Examining who could replace Matt Luke at Ole Mis
Matt Luke was fired as the head coach at Ole Miss on Sunday night. The Rebels went 15-21 under Luke’s watch and never played in a bowl during his three-year run in Oxford. While Ole Miss finished 4-8 this fall, there was optimism for 2020 with a young roster set to return next season.
Who could replace Luke at Ole Miss? Here are eight names to watch in the coaching search:
8 Coaching Candidates to Replace Matt Luke at Ole Miss
Bill Clark, Head Coach, UAB
Clark’s name has popped up for openings at Arkansas and Missouri, so it’s likely he will be mentioned as a candidate for this job as well. He’s guided UAB to a 34-17 record over the last four years and claimed back-to-back Conference USA West Division titles. The Blazers won Conference USA’s 2018 title after returning to the gridiron after the program was disbanded from 2015-16. The Alabama native had spent his entire coaching career in the state of Alabama at the high school level or as South Alabama’s defensive coordinator (2008-12) before taking the head-coaching job at Jacksonville State in 2013. The Gamecocks went 11-4 and earned a trip to the FCS playoffs in Clark’s only year at the helm.
Eliah Drinkwitz, Head Coach, Appalachian State
Drinkwitz is a coach on the rise in his first year at the helm of Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are 11-1 and have defeated two Power 5 teams this season. Appalachian State will play for the Sun Belt title and a finish in the top 25 on Saturday against Louisiana. The Oklahoma native worked as an assistant at Arkansas State (2012-13) before landing on Boise State’s staff in 2014. He assumed the play-caller role for the Broncos in 2015 and left for NC State to take on the same responsibility in 2016-18.
Tony Elliott, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Elliott has been a crucial piece of Clemson’s offensive success over the last few seasons, as he replaced Chad Morris as the team’s play-caller after he left for a head-coaching role. Elliott has worked with the Tigers in some capacity since 2011 and the last five as the co-offensive coordinator with Jeff Scott. Elliott has no experience as a head coach but is regarded as an excellent recruiter.
Willie Fritz, Head Coach, Tulane
Fritz has been mentioned as a potential candidate at Arkansas and Missouri this offseason, and that’s no surprise considering Fritz has been a winner at every stop during his coaching career. Fritz went 97-47 at Central Missouri from 1997-09, finished 40-15 at Sam Houston State from 2010-13 and 17-7 at Georgia Southern from 2014-15. Tulane is a tough job, but Fritz has brought steady improvement to the program. The Green Wave went 9-15 in Fritz’s first two years but are 13-12 over the last two seasons.
Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, FAU
Kiffin has guided FAU to two Conference USA East Division titles over his three seasons as the program’s head coach. His overall record with the Owls is 25-13 and a win in the title game or bowl would give FAU two seasons of double-digit wins under Kiffin’s direction. It’s no secret Kiffin didn’t work out at USC after a 28-15 mark over four years. However, he finished 7-6 at Tennessee in 2009 and has an overall mark of 60-34 as a head coach.
Mike Leach, Head Coach, Washington State
Leach has been mentioned as a potential candidate at Missouri and Arkansas this offseason, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see his name pop up in Oxford. It’s no secret Leach is one of college football’s top minds on offense and has a track record of success from stints at Texas Tech and Washington State. He went 84-43 at Texas Tech from 2000-09 and is 55-46 with the Cougars since 2012. Under Leach's watch, Washington State has won at least eight games in four out of the last five years.
Billy Napier, Head Coach, Louisiana
Napier is a coach on the rise since taking over at Louisiana in 2018. He’s 17-9 over the last two years and has guided the Ragin' Cajuns to back-to-back Sun Belt West Division titles. Louisiana’s 10-win season in 2019 was the first time the program eclipsed double-digit victories in a single year. Napier previously as an assistant at Clemson (under Dabo Swinney), Alabama (under Nick Saban), Arizona State, and Colorado State. Napier also has a strong background on offense and has been an effective recruiter at Louisiana.
Mike Norvell, Head Coach, Memphis
Norvell is going to be a hot commodity this coaching cycle, as his name has already popped up at Florida State, Arkansas and Missouri. Norvell is 37-15 over four years with the Tigers and has guided the program to three consecutive AAC West Division titles. Memphis is one win away from a trip to a New Year’s Six bowl this fall.