Since seeing defensive coordinator Ryan Walters recently leave for the same post on Bret Bielema's Illinois staff, Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz has been methodically working through the process of finding the Tigers' next defensive play-caller.
A handful of names have emerged among the candidates for the job on Drinkwitz's staff, sources have told FootballScoop.
Among them: Alabama's Charles Kelly, Cleveland Browns assistant Chris Kiffin, in-house candidate David Gibbs, and veteran coach Mike Stoops, who's served as an analyst the past two seasons for Nick Saban at Alabama.
Per sources, no hire is imminent, additional names could emerge in contention for the job and the cerebral Drinkwitz, building off an impressive debut campaign with the Tigers including a win against 2019 College Football Playoff champion LSU, is working to position Missouri to compete in a topsy-turvy Southeastern Conference Eastern Division that sees many teams in that half of the league in a state of flux.
The known candidates confirmed to FootballScoop:
Kelly: A college football veteran presently serving as the Tide's associate defensive coordinator and a specialist in the secondary, Kelly has deep experience and recruiting ties throughout the South with stops at Georgia Tech, Florida State, Tennessee and 'Bama. He's been with the Tide for the past two seasons after a one-year stint as defensive coordinator on Jeremy Pruitt's first Tennessee staff in 2018.
Kiffin: A bit more quietly than his brother, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, Chris Kiffin is regarded as a similarly savvy defensive mind who's experiencing a bit of a career renaissance in Cleveland coaching a loaded Browns defensive line. Kiffin has worked at Power-5 programs Nebraska and Ole Miss, and he's spent the past three years in the NFL – two with the San Francisco 49ers prior to his arrival in Cleveland.
Gibbs: Missouri's on-staff candidate is an experienced coach with a previous one-year stint as an SEC defensive coordinator at Auburn (2005), play-caller experience at both Houston and Texas Tech for six combined seasons and the past two as Missouri's cornerbacks coach.
Stoops: He had a 20-year run as either assistant head coach or head coach, including eight years as the head coach at the University of Arizona. Stoops also has been a defensive coordinator at Kansas State and Oklahoma (twice) prior to serving the past two seasons under Saban. Earlier this year, when COVID-19 protocols kept Kelly from coaching in a game for the Tide, it was Stoops who filled in Kelly's gameday role, according to Saban.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest in coaching change news.