The search for a new football coach at Texas A&M will likely end after the Aggies travel to LSU on Saturday for the regular season finale. The Aggies can pick up an eighth win with a victory in Baton Rouge, but the more pressing concern is replacing Jimbo Fisher with someone prepared to put the 12th Man on the national stage.
The season ends on Nov. 25th, and it’d be shocking if the Aggies hadn’t introduced their new leading man by at least Dec. 1. You don’t fire a coach two weeks before the season only to not replace him quickly. The Aggies want to close the 2024 recruiting cycle with a bang and retain as much talent as possible for next year with the transfer portal opening.
Big names such as Lincoln Riley, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney have been mentioned, but that might be more buzz than reality. So, where do things stand? Here are the names we’re hearing the most buzz about entering the final week of the regular season.
Jedd Fisch, Arizona: The New Jersey native took an interesting route into college football. The former tennis player was a normal college student at Florida until he became defensive coordinator a K-12 laboratory school on campus before serving as a wide receiver and quality control coach in the Arena Football League. Fisch eventually became a GA at Florida and then bounced around the NFL as an assistant until he became offensive coordinator at Miami in 2011.
Fisch became a head coach for the first time in 2021 at Arizona, though he was an interim head coach at UCLA for two games in 2017. The Wildcats were 1-11 in his first season but are now 8-3 after one of the best turnarounds in the country. Fisch is attractive because of his offensive acumen, experience in multiple levels of football, and ability to take a program to the next step. He might be the current favorite for the job, sources tell DCTF.
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State: It is never easy to talk a head coach into leaving his alma mater, but the collapse of the Pac-12 left Oregon State out in the cold, and Smith could blossom with the resources in College Station. Smith was a quarterback for the Beavers from 1998 through 2001. He’s worked on offensive staffs at Idaho, Montana, Boise State, and Washington. He took over his alma mater in 2018 and turned them from a two-win team in his first season to a 10-win squad in 2022. Oregon State is currently 8-2 in a stacked Pac-12. The Beavers are 18-5 over the last two seasons.
Mike Elko, Duke: We know the reasons Elko is a legitimate candidate for the Aggies. He was the defensive coordinator under Fisher when the Aggies went 9-1 and finished fourth in the final standings. His relationships on the staff and in the locker room would help keep some of that talent out of the portal. He understands the culture at Texas A&M and how to recruit at the highest levels. His Duke squads have overachieved in two years when healthy.
Lance Leipold, Kansas: Winners win. Leipold is a winner. He won six DIII national championships as the head coach of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He won two conference titles at Buffalo. And at Kansas, he’s taken one of the laughing stocks of Power Five football and turned it into a legitimate Big 12 contender. Recruiting acumen in the only true concern for Leipold, who has never spent time at a program with a big budget.
Jeff Traylor, UTSA: The sentimental favorite of most Texas high school football coaches in Texas, Traylor is a heck of a football coach with a tremendous understanding of the state and East Texas after his time leading his hometown Gilmer Buckeyes to three state championships. He’s won two conference titles in three years as a collegiate head coach. Traylor was also an ace recruiter during his time at Texas and Arkansas.
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