With Dan Mullen out at Florida, here are the names — some realistic, some unrealistic — you’ll hear mentioned as potential Gators candidates:
Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin
Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin
He has Florida ties. He was 26-13 as Florida Atlantic’s coach, and his dad, Monte, was the Bucs’ longtime defensive coordinator. He’s also a respected offensive mind with SEC experience. As fun as Kiffin would be in Gainesville, would his brash personality be the right cultural fit in the athletic department?
Louisiana coach Billy Napier
Napier has been an assistant under the game’s top two coaches, Nick Saban at Alabama and Dabo Swinney at Clemson. He has also been a top Group of Five coach with the Ragin’ Cajuns, whom he led to 11 wins in 2019 and 10 the next year. Though Napier has spurned SEC interest before, Florida could be an intriguing destination.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal
The Miami native won two national titles as a player for the Hurricanes, worked as an assistant at Miami and was the head coach at Florida International. He has SEC ties, too, and won a national championship as a Saban assistant. Cristobal is an elite recruiter and has taken the Ducks to a pair of New Year’s Six bowl games since he replaced Willie Taggart as coach there. His buyout at Oregon is a reported $9 million.
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn
Quinn was Will Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida for 2011-12. As Atlanta Falcons head coach, he took them to Super Bowl 51, where he lost to Tom Brady’s Patriots. Would he want to return to college football?
Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien
He replaced Joe Paterno at Penn State and went 15-9 in two seasons in the immediate aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. In the NFL, O’Brien took the Houston Texans to four playoff appearances as their head coach/general manager. At Alabama, he leads the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense.
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell
He has established the Bearcats as the nation’s top Group of Five program and would be attractive to any major program. The Ohio native’s next step is more likely to be in the Midwest or to USC. And with Cincinnati moving up to the Big 12, he doesn’t need to move on unless it’s the right fit.
Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops
His name comes up with every big-time job opening, including Florida State in 2019. Stoops was the defensive coordinator for the Gators’ 1996 national title team, so he is familiar with the program. He has seemed content in retirement, where he doesn’t have to spend his evenings recruiting.
Penn State coach James Franklin
Franklin did a miraculous job at Vanderbilt, taking the Commodores to back-to-back top-25 seasons (2012-13). He won the Big Ten at Penn State in 2016 and had top-10 seasons in ‘17 and ‘19. He’s regarded as a strong recruiter but is not great at managing games. He has reportedly told people in Pennsylvania that he’s not leaving.
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker
The Ohio native has strong SEC roots; he has been an assistant at LSU, Alabama and Georgia. Tucker went 5-7 in his only year as Colorado’s coach before jumping to the Spartans. He used the transfer portal well and an 8-0 start to get Michigan State to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s first rankings this season. He’d be an attractive candidate to many SEC schools, though he has reportedly been offered a $95 million extension to stay with the Spartans.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops
The Gators are more likely to value offense than defense, and Stoops has similarities with Mullen in how they punched above their weight at perennial SEC doormats. Stoops knows the division and the state, though, and beat Mullen twice.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell
Forget this year’s 6-5 record. That 6-5 is a disappointment for the Cyclones shows how well Campbell has done there. He recruits Florida actively; 13 players on his roster are from the state, including six from the Tampa Bay area. Campbell is well regarded in the industry and ready for a bigger job, if he wants one.
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