The star power within the head coaching ranks has never been brighter in the SEC, and that has started to trickle down to assistants as well.
Most notably in the state of Alabama.
Lane Kiffin, former head man at Tennessee and USC, is entering his second season as Alabama's offensive coordinator. Fresh off a season in which he set the program record with 484.5 yards per game with a quarterback in Blake Sims who once was a running back for the Crimson Tide, Kiffin enters his second season looking to not only re-solidify himself as one of the nation's top offensive minds, but perhaps set himself up for a head coaching job in the near future.
"I was so focused on the game, the players, especially the offensive players as a head coach, and the game plan all week and spring ball and recruiting," he said. "To delegate like coach [Saban] does, be in charge of everything like he is the CEO, but delegate enough so that he does everything else."
About 160 miles southeast in Auburn, new Tiger defensive coordinator and former hot-shot assistant Will Muschamp is looking to revitalize his career after a less-than-stellar four-year stint as the head coach of the Florida Gators.
According to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com, Muschamp made his long-term intentions known during his introductory press conference in December 2014.
"You'd always like to have that opportunity [to be a head coach] again," he said. "But you always want to be in a situation where they have the resources for you to be successful, they have the support like a place like Auburn for you to be successful and win championships."
Which high-profile assistant is more likely to be a head coach?
Without a doubt, it's Kiffin.
Nothing against Muschamp. He's a tremendous defensive mind, wonderful teacher and is the best in the business at his craft. His craft isn't as a head coach. At least, not for now.
The knock against Muschamp is the offensive ineptitude that Florida showed over all four of his years as head coach, including the 2012 season in which the Gators earned a Sugar Bowl berth and were in the national-title hunt deep into November. The stench of four years of offensive futility is going to be very hard for any future employer to get over next offseason, even if he turns around Auburn's defense and makes it more of a power than a punchline.
Kiffin doesn't have that kind of hurdle to clear.
His main issue is convincing athletics directors that he knows how to run a program, even though he wasn't exactly dealt a strong hand at USC thanks to the sanctions leftover from the Reggie Bush scandal.
As Rich Cirminiello of Campus Insiders and CollegeFootballNews.com noted earlier this summer, a strong offensive season for an Alabama team that lost nine starters would work wonders for Kiffin.
At least two years under Saban—with so many offensive question marks to answer—will go a long way toward calming the fears of future employers.
The question then becomes, where?
Kiffin—and most high-profile assistants at major programs—aren't as likely to jump to any old FBS head coaching job just to have it. As Michael Casagrande of AL.com noted this year when Kiffin didn't get a raise, USC is still paying his buyout, and his salary at Alabama is simply subtracted from that buyout. Since USC is a private school and doesn't have to release contracts, it's not clear whether that's also the case if he gets a head coaching job.
Regardless, it likely won't be about the money for Kiffin when the time comes to make a decision about his future; it will be about fit.
So let's look around at what fit could be out there. Miami head coach Al Golden is clearly on the hot seat, and the thought of Kiffin recruiting in the fertile recruiting ground of South Florida makes that a match made in Heaven.
Illinois? I can't see Kiffin following the Ron Zook path to anonymity despite the lure of the new and improved Big Ten.
He's not going to take a MAC or Sun Belt job just to take it, so if that means sticking around Tuscaloosa and fulfilling the third and final year of his deal in 2016, so be it.
Outside of Miami, there aren't many options that seem like good fits for Kiffin right now. After the season, though, that could change.
Even in that case, Kiffin is more likely to find a head coaching job prior to Muschamp.
He doesn't just have a head start on Muschamp, he's already lapped him in the race to fix his reputation. That will go a long way toward landing a head coaching job in the near future.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83.
Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.