TAMPA ― C’mon, Michael Kelly. Show us your bracket. At least give us a peek at your final four.
No dice? No biggie. Actually, you’re smart to keep your Bulls coaching candidate pool shrouded. Some suggest we would have been smart to keep our list concealed also. Jim McElwain?! Jim Leavitt?!
Yep, they’re on our bracket. At least they were.
We’re down to our elite eight, the dudes we project to have the most plausible shot at becoming the next Bulls coach. As you read this, some may have been vetted. Some may have been crossed off. One or two may be figments of our coaching conjecture (though we honestly don’t think so).
At any rate, time to do some vetting of our own right here. We’re cutting our list in half today, and will reveal our final four ― and projected top candidate ― on Friday.
(Guys with head coaching experience)
No. 1 Willie Taggart (former FSU, USF coach) vs. No. 2 Lane Kiffin (FAU coach)
We still believe some serious mutual interest exists between Taggart and his old employer, though the longer this search drags out, the less likely it seems Taggart will return for a second act.
Kiffin’s name has been linked to the Arkansas vacancy, and truth be told, we see his next coaching gig at the Power Five level. Meantime, FAU reportedly is preparing an offer in an attempt to keep Kiffin in Boca Raton.
Winner: Taggart. But the clock is ticking.
MORE BULLS: Why a Willie Taggart-USF reunion might (and might not) make sense
(Former USF players or assistants)
No. 1 Larry Scott (Florida tight ends coach) vs. No. 3 Kerwin Bell (USF offensive coordinator)
Scott, a Sebring native and original Bull, is ready to be a head coach. While his old teammates stump for him on social media, his six-game stint as Miami’s interim coach in 2015 still rings as a pretty solid endorsement.
To refresh: Scott took over when UM fired Al Golden following a 59-0 home embarrassment against Clemson. The ‘Canes, 4-3 when Scott was promoted, won four of their last five regular season games, their only defeat a 59-21 loss at No. 17 North Carolina.
“If you are stuck in a situation where they’re stuck, and here’s a guy that’s going to bring great stability with everybody and a great personality who can relate to everybody on the team,” Gators coach Dan Mullen said in August. “To finish out the season, I thought he did a great job with that.”
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Gauging Bell’s merits for the job solely off his 2019 offense is wholly unfair, considering he was saddled with a rookie quarterback most of the season and didn’t recruit any of the guys he coached.
A fairer assessment would be to examine his college head coaching record (93-42, one Division II national title in stints at Jacksonville and Valdosta State). Nonetheless, USF’s season-ticket sales likely would take a hit if Kelly hired the overseer of the fourth-worst scoring offense (20.8 ppg) in program history.
Winner: Scott. If the Bulls don’t hire him, we’re guessing someone else will soon.
(Play callers on the rise)
No. 1 Jeff Scott (Clemson co-OC) vs. No. 2 Tony Elliott (Clemson co-OC)
The tightest elite eight battle on our bracket. Candidly, we don’t believe the Bulls could go wrong with either of these guys, whose current unit ranks third nationally with 541.8 yards per game.
Both are bright, engaging and universally respected. Both also recruit Florida extremely well. Fact is, Elliott was the lead recruiter for Sickles High star Ray-Ray McCloud and also was huge in helping the Tigers land East Lake’s Artavis Scott.
But we’re giving the nod to Scott because his Florida roots run deeper. Dude was born in Arcadia and spent a chunk of his youth in Tallahassee (where father Brad was Bobby Bowden’s offensive coordinator). The fact his dad got a degree from USF also would play well in the presser.
Winner: Scott. But only by a Tiger’s whisker.
MORE BULLS: Big name? Nah. USF needs a coach with big ambitions
Wild Card Regional
(Names that might surprise you)
No. 1 Surprise Hire vs. No. 2 James Coley (Georgia offensive coordinator)
Coley’s name has generated some buzz since the USF vacancy arose, with good reason. As Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at FSU, this Miami native helped the ‘Noles land consecutive top-four classes in 2011 and 2012 (per 247Sports).
His current unit at Georgia ranks only 55th nationally in total offense (420.6 ypg), but runs for 200 yards a contest and is efficient on third down (43.7-percent conversion rate).
Still, ol’ Surprise Hire might be coordinating an even more productive unit at this moment. He might possess some head coaching experience, which Coley doesn’t. And he might be sipping coffee with Kelly as you read this.
Winner: Surprise Hire. Every bracket needs a sleeper, right?