Auburn Football: Breaking Down Top Head Coach Candidates

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IIDecember 1, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 25:   Head Coach Bobby Petrino of the Arkansas Razorbacks yells at a official during a game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 25, 2011 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 41 to 17.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

There are a few names being thrown around in Auburn’s search for a replacement for the recently fired Gene Chizik. The immediate future of Auburn football is resting on this decision; let’s let the school take its time and make the right choice this time around.

Gary Patterson, Kirby Smart, Bobby Petrino and Guz Malzahn are among the names being discussed, according to Charles Goldberg of

Each of them has merits and downsides, and those will be talked about in the following breakdown.


Gary Patterson, Head Coach, TCU

First up is the successful TCU head coach who also interviewed for the Auburn job back in 2008 prior to the hiring of Chizik. He has already won the most games ever by a coach at the school. The coach has certainly done a fine job at TCU and may take the opportunity to take a leap to project in the nation’s toughest conference.

That’s if he’s offered the job, of course.

Prior to entering the Big 12, Patterson led the Horned Frogs to four-straight 11-win seasons in the Mountain West Conference. 2012 was different, though, as the competition increased and injuries slowed his team for much of the year. In a transition period, that would have been difficult for anyone to work through.


Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Prying Smart away from in-state rival Alabama would help bolster the Tigers and weaken the Crimson Tide at the same time. It’s a win-win.

Smart has the track record of ex-Nick Saban coordinators having success as a resume bullet. Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher and Mark Dantonio have all gone on to successful head coaching roles. Did Bill Belichick’s mentoring and coaching style pass down to Saban?

Adding the accomplished defensive coordinator would be a great move by the Tigers. He’s led the Alabama defense to new heights over the last five seasons. Two of those years resulted in national championships for the Tide.

Here’s a fun fact: Alabama didn’t win those championships because they were offensive juggernauts. Smart’s defense was best in the country last year and followed it up with an encore performance in 2012.


Bobby Petrino, Former Head Coach, Arkansas

Petrino is the clear “big name” option of this group. He’s a proven winner, accumulating a 34-17 record in SEC play while coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks. That success isn’t all he’s accomplished, though.

While serving as Louisville’s head coach, Petrino amassed a 41-9 record. That shows he’s an accomplished and winning coach who can handle the pressure.

His name alone may bring about enough buzz to help the Tigers rebound in the recruiting battle with in-state rival Alabama. With that name also comes the scandal that cost him his job last year. Petrino admitted to adultery last year and was dismissed from Arkansas.


Guz Malzahn, Head Coach, Arkansas State 

Malzahn is a former coordinator under Chizik. He was the offensive coordinator for three years before leaving to take the head coaching job at Arkansas State.

Arkansas State finished 18th in the nation in total offense, averaging about 480 yards per game with Malzahn at the helm. The Red Hawks are 8-3 heading into their season finale against Middle Tennessee on Dec. 1.

Where did Auburn’s offense rank this year? Are you sure you want to know?

The Tigers had the sixth-worst offense statistically in the FBS. They managed just over 300 yards per game of total offense.

His offense was definitely missed in 2012 as the Tigers struggled for much of the year while trying to focus more on the defensive side of the ball. Much of the credit to the Tigers national championship went to Malzahn and quarterback Cam Newton.