Ole Miss has been in the coaching market since July, but its search has begun in earnest in recent weeks as the college football season prepares to come to a close.
What we know is that while Turnkey Search is helping Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork with elements of the search, Bjork is largely handling this on his own. That has put information at a premium, with very few, if any, leaks so far.
With that in mind here is a list of candidates the Clarion Ledger believes Ole Miss has at least some interest in and would have mutual interest in Ole Miss.
Why Ole Miss would be interested: In two years at Memphis, Norvell has won 16 games, and is 8-1 this season and has the Tigers ranked No. 21 nationally. They’re No. 6 nationally in scoring offense, and he also built explosive offenses as the coordinator at Arizona State. Norvell has also been very good in generating enthusiasm for Memphis football in the city.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: His $1.86 million salary would easily be doubled, at least, by Ole Miss if necessary, and with QBs Shea Patterson and Jordan Ta’amu and a large group of receivers back for at least one more year, there’s enough talent on that side of the ball for Norvell to hit the ground running with his scheme.
Is it a fit: Yes. Norvell has to be considered one of the top candidates for Ole Miss. There’s some concern that he is coaching Justin Fuente’s players (Norvell signed the No. 56 class a year ago, and his current group of recruits is ranked No. 75) and whether or not he could build his own program. But if that’s the worst you can say about a guy, it’s a risk worth taking.
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Why Ole Miss would be interested: The Trojans won 10 games in 2016, Brown’s second year at Troy, and are 8-2 this season with an impressive win against LSU. Again it’s another guy with an offensive background, and Brown has major coaching experience as an assistant at Kentucky and Texas Tech.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: His $800,000 salary would be improved exponentially. But a Power 5 job is also the next logical step for Brown, who has done well at a Troy program that was on less than solid footing when he arrived.
Is it a fit: Brown checks a lot of boxes, so he has to be somewhere on the list of candidates. But it’s a big leap from the Sun Belt to the SEC. One of the biggest is he’d need to hire an army of known recruiters because his recruiting classes at Troy have all been barely top-100.
Why Ole Miss would be interested: He’s the rare Ole Miss coaching candidate with Power 5 head coaching experience — four years at Louisville and three at Texas. He won big with the Cardinals and had a Heisman Trophy contender in QB Teddy Bridgewater, and with Texas still struggling it strengthens the argument the problems there were the institution, not the man. Strong is also a defensive guy, which has been the problem side of Ole Miss’ team for a couple of years now.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: He’s 8-1 at South Florida, but that’s a hard place to win consistently and Strong is believed to be ready to leap to a job back in the Power 5. SEC jobs are always coveted, and Strong is probably eager to prove Texas was a fluke.
Is it a fit: The resume is very good, and Strong could do well as a coach in the SEC. The question is whether or not he fits Ole Miss and Oxford. He has a reputation of a no-nonsense guy, and the culture in Oxford requires a fair to a significant amount of glad-handing of the boosters and life in the fishbowl that is a small Southern town.
Why Ole Miss would be interested: There’s no available candidate who has experienced exactly what Ole Miss is about to go through, but Clark may come the closest. After UAB canceled the football program, then sat out two years, the Blazers are 7-3 this season. He’s done it through motivation, but also player development and recruiting evaluation.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: If he’s at all interested in climbing up the job ladder, Ole Miss offers the opportunity. And, let’s be real — UAB canceled football once before. Even if things look good right now, it cannot be considered stable longterm.
Is it a fit: The biggest question with Clark is if he can play at this level — he was a high school coach and defensive coordinator at South Alabama before one year as Jacksonville State’s head coach and then UAB since 2014. And does Clark want to take that chance? He did just sign an extension at UAB.
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Why Ole Miss would be interested: He took over for Jim McElwain at Colorado State and will take the team to its third-straight bowl game. Bobo was also at Georgia from 2001-2014, the last eight as offensive coordinator. It was there he groomed successful quarterbacks like Matt Stafford and Aaron Murray.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: Bobo is from Georgia and his whole career sans the last three years has been spent in the South, so he could want a return. And with the offensive personnel in Oxford, he’d have a good group to work with upon his arrival. He’s also being paid $1.55 million, and Ole Miss could at least double that.
Is it a fit: Bobo’s record, by season: 7-6, 7-6 and, this year, 6-5. So while he’s winning, it hasn’t been dominating. Georgia fans also were pleased when Bobo left. Maybe they were wrong. Maybe they were right. But a careful evaluation of the Georgia offense in the Bobo years would be necessary.
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Why Ole Miss would be interested: Look at how he kept things together amid chaos. This team isn't the most talented, especially defensively, but he's getting close to its max. He's won five games, which is what Hugh Freeze won last year with a more talented roster.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: It's no secret that this is his dream job. His dad, Tommy, played here. So did his older brother, Tom. He turned down scholarship offers to walk on at Ole Miss and turned down offers from other programs as an assistant.
Is it a fit: Luke, who is represented by Jimmy Sexton, will be treated fairly in the search process. Some coaches are perfect for the interim role because they provide a short-term shot in the arm. Luke will have to answer why he would be a long-term solution in Oxford.
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Why Ole Miss would be interested: MacIntyre was named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press and Football Writers Association of America in 2016. He's taken over two rebuilding jobs at San Jose State and Colorado and eventually led both programs to 10-win seasons and top-25 finishes.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: He won 10 games at Colorado last season but will go 6-6 at best this season. The Buffaloes haven't had consecutive winning seasons since 2004-05, so sustaining success is difficult there. A change of scenery might be welcomed by the former Ole Miss assistant.
Is it a fit: MacIntyre, who is getting paid $2.8 million at Colorado this season, owns a 41-58 career record. Those two jobs were tough but how much will that be weighed into consideration? Plus, there would need to be vetting of how MacIntyre handled a domestic violence incident involving a former assistant last year.
Why Ole Miss would be interested: Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Bjork said recruiting isn't for the faint of heart in the SEC. Wilson knows that well from a successful six-season stint at LSU where he was regarded as one of the best recruiters in the nation.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: Wilson is making $1.1 million at UTSA this season, which would increase significantly at Ole Miss. It's a jump from C-USA to the SEC and it would bring him closer to Louisiana where his natural recruiting ties are.
Is it a fit: Wilson, who is a former Ole Miss assistant, has only been a head coach for two seasons and in that time he's gone 11-11. He's still pretty unproven. So while he might recruit at a high level, hiring a coach who is currently 2-4 in C-USA seems like it would be a tough sell for an SEC program.
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Why Ole Miss would be interested: Morris was recognized as the brains behind Clemon's high-powered, up-tempo offense while he was there from 2011-14. He took over at SMU in 2015 and has increased its win total each season and the Mustangs are bowl eligible this season.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: It's a chance for Morris to return to a Power 5 program and he would receive a raise from his current salary of $2 million. Ole Miss' offensive talent could be appealing considering his scheme too.
Is it a fit: Morris' ties are mostly in Texas, so who knows how much interest he'll receive from Texas A&M whenever it moves on from Kevin Sumlin. Morris is considered an up-and-coming coach but his career record is 13-21, despite the improvement this season.
Why Ole Miss would be interested: Ole Miss ranks 118th nationally in total defense, so why not hire the defensive coordinator for one of the best defenses in the country? The Crimson Tide is second in total defense after finishing first last season. He also was the defensive coordinator for Florida State's national title team in 2013.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: After being a defensive coordinator for the past five seasons it would be Pruitt's opportunity to make his own mark on a program. Pruitt is going to be a head coach someday. It's just a matter of when and where.
Is it a fit: There are questions with Pruitt. How much of Alabama's defensive success is because of him and how much of it is Nick Saban? What would he be able to do if he's working with significantly less talent than the Crimson Tide? Can Ole Miss afford to hire a coordinator who would be learning how to be a head coach while leading this rebuilding effort?
Why Ole Miss would be interested: Venables won the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach, in 2016. No matter how much talent it loses from year to year, Venables has had the Tigers' defense finish in the top 10 nationally every season since '14.
Why he would be interested in Ole Miss: Like Pruitt, it would offer him his chance to place his own stamp on a program. He's worked as a coordinator under Bob Stoops and Dabo Swinney for the majority of his career.
Is it a fit: Venables, Pruitt and Luke would probably be evaluated through the same prism, as coaches who have never had to lead a program in a full-time capacity before. Venables played and coached at Kansas State, which is led by Bill Snyder, who at 78 years old isn't getting any younger. Some in the industry think he may be waiting for that job.