Jeremy Foley hasn’t leaked any information to anyone regarding the Florida coaching search yet, but Foley has always said he keeps a list of coaches handy for just such moments as these when he’s got to find a new head coach for the Gators. After 36 hours of hearing all the rumors bounce off the walls and countless text messages from folks who have a friend who knows somebody and more than a few boosters who believe they have sources, here are ten coaches – eight college and two NFL – who might actually show up on Foley’s short list in the next two or three weeks.
1. Bob Stoops: He said he’s only interested in Oklahoma. He’s always said he’s only interested in Oklahoma. He’s also come close to becoming the head coach at Florida at least twice. He makes $5.2 million and is the winningest coach in Oklahoma’s storied history with a national championship under his belt. He’s got great facilities and boosters who will give him whatever he wants. He is friends with Foley and even though he disavows interest in being the head coach anywhere but Oklahoma, he will listen when Foley calls. If Foley offers him Nick Saban money, you have to think he would come and his wife would gladly pack up the truck and head for Gainesville.
2. MIKE GUNDY: There are a lot of folks hearing that Gundy is moving on up the list. That’s not confirmed, but it wouldn’t be surprising. Gundy is close with Larry Fedora and Joe Wickline so there is a bit of a Gator connection. Fedora was his offensive coordinator and from 2005-13, Wickline was his offensive line coach. He runs a wide open offense that is consistently explosive. If there is a drawback, it’s on the defensive side. Match him with the right defensive coordinator and he would be dynamic at Florida.
3. Brian Kelly: This is another one who is getting a lot of talk. He would be a far better fit at Florida than he is at Notre Dame because he would have no problems whatsoever recruiting the kind of speed at Florida that would turn his offense lethal and make his defense top drawer every year. What I have been hearing all day – and this is not from any official source – is that he would love to talk to Florida because he’s grown weary of life in the Notre Dame fishbowl. In his favor – he’s only 53 years old yet he’s won 215 games as a head coach with two Division II national titles.
4. TODD GRAHAM: Friends on the west coast tell me that Graham would crawl backward to Gainesville if given a chance to coach the Gators. He fits the profile of the ideal Florida coach in that he runs a dynamic offense. Yet, his background is on the defensive side of the ball. He could come to Florida and own the state. If he stays at Arizona State, he’ll always be looking up at Southern Cal, UCLA and Oregon. Florida can pay him a lot more than the $2.75 million he’s making at Arizona State. His coordinators at Tulsa and ASU have been Gus Malzahn, Chad Morris and Mike Norvell.
5. Mark Helfrich: I’m not sure if what I’m hearing is wishful thinking or if there is genuine interest but his name kept popping up today every time I talked to someone Tuesday. He comes from the same coaching tree of Jim Sochor that produced Mike Belloti, Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins and Chris Peterson. He coached for Koetter at Boise State and Arizona State, for Hawkins at Colorado and under Chip Kelly at Oregon. There’s all that Nike money at Oregon but they only pay him $1.8 million and he will always be living in Chip Kelly’s shadow. Those are the reasons I’m hearing he would love to entertain a call from Jeremy Foley.
6. Pat Fitzgerald: His record is 59-52 but it’s at Northwestern, which is as tough academically as Duke or Stanford. He’s been to five bowl games in nine years and even though he’s a defensive guy (College Football Hall of Fame linebacker; 2-time winner of the Nagurski and Bednarik awards), his offenses have been dynamic. I am not sure he would be a first call guy, but he would be an outstanding fallback. He fits the academic profile and he’s put together outstanding offensive teams. His problem isn’t coaching. It’s getting guys in school. He’s 40 years old and there are folks who say he’s ready to see if the grass is actually greener on the other side of the hill.
7. Mark Hudspeth: This is another one who I don’t think will be on the A list, but he will be prominent on the B list. He has worked his way up through the small college ranks as a head coach at North Alabama before working for Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. If Mullen were to leave, he would get the first call to come back to Starkvegas. He’s had three straight 9-win seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette and is 7-3 this season. This in spite of having to play paycheck games. He runs a spread offense that depends on dual threat quarterbacks. They’re upgrading the stadium to seat 40,000 in Lafayette but he only makes $825,000.
8. Doc Holliday: I’m not sure if there is real interest here or if people are simply making the recruiting connection with Foley. Everybody knows how intensely Foley follows recruiting and Doc is a legend, particularly in South Florida, where he needs no introduction to get into any front door. Marshall is undefeated and runs an offense that is averaging 567 yards and 47 points a game. His quarterback the last four years is Miami Central alum Rakeem Cato, who has thrown for 117 touchdowns and more than 13,000 yards.
1. CHIP KELLY: Everybody keeps talking about him but two things concern me. The Eagles are tied for the lead in the NFC East and he was under a show cause from the NCAA for 18 months. I’m more concerned about the show cause since Florida has never had a major violation in any sport since Jeremy Foley has been the athletic director. Still, people who know Kelly well tell me he (a) loves the idea of coaching at Florida and (b) Foley is enamored with the idea that he would be the head coach.
2. Josh McDaniels: His name keeps coming up, but even though he drafted and coached Tim Tebow with the Denver Broncos, he hasn’t coached college football since he was a GA for Nick Saban at Michigan State. There is no doubt he runs a seriously dynamic offense, however, and you have to think recruits would flock to play for a 38-year-old whose offenses set records with Tom Brady pulling the trigger.
College: QB at Oklahoma State, 1986-89
Assistant coach under: Pat Jones (Oklahoma State); Bob Simmons (Oklahoma State); Chuck Reedy (Baylor); Ron Vanderlinden (Maryland); Les Miles (Oklahoma State)
Head coach at: Oklahoma State (82-43)
Oklahoma State salary: $3.75 million
Contract runs through: 2019
Buyout: $3 million
Why he would stay at OSU: His football roots are firmly entrenched at OSU. He was a 4-year starter at QB during the 80s and led the Cowboys to a 20-4 record his final two seasons. He’s been an assistant coach at the school under three different head coaches. As long as T. Boone Pickens is alive, Gundy has one of the most powerful and wealthy benefactors in all of college sports on his side. T. Boone has given Oklahoma State more than $400 million, of which $265 million has gone to athletics.
Why he would leave OSU: You have to really love Stillwater to stay there. It isn’t the end of the world, but it’s only 15 minutes away and there are signs that you can follow to get there. When it comes to recruiting, Gundy has to go after three stars with potential that he can develop. At a place like Florida, he could pull in the four and five star skill people with no problem whatsoever. He lured coaching talent such as Larry Fedora and Dana Holgorsen to Stillwater to run his offenses. At Florida he could have his pick of coordinators. If he leaves it won’t be about the money but about the chance to do something that’s not impossible but extraordinarily difficult at OSU.
The stats tell the story: Since 2008, the Cowboys have only had two seasons when they didn’t average at least 39 points per game. He’s had five running backs who have gained at least 1,200 yards in a season since 2008. He’s produced receivers such as Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon and two quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 4,500 yards. This is the first time since 2005 the Cowboys have given up more than 16 sacks in a season and that has everything to do with Joe Wickline leaving for Texas as the offensive coordinator.
By knocking off then #1 Mississippi State last week in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (9-1) took over as the #1 team in the latest College Football Playoff Poll. Oregon and Florida State held on to the #2 and #3 positions while Mississippi State dropped down to #4, knocking TCU out of the playoffs if college football’s first final four began today.
While the Southeastern Conference commands two spots in the final four at this moment, it’s going to be increasingly hard to keep the champs of the Big 12 and Big Ten out if they keep winning. The committee doing the voting might find it very hard to justify a non-conference champ in the final four if the Big 12 and Big Ten champs match Mississippi State with only one loss.
If the playoff were held today:
(1) Alabama, 9-1: Home games remain with D1AA Western Carolina and #14 Auburn. With a win over Auburn, Bama plays in the SEC Championship Game.
Assessment: If the Auburn team that tanked against Georgia shows up, it’s a cakewalk into the SEC Championship Game. If the Auburn team that beat Ole Miss in Oxford shows up, Bama could get bounced from the playoff picture.
(2) Oregon, 9-1: Remaining are a homer vs. Colorado and a roadie with Oregon State. Oregon has already clinched the Pac-12 North and will play in the conference championship game.
Assessment: Winning the last two regular season games won’t be a problem. The Pac-12 Championship Game could be dicey. Arizona, UCLA, Southern Cal and Arizona State are in the hunt. Zona already has a win over the Ducks and both UCLA is vastly improved since losing 42-30 a month ago.
(3) Florida State, 10-0: There is a conference game remaining with Boston College and a season ending game with arch-rival Florida. The Seminoles have already clinched the ACC Atlantic Division and will play in the conference championship game.
Assessment: The Seminoles will be favored to win the next three games handily, but if they stumble and lose, they won’t make the playoff because the ACC is so weak.
(4) Mississippi State, 9-1: To reach the SEC Championship Game the Bulldogs have to beat Vanderbilt at home and #8 Ole Miss on the road.
Assessment: If Mississippi State wins the next two and finishes 11-1, will that be good enough for the committee to trump a Big 12 or Big Ten conference champ?
The next four:
(5) TCU, 9-1: How can TCU be ranked ahead of Baylor, which won the head-to-head battle, especially since the Horned Frogs had to rally to beat Kansas? It might be moot if they can’t beat Texas in Austin Thanksgiving night.
(6) Ohio State, 9-1: The Buckeyes are as hot as anyone in the country right now. They should win their final regular season games (Indiana and Michigan) in blowout style and the Big Ten Championship Game. If they’re 12-1, the committee might find it difficult to take a non-conference champ Mississippi State in the final four over Ohio State.
(7) Baylor, 8-1: If the Bears beat Okie State, Texas Tech and #12 K-State they should at least leapfrog TCU. If they don’t score impressive wins they might need help to get to the Final Four.
(8) Ole Miss, 8-2: The Rebels have a roadie to Arkansas and the Egg Bowl with Mississippi State. It’s highly unlikely they get in with two losses so their consolation might be spoiling the season for Mississippi State.
The rest of the top 25:
(9) UCLA, 8-2; (10) Georgia, 8-2; (11) Michigan State, 8-2; (12) Kansas State, 7-2; (13) Arizona State, 8-2; (14) Auburn, 7-3; (15) Arizona, 8-2; (16) Wisconsin, 8-2; (17) Utah, 7-3; (18) Georgia Tech, 9-2; (20) Missouri, 8-2; (21) Oklahoma, (7-3); (22) Clemson, (7-3); (23) Nebraska (8-2); (24) Louisville, 7-3; (25) Minnesota, 7-3.
Should Alabama be the #1 ranked team in the College Football Playoff Poll or does Oregon or unbeaten Florida State deserve the top spot?
Joan Osborne has this very throaty voice that was made for Motown music. I started following her when she toured with the Funk Brothers, the band that played for all the Motown artists when the label dominated the rhythm and blues industry. She’s at her best doing her interpretations of someone else’s music. This is a version of Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” performed in 2004 at the Montreal Jazz Festival with the Funk Brothers accompanying.