LSU athletic director Joe Alleva may only have three legitimate choices to replace longtime head coach Les Miles. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, Houston coach Tom Herman, and interim head coach Ed Orgeron are considered the top choices to take over the prestigious college football program.
Kiffin, 41, is considered one of the best offensive minds in college football, a quarterback guru, and an excellent recruiter. The son of Monte Kiffin, who is considered one of the all-time great defensive coordinators, he has worked wonders with the Alabama offense. The Crimson Tide have averaged 37.5 points per game under Kiffin.
But Kiffin comes with baggage after contentious tenures at other programs. He was scorned by Tennessee for leaving the program after just one year, and finished with just a 28-15 record at USC. With the Trojans, he had notable controversies that included deflating footballs and switching jersey numbers during a game, while also having a strained relationship with the press.
Herman, 41, is coming off a 13-1 season and the undefeated Cougars are ranked No. 6 in the nation. Houston has won big this season, averaging 44.75 points per game and with a victory over then-No. 3 Oklahoma. As the offensive coordinator for Ohio State, the Buckeyes won their first national championship despite playing two backup quarterbacks.
The knock on Herman might be that he has no experience coaching in the SEC, and has never been a head coach for a major program. Houston is surging, but some might suspect that this recent run of success won't last long.
Orgeron, 55, is a unique possibility. He served as USC's interim head coach after the dismissal of Kiffin, and received plaudits from alumni and players for his affable personality and for the team's improved play. But USC decided to move on from Orgeron, who would later take over as the Tigers' defensive line coach to general success. Should Orgeron overachieve in his interim role, there may be calls to keep him as head coach.
While Orgeron has experience in the SEC as the former head coach of Ole Miss, there are some who believe he is more cut out for an assistant role. The Tigers may need to win several games convincingly and upset at least two of the five Top 25 teams that remain on their schedule for Alleva to seriously consider removing the interim tag.
Alleva could certainly look elsewhere for a new head coach, as the "obvious choice" doesn't always work out. The Florida Gators were riding high under Urban Meyer, and his successor, Will Muschamp, was considered a great hire by most experts. But Muschamp struggled to replicate the success he had as the defensive coordinator of Texas and was fired after three seasons in Gainesville.
There are big shoes to fill, as well. For all of the criticism of Miles in recent years, there is no disputing that in his 11 full seasons he accomplished big things. The Tigers won two SEC titles and the national championship in 2007—impressive credentials for any head coach.
Miles, 63, also owns the highest winning percentage in modern-day LSU history (.770) and finished his career in Baton Rouge with a stellar 114-34 record. He has stated that he won't retire and will look for other head coaching opportunities.