SMU Coaching Search: Five options for the Mustangs following Sonny Dykes' departure

Rhett Lashlee (Courtesy of Miami Athletics)

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SMU is searching for a new coach for the first time since late in 2017 when the Mustangs landed on Sonny Dykes. But after four seasons under the direction of Dykes, he bolted across town to rival TCU. That leaves SMU with a vacancy that should attract plenty of attention across the country because of the money generated as a private school and the ripe recruiting soil in Dallas. The Mustangs should follow the same model as Dykes: A high-energy offensive coach who will recruit the area aggressively against higher-profile schools such as TCU, Texas, and Oklahoma. 


Rhett Lashlee – Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator 

Lashlee was the offensive coordinator at SMU from 2018-2019 under Dykes. He was hired away for the same job by the University of Miami. Lashlee was also the offensive coordinator at Auburn, UConn, and Arkansas State. He’d know some of the players currently on the team and is familiar with the administration and boosters. He’d also run an offense familiar to recruits and fans. Lashlee doesn’t have head coaching experience, but that shouldn’t stop SMU if he’s the right candidate. Early reports suggest Lashlee is the clear front runner for the job. 

Tom Herman – Chicago Bears offensive analyst 

Don’t laugh. Herman is a solid football coach with winning experience in the American Athletic Conference. He led Houston to the conference’s first title game in 2015. He used his success at Houston to get the Texas job, where he lasted three years before termination. His overall record at Houston was 22-4, including a 6-0 record against AP top 25 teams. At Texas, Herman went 32-18, including a 7-3 record in 2020. Steve Sarkisian might not reach five wins with nearly the same squad a year later. 

Garrett Riley – SMU offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach

If Lashlee doesn’t work out, Riley might be the next best choice. His last name carries weight in the coaching world and on the recruiting trail with his brother, Lincoln, engineering Big 12 championship teams at Oklahoam. The younger Riley replaced Lashlee as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at SMU prior to the 2020 season. He’s helped elevate the play of quarterback transfers Shane Buechele and Tanner Mordecai. Riley began his coaching career as the quarterback coach at Roosevelt High School in Lubbock and was the running back coach at Appalachian State in 2019. He was also on staff at Kansas from 2016-2018. 

Alex Grinch – Oklahoma defensive coordinator 

Grinch was in line for the TCU job alongside Dykes. He’s led defenses at Ohio State and Oklahoma to conference championships. Grinch is a hard-nosed coach who’d provide a toughness and defensive philosophy that maybe the other options on the list wouldn’t because they are offensive coaches. He was defensive coordinator at Washington State prior to his stint at Ohio State.  

Out of the box

Deion Sanders – Jackson State head coach

Sanders is clearly a legend, especially in Dallas. He was an All-Pro cornerback for the Cowboys during his Hall of Fame career. His name was floated for the TCU job. Sanders would immediately create a buzz on the recruiting trail, and it’d bring attention to SMU on a national level because of his larger-than-life personality. Sanders doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience, but he is currently the head coach at Jackson State University. He was the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian School, and let’s not forget Prime Prep Academy and Triple A Academy stints. 

DCTF pick 


This is reportedly already a done deal. Lashlee's name emerged immediately, and with the early signing period, it wouldn't be shocking if he was announced as head coach on the same day that Dykes is officially confirmed as the next head coach of TCU. 

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