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Florida would just settle for normal right now. Dan Mullen is gone after four seasons, and the lineage of whacko now extends back a few years. Jim McElwain won two SEC East titles until the faux death threats undid him.
The Gators were ranked in the top 10 less than two months ago. Mullen’s fall from grace is unprecedented. Florida looked like the team that had cracked the code on Alabama. Now, there is a major overhaul to be done. It makes one long for the days of Will Muschamp.
There is a list of solid candidates to replace Mullen but no absolute home runs as almost all of them come with questions. Lane Kiffin is hot, but can he stay consistent? Bob Stoops has been out of the game since 2017. Louisiana’s Billy Napier is going to get something from this latest silly season. Florida might be his dream opening.
The three top 20 openings (Florida along with LSU and USC) are the most in FBS since 2017. Mullen also became the 13th coach to be fired during this season. That has to be some sort of record.
The Gators will be looking for an offensive mind first, but they will want normalcy more than anything else. For some reason, Mullen just could not hold it together this season in Gainesville, Florida. This from a guy who was at least being mentioned in NFL circles last year.
Let’s take a look at some of the top candidates for the Florida job, in no particular order.
Bob Stoops, Fox analyst, former Oklahoma coach: You have to make the call. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin has to make Stoops say no on the odd chance he says yes. Stoopsie is just sitting there breaking down Iowa games for Fox. Why not see if he has any interest in coming back? Given the history of vacancies at Florida, Stoops is doubtful. He was mentioned many times for the opening while coaching Oklahoma. Steve Spurrier’s former defensive coordinator, though, makes total sense at age 61 if he wants to return to the game. Spurrier is still with the Gators in an honorary role, and the two remain close friends.
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss coach: Kiffin’s career arc goes something like this: Jimmy Sexton dangles his name at USC, LSU, Miami and Florida without letting those schools know his client is completely happy at Ole Miss. Kiffin gets a monster extension because, why not? It’s Mel Tucker’s world, and we’re only living in it. But, gosh, it would be fascinating to see Kiffin change jobs within the SEC and end up in Gainesville.
Billy Napier, Louisiana coach: My keyboard is worn out from writing Napier’s name for every opening. But he’s the real deal. Underpaid and in the Sun Belt, Napier is about to hit the big time at LSU, Florida or maybe even Miami. He has to get one of the to jobs this cycle. This is his time after turning down a number of other big offers across the last couple offseasons. Napier is 31-5 at Louisiana with coaching and recruiting experience under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest coach: A well-respected veteran with a powerful, nimble offense should be attractive to Florida. However, the defensive deficiencies have to be a concern for a Gators team that dealt with plenty of them over the last few seasons. The Demon Deacons quickly fell out of the College Football Playoff race, allowing a combined 148 points the last three games.
Dave Aranda, Baylor coach: Aranda’s star is only going to keep rising, especially if the Bears make the Big 12 Championship Game. He has performed a mini-Mel Tucker, turning Baylor around in a year. Aranda knows and has recruited the SEC while at LSU.
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati coach: The gold standard right now. Over the weekend the Bearcats’ chances of making the playoff increased, which will only make Fickell hotter. There might be a fit issue in the SEC considering Fickell is a born-and-bred Ohioan. But that’s why you overpay. Word on the street is that LSU athletic director Scott Woodward is offering $100 million over eight years for the right candidate. Is Fickell worth that, and can Florida match if he’s interested?
Matt Campbell, Iowa State coach: As good as Campbell may be, the Cyclones have lost at least five games in five of his six seasons. Dan McCarney and Campbell proved you can get Iowa State to a national level. The problem is keeping the Cyclones there. Is Campbell worn out from that chase? He loses a lot after this season. There have been rumblings in the past he would only leave for Notre Dame or Ohio State. With three top-tier Power Five jobs available, Campbell might have his pick.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky coach: You want normal? You got normal. Stoops has been a symbol of consistency, winning between five and 10 each season since 2014. Kentucky already has clinched second in the SEC East, his highest finish in his nine seasons with the Wildcats. Don’t forget, Florida began to go South athletically and mentally after Kentucky beat it for the second time in four seasons earlier this year.
Mike Elko, Texas A&M defensive coordinator: Hey, if you can’t get Jimbo Fisher, get his D coordinator. Elko is in the middle of the best season of his career with a top 10 defense (No. 2 against the rush) and a scalp of Alabama on the wall. For the second time in three seasons, Texas A&M is going to have a top five defense against the rush.
Jeff Hafley, Boston College coach: One of the bright young minds in the game, Hafley has squeezed every last ounce out of the Eagles in his two seasons. There have been injury problems at quarterback amidst back-to-back 6-5 seasons. Hafley has seven years’ NFL experience and was Chase Young’s defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2019. If more experienced candidates above don’t say yes, Hafley would be a fine second-tier option.
Who will be the next coach of the Gators, and which candidate who just turned his program around in a huge way could be coming to Gainesville? Visit Swamp247 for the latest coaching Hot Board, all from Florida insider Bob Redman.
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