With Christmas just around the corner, the question is how good has Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs been this year? Judging by the lies he was telling during the Auburn press conference Thursday morning, not very.
But Jacobs' standing with Chris Kringle is not for me to determine. Here are five names that Auburn should put on the list that they are making and checking twice this holiday season.
1. Mike Leach, Texas Tech
Leach, 47, appears to be the leading known candidate for the open Auburn job.
Pros: 76-38 in nine seasons at TTU. 5-3 in eight bowl appearances. Has mentored successful college signal callers such as Tim Couch and Josh Heupel along with a slew of record setters at Tech, most recently Harrell. Would emphasize scoring points—something that Auburn has had well-documented problems doing recently.
Cons: Auburn does not have the athletes to run Leach's system immediately. Successful teams in the SEC have a common denominator—a solid defense. This is something that Leach-coached teams have annually lacked. In Leach's tenure at Tech he has a record of 4-14 combined against Mack Brown's Longhorns and Bob Stoops' Sooners.
Bottom Line: Leach seems to be at the top of Auburn's list. But most question if his system would be successful in the SEC. As eccentric as he may be, given several recruiting classes, Leach is a proven winner.
2. Will Muschamp, Texas (DC)
Muschamp, the Tigers' former defensive coordinator, 37, is a familiar face but left on icy terms a year ago.
Pros: This former Georgia walk-on knows the SEC better than any other available hire. Muschamp worked under Nick Saban at LSU from 2001-2004. He also, as previously mentioned, was Tommy Tuberville's DC for two seasons (2006 and 2007). Muschamp could come in and recruit effectively against Saban, Richt, and Meyer immediately.
Cons: Muschamp has never been a head coach before and the learning curve in the SEC is the steepest in the country. Just ask Sly Croom or Mike Shula about that. Also, hiring Muschamp does not seem to address Auburn's longing for an offensive-minded head coach.
Bottom Line: Paired with a solid offensive coordinator, Muschamp would make an excellent hire and would surely provide the splash that Auburn is dying to make.
3. Chris Petersen, Boise State
Petersen, 44, has led the Broncos to a 35-3 record in his three years as head coach.
Pros: The mastermind behind one of the greatest upsets ever would definitely provide the offensive background that the Tigers are looking for. Peterson has proved that he knows how to build a program through recruiting and talent development. And only three losses in three years is outstanding no matter where you are.
Cons: Again, the concerns with Petersen would be the same as Leach. Would his system, while extremely successful at BSU, work in the SEC? Could he recruit against all of the A-list coaches?
Bottom Line: Petersen is less of a name than the two coaches ahead of him on this list, but would be a great fit and already looks good in orange and blue.
4. Butch Davis, North Carolina
Davis, 57, has turned the Tar Heels around in just two seasons.
Pros: Davis' resume would be the closest to Nick Saban's. He has pro experience and proved at Miami that he could recruit with the best. He has the experience of being on the top of the college football mountain (although it was Coker who got the ring) and understands how to be successful.
Cons: The aging Davis is merely a year removed from a battle with cancer and seems content at UNC. North Carolina is and always will be a hoops school. Butch can guide the Heels to eight victories a season and get anything he wants, but at Auburn the expectations are obviously higher.
Bottom Line: Davis would fit right in with all of the other high profile SEC coaches and would provide the game-changer Auburn needs on the recruiting trail. But it is unlikely he will leave his current stable position.
5. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Schiano, 42, has brought the Scarlet Knights from irrelevance to consistent competitor in eight seasons.
Pros: He has built a solid program from the ground up, and can recruit lesser prospects and develop talent—something that is crucial in the SEC. He has the confidence and ego necessary to go up against the best.
Cons: The SEC is on a different planet than the Big East. Schiano would come into a league where the worst team would still probably win in the Big East. Plus he has not had to recruit the southeast very often.
Bottom Line: Schiano fits what has become the SEC prototype: young, cocky, and stylish. But whether his success in a much lesser conference would translate at Auburn remains to be seen.
Replacing a coach that averaged eight-and-a-half wins per season is not going to be easy. And while there is still some remaining talent on Auburn's roster, a changing of the guard might mean things get worse on the plains before they get better. That being said, these five coaches would all be more than acceptable in the eyes of War Eagle nation.
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