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Jim McElwain’s former SEC colleagues weigh in on his firing

By Joey Knight
By Matt Baker
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, left, shook hands with Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops after the Mississippi State at Kentucky game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 25, 2014. Miss. St. won 45-31. (Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS) 1214541

Three days after Florida and coach Jim McElwain parted ways, some of his former SEC colleagues weighed in on a move that could ripple across the profession.

"I think we all feel for our comrades when things like that happen," Kentuckyís Mark Stoops said. "Itís very sad to see that happen to Coach Mac."

The speed of McElwainís fall was surprising. The 2015 SEC coach of the year won division titles in his first two seasons, but he didnít even get a chance to finish out his third year.

Itís just part of routine turnover in the SEC. Two programs (Florida and Mississippi) are led by interim coaches. Tennessee is widely expected to fire Butch Jones by the end of the season. Texas A&Mís Kevin Sumlin and Arkansasí Bret Bielema could be in trouble, too.

"I think thatís life," said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, a former Gator assistant whose name has been prominently linked to UFís opening. "I think thatís just kind of the standards and expectations of the fan bases and where everybody is in this league."

Taggart text: Oregon coach (and former USF coach) Willie Taggart didnít necessarily plan on addressing rumors of him and the Florida opening with his team. A text message from his son changed his mind.

The text: "Dad, are we moving again?"

"Iím like, ĎAre you kidding me?í?" Taggart told reporters in Oregon.

Although Taggart would be a logical candidate, he has denied any communication with Florida. The Ducks are 5-4 in Taggartís first season.

No QB decision: Florida remains undecided on whether redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks or Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire will start at quarterback Saturday at Missouri. "Both of those guys have been doing a great job of competing in practice and having a positive attitude," interim coach Randy Shannon said. "It brings the best out of both of them. I think both of the guys are not in the comfort zone, but theyíre not in the fearful zone."

Franks is 75-of-125 for 830 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions but has been pulled in three of his six starts. Zaire struggled in relief against Michigan but led UF on its only scoring drive against Georgia.

Record watch: With seven tackles Saturday at Connecticut, USF senior MLB Auggie Sanchez ó a Northeast High alumnus ó will surpass Kawika Mitchell for the schoolís career mark.

Sanchez, sitting at 361 tackles, also will be making his 47th start, placing him alone at No. 3 on the schoolís all-time list behind DeDe Lattimore (49) and George Selvie (50).

"Itís an unbelievable feat," first-year defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said. "Any time youíre tackling the football, no matter if itís for a 1-yard gain or youíre hustling and getting it for a 10- or 15-yard gain, itís about drive, determination, just passion for the game. And for him to hit the football as many times as he has tells you what kind of player he is."

Audible: "Itís almost like a big brother playing ball with a little brother out on Thanksgiving. The big brother is having fun. The little brother is trying, but it doesnít really make a difference. Thatís what he looks like sometimes." ó Syracuse coach Dino Babers on Florida State WR Auden Tate (Wharton High)