clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 SEC Coordinators Who Could be Head Coaches in 2018

Learn their names now so you can be really obnoxious in November and December!

Here, Aranda is seen modeling a smart golf-shirt-and-shorts combo by Nike.
Dava Aranda is the most likely SEC coordinator to be running his own program in 2018
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to be a head coach in the SEC, it doesn’t hurt to have success in the conference at the coordinator level. Kirby Smart lead Bama’s defense to four national championships before becoming the head man at his alma matter. Dan Mullen rode Tim Tebow to a pair of national titles at Florida before Mississippi State came calling.

Even if your path winds a little, success as an SEC coordinator can lead to your own program in the conference. Will Muschamp won a national title as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator at LSU and then led Auburn to a total of 20 wins in two seasons as its DC. He then spent a few years in Texas, but eventually he became the head coach first at Florida and now at South Carolina.

With that reality in mind, let’s take a look at five guys that are currently SEC coordinators that have a very real shot of leading their own programs next season.

DAVE ARANDA (LSU, Defensive Coordinator) - Aranda has the potential to be a hot candidate in both the South and the Midwest if the Tigers’ defense lives up to expectations in 2017. He has recruiting ties all over the place, produced two Big 10 defensive players of the year in his time at Wisconsin, and has been nominated for the Broyles award each of the last two seasons.

Ole Miss would be foolish to not at least gauge Aranda’s interest after the season. He could also be a hot candidate at Texas Tech, where he earned his master’s degree if the Red Raiders decide to move on from Kliff Kingsbury after the season. Hell, given his success in the Big 10, I wouldn’t be surprised if Illinois kicks the tires on Aranda when they’re ready to admit that the Luvie Smith experiment isn’t working.

MATT CANADA (LSU, Offensive Coordinator) - This one may seem like a stretch. Canada hasn’t coached a game in the SEC yet. He has been fired from a much lower pressure OC job within the last three years. So why is Matt Canada on this list? Because if Matt Canada can do for LSU what he did for Pitt last season, he’ll have America’s attention. And with Darius Guice at his disposal running behind a very experienced offensive line and Danny Etling throwing to a crew of 6’3” and taller wide receivers, I would say he has a pretty good shot to succeed.

Canada doesn’t have the same cache as some of the other names on this list, so he likely can’t turn one good season at LSU into a Power Five gig. Given that he is a native Mid-Westerner and how much turnover there is in the MAC each year, that may be an ideal landing spot for him.

JEREMY PRUITT (Alabama, Defensive Coordinator) - You can argue that he is reaping the rewards of Kirby Smart’s efforts right now, but look at what Pruitt has accomplished. He led a defense that for 14 games, 59 minutes and 30 seconds was one of the best college football has ever seen. He was the mastermind behind Florida State’s defense during its 2013 National Championship campaign. He led two star studded, 10-win defenses at Georgia. On the recruiting trail he landed Derrick Henry, CJ Mosely and Reggie Ragland for Alabama. He landed Jalen Ramsey for FSU and Lorenzo Carter for Georgia.

The interesting thing about projecting Pruitt’s future is that not only is he a Crimson Tide alum, he is also an Alabama native. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility to think he may be waiting for Nick Saban to retire before he takes a head coaching job. Still though, that shouldn’t scare off the likes of Ole Miss or Georgia Tech (if this is the year Yellow Jacket brass decide they want off the treadmill that is the Paul Johnson era).

MEL TUCKER (Georgia, Defensive Coordinator) - This may be a very special case. Tucker has spent the majority of his coaching career in the NFL, but he does have national championships as a DB coach at both Ohio State (2002) and Alabama (2015, when Nick Saban convinced him to come to Tuscaloosa as associate head coach). He bolted for Athens with Kirby Smart in 2016 to become the Bulldogs’ DC. There are plenty of programs that look at Tucker and see a dynamic young recruiter that can sell NFL knowledge and experience to high school stars and their parents.

Again, Tucker may be a very special case. Someone is going to give Troy’s Neal Brown the chance to coach a Power Five program this offseason. If he takes it, Tucker, who has had a lot of success recruiting Georgia, Eastern Alabama and North Florida would be an ideal candidate to take his place.

SO WHO IS THE MOST LIKELY GAMECOCKS ASSISTANT TO GET A SHOT AS A HEAD COACH?

Well, let’s be clear. It’s highly unlikely any Carolina coordinator is going to be a head coach in 2018, but Travaris Robinson has a really promising career ahead of him if his defense performs the way it did last season for the next two or three years. As shocking as it will sound, I think if you told me I had to pick one current assistant in Columbia that could be a head coach next year, I would have to go with...

KURT ROPER (South Carolina, Offensive Coordinator) - Okay, I know. He hasn’t been great and he also wasn’t great in Florida, but he may be a guy that gets calls if any Group of Five school ion North Carolina makes a change this offseason. That’s what having the David Cutcliffe seal of approval and being credited with the man that gave Duke the offense it needed to no longer have to defend the moniker of the worst college football program in America in court. Again, I know this isn’t going to happen, but if Scott Satterfield leads App State to a Sun Belt title and decides to leave in the offseason, there is a scenario where Roper at least gets an interview in Boone.