USC Football Coaching Hot Board: Top 10 Replacements For Steve Sarkisian

Updated November 18th at 3:32pm EST

The USC Trojans remain in the hunt for a permanent head coach in the wake of the firing of Steve Sarkisian, with a boatload of marquee names connected to the program over the past few weeks. Interim head coach Clay Helton has done an admirable job with the Trojans so far, winning four of his first five games as head man and lifting USC back into the rankings.

Is Helton the permanent answer in Southern California? What other options will USC vet as it searches for the man to lead this program in 2016 and beyond? Here are 10 potential candidates that could take over after the season:

10) Ed Orgeron, defensive line coach, LSU

Orgeron has already been a USC head coach, leading the Trojans to a surprising 10-4 record after Lane Kiffin was fired mid-season. Orgeron was not happy he was passed over for the job in favor of Sarkisian, but may be willing to forgive that this time around. He's currently coaching the defensive line at LSU, but if USC is looking to bring back someone who has had success, then Orgeron could be a good fit. 

9) Kyle Whittingham, head coach, Utah

The Utah head coach led his squad to nine wins in the Pac-12 last season, including wins over USC and Michigan, and two of the Utes' losses were by three points or less. The Pac-12 South is really good, which will make winning harder for Utah. However, Whittingham is a very underrated coach. Even if the USC job doesn't open up, expect Whittingham's name to be mentioned for a number of teams on the West Coast.

8) Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State

Mullen's stock is as high as ever after leading Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking in the country for most of last season, but it appears that he's taken the Bulldogs has far as he can take them. Mullen wasn't looking for other opportunities after last year's success in Starkville, but after this year's 3-2 start, now is the time for him to move on to another opportunity. If he was able to make the Bulldogs one of the best teams in the country, imagine what he can do with everything USC has to offer.

7) Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama

Smart has been the defensive coordinator at Alabama since 2008 and is the head coach in waiting behind Nick Saban, but he may not be patient enough to wait that long. USC would give him the opportunity to lead a top-tier program and could throw enough money at him for him to leave.

6) Dabo Swinney, head coach, Clemson

Swinney has been at Clemson since 2003, but the allure of a progam like USC is hard to ignore for any coach. Swinney has done a great job with Clemson, but could do even better with the Trojans' immense resources and national appeal.

5) Hugh Freeze, head coach, Ole Miss

Freeze has come along way from being "the coach from The Blind Side." He's a rising star in the coaching world and has had Ole Miss in contention for a SEC West title and a College Football Playoff berth each of the past two years. If USC were to come calling, Freeze would have a tough time turning down one of the sport's top jobs.

4) Jon Gruden, former NFL head coach, ESPN NFL analyst

Last time around, athletic director Pat Haden reached out to Gruden. Haden said Gruden wanted to coach in the NFL if he was going to coach again, but things have changed this time. Gruden is big name in the football world and would be a great pickup.

3) Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M Aggies

Every time a major college football job open up, Sumlin's name is mentioned. He was rumored to be USC's top target before they hired Sarkisian two years ago, and would be a top target again this time around. Sumlin is one of the hottest coaches in college football, having the Aggies in the top 15 this year after an 8-5 record last season. If Sarkisian is fired, USC will push hard to steal Sumlin away from Texas A&M.

2) Clay Helton, interim USC head coach

If the Trojans beat UCLA and Oregon in the team's final two games, the good will Helton has already cultivated will amplify and perhaps win him the job outright. The fans have gotten behind Helton, the players have responded to his energy/dedication and recruits are starting to get on board with the idea that Helton could be THE man going forward. We're sold on him, but we still have to see whether USC is going to put its eggs in the "marquee" name basket.

1) Chip Kelly, head coach, Philadelphia Eagles

Things haven't been going well lately with Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, but he would be welcomed back in the college football world with open arms. Kelly recently said that he isn't focused on returning to college and hasn't been contacted by USC, but there's still plenty of time for him to change his mind.

The former Oregon head coach already knows the Pac-12 and would be quite the hire for any college team in need of a head coach. If he doesn't return to the Eagles next season, he'll have his pick of jobs in the college game, and perhaps no other school has the widespread appeal, talent base, and recruiting prowess of USC.

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Related Topics: College Football, Dan Mullen, NCAA Football, Ed Orgeron, Kirby Smart, Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze, Steve Sarkisian, Kyle Whittingham, Chip Kelly, Dabo Swinney, USC Trojans Football, Tom Herman, Jon Gruden