How Does Florida Replace Will Muschamp? Here Are 18 Candidates

By Ty Duffy

Will Muschamp is out. The Florida job is officially available. Now we find out who replaces him. The Gators are the biggest program in the nation’s best recruiting ground, the only one in the SEC. It’s not clear how many jobs are better. But the number of college coaches with no reason to be interested in the Florida position can be counted on fingers. There is no ceiling.

We can preclude a few names. Brett McMurphy reported that Dan Mullen and Rich Rodriguez will not be considered. Mullen isn’t so much of a surprise. He makes sense for Florida. He also made sense in 2010, when he wasn’t considered. That appears to be a personal relationship thing with him and AD Jeremy Foley.

Rodriguez is a bit more surprising. His offense with the speed and talent he could recruit at Florida is a scary, scary thought. He has been an immediate success at Arizona. He also pulled a reverse Muschamp in his last high-profile gig at Michigan, which would be a concern. Not sure why he’d not be worth an inquiry.

We’ll preclude Steve Spurrier. We don’t know whether he’d consider the job if offered. He wasn’t interested in leaving South Carolina for Alabama before he got the Gamecocks rolling. But, the ultimate issue is whether Foley is desperate enough to offer the job to a 70-year-old without an interview process. He wasn’t 10 years ago when it would have made sense.

Mike Shanahan is out too. His name is being thrown out there. He was a Florida OC in the early 80s. That was the last time he coached in college. He’s 62. He would be recruiting kids who aren’t old enough to remember when he won Super Bowls. This makes sense for one of college football’s premier programs why?

Jon Gruden is also a non-factor. His dream job is Michigan.

Established Head Coaches

Florida took a risk on a hot, young coordinator in 2010 and whiffed. The logical play would be to go after someone with a head coaching experience and a high floor.

Mike Gundy [Oklahoma State] Gundy is a man who is only 47. He built his alma mater Oklahoma State into a more or less perennial Big 12 contender. Florida is an indisputably better job. Gundy nearly took the Tennessee one, which was less of one, suggesting he’s not 100 percent happy in Stillwater. He’d be a no-brainer. He’s the bookies’ favorite.

Bob Stoops [Oklahoma] Stoops’ winning track record at Oklahoma speaks for itself. He was successful as Florida’s defensive coordinator. His name has been brought up in every Florida coaching search since he left for a reason. The question is whether Stoops, at 54, wants a new challenge and whether that challenge is in college.

Hugh Freeze [Ole Miss] Freeze is 45. He is winning and recruiting at a non-traditional power in the toughest competitive environment in the country. Jump from a good SEC job to a great one or accept a fat extension to build something in Oxford? He is a Mississippi native.

Chip Kelly [Philadelphia Eagles] Kelly is an obvious home run for Florida (or anyone) in college. But, there would be far more interest from Florida’s side than Kelly’s. He wanted to coach in the NFL. It’s not clear why he would abandon a promising start with the Eagles after two years.

Gus Malzahn [Auburn] Florida would have obvious interest in Malzahn. Is Florida a better job than Auburn? Maybe. Enough of one to be worth the upheaval and the uncertainty? No.

Todd Graham [Arizona State] Graham may have relatives in Central Florida, or be able to relocate some. He’s hit the ground with high octane at Arizona State. Florida could probably cobble together some wristbands and a Britney Spears headset. But, one suspects his employment past may hinder a move higher up the totem pole.

Dabo Swinney [Clemson] Florida is a job that would tempt a Clemson coach. He’d recruit well. How do the Gators feel about hiring a generalist who will require about $3 million worth of coordinators to do the fine tuning?

Gary Patterson [TCU] Patterson is still only 54. He inherited a Horned Frogs program joining Conference USA. He now has them positioned as a national title contender in the Big 12. Patterson has a quite comfortable fiefdom. With so many plum job opportunities coming and going since 2000, he may just like being where he is.

Bobby Petrino [Louisville] There would be a lot to swallow with this hire. Winning may be worth it. Petrino would eviscerate the SEC East with the talent he could recruit at Florida. We’re assuming he would stay at Louisville because…he gave his word? Keep him on the list.

Kevin Sumlin [Texas A&M] Sumlin is making $5 million per year. He would have more young, ready to go talent the next couple years staying put. What could Florida offer him that would be worth the move. A covered pool? A swaggier helicopter?

Longer Shots

These hires could make sense. Not sure Florida gets this far down the list. Or, whether Foley has enough leeway after Muschamp to take this much of a risk. But, this is where a Malzahn or Sumlin would have been last time around. 

Mark Hudspeth [Louisiana-Lafayette] He has won consistently at Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s dominant in the weight room. Could be in line for a power five job, but Florida would be too big of a leap.

Jim McElwain [Colorado State] Quite impressive run at Colorado State thus far. But, as will be noted by everyone now through the end of the coaching shuffle, his $7.5 million buyout would be a major stumbling block.

Justin Fuente [Memphis] Fuente inherited a tire fire from Larry Porter. He has the Tigers heading to a bowl game in his third season. He has developed quarterbacks (to the extent you consider Andy Dalton developed). This would be a bold hire, perhaps a bit too bold for Florida at this time.

Dan Quinn [Seahawks – DC] Quinn had a solid run at Florida in Muschamp’s first two years. But, you don’t fire Muschamp to then hire someone to continue in Muschamp’s vein. Quinn’s trajectory suggests a guy who will be in play for an NFL job, not a prime college one.

Chad Morris [Clemson – OC] He’s unproven as a college head coach, but so is everyone at one point. He would certainly get Florida’s offense rolling again. Hard to see Florida getting this far down the pecking order, though.

Tom Herman [Ohio State – OC] The 39-year-old has done a great job at Iowa State and Ohio State. He will be a name mentioned for a lot of head coaching gigs this winter. Florida should, theoretically, be looking for an offensive guy. Florida would be a job to take after success at his next step.

Pat Narduzzi [Michigan State – DC] Hiring the hottest defensive coordinator in the country? That’s the exact same thing Foley did last time with little success. Florida is a job that would coax Narduzzi away from Mark Dantonio’s hip. But, this would be a bizarre decision.

Lane Kiffin [Alabama – OC] He has had success as a coordinator at two major programs. Had USC ranked No. 1 at one point, in August. He’s still only 39. He has been hired by an NFL franchise, two major college programs and Nick Saban. Don’t doubt his interview skills.

[USA Today Sports]