After nine seasons and the second-most wins in program history, Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen is returning to his old stomping grounds of the University of Florida to be its head coach.
Obviously, this leaves a vacancy for the next leader of Bulldog football; a position that has not been open since the conclusion of the 2008 season.
There is much speculation and opinion as to whom State should hire, but here are some candidates we believe MSU should consider.
Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama defensive coordinator
Soon to complete his second season as the Crimson Tide's defensive leader, Pruitt knows the Southeastern Conference. He is an Alabama graduate, playing under Gene Stallings as a defensive back from 1995-1996. He has never coached anywhere outside of the southern United States, having stints in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
After joining many staffs across high schools in Alabama, Pruitt returned to the collegiate rankings in 2007, joining Nick Saban as his director of player development and was ultimately promoted to defensive backs coach in 2010.
He became a national name in 2013, when he was hired as Jimbo Fisher's defensive coordinator. That season, he helped lead the Seminoles to their first national championship in fourteen years, before being plucked by Mark Richt as his coordinator at Georgia.
Due to Richt's firing after the 2015 season, Pruitt was re-hired by Nick Saban to be the defensive coordinator at Alabama. In 2016, his Crimson Tide defense led the nation in opponents points per game, giving up just 13.0, contributing a huge part to their SEC championship team. This season, the Tide continues to lead the country in the same statistic, with an average of only 11.5 points per game.
According to Will Sammon of the Clarion-Ledger, Pruitt has emerged as Mississippi State's top candidate.
Bill Clark, UAB head coach
UAB could be the best story in college football this season.
The football program was shut down after the 2014 season, a year in which the Blazers went 6-6 in head coach Bill Clark's first season. However, after much backlash and support of the program, the UAB administration decided to recant its decision.
Despite losing scholarships and a vast majority of their roster due to transfers, the Blazers finished its first season back with an 8-4 overall record, and their 6-2 conference record places them 2nd in the C-USA Western division.
Furthermore, Clark was able to instrument a turnaround in that aforementioned 2014 campaign. After limping to a 2-10 record the year prior, Clark led UAB to a 6-6, 4-4 year, which earned Clark the C-USA Coach of the Year award. You also may remember that Mississippi State was given a scare by his Blazers that season, the Bulldogs ultimately winning that contest, 47-34.
Clark's success at both UAB and Jacksonville State speaks for itself, and he could thrive with the talented roster that Mississippi State returns next season.
Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator
Brent Venables has emerged as one of college football's up and coming assistant coaches.
He has been Dabo Swinney's defensive coordinator at Clemson since 2012, a six year span in which the Tigers have won an average of 11.8 games per season. Furthermore, in that time, Venables has helped lead Clemson to four ACC Atlantic division tiles, two ACC championships (they will be playing for another this Saturday against Miami), and the 2016 national championship over Alabama.
In his six seasons at the helm of the Tigers' defense, they have an average finish of 18.8 nationally in terms of opponents points per game, currently 4th this year and 10th in 2016.
Furthermore, prior to his arrival to Clemson, Venables was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops from 1999-2011, helping lead the Sooners to seven conference championships and the 2000 national title.
As tribute to his success last season with the Tigers, Venables was named the winner of the Broyles Award, given to college football's top assistant coach.
According to Steve Robertson of Scout.com, Mississippi State has interviewed Venables for the head coaching position.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State head coach
It is hard to argue that there is a program that has performed better as a new member of the FBS than Appalachian State, and it has been under the helm of Scott Satterfield.
A former quarterback for the Mountaineers from 1991-1995, Satterfield entered the coaching ranks as App State's wide receivers coach in 1998. He remained at his alma mater for the next decade, assuming roles as running backs coach and quarterbacks coach.
After a one year stint as Toledo's QB coach, he was hired by FIU in 2010 to assume its role as offensive coordinator.
As a part of Mario Cristobal's staff, Satterfield coached alongside defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and helped develop former Mississippi State quarterback Wesley Carroll into one of the Sun Belt's top QBs, helping lead the Panthers to a bowl victory in 2010. That season, they scored 28.8 points per game, which was in the top half of programs nationally. They continued their success the next season, finishing with an 8-4 regular season record.
Sattefield was hired in 2012 as Appalachian State's offensive coordinator, before being promoted to head coach the next season. The Mountaineers limped to a 4-8 record during their last season in the FCS, but after joining the FBS, they have thrived.
Since 2014, App State has averaged 8.8 wins per season, including two consecutive bowl victories, an 11-2 season in 2015, and the Sun Belt championship a year ago. This season, the Mountaineers are 7-4 and will be playing UL Lafayette this Saturday for a share of the conference title.
Satterfield's offensive prowess could be a big benefit for the Bulldogs, as they boast a loaded lineup on that side of the ball.
Joe Moorhead, Penn State offensive coordinator
When it comes to offensive minds in college football, Joe Moorhead is one of the best.
For the last two seasons, Moorhead has been the offensive coordinator at Penn State, helping orchestrate the turnaround of the powerhouse program.
Before his arrival in University Park, Penn State ranked 101st in the nation in points per game, averaging just 23.2. However, the Nittany Lions ranked 21st nationally in scoring average in Moorhead's first season and is currently averaging 41.6 points per game this season, which ranks 7th in the country. Last year, Penn State won its first Big Ten championship since 2008, due in large part to his efforts as offensive coordinator.
In addition to being an offensive mastermind as a coordinator, Joe Moorhead has success as a head coach. From 2012-2015, he led the Fordham Rams, racking up an overall record of 38-13. His best season was in 2014, when Fordham won the Patriot League with an 11-3, 6-0 record and an appearance in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Before his stint at Fordham, Moorhead was the offensive coordinator at UConn from 2009-2011, helping lead the Huskies to a Big East championship in 2010 that resulted in a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Moreover, at Penn State, he has developed quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley into two of the nations most dangerous offensive weapons.
USA Today's Dan Wolken is reporting that Mississippi State is considering Moorhead for its head coaching position.
SOURCES: A new name has emerged in the Mississippi State search. Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is in the mix, @usatodaysports has learned.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 28, 2017
UPDATE: Brett McMurphy is reporting that Moorhead will be Mississippi State's next head football coach.
Sources: Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead will become next coach at Mississippi State. Deal expected to be completed in next few days. https://t.co/fcxi8GKyeI— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) November 29, 2017
Jason Candle, Toledo head coach
Jason Candle has been a hot name in many power five coaching searches, due to his success as Toledo's head coach.
Tasked with replacing Matt Campbell, now the head man at Iowa State, Candle has done a remarkable job in charge of the Rocket program. After spending four years on staff as offensive coordinator, he was named interim head coach for the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl, a contest in which Toledo upset 24th-ranked Temple, 32-17.
Candle was promoted to full-time head coach and led the Rockets to a 9-4 season in 2016, in which they finished 2nd in their division and fell to Scott Satterfield's Appalachian State Mountaineers (see above) in the Camellia Bowl.
This season, he has propelled Toledo to even more success. The Rockets finished the regular season 10-2 and won the MAC Western division title; they will face Akron for the MAC championship on Saturday.
Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated is reporting that Candle is a candidate for Mississippi State's head coaching position, in addition to some other names.
Have heard tonight that #PennState OC Joe Moorhead is a strong candidate for the #MissState HC vacancy (as Dan Wolken's reported). Source says that #Bama DC Jeremy Pruitt, ##Toledo HC Jason Candle, #Michigan asst Pep Hamilton & #Miami DC Manny Diaz among those also in the mix.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 28, 2017
Editor's Note: We will update this list throughout Mississippi State's search, so check back in for new developments.