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Candidates to replace Liam Coen

A look at who could potentially replace Liam Coen.

2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Update: In light of reports that Kentucky Football OC Liam Coen is leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we’re republishing this article from January 15th.


The Kentucky Wildcats could be searching for a new offensive coordinator soon if Liam Coen is poached away for the second time in three years.

After Coen’s debut season in 2021 was a rousing success, he was hired away by the Los Angeles Rams and then returned to Kentucky for the 2023 season.

Now, Coen is once again getting NFL interest, as the Chicago Bears are interviewing him for their vacant OC position.

And even if the Bears pass on Coen, there’s still likely to be interest from other NFL teams once they hire their next head coach. One situation to monitor could be the Tennessee Titans, who have Will Levis now set to lead the franchise, and what better way to help him than with the OC who put him on the map in 2021?

Ohio State was also thought to be a potential suitor, but it sounds like Coen isn’t in the running there.

With that in mind, here is a list of candidates that Kentucky should look at if Coen does leave the program looking for a new OC.

Joe Moorhead

NCAA Football: Akron at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Moorhead has a wealth of coaching experience. He started out as a graduate assistant in 1998 at Pittsburgh, then slowly rose through the ranks to become the head coach at Fordham in 2012, where he went 38-13.

Moorhead left to be the offensive coordinator at Penn State before becoming the head coach at Mississippi State after Dan Mullen left for Florida. In his two seasons there, Moorehead went 14-12 as a head coach.

Now, to the present day, he is the head coach of the Akron Zips, where he’s gone 4-20 as a head coach with having two straight 2-10 seasons while there. With all of his stops, he has proven he can lead an offense. While at Mississippi State, his offense led the SEC in yards, including where Mississippi State tied for fourth among Power Five programs with 16 200-yard rushing performances over Moorehead’s two seasons.

During his time there, Mississippi State had three of its eight games in school history with 600 or more yards of offense coming under Moorhead. Keep in mind, he has also coached running back Kylin Hill, running back Miles Sanders, running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley, and wide receiver Chris Godwin.

Moorhead has been able to produce NFL talent wherever he has gone and would be a great hire.

Dan Mullen

NCAA Football: Florida at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Another potentially good hire would be Dan Mullen, who has been out of coaching for a couple of years now, with his last stop being with the Florida Gators. During his time as the Gators’ head coach, he went 34-15, but his last season there, he went 5-6 before being fired.

Overall as a head coach, he is 103-61, with most of his wins and losses coming when he was at Mississippi State, compiling a 69-46 record while being there for nine seasons.

Since being fired by Florida, Mullen has been an analyst for ESPN.

Jimbo Fisher

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

With Jimbo Fisher being just fired as the Texas A&M head coach, he could be looking for a new job, and what better way would be reconnecting with a former staff member?

When Mark Stoops was the defensive coordinator at Florida State, the head coach at the time was Fisher. During Fisher’s and Stoops’ three seasons there, they had a combined record of 31-10 before Stoops left for Kentucky to become the head coach.

Overall, Fisher’s coaching record at FSU was 83-23. He even won a BCS National Championship under Jameis Winston but eventually left for Texas A&M, going 45-25 before being fired.

Fisher is still currently a coaching free agent.

Tommy Rees

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA TODAY NETWORK

A great young hire could be Tommy Rees. He is currently only 31 years old and is coming off his first season as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for Alabama. He was just hired in February of 2023 and helped to lead Alabama to the College Football Playoff.

However, with Nick Saban officially retiring and the Crimson Tide just hiring a new head coach with Kalen DeBoer, it appears Rees will no longer be the program’s OC.

Before Alabama, Rees was the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame for six years and eventually became the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the final three seasons. As the offensive coordinator, Notre Dame averaged 33.4 points per game in 2020, 35.2 points per game in 2021, and 31.8 points per game in 2022.

James Coley

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Arkansas State at Georgia

Although James Coley has accepted a position to become the wide receivers coach at South Carolina, his mind may change if offered the offensive coordinator position at Kentucky. He also has a connection with Stoops, as Coley was the offensive coordinator while Stoops was the defensive coordinator for three seasons at Florida State.

From 2013-15, Coley was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Miami. He later had stints as the OC for Georgia (2019) and co-OC for Texas A&M from 2022-23.

With Coley’s experience, he would be a solid hire for Kentucky.

Dana Holgorsen

Houston v Baylor Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Dana Holgorsen has been a head coach since 2011. He became the head coach of West Virginia from 2011-18, and during his time, he was very successful with only one losing season as he went 61-41 before leaving to become the head coach for Houston in 2019, where his best record was a 12-2 season in his third season with the Cougars.

Houston has since changed conferences from the AAC to the Big 12, and that did not go smoothly for Holgorsen, as they finished 4-8 before he was fired in November. He’s currently a free agent.

Overall, this is a short list, and many people may be nervous about Kentucky potentially having to find a new offensive coordinator. But if that happens, there will be plenty of options, and you have to think most of them would seriously consider the opportunity to be an offensive play-caller for an SEC program that’s made eight straight bowl games and will be favored to make it nine next season.

If Coen departs, who would you like to see Kentucky land? Let us know in the comments section!