Top Candidates: Texas A&M


Jimbo Fisher is officially out at Texas A&M. He is going to ride off into the sunset with a $76 million payday coming his way. Being a terminated head coach continues to be the best job in the world; just ask Ed Orgeron. Texas A&M made this move early so they could get a jump start on finding their next coach. An opening in the SEC, where the coach will have nearly unlimited funds, will be intriguing to candidates across the country. Look for the Aggies to take a swing at some high-profile names, similar to how they were able to lure Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State. Texas A&M is unlikely to entertain the thought of a first-time head coach since they have a talented roster and are not in need of a full rebuild.

Dan Lanning (Oregon Head Coach) – Dan Lanning has been a trendy name for Texas A&M ever since the program announced the decision to move away from Fisher. Lanning is a young and energetic coach with experience coaching in the SEC. He played a pivotal role in helping Georgia secure the first of their back-to-back National Championships in 2021 before making the move to Eugene. At Oregon, Lanning has achieved success, contributing to the Ducks’ 19 wins in less than two seasons. Currently, he has positioned the Ducks to potentially make the College Football Playoffs if he can win out and clinch the Pac-12 title. As one of the top teams in the country, it makes sense that Texas A&M would express interest in hiring Lanning.

Oregon made a prudent decision by signing Lanning to an extension in July, simultaneously raising his buyout to $20 million. While there is no indication that Lanning is actively seeking to leave Oregon, the Ducks have faced challenges in retaining their coaching staff in the past. Notable figures such as Mario Cristobal, Willie Taggart, and Chip Kelly all departed the program to pursue new opportunities within the last 15 years. The odds of securing Lanning may be low, but Texas A&M should explore the possibility and at least make an inquiry to see if Lanning is open to discussion.

Kalen DeBoer (Washington Head Coach) – Another potential but challenging scenario in hiring a coach from a prominent program is targeting Kalen DeBoer. He has played a pivotal role in Washington’s current undefeated season, contributing to one of the program’s best seasons in history. Washington’s explosive offense, spearheaded by Heisman front-runner Michael Penix Jr., reflects DeBoer’s success as an experienced coach. With a coaching career marked by three NAIA Championships in the mid-2000s and subsequent transitions to the FCS and FBS levels, DeBoer boasts a remarkable 100-11 career record, including a 21-2 record at Washington.

Known for his offensive prowess, DeBoer played a significant role in Jake Haener’s development into one of the top quarterbacks in the Mountain West before moving to Washington. Similarly, Penix Jr. has excelled in DeBoer’s system, transforming from a perceived mediocre quarterback at Indiana. Despite his achievements, DeBoer’s buyout is relatively more manageable at $10 million, thanks to an extension signed in November 2022.

However, a potential obstacle for DeBoer would be his limited experience coaching in the South. Establishing relationships with high school coaches in the SEC region and throughout Texas is crucial for the success of the Texas A&M program. To mitigate this concern, DeBoer could still find success by surrounding himself with the right coaches who already have existing relationships in the region.

James Franklin (Penn State Head Coach) – This is typically my biggest joke on Twitter, but now we have to take it seriously. Penn State finds itself at a crossroads with James Franklin. He has consistently proven himself as a very good coach, navigating challenges such as taking over a program under sanctions with fewer than 85 scholarship players on the roster. However, despite his successes, the fan base is beginning to sour on Franklin, and a mutual split could be on the horizon.

Franklin’s coaching achievements at Vanderbilt, including consecutive nine-win seasons and finishing ranked in 2012 and 2013, showcase his ability to turn programs around. At Penn State, he has secured 11-win seasons in four different years, with the potential for a fifth if he wins out and triumphs in the bowl game. Nevertheless, his biggest criticism revolves around his ability to win crucial games and occasional mismanagement in those situations. While successful against middle and lower-tier opponents, Franklin has struggled against powerhouses like Ohio State and Michigan.

The SEC, with upcoming matchups against formidable teams like Notre Dame, Texas, LSU, Missouri, and Florida, poses its own set of challenges. Franklin’s buyout, set at only $6 million, could make him an attractive candidate for other programs considering a coaching change.

Lance Leipold (Kansas Head Coach) –

Lance Leipold is undeniably a proven winner, and if I were at Texas A&M, he would be right at the top of my list. Throughout his coaching career, Leipold has demonstrated success at every stop, regardless of the talent level on his roster. His coaching journey began with a significant achievement, helping Wisconsin-Whitewater secure the program’s first National Championship in his inaugural season as the head coach. This success continued, with Leipold winning six national championships in eight seasons before moving on to Buffalo.

During his six seasons at Buffalo, Leipold compiled a 25-10 record in his final three seasons, culminating in a top-25 finish in his last year. Now at Kansas, he has revitalized the program, with the Jayhawks already securing seven wins this season— their highest since 2008 when Mark Mangino was at the helm.

Despite rumors and external interests, Leipold has vehemently denied any intention of leaving, expressing a strong desire to be at Kansas. The commitment shown by the Jayhawks to retain him indicates a mutual commitment to the program’s success. While Leipold’s buyout is rumored to be $12.5 million, his track record of turning programs around makes him a compelling candidate for Texas A&M.

Mike Elko (Duke Head Coach) – Hiring a coach with previous experience on the staff, such as Mike Elko, can be a logical and strategic move for Texas A&M. Elko’s familiarity with the program, having served as the defensive coordinator from 2018 to 2021, provides a strong foundation for understanding the team’s dynamics, culture, and challenges. His subsequent success at Duke, leading the team to a nine-win season in his first year and earning ACC Coach of the Year honors, demonstrates his coaching prowess and ability to make a positive impact.

Duke’s competitiveness, even in the face of challenges like the star quarterback’s injury, further underscores Elko’s coaching abilities. The victory over Clemson and continued competitiveness against tough opponents showcase his capacity to build and lead a competitive team.

While the specifics of Elko’s salary and buyout at Duke are not publicly disclosed due to the university’s private status, his extension through 2029 likely indicates a commitment to his role. The familiarity, success, and potential for continuity make Mike Elko a compelling candidate for Texas A&M, and his previous tenure with the Aggies could contribute to a smooth transition and sustained success for the program.

Jeff Traylor (UTSA Head Coach) – Jeff Traylor’s strong ties to Texas and his extensive coaching experience in the state make him an intriguing candidate for the Texas A&M head coaching position. With nearly his entire coaching career spent in Texas, except for a brief two-year stint at Arkansas, Traylor’s deep roots in the state’s football landscape can be a valuable asset for the Aggies.

Traylor’s background in coaching high school football for over 20 years before transitioning to the college level showcases his understanding of the Texas football culture. Taking over the UTSA program in 2020, he quickly made an impact, guiding the Roadrunners to consecutive bowl appearances, a remarkable 23-5 record between 2021 and 2022, and two conference championships.

Currently, with UTSA sitting at 7-3 and in contention for another conference championship, Traylor’s success continues. His rumored buyout of $7 million adds to his appeal as a potential candidate for Texas A&M. Moreover, the potential boost in recruiting from his connections to Texas high school football could be crucial for the Aggies’ success, making Traylor a serious and strategic consideration for the head coaching position. While his name might not be the flashiest, his track record and connections make him a candidate worth serious consideration for the Texas A&M program.

Jamey Chadwell (Liberty Head Coach) – Jamey Chadwell has built a reputation for winning, particularly in his successful stints at Coastal Carolina and currently at Liberty. He played a crucial role in putting Coastal Carolina on the map during their transition from the FCS to the FBS level, achieving notable success with 31 wins across his final three seasons, including two 11-win campaigns. Chadwell’s move to Liberty after the 2022 season has maintained his winning streak, with the team currently undefeated and in contention for a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

Despite his impressive coaching record, the primary concern with Chadwell is his lack of experience at the Power Five level. The transition to coaching in a major conference comes with higher expectations and increased competition, which could present a challenge for someone without prior Power Five experience.

While Chadwell is likely to receive coaching offers in the near future, Texas A&M may not be the ideal starting point for him, given the heightened expectations and pressures associated with coaching in the SEC. His rumored salary of $4 million per season represents a significant raise from his previous position at Coastal Carolina. Unfortunately, details about Chadwell’s buyout are not available, as Liberty is a private university. As Chadwell continues to succeed, it will be interesting to see how his coaching career develops and whether he makes the leap to a Power Five program in the future.

Chris Kleiman (Kansas State Head Coach) – Chris Klieman brings over a decade of successful coaching experience to the table, having notably led North Dakota State to four national championships before making the transition to Kansas State. His stock rose further with the 2022 Big 12 Championship win over TCU, showcasing his ability to compete at a high level in a major conference.

Despite Kansas State often having less recruiting appeal than some premier Big 12 programs, Klieman has consistently fielded competitive teams. The Wildcats’ current standing in a four-way tie for second place in the Big 12 demonstrates his ongoing success. Klieman’s coaching acumen and the potential for even better teams with increased talent make him an intriguing candidate for Texas A&M.

While Kansas State may face challenges in recruiting, giving Klieman more resources and access to talent could further elevate the program’s performance. His recent contract extension, which increased his salary to $5.5 million per season, reflects the recognition of his coaching achievements. In the event of a coaching change, Klieman’s estimated $6 million buyout adds to the considerations for potential suitors. Overall, Chris Klieman presents a compelling option for Texas A&M, with a proven track record of success and the potential for continued excellence.

Sonny Dykes (TCU Head Coach) – Stick with me here for a second. Sonny Dykes is an interesting coaching prospect, especially in the context of Texas A&M’s potential search. While he might not be in the top tier of candidates, as you mentioned, there are some factors that make him worth considering. Dykes has experience coaching in Texas, which is crucial for recruiting, given the state’s rich high school football talent. His one win away from a National Championship at SMU last season showcases his ability to lead a team to high levels of success.

Although the current season might be viewed as a step back for TCU, the context of losing many talented players on both sides of the ball can be taken into account. Dykes’ overall coaching record, going 30-18 at SMU and 17-8 at TCU, reflects a level of consistency and success. The connection to a coaching legacy, with his father Spike being one of the winningest coaches in Texas Tech history, adds an interesting dimension to Dykes’ candidacy.

While Dykes might not fulfill the loftiest expectations, he could potentially bring stability and competitiveness to the program. Considering the challenges of recruiting in Texas and the need for a strategic approach to build the team, Dykes could be a reasonable option for Texas A&M if they find themselves struggling to secure their top-tier candidates.

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