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Florida coaching buzz includes Willie Taggart, among others

By Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer
Oregon head coach Willie Taggart congratulates Oregon quarterback Braxton Burmeister after an Oregon score against Utah in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Eugene, Ore. Oregon defeated Utah 41-20. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

GAINESVILLE — As Florida formally began looking for its next football coach Monday, the Gators started trying to move on from the Jim McElwain era.

Interim coach Randy Shannon had little to say about the week-long drama that led to his promotion from defensive coordinator. The former Miami head coach said he’s focused on Saturday’s game at Missouri, not a chance to prove that he belongs in the conversation to replace McElwain.

"I don’t look at it as an audition," Shannon said.

While Shannon wasn’t interested in discussing the job, speculation has already started about the first football coaching hire of Scott Stricklin’s athletic director career.

RELATED: Final thoughts on the end of Florida Gators’ Jim McElwain era

Among the names making the rounds:

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen: He has ties to UF and Stricklin, which may or may not be a good thing. Mullen was an assistant at UF from 2005-08. Stricklin didn’t hire him at Mississippi State, but Mullen was the Bulldogs’ coach the entire time Stricklin led the athletic department (2010-16).

Mullen told reporters Monday that he’s "in a great position" in Starkville. Stricklin chose his words carefully Sunday out of respect for Mullen and the No.?21 Bulldogs when he was asked about the situation.

"I would just say, I enjoyed working with Dan," Stricklin said. "And I think he would probably say the same …

"He’s done a really nice job there, and as an alum of that school, I’m proud of the job he’s done at my alma mater."

UCF coach Scott Frost: He quickly rebuilt the No. 15, undefeated Knights with an offense that will be attractive to UF.

Frost is this year’s Tom Herman — the top up-and-comer on the market — and will likely be in demand at Tennessee and Nebraska, his alma mater. When asked about coaching rumors Monday, he told reporters that he hadn’t heard from other schools.

"This place has been even better than what I thought it was coming in," Frost said, "and I thought this place had unlimited potential."

Oregon coach Willie Taggart: He’d be even more likely if he hadn’t left USF for the Ducks after last season.

But the Palmetto native could still be an option at UF. The financial cost would not be steep — less than $4.5 million, according to Football Scoop — if he’s willing to leave after only season in Oregon.

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly: He sounds great in theory. Kelly had an innovative offense and went 46-7 with three top-four finishes in four seasons.

But there are other factors at play, too. UF just got rid of one coach whose personality clashed with fans and administrators. Would the Gators want another one — especially one with a history of skirting the rules?

The SEC passed legislation this spring that would require a school to talk with commissioner Greg Sankey before hiring anyone who has previous NCAA problems. Kelly received a show-cause penalty (which has since expired) for recruiting violations at Oregon.

RELATED: Jim McElwain out as Florida Gators head football coach

Miscellany

Leading rusher RB Malik Davis will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Shannon said. Davis starred at Jesuit High and is Hillsborough County’s all-time leading rusher. … Shannon said there will be a quarterback competition in practice this week. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks has started six of UF’s seven games, but Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire led UF’s only scoring drive last week. … With Shannon acting as head coach, defensive line coach Chris Rumph will serve as defensive coordinator.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.