Realistic SEC Coaches Who Could Land the Texas Job

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Realistic SEC Coaches Who Could Land the Texas Job
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin

The Texas coaching situation was silly before, but "silly" had only verbally committed to Texas while Mack Brown was still employed in Austin.

Now, "silly" has signed its letter of intent.

Brown announced on Saturday that the Alamo Bowl versus Oregon would be his last in the burnt orange and white, ending his 16-year run as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.

Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Former Texas head coach Mack Brown

"We built a strong football family, reached great heights and accomplished a lot, and for that, I thank everyone," Brown said in a statement released by Texas. "It's been a wonderful ride. Now, the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change."

Thus begins the wildest coaching search in college football history.

Money is no object to Texas. If new athletic director Steve Patterson and president Bill Powers want to go out and hire an NFL head coach, they can. If they want to pay north of the reported $7.5 million that Alabama head coach Nick Saban's extension will bring him, they can.

It's wide open.

So where will they go? Let's examine some possible replacements who currently reside in SEC country.

 

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin

Franklin is one of the hottest up-and-coming coaches in the nation. He's led Vanderbilt to three straight bowl games, back-to-back eight-win seasons and its 15-4 record over the last 19 games is tied with Texas A&M for the second-best mark in the SEC over that period. 

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin

His program beat Georgia, Tennessee and Florida in the same season for the first time in school history in 2013, and it has elevated itself into a legitimately competitive program during the height of SEC superiority.

Sure, Brown himself said that eight wins won't cut it in Austin, and Franklin has averaged 7.6 per season in nearly three years in Nashville. But this is Vanderbilt—the team formerly known as the doormat of the SEC.

The Texas job requires media obligations that aren't typical of college football head coaches, which Franklin should be able to handle. At 41 years old, he's full of energy and charisma, which will play perfectly on the Longhorn Network and at alumni events.

He's not the big name Texas fans may dream of, but he'd be a perfect fit in Austin and get the program back to national relevance in a hurry.

Of all the coaches with SEC ties, Franklin is the most likely to land with the Longhorns.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin

 

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart

Smart has been groomed to take over the Alabama head coaching job seemingly since he took over as defensive coordinator before the 2008 season. But after head coach Nick Saban agreed to a long-term deal on Friday that will keep him in Tuscaloosa, Smart may be looking for an out.

USA TODAY Sports
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart

Since taking over as defensive coordinator, Smart's defenses have not finished outside of the top five nationally in total defense, or outside of the top seven in coaching defense.

Saban's process keeps Smart out of the media spotlight except in specific situations that require assistant coaches to speak, like BCS National Championship Game appearances. But Texas named former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as Mack Brown's coach-in-waiting before he took the head job at Florida, so we know Texas isn't opposed to taking a risk on a coach with no head coaching experience.

If it can't get Saban, why not go after a Saban clone?

Like Franklin, Smart would be a risk for Texas. But a risk that could be worth taking.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart

 

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn

You're going to see Malzahn's name appear on several of these lists of potential replacements, like it did on CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman's. 

For good reason.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn

Malzahn led one of the most remarkable turnarounds in college football history in his first year on the Plains, as the Tigers went from 3-9 a year ago to 12-1, SEC champs and earned a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State.

That turnaround earned Malzahn a new contract from Auburn that pays him $3.8 million in the first year and increases by $250,000 every year for six years. Feldman notes that just because coaches agree to extensions, it doesn't mean that they've either signed them or that they'd be in the way of a program like Texas.

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But Malzahn's extension is different, according to Phillip Marshall of AuburnTigers.com.

Upon reading a report linking his name to Texas, Malzahn and athletics director Jay Jacobs took no more than two hours to work out the extension two days before Auburn's 59-42 SEC Championship Game win over Missouri.

That indicates that his commitment to Auburn is legitimate, but just how legitimate will it be if Texas starts throwing money at him?

He's a realistic possibility, sure. But he's still a long shot based on the specifics of how things have played out over the last few weeks.

The Program: Odds on Texas' Next Head Coach

 

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