Sep 9, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Elko looks on before the game against the Lafayette Leopards at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

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Take 5: Texas A&M candidates to replace Jimbo Fisher

After digesting the $77 million buyout Texas A&M owes fired coach Jimbo Fisher, the next logical question is who will replace him.

The Aggies will no doubt swing for the fences, with athletic director Ross Bjork acknowledging the expectation is that Texas A&M “should be relevant on the national scene.”

The record buyout coming Fisher’s way is evidence that money is little obstacle in the Aggies’ quest to become nationally relevant. Supported by a wealthy booster base and NIL money, Fisher was able to haul in impressive recruiting classes, but was not able to beat marquee opponents with any consistency.

The resources available to the next head coach no doubt makes Texas A&M a highly desirable destination. However, time is of the essence with the upcoming transfer portal opening Dec. 4.

Several are Aggies likely to strongly consider moving on to new schools, with freshman wide receiver Raymond Cottrell the first to announce he’s leaving. But can Texas A&M land a big-name coach before season’s end — especially one who may be in the College Football Playoff picture?

With that, here are five early candidates to replace Fisher in College Station.

–Deion Sanders, Colorado
Sanders’ name will come up with most any opening at a major program. Despite the Buffaloes’ struggles following a 2-0 start, there is no denying the impact Sanders has had in Boulder. That’s from turning the program around on the field to infusing the entire city — heck, the nation — with Buffaloes football fever. The financial gain to the entire area is undeniable as well. Question is, would he leave Colorado after just one year, especially if son Shedeur Sanders returns for his senior season? Deion’s five-year contract at Colorado is for $29.5 million — money that Texas A&M can dwarf. But do the Aggies and their boosters believe he’s ready to compete in the SEC just yet?

–Kalen DeBoer, Washington
One of the most respected coaches on the West Coast, DeBoer has done an impressive job in building the Huskies into a College Football Playoff threat in just two years. One drawback is that DeBoer’s recruiting map has largely been on the West Coast. But like the others who have turned around major programs in seemingly the blink of an eye, DeBoer works the transfer portal well. Washington was DeBoer’s breakout job after a two-year stint at Fresno State, and the 49-year-old is revered in Seattle. But if the Aggies’ priority is to revitalize their offense, DeBoer may garner strong attention.

–Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Kiffin, 48, is completing his fourth season at Ole Miss, and he rebuffed other potential openings last year. His contract carries a large buyout — the figure isn’t publicly known — but Kiffin is another offensive mind that could get the most out of Texas A&M’s current talent pool, help retain those considering transferring out of College Station and pluck marquee names out of the portal. Kiffin also knows how to compete in the SEC, getting the Rebels inside the Top 10 in the CFP.

–Dan Lanning, Oregon
The Ducks are backed by plenty of Phil Knight money, so the Aggies will have to appeal to Lanning on other levels. The 37-year-old Missouri native took over at Oregon just two years ago after Mario Cristobal left for Miami. The entire coaching staff was new at the time, but Lanning has been able to elevate the Ducks into national title contenders by recruiting well and working the portal. He cut his coaching teeth under the likes of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, so a return to compete against his mentors in the SEC could prove enticing.

–Mike Elko, Duke
Elko, 46, is highly respected and likely to garner interest from multiple programs. However, Texas A&M has the inside edge as Elko served as Fisher’s defensive coordinator from 2018-21. He left to take over Duke two years ago, and had the Blue Devils ranked in the top 15 earlier this season after being named the ACC coach of the year in 2022. Elko accomplished the feat by working the transfer portal extremely well — something the Aggies’ next head coach must do to help fortify the depth chart. The biggest question may be whether Elko is ready to leave Duke after only two seasons, but Texas A&M may prove to good an opportunity to pass up, and Elko has already made 10 stops during his 25-year coaching career.

–Field Level Media

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