The top candidates to replace Dan Mullen at Florida
Updated: Nov 22, 2021
On Sunday, the seemingly inevitable happened - Dan Mullen was fired as Florida's head coach.
On the one hand, the move seems a bit abrupt as Mullen just won the SEC East last year, and had 10 and 11 wins in his first two full seasons in Gainesville in 2018 and 2019. On the other hand, there was an inevitable feeling to it. One, the Gators were tanking on the field, falling to 5-6 overall with a loss to Missouri on Saturday. Overall that means Mullen is 5-9 in last 14, 2-9 in his last 11 vs. Power 5 schools, with the only wins coming against Tennessee and Vanderbilt both at home. Not good.
Even worse though, is that recruiting is tanking. Mullen of course is not known as much of a recruiter, and the early returns on 2022 made it hard to keep him. The Gators currently have the 23rd ranked class nationally which is just ninth in the SEC, and trails schools like Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Keeping him for one more year would've put the Gators behind the eight ball in the 2023 class as well.
With Mullen out, here are a few names to watch for the gig - and we will continue to update as more information becomes available.
Lane Kiffin, head coach Ole Miss: Kiffin picked up his ninth win of the season at Ole Miss on Saturday, and a victory over Mississippi State on Thanksgiving would mark 10 for the season, an incredible second year run at a school that isn't used to this level of success.
At the same time there seems to be a glass ceiling at Ole Miss, especially in the same division as Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher and whoever the hell LSU ends up hiring.
So at some point it feels inevitable that Kiffin will look for a bigger gig, and a place that he can recruit at a level good enough to win national championships. Remember, for all his faults at USC, he signed multiple Top 10 classes, despite severe scholarship limitations and also knows the Florida recruiting landscape well.
One positive for Florida with Kiffin: He is one of the few big-time candidates who won't be a candidate at USC (for obvious reasons) and it seems unlikely that he's a real candidate at LSU either, which is dealing with off the field issues stemming from the Ed Orgeron era. Kiffin of course had minor NCAA rules violations dating back to his one year at Tennessee.
One negative for Florida with Kiffin: He may be waiting to see if Miami opens up, considering that he'd have the same recruiting pool and an easier path to the playoff in the ACC.
James Franklin, head coach Penn State: I know that Franklin is moving down the hot boards at places like LSU and USC thanks to his 7-4 record this season and loss to unranked Illinois.
But at the same time, he'd appeal to Florida for one very obvious reason: Where Mullen seemed disinterested in recruiting, Franklin understands its the lifeblood of any football program and takes it as serious as any coach in the country. He also has had success in the SEC, winning nine games in back-to-back seasons at Vanderbilt.
Yes, this season hasn't gone well, but I do think the combination of multiple 10 win seasons at Penn State, his recruiting prowess and previous success in the SEC would be something Florida could sell to its fan-base.
Billy Napier, head coach Louisiana: The biggest winner in all this coaching frenzy and chaos is Billy Napier. The Louisiana head coach has been awfully picky with where he'll interview - let alone leave Louisiana for - but with multiple high-upside SEC jobs opening this cycle, it seems as though he'll end up with one of them.
What would Napier bring to Florida? Another former Nick Saban assistant who's program is run on discipline and accountability, something that seemingly lacked under the kind of weird and aloof Mullen. He is also a killer recruiter for the Group of Five level, and has had a ton of success. With Saturday's win over Liberty, the Rajun Cajuns are now 10-1, and on a 10-game win streak dating back to their loss at Texas to open the season. It's their third straight 10 win season, in four under Napier.
The only other thing worth noting here, is that reports are out that Napier truly covets the LSU job and has essentially told LSU AD Scott Woodward he won't be making any move until LSU makes their decision.
But if Florida comes in strong, would he have any other choice but to take it?
Bill O'Brien, offensive coordinator Alabama: So I think the interest in O'Brien in these coaching hot boards is a lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak. I don't think the interest in him is as much as many in the media (likely hearing from his agent) would want you to believe.
At the same time, there are so many jobs opening up at this point and not enough candidates to fill them. And to O'Brien's credit, he is known for his high-powered offenses (something that's almost a requirement to coach at Florida) and has experience rebuilding in a not-so-easy spot at Penn State in the post Jerry Sandusky era. Plus for all the criticism of his time in the NFL, he made the playoffs four times in his final five full seasons. He may have been awful as a GM, but he was a pretty decent head coach.
Again, he isn't the sexiest hire, but with all these jobs open, he's going to jump to one at some point.
Bob Stoops, former Oklahoma head coach: For the under 25 crowd, a quick history lesson - Stoops was Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator during the Gators great run in the early to mid 1990's and seriously considered taking the job when Spurrier left for the NFL back in the early 2000's before deciding to stay at Oklahoma.
So on the one hand it makes sense, and if there is ever a job he'd return to coaching for, this honestly feels like the most logical one.
The big question - does he want to get back into coaching? He's now five years removed and is 61-years-old. On the one hand, Nick Saban is 70 and still going strong. On the other, Stoops got out of coaching because he was tired of the grind, and it's not any easier in the transfer portal/one-time transfer/NIL era.
Again though, if there was any job he'd seriously consider taking this seems like it'd be the one.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres
Follow Aaron on Facebook here