USC Expected To Hire Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley
However, it isn’t just Heupel’s on-the-field track record that has people connecting him to Oklahoma. In 2000, Heupel led the Oklahoma Sooners to a National Championship and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Additionally, Heupel was on the Oklahoma assistant coaching staff for a number of years. Heupel was fired, though, at the end of the 2014 season, paving the way for him to eventually become a head coach on a different route.
With Oklahoma’s coaching carousel off to an entertaining and hot start, there has been speculation in every direction about how the Sooners will replace Lincoln Riley.
From bringing an NFL coach back to college to bringing a former coach out of retirement, the list of names in the initial 24 hours has been long. One of the names that have been tossed around is current Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. In his first season at Tennessee, Heupel has led the Vols to a 7-5 record and a bowl appearance, showing his credibility in an elite conference. Heupel’s brand of offensive dominance has been remarkable and critical for Tennessee’s turnaround this year after a 3-7 finish in 2020.
As the speculation continues through the evening, CBS Sports has published their list of candidates, including such names as Clemson’s Brent Venables, Oregon’s Mario Cristobal, Baylor’s Dave Aranda, and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Although, their first name on the list, is Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel.
“He cut his coaching teeth as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach helping develop Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford,” CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd wrote. “However, Heupel was eventually fired by Bob Stoops in 2014 and replaced by Riley. There is believed to be some bad blood stemming from that move, and given Stoops is serving as interim coach, that could be a hiccup. That firing set Heupel on his course to UCF where he succeeded before eventually making it to the SEC and suddenly becoming a hot commodity again. The Volunteers went 4-4 in SEC play this year, but all of their losses were to teams ranked at the time of kickoff.”
Other candidates that were mentioned by CBS were Oregon’s Joe Moorhead, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin. Not to mention, even the Arizona Cardinal’s Kliff Kingsbury was even thrown in the mix due to his former collegiate Big 12 ties.
With all the rumors swirling around, though, the early thought in town is that Heupel will still be the head coach of Tennessee next year. Or, at the very least, anything different would be a significant surprise. That college football landscape does get interesting this time of year, especially with the number of high-level programs on the coaching hunt right now.