After a couple of weeks of speculation about whose name is still in the hat and whose name has either been withdrawn from consideration or never was a passing thought in the first place, here’s what we know about the Florida coach search: Jeremy Foley has a pretty good idea and just about everyone else is guessing. Since it’s all guesswork, here are six names and what we know about them:
1. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: Apparently there has been some sort of contact, most likely through his agent, Jimmy Sexton, who seems to be the agent for all the important coaches in the southeast. There have been reports of a job offer, but that seems unlikely since Ole Miss had a game to play last week. An offer this week is quite possible if Freeze is interested. Ole Miss is reported to have a long term package ready that will elevate Freeze to about $4.5 million and add another million to the salary pool for his assistants.
2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Stoops disclaimed interest and there were reports that you could strike his name off the list but (a) he’s still got the condo at Crescent; (b) prefers warm weather and (c) has a wife who loves and adores being in Florida. If he’s ever going to leave Oklahoma it will be now. With Stoops, it’s not over until it’s over.
3. Jim Mora, UCLA: Even though he’s beaten Southern Cal three straight years, it will be back to being USC’s little brother if and when Steve Sarkisian ever gets the Trojans back on track. At Florida he could own the state if he could get the Gators back in the championship hunt.
4. Jon Gruden: Some pretty reliable people are saying he and Foley met last week. Was it to discuss Gruden returning to coaching or was it to throw some names out there to get Gruden’s reaction? Gruden would bring a wow factor to the job that maybe no one else could.
5. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: He’s another one who supposedly has been eliminated but now that he’s in the Pac-12 Championship Game he’s a hot commodity. Nebraska wants him and he would be the perfect fit there. He recruited Florida well when he was at West Virginia. He could own the state with that offense.
6. Jim McElwain, Colorado State: The $7.5 million buyout has been considered a stumbling block. Pat Forde, whose sources are usually extraordinary, says McElwain has emerged as a leading candidate. It would make sense. He knows what it takes to win in the SEC since he was the OC at Alabama for three national championships. And with young quarterbacks who need developing, it might make sense to bring in a guy whose quarterbacks have operated at a very high level of efficiency wherever he’s been.
Gus Malzahn fired Ellis Johnson Sunday, which came as no surprise the way the Auburn defense performed in its last four SEC games. Just four years ago, Johnson’s defense at South Carolina ranked third nationally but he never got things done at Auburn. According to several insiders at Auburn, Malzahn’s first priority is to bring Will Muschamp back to the place where he cut his Division I coaching roots as a graduate assistant for Terry Bowden.
Johnson was being paid $800,000 at Auburn and that won’t be enough for Auburn to land Muschamp. Texas A&M is going to set the standard and all indications are the Aggies will offer Muschamp and/or Clemson DC Brent Venables $1.5 million a year. Apparently this is a first dog that barks gets the bone situation so whoever says yes first will get the job. There is no shortage of money at Auburn, so $1.5 million won’t be too deep for the pockets.
Expectations are that Muschamp will be interviewed by Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. Although he hasn’t canned DC Lorenzo Ward yet, that’s supposedly just a matter of time and opportunity. With Johnson fired by Auburn, there is the possibility that Spurrier would bring back his former DC, pay the $800,000 that Auburn was paying him, and leave Muschamp to figure out if he’s going to Auburn or the Aggies.
1. ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1 SEC): So much for that notion that Lane Kiffin would be a bad fit at Alabama. Bama had serious issues with the defense this year. Kiffin’s offense. Bama averages 489.3 yards per game and Blake Sims was turned into an All-SEC caliber quarterback.
2. Mississippi State (10-2, 6-2 SEC): The Bulldogs will look to the two losses and think woulda, coulda, shoulda. They need to turn their focus to Dan Mullen and figure out what they need to do to keep him. Michigan and Nebraska have him on the short list. So will LSU if Les Miles leaves.
3. OLE MISS (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Hugh Freeze is a hot commodity. Can (a) Ole Miss pay him enough to stay and (b) does he even want to stay when he can go somewhere that recruiting will be so much easier?
4. Missouri (10-2, 7-1 SEC): Gary Pinkel and Nick Saban must hold the Guinness Book of World Records mark for most Division I football wins by college roommates. Pinkel has won the SEC East two straight years. The boy can coach.
5. Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC): Of the four big rivalry games on Georgia’s schedule, the Bulldogs lost to three of them (South Carolina, Florida and Georgia Tech). Has anyone ever won fewer championships with more talent than Mark Richt?
6. AUBURN (8-4, 4-4 SEC): Does Gus Malzahn bring in Will Muschamp to (a) come up with a defensive scheme that might work, (b) bring Travaris Robinson with him to recruit lights out players and (c) bring in Brad Lawing to coach the D-linemen? If that happens, Auburn is going to be formidable next year.
7. LSU (8-4, 5-3 SEC): The Tigers will be loaded next year. Will Les Miles be coaching them or will he answer the call of Mama and head north to Michigan? And if Les leaves, does Dan Mullen head to Baton Rouge?
8. Arkansas (6-6, 2-6 SEC): The Razorbacks are going bowling and they’ve got plenty of pieces to the puzzle already solved for next year. Nobody is going to want to play these guys next season.
9. Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4 SEC): Kevin Sumlin fired his defensive coordinator, which is a step in the right direction. Rumor has it that he’s prepared to offer Will Muschamp or Brent Venables $1.5 million a year to right that ship.
10. FLORIDA (6-5, 4-4 SEC): The Gators should have finished no worse than 9-2 this season but they gave three games away. Whoever coaches Florida next year has to stop the agonizing trend of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
11. Tennessee (6-6, 3-5 SEC): The Vols are going bowling in Butch Jones’ second year on the job. The faithful are convinced they’ll be a contender next year.
12. SOUTH CAROLINA (6-6, 3-5 SEC): If Steve Spurrier doesn’t replace defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward then next year will be like Groundhog Day, the same old thing happening over and over again. Muschamp and Ellis Johnson are available.
13. Kentucky (5-7, 2-6 SEC): The Wildcats are the SEC version of spring. They came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.
1. NEBRASKA FIRES Bo Pelini: The Cornhuskers are 9-3 and 67-27 since he took the job. That’s even better than Dr. Tom Osborne did in his first seven years. Ah, but Dr. Tom delivered three national championships. Of course, he was on the job for 21 years before he ever won one. Oregon OC Scott Frost and Dan Mullen will be on the Nebraska wish list. Bo will have to figure where to spend the $7.5 million he’s owed.
2. BRADY HOKE STILL HAS A JOB: Bo Pelini won nine games and was fired by Nebraska. Brady Hoke went 5-7 at Michigan and he still has a job. What’s wrong with this equation?
5. Tim Beckman SAVED HIS JOB: By doing the improbable and beating Penn State and Northwestern on consecutive weeks, Illinois won’t be coach searching. Tim Beckman has the Illini bowling after a 6-6 regular season. That got Ron Zook fired. The folks at Illinois have to face the fact that this is a 6-6 or 7-5 type of program that can occasionally have a really nice season.
6. SMU HIRES CHAD MORRIS: Supposedly they were close to a deal, then they weren’t. Well, they got close again and sealed the deal Sunday.
7. CHAIN REACTION: If Les Miles were to go to Michigan this could happen – Dan Mullen to LSU, Mark Hudspeth (Louisiana-Lafayette) to Mississippi State. Miles and his AD reportedly don’t get along and there is plenty of speculation that if Mama calls, he’s on his way to Ann Arbor.
8. WILD CARD: At some point you’re going to hear the name Willie Fritz mentioned prominently for some bigger job. He went 9-3 at Georgia Southern and won the Sun Belt Conference in the Eagles’ first year in Division I. He’s 146-65 as a head coach and has shown he can adapt an offense to any situation or athletes.
The in crowd:
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: If the vote were today, he would win by acclimation but the vote won’t take place until after the Pac-12 Championship Game. He had a bad game against Arizona the first time. If he lays an egg against Zona and Melvin Gordon comes up big against Ohio State, Mariota could come up short. His numbers against Oregon State were 367 passing yards and four touchdowns to go with 39 rushing and two more TDs. For the season the numbers are spectacular: 3,470 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and only two picks; 636 rushing yards and 11 more touchdowns.
2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: If Gordon comes up spectacular against Ohio State in the Big 12 Championship Game and Mariota comes up short against Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Gordon could win. He had 151 yards, one rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the win over Minnesota. His season totals are 2,260 rushing yards and 26 TDs as well as three receiving touchdowns.
3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: His performance against Auburn – 13 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns – won’t win him the Heisman but it will get him on the podium. If it didn’t seal the Biletnikoff then there is something wrong with the people in Tallahassee who hand out that award. His season numbers are ridiculous: 103 catches, 1,573 yards and 14 touchdowns.
4. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Before he broke his ankle and was done for the season, Barrett passed for 176 yards and one touchdown plus ran for 89 and two more in the Buckeyes win over Michigan. His season totals are 2,834 yards passing for 34 touchdowns, 938 yards rushing for 11 more TDs.
5. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: In the two games he had to perform well, Prescott came up short, the most recent against Ole Miss. He gets on the podium in New York but that’s about it. Against Ole Miss he threw for 282 yards and a touchdown and ran for one, but could never make the plays necessary to sustain drives. For the season, Prescott has thrown for 2,996 yards and 24 touchdowns and he has run for 939 and 13 more.
The out crowd:
(1) Alabama; (2) Florida State; (3) Oregon; (4) TCU; (5) Baylor; (6) Ohio State; (7) Michigan State; (8) Arizona; (9) Kansas State; (10) Mississippi State; (11) Wisconsin; (12) Georgia Tech; (13) Ole Miss; (14) Missouri; (15) Georgia; (16) UCLA; (17) Arizona State; (18) Oklahoma; (19) Clemson; (20) Auburn; (21) Louisville; (22) Boise State; (23) LSU; (24) Utah; (25) Nebraska.
(1) Florida State; (2) Alabama; (3) Oregon; (4) Ohio State; (5) Baylor; (6) TCU; (7) Mississippi State; (8) Arizona; (9) Kansas State; (10) Ole Miss; (11) Georgia Tech; (12) Missouri; (13) Wisconsin; (14) Michigan State; (15) Georgia; (16) UCLA; (17) Auburn; (18) Clemson; (19) Oklahoma; (20) LSU; (21) Arizona State; (22) Louisville; (23) Boise State; (24) Nebraska; (25) Southern Cal.
If Foley were to hire Jon Gruden, do you think it would translate into instant success on the recruiting trail?
Beginning with the first time I saw him fronting for The Steve Miller band and singing “Living in the USA” I’ve been following Boz Scaggs, who continues to make new records and tour at age 70. He has only announced three tour dates for 2015, all of them in April in Florida: Sarasota (April 9), Fort Lauderdale (April 13); West Palm Beach (April 15). This is “Drowning in the Sea of Love” from his collaboration with Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and others with the New York Rock and Soul Revue, which toured in the 1990s.