BOCA RATON, Fla. – After three seasons and two Conference USA championships, Lane Kiffin has left Florida Atlantic to take the Ole Miss job. Here’s a look at 10 possible candidates to replace him as the next head coach of the Owls.
Glenn Spencer, FAU defensive coordinator
Spencer has been tapped as interim head coach for FAU’s game against SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Pros: Spencer has experience as a head coach, albeit at West Georgia, a Division II school. But he was successful there, going 28-7 in three seasons from 1998-2000. Some FAU players have already lobbied for Spencer to take over.
Cons: After garnering plenty of headlines by hiring Kiffin in 2017, FAU could be looking for a more momentum-building name than Spencer. He served as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State but was fired by Mike Gundy after the 2017 season. Plus, he’s only been on the FAU staff for a year, so it’s not like he’s earned his keep.
James Coley, Georgia offensive coordinator
Coley has served under Kirby Smart at Georgia since he took over in 2016. The 46-year-old spent his first two seasons as wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs before sharing offensive coordinator duties with Jim Chaney in 2018. Coley was promoted to sole offensive coordinator this year upon Chaney’s departure.
Pros: Coley is a guy with deep Florida roots. He grew up in Miami, graduated from Florida State in 1997 and served as Jimbo Fisher’s first offensive coordinator from 2010-12. Considered an ace recruiter in talent-rich South Florida, Coley has also been the offensive coordinator at Miami and Florida International.
Cons: Although he’s been an offensive coordinator at several big-time programs, Coley hasn’t had a ton of play-calling experience before this season. Fisher called the plays throughout Coley’s tenure in Tallahassee, and Chaney called the plays for the Bulldogs last season.
Kendal Briles, Florida State offensive coordinator
The 36-year-old son of disgraced former head coach Art Briles, Kendal Briles joined the Seminoles in 2019 after stops at Houston, Florida Atlantic and Baylor, where he coached with his father. He was Kiffin’s offensive coordinator when the Owls won a school-record 11 games and claimed their first C-USA title in 2017.
Pros: He’s a young and proven offensive coordinator.
Cons: Willie Taggart hired Briles and gave him the keys to the offense, but it didn’t seem to help. Not to mention, there will always be that stigma of the Baylor sex assault scandal hanging over him.
Derek Dooley, Missouri offensive coordinator
Dooley will probably be looking for another job with the dismissal of Missouri head coach Barry Odom. Could FAU athletic director Brian White, who previously worked at Missouri, lure Dooley to Boca Raton?
Pros: He has been a head coach at Louisiana Tech and Tennessee. As the son of former Georgia head coach Vince Dooley, he’s also got pedigree.
Cons: Dooley’s career head coaching record of 32-41 leaves something to be desired. He only had one winning season in six years between both schools.
Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator
Clemson’s other offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, has already accepted the South Florida job. It won’t be long before Elliott fills a vacancy elsewhere.
Pros: Elliott was the 2017 recipient of the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach. FAU president Dr. John Kelly has Clemson ties.
Cons: Would Elliott really want to leave his alma mater? Elliott has never left the Palmetto State, having coached at South Carolina State and Furman before joining Dabo Swinney’s staff in 2011.
Jedd Fisch, Los Angeles Rams assistant coordinator/offense
Fisch has spent the last two seasons on the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff. Fisch was part of the staff that helped lead the Rams to a 13-3 record and appearance in Super Bowl LIII. A disciple of Steve Spurrier, Fisch graduated from the University of Florida and spent two seasons as a graduate assistant for the Gators.
Pros: Fisch has experience in both the NFL and at several big-time college football programs, including Michigan and Miami. He took over as interim head coach at UCLA after Jim Mora was fired in 2017, leading the Bruins -- who were 5-6 at the time -- to bowl eligibility.
Cons: For all his successes, he’s had his share of failures. Fisch was fired by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 after just two seasons as offensive coordinator. He also has a knack for hopscotching between jobs. Fisch coached for three different NFL teams in seven seasons and then spent a year at Minnesota before returning to the NFL. After a season with the Seattle Seahawks, Fisch left for Miami, but he only stayed two seasons before leaving to take the Jacksonville job.
Eddie Gran, Kentucky offensive coordinator
The Atlantic is reporting that Gran could receive serious consideration for the FAU job.
Pros: Gran has ties to the Sunshine State, having coached at Florida State and Miami. He was Florida State’s running backs coach from 2010-12 and was a graduate assistant at Miami from 1990-91. Under Gran, who also coaches running backs, the Wildcats have had more than 2,000 rushing yards in each season since Gran’s arrival in 2016.
Cons: He’s never been a head coach before.
Jim Leavitt, former South Florida head coach
Leavitt was the first head coach in South Florida history, leading the Bulls to a 95-57 record from 1997-2009. After four years coaching linebackers for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Leavitt returned to college and became a successful defensive coordinator at Colorado and Oregon. He joined Florida State as a quality control analyst in September.
Pros: He has experience building a program into a winner, which won’t be needed at FAU.
Cons: Leavitt was fired by USF in 2010 amid allegations that he struck a player in the locker room during halftime of a game. It was the start of many bad endings to his coaching tenures. He was ousted by Mario Cristobal at Oregon after the 2018 season, joined the Seminoles in a non-coaching role in September, moved into an on-field role after Taggart was fired and then was dismissed before Florida State hired Mike Norvell.
Willie Taggart, former Florida State head coach
Speaking of Taggart, he’s currently unemployed after being fired by Florida State, but he was reportedly interested in returning to USF, where he coached from 2013-16, before Scott got the job.
Pros: He’s known for being able to recruit players from his home state and turn losing programs into winning ones, although that reputation took a hit after the Seminoles finished 5-7 in 2018 -- their first losing season since 1976.
Cons: Taggart was dismissed after just 21 games at Florida State. His 56-62 all-time career record is hard to overlook, especially after going 9-12 during his time in Tallahassee. It’s also hard to ignore that he was unable to coral a quarterback in two recruiting classes at FSU.
Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee head coach
Stockstill has been head coach at Middle Tennessee since 2006.
Pros: The former Florida State quarterback is 91-86 in 14 seasons with the Blue Raiders and has guided the team to eight bowl games. His teams are also 11-3 against the Owls.
Cons: Stockstill is 2-6 in bowl games and has only won 10 or more games once.