles.