Ten Potential Candidates for Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator
OXFORD, Miss. — Lane Kiffin appears to have to find a new member for his staff.
After consecutive top-five offensive seasons, Lebby is “expected” to join Brent Venables staff at Oklahoma. Lebby is an Oklahoma graduate and is heading home to serve under Venables in the same role he held at Ole Miss.
Here are 10 coaches we think Kiffin should look at to fill the offensive coordinator position:
The “Ties to The Program” Group
1) Kendal Briles – Current Offensive Coordinator: Arkansas, Age 39
A name that will be thrown around by not only Ole Miss fans but fans of the SEC, Briles could be near the top of the list for head coach Lane Kiffin to call.
Briles previously worked with Kiffin during his tenure at Florida Atlantic during the 2017 season. While in Boca Raton, Briles was given “full control” of an offense that finished with an 11-3 overall record and 8-0 conference record.
Since then, Briles has made stops at Houston, Florida State, and is currently Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ offense has improved under Briles as head coach Sam Pittman’s team culture continues to grow. Briles worked closely with Hogs’ quarterback KJ Jefferson this past season as the Sardis native had an impressive 2021 season with a 21:3 TD to interception ratio while completing 66% of his passes for 2,578 yards.
In 2020, the Arkansas offense averaged 50 more yards per game than they did in 2019, tallying 391.5 yards per game. In 2021, improvement was again shown as the Razorbacks bumped their production up to 441.8 yards per game.
Prior to joining Kiffin at FAU, Briles spent nine years at Baylor where he worked primarily with QBs and WRs.
Briles has coached several NFL talents in his young career, including Kendall Wright, Terrence Williams, Corey Coleman, Devin Singletary, Cam Akers, and others. At the collegiate level, he played a part in the success of current stars such as D’Eriq King and Treylon Burks.
Could we see Kiffin try and pry his former play-caller back?
2) Graham Harrell – Former Offensive Coordinator: USC, Age 36
The former Texas Tech star quarterback has found success in football as a coach. Once he finished up his playing career, he joined Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State in a quality control position. He would then team up with his former head coach Mike Leach at Washington State where Harrell coached the outside receivers.
Harrell’s first coordinator position came when Seth Littrell, a former running backs coach at Texas Tech, asked him to go to North Texas. While there, Harrell helped turn around an offense that was near the bottom of the FBS. In a short couple of years, Harrell had the offense ranking in the top 25 in the nation in 2017. Quarterback Mason Fine set school records for North Texas in two years in Harrell’s offense.
In his next stop, Harrell would become the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at USC (2019-present). The Trojan offense took a significant jump with Harrell calling plays. He is credited with teaching quarterback Kedon Slovis, a freshman All-American. Harrell helped boost the Trojans’ passing game and moved them into the top 25 in many national passing categories.
Harrell has ties to current Ole Miss passing game coordinator John David Baker, as Baker was an offensive control analyst at North Texas and USC. Could a potential reunion happen with Baker helping to bring Harrell back to the south? Nebraska is also rumored to be interested in Harrell.
3) Tee Martin – Wide receivers coach: Baltimore Ravens, Age 43
A former Tennessee superstar, Martin spent time with Kiffin at USC. Ole Miss currently has two National Recruiter of the Year honorees on its staff. Would Lane Kiffin try to bring in a third? Martin won the award back in 2016 and was also a finalist for the Broyles Award honoring the nation’s best assistant coach, back in 2017.
Martin would be another exciting name who brings experience at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. He also has had extensive work as a trainer with the Elite 11 QB Camp. Most recently, Martin is the current wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens. He has worked primarily with wide receivers and quarterbacks in his coaching career.
In the college ranks, Martin was most noticeably the offensive coordinator for one season at USC and an assistant head coach at Tennessee. Martin has coached numerous NFL players including Sam Darnold, JuJu Smith Schuster, Randall Cobb, Robert Woods, Josh Palmer and others.
Tee would bring a lot of recruiting value to this team and a pedigree of working with successful talent; although, some will discuss whether one season as offensive coordinator is enough experience.
The “Up and Coming” Candidates
4) Garrett Riley – Offensive coordinator: SMU/TCU, Age 32
This one comes with a twist. He’s already made one move already this offseason after following Sonny Dykes to TCU. Would he be willing to make two?
The younger brother of now USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley. Garrett has begun to make a name for himself as a coach.
Becoming a grad assistant at East Carolina while his brother was the OC, Garrett eventually made his way on staff and then spent time in the Big 12, becoming an analyst at Kansas in 2016. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach before the 2017 season and then was shifted to coaching the tight ends and fullbacks for the 2018 season.
Riley was hired as the running backs coach at Appalachian State in 2019. While there, his running back Darrynton Evans rushed for 1,458 yards, scored 18 rushing TDs and 5 receiving TDs. Evans was named the Offensive Player of the Year.
Riley was set to be promoted to offensive coordinator at App State, but instead opted to become the offensive coordinator under Sonny Dykes at SMU in 2020. In his two years in Dallas, RIley tutored quarterbacks Shane Buechele and Tanner Mordecai.
Buechele experienced a revitalization at SMU and was in the top fifteen of candidates for the Johnny Unitas Award. Mordecai has had a successful season, tossing for 39 touchdowns and 3,628 yards.
The Mustang offense in 2021 averaged 465.9 yards, good enough for 13th nationally. Would Coach Kiffin want to take on and mentor the younger Riley? His offenses have been successful, and he comes from a good line of coaches under whom he has worked.
5) Sean Lewis – Head coach: Kent State, Age 35
There will be a lot mentioned about Kent State offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder because of his team’s success and his lineage as a disciple of the Briles coaching tree.
Here’s my question…does money talk? If yes, why worry about hiring an offensive coordinator when you can make a run at the coach himself. Head coach Sean Lewis has done a quietly great job in turning around the Golden Flashes, and the youngest coach at the FBS level is on the rise.
The #FlashFAST offense has exceeded expectations, and the respect the players have for “Uncle Lou” (Lewis) has been noted.
In his second season, Lewis’ five-win improvement (7-6) was eighth-best in the FBS. In 2020, the Golden Flashes played only four regular season games, but the offense clicked as it averaged 606.5 yards per game. It also led the country in points per game at 49.75 points per game, the highest in the FBS.
In 2021, the #FlashFAST offense was fourth in the FBS in total plays per game and fifth in total offense.
Prior to his current tenure as head coach at Kent State, Lewis was Dino Baber’s right-hand man since his time at Eastern Illinois. Lewis followed Babers to Bowling Green and Syracuse. In 2013 at Eastern Illinois, Lewis worked with wide receivers and tight ends. That team finished 12-2 and was led by NFL quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
In the 2014-2015 season at Bowling Green, Lewis orchestrated an offense that finished fourth in total yardage. Quarterback Matt Johnson finished second in the nation with 4,946 yards and 46 touchdowns.
In his first season at Syracuse as offensive coordinator, Lewis’ unit broke 40 school records. The team was also second all-time in the program in total yards per game.
Lewis’s salary is somewhere around the $450,000-510,000 dollar per year range. With rumors of what Ole Miss offered Jeff Lebby, the Rebels could likely offer Lewis potentially over triple the amount he is earning now.
So does money talk and would Lewis be willing to leave his program to take an OC role at an SEC school?
6) Corey Dennis – QBs Coach: Ohio State, Age 29
Might Coach Kiffin take a different angle and hire a coach who has not yet been a play-caller? If so, Corey Dennis would be a strong option to consider. Very young at age 29, Dennis has been named to 247’s 30-Under-30 list for the past three years.
Dennis played at Georgia Tech and was raised in Troy, Alabama. He got his coaching start as an intern at Ohio State. In his six years with the Buckeyes, he worked his way from intern, to analyst, all the way to QBs coach. Both Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields — as well as head coach Ryan Day — have publicly praised Dennis.
Recruiting is also a strong suit for Dennis, as he was heavily involved with the recruitment of the current Ohio State quarterbacks. He played a role in bringing both five-star quarterbacks Kyle McCord and Quinn Ewers.
This past season, Dennis worked with CJ Stroud, who has been named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. The Ohio State offense is second in the nation in total yards and first in yards per game. The offense was fifth in total passing yards and second in yards per attempt.
Dennis would be a very good person to bring in as a recruiter and offensive mind. Kiffin and Dennis could be a fun pairing.
7) Willie Korn – Co-Offensive Coordinator: Coastal Carolina, Age 32
A former top quarterback recruit, Korn has been with head coach Jamie Chadwell his whole career. Chadwell is not a bad guy to learn from, either. Chadwell coached Korn at North Greenville.
Korn coached wide receivers at Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina, and when Chadwell was promoted to head coach, he in turn promoted Korn to be the co-offensive coordinator.
The Chanticleers’ offense has been one of the nation’s most efficient in the last two seasons. The unit was tied for the least amount of interceptions, with Korn helping mentor QB Grayson McCall who’s thrown only six interceptions in the last two seasons. Prior to getting hurt this last year, McCall was completing 73% of his passes.
The 2020 Coastal Carolina team was the first in school history to go undefeated, and the Chanticleers achieved an all-time high 9th ranking during the season.
One could question how much liberty Korn has with the offense given Chadwell’s offensive background. There’s no denying the success the two have had, and Korn will be a hot name in the coaching world sooner rather than later.
The “Inside Hire” Candidates
8) John David Baker – Tight Ends Coach and Passing Game Coordinator: Ole Miss, Age 29
Another member of 247’s 30-Under-30 list is current Ole Miss assistant coach John David Baker who was featured in 2020.
Baker joined the Rebels after a two-year stint at USC where he spent one season as a tight ends coach and one as an offensive quality control coach.
Prior to his time with the Trojans, Baker spent a few seasons at North Texas alongside the aforementioned Graham Harrell. John David Baker is a coach who has a bright future, connects with players and is energetic on the recruiting trail.
9) John Thornton – Offensive Line Coach: Ole Miss, Age 28
Coach Kiffin was very happy when he was able to get Thornton on his staff, and he praised Thornton’s teaching ability. While a grad assistant at Alabama, Thornton helped with the offensive line unit en route to a national championship in 2017.
Thornton also had stops as the line coach and run-game coordinator at Tennessee Tech and Gardner Webb. Thornton was featured on the 2021 version of 247’s 30-Under-30 list.
The Rebels definitely have options if they want to keep the OC position in house.
The “NFL” Candidate
10.) Joe Brady – Former Offensive Coordinator: Carolina Panthers, Age 32
It was only a short time ago that people thought Joe Brady would be under consideration for the LSU job. Rumors of him not liking the college lifestyle and wanting to make it in the NFL are now gone. He’s has been let go from the Carolina Panthers, but those in the college ranks still know what the 32-year old is capable of doing.
As a passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach at LSU in 2019, Brady was named the Broyles Award winner. That year, en route to a perfect season and national championship, Brady tutored Tigers’ quarterback and Heisman winner Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to one of the most offensively dominant seasons in all of college football.
Brady’s name still carries a lot of weight and many have been linked to him since his separation from the Panthers. Miami is reported to have mutual interest, so if the Rebels want a big name like Brady they better move quickly.