A few candidates the Florida Gators should (and shouldn't) consider as next football coach
Florida became the third marquee college football job to open this season when the Gators fired Dan Mullen amid his fourth season on Sunday. The Gators join LSU and Southern Cal with openings considered to be among the top-15 jobs in college football.
Other Power Five jobs available include Washington, Washington State, Virginia Tech and TCU.
Suffice it to say that this year's coaching carousel will offer an even wilder ride than usual.
On this edition of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams each pitch three candidates for their cohost to evaluate for the Gators.
Toppmeyer's candidates for Florida:
Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss)
Toppmeyer's pitch: Get the image of a young, immature Tennessee Vols coach who took shots at Urban Meyer's recruiting tactics out of your mind. Kiffin has matured and proven himself a winner. He's a bright offensive mind, which suits Florida well. Plus, he laid groundwork in Florida by leading Florida Atlantic to two Conference USA titles in three seasons. Now in his second season at Ole Miss, the Rebels are positioned for a New Year's Six bowl selection.
Adams' response: Kiffin is the perfect fit for Florida. He'd be the second coming of Steve Spurrier.
Billy Napier (Louisiana)
Toppmeyer's pitch: Louisiana had little in the way of program pedigree before Napier's arrival. He's been a godsend for UL. The Ragin' Cajuns are headed to the Sun Belt Championship game for the fourth time in Napier's four-year tenure. Plus, he gained experience working the big-time circuit as a former assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama and Dabo Swinney at Clemson.
Adams' response: Not a terrible candidate. Not great, either. I'd feel more comfortable with Napier if I saw him prove himself as a Power Five head coach first.
Mario Cristobal (Oregon)
Toppmeyer's pitch: Although Oregon hasn't regained the level it achieved under Chip Kelly, Cristobal has the Ducks headed in the right direction. Oregon won the Rose Bowl to cap the 2019 season and is in contention for another Rose Bowl bid. Cristobal, the former Florida International coach, gained SEC experience working for Saban at Alabama. Plus, he directly addresses one of Mullen's shortcomings: recruiting. Oregon's 2021 recruiting class was the top-ranked class in program history.
Adams' response: Did you not see Oregon's 38-7 loss to Utah on Saturday? I'd rather have Mullen back.
Adams' candidates for Florida Gators:
Urban Meyer (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Adams' pitch: Meyer's stint in the NFL is going nowhere fast, but few have proven themselves more adept at the college level. Florida should offer Meyer a lifeline out of the NFL.
Toppmeyer's response: You're not serious, right? This is the stuff of fantasy land. Anyway, we know how this would end: After a few good seasons, Meyer's tenure would jump the rails, and he'd resign, citing a desire to spend more time with family and a wish to focus on his health.
James Franklin (Penn State)
Adams' pitch: If you can lead Vanderbilt to three straight bowl games, including a pair of nine-win seasons, you can flourish at Florida. Franklin is a proven winner, and he'd recruit, too.
Toppmeyer's response: Not a home-run hire, but a decent hire. Look at Franklin throughout the course of his career rather than just through the lens of Penn State's 11-9 record the past two seasons, and his résumé is pretty sturdy. He shouldn't be Florida's top candidate, but it's not wrong to have Franklin on the list.
Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma)
Adams' pitch: Asked about LSU's opening last week, Riley didn't exactly shoot down the idea of changing jobs. Riley's brand of offense would go over well in Florida. Plus, Oklahoma fans seem to be getting restless as they wait for their first national championship since the 2000 season. Might be time for a fresh start for Riley.
Toppmeyer's response: All right, this is more realistic than Meyer, at least, although I have a hard time seeing Florida pulling Riley from Oklahoma. But the Sooners are headed to the SEC in 2025, and it's worth trying to convince Riley to join the party early. He'd bring a fun brand of offense that Florida fans would relish. If Florida can hire Riley, do it today.
Later in the episode
- Adams offers his appreciation for the Egg Bowl, which will renew Thursday with heightened stakes, and he shares a few stories of covering the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State when he was a columnist for the Clarion Ledger. Toppmeyer says that, in hindsight, Ole Miss fans should be thankful for Elijah Moore's stupid penalty that had a hand in the 2019 Egg Bowl outcome and cost Matt Luke his job. Without that penalty, Kiffin might not be coaching Ole Miss today.
- Toppmeyer shares the story of how Bryce Young's visit to a Tuscaloosa Walmart during his freshman year taught the Alabama quarterback the meaning of the Iron Bowl.
- Despite Florida's job coming open, Adams still ranks LSU's opening as the best available job. His top three, in order: LSU, Florida and USC.
Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. If you enjoy their coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. You can also subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered. They also host a podcast focused on Tennessee football, The Volunteer State.