13 Coaching Candidates to Replace Will Muschamp at Florida

Rich Rodriguez is a name to watch at Florida.

Florida announced coach Will Muschamp would not return in 2015 after Saturday’s loss to South Carolina, which dropped the Gators to 5-4 with two games remaining in 2014. Muschamp will stay on the sidelines for the remainder of the regular season. Athletic director Jeremy Foley hired Muschamp after a stint as an assistant at Texas in 2011. Muschamp went 7-6 in his first year at Florida and finished 11-2 in 2012. However, the Gators stumbled to a 4-8 mark last season and needs a win over Eastern Kentucky or Florida State to play in a bowl this year.

 

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13 Candidates to Replace Will Muschamp at Florida

 

Justin Fuente, Head Coach, Memphis

Fuente inherited a roster and program in need of significant repair. Three years later, Memphis is one of the front-runners to win the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers went 3-21 in the two seasons prior to Fuente’s arrival but improved to 4-8 in his first year and 3-9 in 2013. In his third year, Fuente already has Memphis bowl-eligible for the first time since 2008, and the Tigers could claim a share of the conference title if they win their final two regular season games. Considering how far the program has progressed in three seasons, Fuente should be a hot commodity for Power 5 openings this offseason. And Fuente’s background on offense certainly has to intrigue Foley after Florida’s struggles on that side of the ball under Muschamp.

 

Hugh Freeze, Head Coach, Ole Miss

Before we dive into Freeze’s background, it’s important to note Freeze has a good job and is an Oxford native. Considering his ties to Oxford and background in Mississippi, Freeze won’t be too eager to leave Ole Miss. However, Florida is a bigger job and certainly has more resources. Freeze has been a winner at each of his stops, including one year at Arkansas State (10-2), two seasons at Lambuth (20-5) and now three years with Ole Miss (23-13). Freeze’s background on offense certainly has to be intriguing to Florida. Again, a longshot Freeze takes the job, but he’s quickly emerging as one of the top coaches in the SEC.

 

Mike Gundy, Head Coach, Oklahoma State
Gundy is in a good spot at his alma mater and is 82-43 since taking over as Oklahoma State’s head coach in 2005. The Cowboys have played in eight consecutive bowl games and finished No. 3 nationally in 2011. However, Gundy has showed interest in other jobs in previous years, and reports have indicated there could be some friction with athletic director Mike Holder. Combine Gundy’s background on offense, consistent winning in Stillwater and perhaps some uncertainty in the athletic department, and it’s easy to see why the former Oklahoma State quarterback could be interested in other high-profile jobs. 

 

Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, San Francisco 49ers

Whether it’s a college or NFL job, Harbaugh’s name is expected to be a popular one in coaching searches this offseason. Harbaugh is probably more of an option at Michigan than Florida, but the former NFL quarterback should draw plenty of interest after he transformed Stanford into a top-five team in just four years (2007-10). And prior to his stint at Stanford, Harbaugh went 29-6 at San Diego (2004-06). Harbaugh is 41-15 in four seasons with the 49ers, but there is plenty of uncertainty regarding his future after this season in San Francisco.

 

Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette

Hudspeth is ready for a promotion after a successful four-year stint at UL Lafayette. The former Mississippi State assistant is 34-15 in four years with the Ragin’ Cajuns and has the program on track to earn their fourth consecutive bowl appearance. Prior to his current stint at UL Lafayette and two years at Mississippi State, Hudspeth went 66-21 from 2002-08 at North Alabama. Hudspeth signed a six-year contract extension in June, but his track record of success, energetic personality and ability to recruit will no doubt be attractive to any Power 5 program with an opening.

 

Jim McElwain, Head Coach, Colorado State
McElwain is a former Nick Saban assistant, but even if that works against him in this coaching search, he’s still a proven head coach with a background on offense. Under McElwain’s watch, Colorado State is 21-15 overall and is 9-1 with a chance to win the Mountain West in 2014. Prior to the last three years with the Rams, McElwain worked as the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11, had a one-year stint at Fresno State (2007) and a short stop with the Raiders in 2006. McElwain is a rising star in the coaching ranks but has a hefty $7.5 million buyout.

 

Chad Morris, Offensive Coordinator, Clemson
Foley went the coordinator route with Muschamp and it backfired. Will that factor into Morris being considered a candidate? Morris is one of the nation’s highest-paid assistants and is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college football. The Texas native has never been a head coach on the FBS level, but his offenses at Clemson were among the best in the ACC and averaged 40.2 points per game in 2013. Morris would be a splashy hire for a program looking to upgrade its offense. However, the lack of head coaching experience may steer Florida in a different direction.

 

Dan Mullen, Head Coach, Mississippi State

Many reports have indicated Mullen won’t be a candidate due to a questionable relationship with athletic director Jeremy Foley. However, Mullen has elevated Mississippi State during his six seasons in Starkville, which culminated in Mississippi State owning the No. 1 spot in college football’s playoff rankings for the first three weeks. Mullen is 45-29 since taking over the Bulldogs’ head coaching position in 2009 and has guided the program to four consecutive bowl games. Mullen worked under former Florida coach Urban Meyer from 2005-08 and has previous stops as an assistant at Utah, Bowling Green and Notre Dame.

 

Pat Narduzzi, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan State

As evidenced by passing on the UConn job last offseason, Narduzzi’s is in no hurry to leave East Lansing. But if Florida calls, Narduzzi’s interest level would figure to be significantly higher. The Ohio native is regarded as one of - if not No. 1 - top assistant coaches in college football. Narduzzi joined coach Mark Dantonio’s staff in 2007 and has developed an elite defense during his tenure in East Lansing. Michigan State led the nation by limiting opponents to just 4.0 yards per play last season, and the Spartans ranked first in the Big Ten in scoring defense from 2012-13. Prior to taking over the controls for Michigan State’s defense, Narduzzi worked on Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati (2004-06) and had stints as an assistant at Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.
 

Dan Quinn, Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Quinn is regarded as a rising star in the assistant ranks and has a previous stop at Florida on his resume from 2011-12. The New Jersey native has worked with Pete Carroll in Seattle in 2010 and from 2013-14. Quinn does not have head coaching experience and has only spent two years coaching at a FBS program. 

 

Rich Rodriguez, Head Coach, Arizona

Rodriguez was a bad fit at Michigan, but he’s been a proven winner at every previous coaching stop. And Rodriguez is a name garnering plenty of interest in the rumor mill already, as he has Arizona at 8-2 and alive in the Pac-12 South title mix this year. Prior to the last three seasons with the Wildcats, Rodriguez went 15-22 at Michigan but was 60-26 at West Virginia. In addition to his proven track record, here’s something else that should make Foley very interested: Rodriguez is considered one of the nation’s top offensive minds.

 

Steve Spurrier, Head Coach, South Carolina

Spurrier has already said he plans to return to South Carolina in 2015, but if his alma mater called, he would have to at least listen. Spurrier is 82-44 with the Gamecocks and went 122-27-1 at Florida from 1990-2001. Spurrier would be a short-term solution as he will be 70 by the start of the 2015 season.

 

Bob Stoops, Head Coach, Oklahoma

Stoops already has a great job and would have to face his brother (Mark) once a year if he bolted Oklahoma for Florida. Most believe Stoops won't bolt Oklahoma for Gainesville, but he’s a former Florida assistant and has spent 16 years with the Sooners – is it time for change? Stoops has been a model of consistency with Oklahoma, but the program has slipped some in recent years. Again, Stoops is a longshot, but he’s a name to watch during this coaching search. Even if Stoops is going to say no, Foley would be wise to at least place a call to Norman.

 

Other Names to Watch

 

Tom Herman, Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Despite losing quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury in fall practice, Ohio State’s offense hasn’t missed a beat this year. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has emerged as the Big Ten’s top quarterback under Herman’s direction, and the Buckeyes are averaging 6.9 yards per play in conference games. The Ohio native has worked under coach Urban Meyer since 2012 and called the plays at Texas State (2005-06), Rice (2007-08) and Iowa State (2009-11). Herman also is a member of Mensa International. A rising star, but Herman is probably more likely to land a Group of 5 school as a head coach than Florida.

 

Doc Holliday, Head Coach, Marshall

Regarded as an excellent recruiter and has ties to the state of Florida. Holliday is 37-24 at Marshall but was only 27-24 prior to the start of 2014.

 

Ruffin McNeill, Head Coach, East Carolina

McNeill is 35-25 in five seasons at East Carolina – his alma mater. Even though McNeill has done a good job in Greenville, he’s an unlikely fit in Gainesville.

 

Greg Schiano, former Rutgers and NFL coach

Schiano was fired in Tampa Bay after two seasons but had a successful tenure at Rutgers. The defensive-minded coach is a longshot for Florida. However, he could land at another FBS program for the 2015 season.

 

Mike Shanahan, former NFL coach
Shanahan is probably a realistic candidate for open NFL jobs this offseason, but his name has popped up in some reports for college vacancies. Shanahan worked at Florida from 1980-83. However, he hasn’t worked on the collegiate level since that four-year stint. A longshot to take the job in Gainesville.

 

Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

After striking out with a former Nick Saban assistant (Muschamp), it’s unlikely Foley goes in that direction again.

 

Charlie Strong, Head Coach, Texas

Strong already has a great job – maybe the best in college football. He’s not leaving Austin after one season.

 

Matt Wells, Head Coach, Utah State

Wells has continued to build off former coach Gary Andersen’s success at Utah State. Despite dealing with significant injuries at the quarterback position the last two years, the Aggies are 17-8 under Wells’ direction.

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