It’s coaching search season in Tennessee.
Jeremy Pruitt is in the market for a new offensive coordinator after Tyson Helton accepted the job at Western Kentucky. Let’s fire up the hot board.
In my opinion, this is the name to watch in the SEC as far as offensive coordinators go. Nick Saban tried to hire Freeze in some capacity last season, but the SEC shot that down. LSU and Missouri were interested as well, reportedly. Would the league allow Freeze back in after another season off the radar? It’s probably worth a shot.
Freeze was the one guy who seemed to have Nick Saban’s number. His Ole Miss teams beat Alabama twice, which is a big time feat in today’s SEC scene.
He currently is the offensive coordinator in the newly formed AAF, working for the Arizona Hotshots. That league is scheduled to debut in February, but something tells me Freeze would gladly step away from that opportunity.
Obviously this would be a bold hire after the scandals and recruiting violations he left Ole Miss with, but there’s a reason multiple SEC teams attempted to hire him last season. Expect them to try again this time around.
Something to watch here will be Alabama. Mike Locksley is in play at Maryland, which could open up the Saban-Freeze connection for another try.
Update: Darren McFarland, who was all over the Helton news, says Freeze is the leader.
I am being told that the No. 1 target for the #Vols as their next OC is Hugh Freeze but there may be some hoops to jump through. But he is the leader in the clubhouse.— Darren McFarland (@dmac_1025) November 26, 2018
Update #2: Bruce Feldman says Freeze is not in the mix.
Sources tell me that former #OleMiss head coach Hugh Freeze is not in the mix for the offensive coordinator job at #Tennessee.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 26, 2018
Update #3: (11/29) John Brice says Freeze remains in play. Chris Low of ESPN says Freeze is a real possibility.
Update #4: (11/30) Pruitt has met with Freeze, according to Volquest.
Update #5: (12/2) John Brice names Freeze a finalist, along with Chip Lindsey.
Update #6: (12/3) Freeze is reportedly being pursued by Florida State (OC) and Liberty (HC).
Chip Lindsey (Now headed to Kansas)
Things haven’t gone according to plan at Auburn this year. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey could be looking for a fresh start in a new place. Trey Wallace reports that Lindsey has expressed interest in the job already . Auburn’s offense ranked just 96th in the country right now, struggling up front and at the quarterback position. Sound familiar? This one would be a tough sell. However, who was really running the offense down on the Plains? It would be interesting to see how Lindsey operates away from Gus . Update : John Brice calls Lindsey a strong candidate. Update #2 : Football Scoop reports Lindsey is a top candidate . Update #3 (12/2): John Brice calls Lindsey a finalist , along with Hugh Freeze. Update #4 (12/3): Lindsey will take the OC job at Kansas, per reports .
Connect the dots, anyone?
Kitchens and Pruitt are old college teammates, each playing at Alabama in the mid-90s. The two remain close, despite Freddy opting to go the NFL route.
The only problem is that Kitchens has been wildly successful in his short stint as the Browns’ offensive coordinator. Baker Mayfield is cooking since Freddie took control of the offense and Hue Jackson left town. That success could put him in prime position to keep the Browns’ offensive coordinator job with a new coach, or perhaps land another coordinator job elsewhere in the league.
Would Kitchens come back to college? He hasn’t coached in the college ranks since 2005. Maybe he would for Pruitt.
Enos is another guy with Alabama connections, though he wasn’t on the same staff with Pruitt. He was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas from 2015-2017 after a five year stint as the head coach at Central Michigan. Enos is currently the quarterbacks coach at Alabama and has a chance to capitalize on the success of Tua Tagovailoa this offseason.
If Pruitt isn’t able to land a top candidate, promoting from within could be a legitimate backup plan. Pruitt has enough pieces on staff to where he could simply restructure some titles and name Friend the coordinator. This would be another tough sell, considering Friend’s lack of progress with the offensive line. How much change would be implemented by hiring Friend? It’s hard to imagine anything too dramatic in this scenario.
According to Football Scoop, Drinkwitz is a “top two candidate” for Jeremy Pruitt. He’s in his third year as the offensive coordinator at N.C. State. The Wolfpack’s offense finished 28th in total offense this season.
Drinkwitz got his start in the high school ranks, spending five years in Arkansas in that capacity. He got his start at Auburn as a quality control assistant before joining Brian Harsin’s staff at Arkansas, then following him to Boise State.
We’ll update this list as more candidates emerge.