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Mississippi State coaching candidates: Who's realistic and who isn't for the Bulldog vacancy?

Mississippi State was put in an extremely tough situation when Mike Leach suddenly passed away last year. They promoted their defensive coordinator, Zach Arnett, to keep everything together for the year. The results on the field have been awful and after just 10 games, they pulled the plug on him. Here are some candidates that would fit Mississippi State the best.

Dan Mullen (ESPN CFB Analyst)

Mullen left Mississippi State for Florida but left on good terms and was in Starkville for eight years. He’s responsible for some of the best seasons Mississippi State has ever had, highlighted by their Orange Bowl appearance in 2014, when Dak Prescott was their quarterback.

Mullen is an offensive genius and got his start in big-time college football thanks to Urban Meyer. He coached quarterbacks for Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida, where he was also the offensive coordinator. He jumped to Mississippi State from Florida and then Florida came calling in 2018 and he couldn’t turn it down.

His tenure at Florida as the head coach was a roller coaster with his last year being very bad. Mullen might be exactly what Mississippi State needs to jumpstart the program, but he doesn’t have a good reputation as a recruiter and that could be an issue.

Lance Leipold (Kansas Head Coach)

Leipold seems to be the jewel of this coaching carousel. Michigan State is already linked to having interest in him and there’s a chance Texas A&M could kick the tires on him too. Leipold was a dominant coach at Division III powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater, and then Buffalo got him to jump to Division I. He jumped to Kansas and in the span of three years, he has Kansas competitive, which has been something that has seemed almost impossible to do. He’s an offensive mind and is a culture and tone setter for every program he’s coached at. There could be an issue with how old he is because he’s 59, but he’d be a home run if the Bulldogs can land him.

Rhett Lashlee (SMU Head Coach)

SMU is one of the best Group of Five teams this season, with the Mustangs at 8-2. Lashlee is another offensive guru that could come in and get excitement going for Mississippi State. He started his coaching career in the high school ranks in Arkansas, he was a graduate assistant at both Arkansas and Auburn, then was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Samford, Arkansas State, Auburn, UConn, SMU, and Miami, before SMU came calling for the head job after Sonny Dykes left. His offenses have been high-powered, and he’s proven to be a solid head coach in just two years as well. Lashlee is a young coach and hasn’t been a head coach for long, so this might be his best chance yet to prove himself.

It's worth noting that SMU is going to a power conference (the ACC) next season, so there might not be a desire to leave at this point.

Jamey Chadwell (Liberty Head Coach)

All Chadwell does is win. He made a name for himself on Coastal Carolina’s staff. He started there in 2017 and was promoted to head coach in 2019. He’s known for his dynamic and unique offenses that are some of the more unique concepts any team in college football runs. He’s from the south and has been coaching in the south his entire career up to this point.

This is his first year at Liberty and the Flames are 9-0. Chadwell is a younger coach who’s an offensive innovator, and he’s someone that would be a great fit at Mississippi State if the Bulldogs came calling.

Jon Sumrall (Troy Head Coach)

Sumrall has been at Troy for two years and all he’s done is win. Troy went 12-2 in his first year and is already 8-2 this season. Sumrall is a defensive coach that is also from the south and played in the south. He went to Kentucky and started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant. He went from Kentucky to San Diego as the defensive line coach and then went to Tulane as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line and linebackers coach. He went to Troy as the linebackers coach, then went to Ole Miss and eventually Kentucky to also coach linebackers, and at Kentucky he was the co-defensive coordinator before getting the head job at Troy. Sumrall is from the south and knows that footprint well from a recruiting perspective and fanwise. He’s also younger at 41 as well. Sumrall is an underrated name to watch in this search.

Jeff Lebby (Oklahoma Offensive Coordinator)

Lebby has been the main offensive coordinator at UCF when their offenses were really breaking records, he coached at Ole Miss under Lane Kiffin as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and was then brought over as the offensive coordinator when Brent Venables became the head coach at Oklahoma. Lebby’s offenses have been great so far and at Oklahoma things have been much better after a bumpy first season for the whole staff. The biggest issue with Lebby is off the field. He was on Baylor’s staff under Art Briles when the scandal happened there, and he’s voiced his support for Briles overall because Briles is his father-in-law. This hire would be a big question mark because of that, but he can’t be ignored.

Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus


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