Ole Miss coaching candidates: Mike Norvell, Mike Leach, Skip Holtz lead replacements for Matt Luke

Sometimes you have to go through these candidates' lists through the back door. Take Ole Miss, for example.

Archie Manning is the school's football patriarch -- an Ole Miss legend, father of two Super Bowl quarterbacks. He also has a grandson named Arch playing high school football in New Orleans. Archie has already said Arch is ahead of Eli and Peyton at similar points in their careers.

Even though Arch just completed his freshman high school season, there is already interest from Ole Miss. It may be reciprocal. The Class of 2023 is a long way off, but either way, you'd better believe Archie will offer his input on Ole Miss' new coach.

Wouldn't Manning want an offensive-oriented coach with a quarterback coaching background? At least someone who would fit with Arch? Conspiracy theory? Not so much. If you've got a quarterback, you've got a chance. Ask LSU, Alabama, Ohio State and others.

So in evaluating candidates, assume that Ole Miss will go offense first.

Mike Norvell, Memphis coach: At this moment, the 38-year-old Tigers coach is one of the most valuable persons in his profession. He's playing for a conference championship this weekend. After that, Norvell could literally could have his pick of four jobs -- Florida State, Missouri, Arkansas and Ole Miss. It seems to be almost a certainty that Norvell will be gone after this season. How many times are you going to win 11 (or 12) at Memphis?

Mike Leach, Washington State coach: OK, we admit Alabama, LSU and Auburn are on the schedule every year in the SEC West. That could be a con. Here are the pros: Leach's constants. He seems to gravitate toward small college towns with small media coverage. Leach would shake up Ole Miss and the SEC. And we're talking perhaps the No. 1 quarterbacks coach in the country. In case you haven't noticed, schematically, Leach is as close to Hugh Freeze as there is for this opening.

Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech coach: Lou's son has carved out quite a career on his own. Holtz has won nine games in four of the last six years at Tech. His quarterbacks have finished in the top four in Conference USA passing in four of the last five years. Check out senior J'Mar Smith, who has thrown for almost 10,000 yards in his career.

Bryan Harsin, Boise State coach: The same disclaimer applies here as it does for Missouri when I listed Harsin as a candidate. Harsin is closer to a New Year's Six bowl at Boise. However, Boise has just about reached its ceiling in being able to pay Harsin. Harsin, a Boise native, doesn't seem to fit the SEC culture. But he is a proven quarterback maker who has an .800 winning percentage with the Broncos.

Sonny Dykes, SMU coach: Dykes is reportedly happy at SMU, having turned the program around with a 10-win season. His innovative approach importing a bunch transfers could work at Ole Miss, too. A critical eye might want to see more sustained success.

Tom Allen, Indiana coach: Allen just led the Hoosiers to their first eight-win season since 1993. He's a defensive coach, but success is success. There is also a bit of familiarity with Allen having coached Ole Miss linebackers from 2012-14.

Lane Kiffin, FAU coach: I'm starting to think that when/if Kiffin makes the jump back up to the big time, it's got to be a perfect situation. Ole Miss is not that. And does Kiffin want to go against his old boss (Nick Saban) each year? At last check, Kiffin was more than happy in Boca Raton with sunshine and a luxury home in South Florida

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

Enter our free Pick'em Challenge & compete to win $5,000.

Our Latest Stories