Across the South: Top Candidates to Replace Jimbo Fisher

(Photo via Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire)

Every Wednesday right here you can read Across the South, where we’ll get into a different topic on the SEC, break down the biggest matchups of the previous week, preview the coming week’s slate, and talk about where things stand in the best conference in the land!

In this week’s edition, Jimbo Fisher’s time in Aggieland has finally run out:

When Fisher was lured away from Florida State to College Station to take over the Aggies program in 2018, expectations were high. You could make the argument that they were way too high, with the administration even taking the ridiculous step of handing him a national championship plaque with a blank year on it.

In the same breath, expectations to compete for national championships at a school that has as many resources, as passionate a fanbase, as big of a recruiting hotbed, and yearly opportunities against some of the biggest programs in the nation maybe aren’t too high at all. The simple fact is that Texas A&M should be competing for championships, and at the very least, relevant on the national scene.

But for Jimbo Fisher, while he did stack together great recruiting classes (and become the first Nick Saban former assistant to beat him), that’s about all you can say about his tenure. It wasn’t enough. With that being said, let’s break down some of the potential candidates to replace him:

Dan Lanning (Oregon)

Let’s acknowledge that Lanning is probably a pipe dream. Lanning himself yesterday said that he is not going anywhere and that he is happy with what he is building at Oregon. But it wouldn’t be the first time a coach has said something like this only to depart shortly after. If Texas A&M wants to hire the best young name in coaching right now, Lanning is the guy. He just might not be a realistic option.

Urban Meyer (Ohio State and Florida formerly)

This would be something, wouldn’t it? Say what you want about him, but for my money, Urban Meyer is the best man for the job. All he has done at every school he’s been to is win, and win big.

Nobody is arguing for his character. But Texas A&M lost their chance at moral superiority when they brought in Bobby Petrino to run the offense this year. If Texas A&M wants to compete on a national level, Meyer is the guy.

Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss)

This one feels like a natural fit in the sense that Lane Kiffin needs Texas A&M just as badly as Texas A&M needs Lane Kiffin. After the Rebels’ beatdown in Athens this past weekend, Kiffin was asked what the program needs to do in order to be competitive in these types of games, and he centered his answer around recruiting.

The hard pill to swallow may be that Kiffin has maxed out what he can do in Oxford and needs to go somewhere he can bring in unlimited elite talent. Jimbo brought it in, he just didn’t do enough with the talent. Maybe Kiffin would be different.

Mike Elko (Duke)

Elko is going to be a popular name thrown around in this discussion, and for good reason. For one, in his two years as Duke head coach, he has had the Blue Devils relevant on the national scene, winning nine games in year one and sitting at 6-4 this season even through injuries to his starting QB.

He also had a successful stint as the defensive coordinator already at A&M from 2018-2021 before taking the Duke job, guiding the Aggies to a top-10 defense in the nation in 2020. If Elko wants to upgrade from Duke, College Station is the place.

Dabo Swinney (Clemson)

Why not? Okay fine, this one is a complete long shot. But was Swinney’s rant on Clemson fans “expectations outweighing appreciation” a sign of growing tired of his post as Tigers head coach? Probably not, and if he is looking for less expectations, this job and this conference isn’t for him, not to mention his resistance to NIL not exactly being fit for a place that has used it better than anyone.

But hey, it’s at least fun to consider the possibility.

Jeff Traylor (UTSA)

While Traylor is probably the most “boring” name on the list of potential candidates, he knows Texas football and has won a ton of ball games in his time at UTSA, going 37-13 so far as well as winning three state titles during his 14-year run as head coach at Gilmer High School. Traylor’s name has been thrown around to move up to a power-five job for a long time, so we’ll see if this is the year he makes the jump.

Lance Leipold (Kansas)

Leipold’s turning around of a Kansas program that was a complete and utter mess before he arrived is incredibly impressive. After a 2-10 first season, Leipold has the Jayhawks bowl eligible in back to back seasons for the first time in over 15 years. He has been a hot name to take a bigger job for a while and will continue to be thrown around every time an opening comes up.

Kalen DeBoer (Washington)

DeBoer took over the Huskies’ program last season after the mess that was the Jimmy Lake tenure and right away got Washington back to winning ways. He has only lost two games so far and is off to a 10-0 start this year.

With Washington moving to the Big-10 and the expansion of the College Football Playoff, there is no real reason for him to want to leave, so Texas A&M would have to make him an offer he can’t refuse.