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Five options LSU should consider for their next head coach.
I may have jumped the gun last year, but now that LSU has actually fired Les Miles, the speculation on his replacement can now officially begin. Making the move now gives LSU plenty of time to zero in on their target. Houston's Tom Herman is likely at or near the top of their wish list, but other schools looking for a new coach will undoubtedly pursue him as well. LSU should consider fallback plans if Herman opts for another opening or to stay at Houston.
Before I get to the new list, here's a rundown on what has happened with the coaches I suggested last November. David Shaw and Justin Fuente are both likely off the table. Shaw has already said he has no interest in LSU and Fuente left Memphis to replace Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. Dana Holgorsen is in an interesting situation. His contract is up after the 2017 season and he turned down an extension offer over the spring. He might be someone to keep an eye on. Larry Fedora signed a new seven-year deal with North Carolina. Nothing has happened with Kliff Kingsbury.
And now here is a list of five coaches who probably are not getting much buzz right now, but could work their way into the conversation as the season progresses.
Unwillingness to evolve on offense ultimately doomed Miles at LSU. That is definitely not a problem for Taggart. After going 6-18 in his first two years at South Florida and starting off 1-3 last season, Taggart realized he needed to make changes. His solution was to mix elements of the spread into his pro-style scheme. He called it the "Gulf Coast Offense." Taggart managed to turn around USF's season and the Bulls won six of their last eight games to finish the regular season 8-4 before losing in the Miami Beach Bowl. USF is currently 3-1 and second in the American Athletic Conference in yards and points heading into their Saturday matchup with Cincinnati. Taggart has an uninspiring 33-44 record, which may give LSU and its fans some pause. But if USF finishes with nine or more wins, don't be surprised if his name comes up. If LSU were to hire him, he would have the distinction of being the first African-American head coach at three different programs.
Much like Willie Taggart, Dykes will require a wait-and-see approach. His career 38-40 record certainly is not going to turn any heads. The numbers his Cal team puts up on offense will, though. Cal, with its "Bear Raid" offense ranked second in the Pac-12 in both yards and points per game last season and currently ranks first in yards and third and points. Dykes led Cal to its first winning seasons since 2011 and produced the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft in quarterback Jared Goff. He also has connections to the southeast, having coached three seasons at Louisiana Tech. For him to get on the radar, he will need a strong finish to this season and score victories against Cal's major conference rivals - he has yet to beat Oregon, USC, UCLA or Stanford.
Following the best coach in a school's history is never an easy task, but Harsin has done more than a respectable job since succeeding Chris Petersen at Boise State in 2014. Harsin led Boise State to a Mountain West title in his first season with the Broncos has a 24-6 record with the program. Boise State has led the Mountain West in yards per game every year with Harsin at the helm. They run a multiple offensive scheme, which, as its name suggests, incorporates elements from several different offenses. They could line up with five wide receivers on one play and then switch to a two tight end set the next. Harsin played quarterback at Boise State and served as an assistant there for nine years. LSU might be the job he would be willing to leave his alma mater for.
Unlike the other guys on this list, Graham is a defensive minded coach. However, he knows a good bit about offense, too. Arizona State has averaged fewer than 35 points a game only once under Graham (they scored 34.5 in 2015). The Sun Devils' spread scheme is well-balanced; they are averaging over 270 yards per game through the air and 236 on the ground this season. His teams are also typically well-disciplined and seldom commit senseless penalties. Graham has a more established track record than the previous three coaches, with an overall record of 87-48 and 38-19 in his four-plus seasons at Arizona State. He has two 10-win seasons in Tempe and looks to be on his way to another one with the Sun Devils currently sitting at 4-0. There is one potential hangup with him, though. After his controversial exit from Pittsburgh in 2011, potential employers may question his trustworthiness.
Petersen has the type of name recognition LSU is looking for. He boasts an awesome 111-24 career record and led Boise State to BCS appearances in 2006 and 2009 while also contending for several more. His stint in Washington got off to a slow start, but he has the Huskies rolling in his third year and they look to be legitimate contenders in the Pac-12. Washington runs a balanced spread offense and is putting up over 440 yards and 45 points per game so far in 2016. The Huskies also sport a top 15 defense. Peterson is making over three million dollars annually and just signed a two-year extension after the 2015 season. It will take a huge effort to pry him out of Seattle, but LSU might be one of the few programs with the resources to make it happen.