Potential candidates for FAU football’s vacant head coach spot

After the departure of Lane Kiffin and victory at the C-USA championship game, FAU has a very important hire to make.

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Potential candidates for FAU football’s vacant head coach spot

Former FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin. Photo by Photo Editor Alex Liscio.

Former FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin. Photo by Photo Editor Alex Liscio.

Former FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin. Photo by Photo Editor Alex Liscio.

Former FAU Head Coach Lane Kiffin. Photo by Photo Editor Alex Liscio.

Jensen Jennings, Contributing Writer

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It’s the end of “Kiffin SZN.”

Lane Kiffin stepped down as the head coach immediately following the C-USA championship game on Saturday, and is heading to the University of Mississippi. 

It was announced Saturday that Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer will be taking over as the interim head coach for the rest of the season. 

In a press release directly following the announcement of Kiffin’s departure, “a national search will begin immediately. I know there will be a great deal of interest in the position,” according to Athletic Director Brian White.

The position could be a very attractive opening for potential hires, especially with the multi-million-dollar Schmidt Family Complex set to open soon. 

Here are some candidates that FAU could look at to fill the void left by Kiffin:

FAU Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer 

In his first season as defensive coordinator for the Owls, Spencer led FAU’s defense to the best turnover margin in (+20) the country, with the most interceptions in the country (21) and only allowed 22.31 points per game. He also has the support of many players currently on the team, according to social media.

Multiple FAU players tweeted out their support for Spencer yesterday and even tagged President John Kelly and White in the tweets for him to take over as the next head coach. 

Starting linebacker Akileis Leroy was one of the players who shared his support for Spencer.

Spencer has been a head coach at the collegiate level before. Coaching at Division II West Georgia from 1998-2000 along with a record of 28-7 while serving as head coach. 

From 2004-2006, Spencer was also the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator at Duke University. 

He spent 10 years coaching on the defensive staff at Oklahoma State University and from 2013-2017 was Oklahoma State’s defensive coordinator. Before coming to the Owls, he spent one year as the defensive coordinator at C-USA for Charlotte. 

Spencer has demonstrated that he can lead a defense efficiently and the players have enjoyed playing for him. To be successful, he’ll need to have a plan for the offensive side of the ball and surround himself with talented coaches on that side.

Former Florida State Offensive Coordinator Kendal Briles 

Briles spent the last season as the offensive coordinator at Florida State University, making it his third job in three years. He was the OC under Kiffin during his first year at FAU and left for the same position at the University of Houston the following season. 

During his time at FAU, he helped lead one of the more potent offenses in the country, led by running back Devin Singletary. 

One of the big problems surrounding Briles is his connection to the Baylor sexual assault scandal while he was the OC for his father Art Briles. That could be something that follows him around until he is able to change that narrative. 

The question is, does FAU want to be the place to risk giving him that opportunity?

According to Football Scoop, Briles could potentially be hired by Kiffin on his staff at Ole Miss. 

Current University of Central Florida Offensive Coordinator Jeff Lebby 

Lebby has been on the staff at UCF since Dec. 2017. He was initially hired as the quarterback’s coach and took over as the OC prior to the start of this season. 

As the OC at UCF, Lebby led them to 536.6 yards per game and 43 points per game. He also did a great job with true freshman quarterback Dillion Gabriel, who completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 3,393 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions.

Before his time at UCF, Lebby also spent some time on the Baylor staff as the offensive recruiting coordinator and another five years as the running backs coach during the sexual assault scandal. Just like Briles, the same questions will need to be asked of him, but neither has been charged with any wrong-doing.

Current Alabama Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian 

Sarkisian has a very similar coaching track record to Kiffin. They were both assistants during the Pete Carroll-led days at the University of Southern California, both were fired as head coach at USC and both have led the offense for Nick Saban at Alabama. 

He took over play-calling duties at Alabama when Kiffin left for FAU shortly before the College Football Playoff in 2016-17. After losing to Clemson in the National Championship game, he left to be the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. In 2019 he left Falcons and headed back to Alabama to be the offensive coordinator. 

Before starting his head coaching career, Sarkisian coached quarterbacks from 2001-2003 at USC. He coached the quarterbacks for one season with the Oakland Raiders in 2004. He went back to USC from 2005-08 before taking over as the head coach at the University of Washington. 

Sarkisian spent seven years as a head coach at the FBS level. His record is 46-35 with five bowl appearances. His time at USC was short-lived after he was fired due to alcohol addiction.

This season at Alabama, his offense averaged 513.3 yards per game and scored 48.25 points per game. 

Sarkisian has the potential to be a national name like Kiffin and is equipped with coaching connections across the country, proving that his ability to build a good staff. He also worked with Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. while in Atlanta and could keep him on staff to help with recruiting and continuity. 

Former Florida State Head Coach Willie Taggart 

Taggart is another offensive-minded coach who has former head coaching experience. He’s coached at four different universities since the 2010 season.

He spent three years at Western Kentucky before leaving for the University of South Florida. Taggart stayed at USF four years before spending one year at the University of Oregon and then was hired by Florida State the following season. 

Taggart has compiled a 56-62 career record as a head coach. Most of his success has come at the Group of Five (G5) level where he has a record of 40-45 with one division title in his final season at South Florida. 

Success on the recruiting trail helped Taggart land his previous jobs and he’s always been known as an ace recruiter. His last three classes have all ranked in the top 20 in the country, and at his previous G5 spots, they were consistently in the top 70. 

The biggest question mark with Taggart is will he be able to control the locker room and handle gameday operations? There were times on the sidelines at FSU where he appeared lost and unsure of what he was doing. 

He does have an extensive coaching tree with connections across the country to assemble a talented staff. 

These are just some of the people FAU might consider for their vacancy. This team has a lot of talent returning next season and appears to have a favorable schedule. 

Lane Kiffin showed that you can win here with the right coach. The stadium hasn’t even been around for a decade yet and there’s a brand new locker room and soon to be brand new football facilities. This isn’t the same old FAU.

Jensen Jennings is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jensen_Jennings.