Auburn football dropped a bombshell on Monday morning with the firing of head coach Bryan Harsin. While the rumors have been present for the whole 2022 season, the fourth loss in a row was enough to force a change in the Tigers' locker room. With some strong candidates around, it will be interesting to see what the athletic department will do.
Hired to replace Gus Malzahn last season, Harsin led Auburn to its worst record since 2012 at 6-7, including 3-5 in SEC play. Following the disappointing 2021 year, the program went through many changes. Most notably, 20 players left the team, led by starting quarterback Bo Nix, who transferred to Oregon.
In 2022, the team is just 3-5 and only 1-4 in the SEC. Interim athletic director Rich McGlynn will have a tough job to do, but he has some good options. With that being said, here are the three best head coach candidates for Auburn football after firing Bryan Harsin.
3. Hugh Freeze
This would not be the first time Hugh Freeze's name pops up for the head coaching job at Auburn. He was reportedly considered as the replacement for Malzahn before Harsin was chosen.
Freeze is currently the head coach for the No. 23 Liberty Flames. The team is currently 7-1 this year and 33-12 with him throughout four seasons. Prior to Liberty, he coached the Ole Miss Rebels. Overall, he went just 12-25 during his time with Ole Miss, however, he had his moments.
In 2015, Freeze led the team to a 10-3 record, including 6-2 in conference play. His experience in the SEC is what could set him apart from the other candidates. If Auburn wants someone who has proven can coach in the SEC, Freeze could be the next man up.
2. Deion Sanders
In his third season with Jackson State, Deion Sanders is 23-5 overall and 14-2 in SWAC play. This season, his Tigers are currently undefeated at 8-0 and making some noise.
Although his experience as a college football head coach is solely FCS, the numbers are too difficult to ignore. Many are seeing him as a future Power Five coach, and the opening at Auburn football could be his best chance at least for some time.
Not only would he bring a fresh mindset, but his time as a player could be a game-changer. His experience as both an offensive and defensive player in the NFL could certainly make him a reference for all units in the locker room. Additionally, just his name could attract many new recruits, which might be enough to turn things around in Auburn.
1. Matt Rhule
Perhaps the most realistic option is Matt Rhule. The veteran head coach is available in the market since being fired by the Carolina Panthers earlier this season. While his time in the NFL was far from ideal with a record of 11-27, his college years show he has the experience to lead a team to success.
Temple Owls won their first conference championship in almost 50 years with Rhule in 2016. Then, he moved to the Big 12 with the Baylor Bears. While things did not start well, going just 1-11 in his first season, Rhule turned things around with two consecutive bowl appearances plus a conference championship game berth.
Working at Auburn football could be Rhule's big comeback. This could be his chance to erase his struggles in the NFL and go back to his origins as a successful college football coach. If that happens, the Tigers program could go back to where it was just some seasons ago as a top-25 contender.