Most fans expected Bryan Harsin to be fired before the end of the season. He never fit the SEC style and was a strange hire from the start. Harsin is will likely return the west coast to continue his coaching career. In the meantime, Auburn needs to find their next head coach. Auburn has been temperamental over the past two decades winning a National Championship while also failing to finish the season ranked in half of the seasons. Former star running back, Cadillac Williams, is taking over as the interim head coach and will likely be a candidate for the job. Auburn will conduct a national search with the hopes of landing a big name coach to help bring the program back to national prominence.
Cadillac Williams (Auburn Interim Head Coach) – Cadillac Williams was named the interim head coach after Harsin was relieved of his duties. Williams is relatively new to coaching as his first job came at West Georgia in 2016. He joined Auburn in 2019 when he was hired by Gus Malzahn and then was retained by Harsin. Williams will have a chance to impress the administration with remaining games against Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Alabama. An upset win over Alabama will help his chances but the athletic department will likely look for someone with previous experience as a head coach.
Hugh Freeze (Liberty Head Coach) – Hugh Freeze is familiar with the SEC after coaching at Ole Miss. Freeze was forced to resign and has been the coach at Liberty since 2019 compliling a 33-12 record with the Flames. Freeze was recently awarded a contract extension and a raise to stay at Liberty. His annual salary will rise to $5 million per season meaning the buyout likely rose as well. Freeze will return to the power five at some point in his career but will Auburn spend the money on a large buyout after having fired Malzahn and Harsin within the past two seasons?
Matt Rhule (Former Carolina Panthers and Baylor Head Coach) – Matt Rhule was not a fit for the NFL and should explore a return to the college ranks. Rhule helped build Temple and Baylor into respectable programs. Auburn is looking for stability after the Harsin tenure. Rhule has coached seven seasons in college with three seasons resulting in at least 10 wins. The biggest concern for Rhule is his lack of experience coaching in the SEC. The schools in the SEC West are much more difficult to recruit and play against than the Big 12. Rhule may need a year or two for adjustments but if given enough time he could bring Auburn back to a respectable level.
Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss Head Coach) – Another unlikely choice is Lane Kiffin. Numerous media outlets are reporting Kiffin is going to be a front runner for the Auburn job but personally I doubt he leaves Ole Miss. Kiffin is scheduled to make more than $7 million next year which a high price tag for Auburn. Even if Auburn does offer him a raise, Ole Miss is likely to counter and match. Kiffin struggled as a head coach at Tennessee and USC but has since turned his career around. Ole Miss has one of the best offenses in the country under Kiffin’s watch and will likely continue to be one of the best in the SEC.
Mike Houston (ECU Head Coach) – This one may seem a bit strange but I think Auburn should consider giving Mike Houston a look. Houston has 13 years of experience as a head coach after starting at the division two level in 2011. He is at his fourth program and has found success at every stop in his coaching career. Before taking the job at ECU, he was the head coach at James Madison where he won a national championship and finished runner up the next season. After struggling his first two seasons with the Pirates, he is 13-8 over the past two seasons and on track to make his second straight bowl game. Houston is only 50 years old and would almost certainly accept the position with Auburn if he was offered.
Deion Sanders (Jackson State Head Coach) – Deion Sanders is going to be linked to every power five job in the south as long as he continues to have success at Jackson State. Sanders is 19-2 over his past two seasons at Jackson State. A power five program is going to offer Sanders a chance to coach at the FBS level this winter and Auburn might be the right fit for him. Sanders can recruit at a high level as he was able to land the number one player in the country in Travis Hunter this past recruiting cycle. Auburn needs a coach who can recruit so the Tigers can be competitive with Alabama, Georgia and now Tennessee on a consistent basis.
Jeff Grimes (Baylor Offensive Coordinator) – Jeff Grimes is going to be considered a top candidate for the Auburn job because he previously coached for the Tigers. Grimes was the offensive line coach for Auburn from 2009 to 2012 helping the Tigers win a national championship. The Baylor offense was one of the worst in the Big 12 during the 2020 season. Grimes helped Baylor’s scoring offense rise from 101st to 40th in just one season. Baylor’s scoring offense currently ranks 15th in the country. Grimes has become one of the best offensive coordinators in the country and knows how to rebuild the offense. Auburn will likely look at candidates with head coaching experience but if they choose to look at assistant coaches they will likely have Grimes at the top of the list.
Kenny Dillingham (Oregon Offensive Coordinator) – If Auburn wants to hire a young coach who is considered up and coming, then Kenny Dillingham should be at the top of their board. Dillingham is only 32 years old and was previously the offensive coordinator at Auburn. He coached under Gus Malzahn during the 2019 season. Oregon is currently averaging over 525 yards per game and also ranks fifth in scoring offense. Dillingham is also the quarterback coach and has helped Bo Nix play like a potential Heisman Trophy contender. Dillingham started coaching at just 17 years old after he tore his ACL in high school. He continued to coach high school football while attending Arizona State. Dillingham is on a trajectory to become a head coach in the near future but Auburn may be too big of a job for his first head coaching gig.
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