Two names standout in a deep pool of candidates
Our attention now will turn to the north and the Big 10. While the conference is deep with quality assistants and head coaches, two names stand out as the most likely contenders.
The name that continuously pops up as one linked to the vacant LSU job is Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker. If the Tigers picked up the MSU head coach, it wouldn’t be Tucker’s first time in Baton Rouge. Tucker has been a multi time assistant under Nick Saban, both at Alabama and LSU. Additionally, Tucker has been a DC on both the NFL and collegiate level. He is currently leading the Spartans to an 9-1 record, only recently being tripped up by Purdue. His roster management this year has been incredible, in particular, his use of the transfer portal to quickly remake his roster.
Unfortunately, Tucker has a small sample size of head coaching experience, at least on the college level. This is only his first winning season in three years as a head coach. His first and only year at Colorado was 5-7 and his first year at MSU was 2-5. A move on Tucker is likely based on resume more so than results.
The other big name in this section is James Franklin. The current Penn State coach has been one the best recruiters in the country and the results on the field show, with the Nittany Lions only posting one losing season under Franklin. Perhaps more important, he was able to post a winning record during three seasons at Vanderbilt. Let me say that again. He posted a winning record at Vanderbilt. Not only was this impressive, it also give Franklin valuable SEC experience.
Franklin has also been heavily linked to the USC job. Also, he seems to be perfectly happy at Penn State and the feeling seems to be mutual. And while he has been a winner, he has only won the Big Ten once in his tenure.
If there was a sleeper name in the group it might be Minnesota’s PJ Fleck. Fleck just signed a big extension with the Gophers which would seem to eliminate him as a candidate, but never say never. Fleck’s huge personality has always been his calling card and he has added stability to the Gopher program that has struggled in recent years.
Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa all have winning records, each with their unique strengths as coaches. However, all three are deeply entrenched at their current institutions and likely wouldn’t leave for any job other than an NFL.
A year ago, Tom Allen may have been a more appealing candidate, but his Indiana team seems to have come back to earth after a breakout 2020 campaign.
On the coordinator side, the only name that might be worth some consideration would be Ohio State’s Kevin Wilson. The Buckeye OC had an unremarkable run as the Indiana head coach but his expertise as a great offensive mind cannot be denied. Josh Gattis at Michigan, Brent Pry and Mike Yurcich of Penn State are all assistants who are poised to be moving onto bigger and better things in the near future. However, those are more likely to be at G5 programs or lower P5 schools.