Florida Gators Head Coach Candidates

The Florida Gators head coach position is once again up for grabs. There are a few different types of head coach candidates the Florida Gators could go with. They could go with a power five head coach from a lower-end or mid-level school, a strong group of five head coach, a coordinator from a high-end power five school, a NFL assistant, or a retired head coach.

The rumor mill for this coaching hire has a variety of coaches, some of which should never be considered, while others should only be worst-case scenario hires, and some won’t even be interested.

Power Five Head Coaches

Good Hires

Potential Florida Gators Head Coach Dave Aranda
Photo by Orlin Wagner, Associated Press

Dave Aranda: Baylor, 2nd Season, 11-9 career, 9-2 season

Dave Aranda has done really well in his second season at Baylor. His first season they won just two games, but this year they have only lost twice, including beating Oklahoma.

Aranda has SEC experience, as he was the defensive coordinator at LSU for four years, including their National Championship season. Baylor’s recruiting class is ranked just five spots lower than Florida according to 247sports and eight spots higher according to Rivals.

Lane Kiffin: Ole Miss, 2nd Season, 10th overall season, 75-41 career, 14-7 @ Ole Miss, 9-2 season, 2 years in NFL, 5-15 record

Lane Kiffin has had a lot of success at four different stops in his career. He has shown the ability to succeed in the SEC, with a 7-6 year at Tennessee and also going 14-7 thus far at Ole Miss, including 9-2 this year. Kiffin currently has the 38th ranked recruiting class according to 247sports, after having the 17th ranked recruiting class the previous year.

Both of these are slightly below Florida’s rankings. While that does invite concern, the better quality of program could allow Kiffin to do better than he is at a mid-tier SEC program currently.

Mark Stoops: Kentucky, 9th Season, 57-53 career, 8-3 season

Under Mark Stoops, this Kentucky program has steadily climbed, and is currently sitting at 8-3 and 2nd place in the SEC East. They currently have 247sports 16th ranked recruiting class. Mark Stoops has been able to recruit at a consistent top 35 ranking for the past few years despite a relative lack of resources as compared to Florida.

Stoops has also proven himself to be a quality defensive mind, and could be the answer to fix that side of the ball that has struggled under Mullen except for 2019. Stoops is not a top choice, but should be on the long list.

Unlikely to Be Interested

Potential Florida Gators Head Coach Mario Cristobal
Photo by Gaelen Morse, Getty Images

Mario Cristobal: Oregon, 4th season, 10th overall season, 61-59 career, 34-12 @ Oregon, 9-2 season

Mario Cristobal would bring a lot of what the Florida program needs: offensive line competence and a great recruiter. Cristobal’s worst recruiting season was his first, where he finished 13th in the country.

For comparison, Mullen’s best seasons recruiting were 2019 and 2020, where he finished 9th both years. If they were able to get him, it would be a very good hire, but it would take a lot to pull him away from a good job with great facilities and a much easier path to the College Football Playoff. However, Cristobal does have a lot of roots in the south, and particularly Florida.

Cristobal played in college at Miami, was a graduate assistant there, and later a tight end and offensive line coach. He spent six seasons as FIU’s head coach, and before he went to be an assistant at Oregon, spent four years as an assistant head coach for Alabama.

Matt Campbell: Iowa State, 5th season, 9th overall season, 76-48 career, 41-33 @ Iowa State, 6-5 season

Iowa State has been a solid program under Campbell. However, he hasn’t had as much success as a lot of the other coaches in terms of recruiting, and that is a must for whoever Florida hires. He turned around a very bad program, but he just is not the best option for Florida.

James Franklin: Penn State, 8th season, 11th overall season, 91-47 career, 67-32 @ Penn State, 7-4 season

James Franklin has had a successful tenure at Penn State after having relative success at Vanderbilt. However, it looks like Franklin has peaked and can’t get over the hump that is Ohio State. He is a good recruiter, but just is not a very good game day manager. It’s hard not to feel that if he were to come to Florida, he wouldn’t face similar issues with Georgia as he does currently with Ohio State.

Worst-Case Scenario

Jeff Hafley: Boston College, 2nd season, 12-10 career, 6-5 season

Jeff Hafley has had moderate success given his circumstances, and was a quality assistant coach. However, he just does not have the experience or the track record to justify Florida hiring him.

Dave Clawson: Wake Forest, 8th season, 22nd overall season, 139-126 career, 49-47 @ Wake Forest, 9-2 season

Dave Clawson has been .500 or better at all four schools he has coached at. However, he has just barely hit that mark. While his teams have improved year-over-year and eventually hit their peak as a program, he just hasn’t shown the ability to recruit at a higher level. The best path to a high-end job would be to take a minor step up (say a Virginia Tech or Miami) and then prove himself there once again.

Group of Five Head Coaches

Potential Florida Gators Head Coach Billy Napier
Photo by Scott Wachter, USA Today Sports

Good Hire

Luke Fickell: Cincinnati, 5th season, 6th overall season 52-21 career, 46-14 @ Cincinnati, 11-0 season

Luke Fickell struggled in his one year as interim head coach at Ohio State, but after spending six additional seasons as the defensive coordinator there, he has turned around a Cincinnati program that was struggling to replace Brian Kelly. After going 4-8 his first season, they have won double digit games every year except for the COVID-shortened 2020 season where they only lost one game.

On top of that, they are currently undefeated and look to be in playoff contention. While he doesn’t have experience in this part of the country, he would still be a good hire.

Billy Napier: Louisiana, 4th season, 38-12 career, 10-1 season

Billy Napier looks to be the favorite in the clubhouse as the end of the season nears. Napier has been a very successful coach in his four years at Louisiana. He has had the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt the past three years. Prior to Louisiana, he spent a year as Arizona State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and before that was Alabama’s wide receivers coach for four years.

Not only has he been a great recruiter, but he has had offensive success at multiple schools. On top of this, he was able to change the way the program was built at Louisiana to help with recruiting due to a larger staff. He would be a great hire if they chose him.

Worst-Case Scenario

Jamey Chadwell: Coastal Carolina, 4th season (1 interim), 12th overall season, 88-54 career, 28-19 @ Coastal Carolina, 9-2 season

Chadwell has had mixed success over the years at multiple stops. As of late, Coastal Carolina has been successful and Chadwell has recruited well, including being projected to have the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt. However, inconsistencies and a lack of experience at a high level make it a very risky hire for anyone at a large program.

Power Five Assistants

The assistants will probably be discussed and possibly given a look, but it is very unlikely that Florida goes this route unless they miss out on several of their top options.

  • Mike Elko: 4th season as Texas A&M defensive coordinator, no head coaching experience
  • Bill O’Brien: 1st season as Alabama offensive coordinator, two seasons at Penn State, 15-9 career, seven seasons w/ Houston Texans, 52-48 career
  • Todd Monken: 2nd season as Georgia offensive coordinator, three seasons at Southern Miss, 13-25 career
  • Pete Golding: 3rd season as Alabama defensive coordinator, no head coaching experience
  • Dan Lanning: 3rd season as Georgia defensive coordinator, no head coaching experience
  • Holmon Wiggins: 3rd season as Alabama WR coach (1st as assistant head coach), no head coaching experience

NFL Assistants

Both NFL assistants with a background at Florida, it is unlikely that either of them wish to make a return to the college ranks. If one were to do it, Brian Johnson would be more likely, but probably not at Florida.

  • Dan Quinn: 1st season as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, six seasons as Atlanta Falcons head coach, 43-42 record
  • Brian Johnson: 1st season as Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach, no head coaching experience

Retired Coaches

  • Bob Stoops: 18 years as head coach at Oklahoma, 190-48 career record

Head Coach Hire Tiers

Tier One: Home Run Hires

Mario Cristobal: Head Coach, Oregon

Billy Napier: Head Coach, Louisiana

Luke Fickell: Head Coach, Cincinnati

Tier Two: Good Hires

Dave Aranda: Head Coach, Baylor

Lane Kiffin: Head Coach, Ole Miss

Tier Three: Decent Hires

Mark Stoops: Head Coach, Kentucky

Bob Stoops: Retired, Former Head Coach, Oklahoma

Tier Four: Shaky Hires

James Franklin: Head Coach, Penn State

Jamey Chadwell: Head Coach, Coastal Carolina

Dave Clawson: Head Coach, Wake Forest

Bill O’Brien: Offensive Coordinator, Alabama

Matt Campbell: Head Coach, Iowa State

Tier Five: Bad Hires

Jeff Hafley: Head Coach, Boston College

Dan Quinn: Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

Mike Elko: Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Todd Monken: Offensive Coordinator, Georgia

Pete Golding: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Dan Lanning: Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

Brian Johnson: Quarterbacks Coach, Philadelphia Eagles

Holmon Wiggins: Wide Receivers Coach, Alabama

Leave a Reply