On Sunday, Florida coach Will Muschamp pulled the plug on offensive coordinator Brent Pease after two years. (Somewhere, Jared Lorenzen is chuckling an “I told you so.”) Injuries or no, Pease’s offenses in Gainesville finished 10th (2012) and 14th (2013) in SEC scoring. With Muschamp spared for a year, someone had to go and Pease — along with O-line coach Tim Davis — was a sacrificial lamb.
Rumors suggest Muschamp won’t rush this all-important hire. If he makes a mistake or hires a guy with a system that will take a couple of years to fully implement, Muschamp could join Pease in the ex-Gator coaches club. No wonder he intends to take all of December, if necessary, to chat up the best candidates in the country… many of whom will be coaching their teams in bowl games this month.
So who’s on Florida’s list of possibilities? Here’s an alphabetical look-see:
Blake Anderson — North Carolina’s offensive coordinator has had his name attached to the Florida position, but he has no real ties to Muschamp.
Kerwin Bell — The head coach at the University of Jacksonville, Bell was interviewed by Muschamp after Charlie Weis departed two years ago. That was then, this is now. Would Muschamp feel secure enough to hire an ex-Gator quarterback who might replace him if UF’s offense looks good during an otherwise bad 2014 season? For what it’s worth, one report has already nixed Bell from the list of candidates.
Neil Callaway — The offensive line coach at Western Kentucky is expected to be Muschamp’s top choice to replace Davis as O-line coach. But Callaway has been a head coach at UAB and an offensive coordinator at Alabama and Georgia in the SEC.
Dave Christensen — A former Gary Pinkel protege who just lost the head coaching job at Wyoming last weekend.
Dameyune Craig — Auburn’s offensive coordinator worked with Muschamp at two different spots, but he’s an AU grad and the Tigers are currently rolling. Coaches are mercenaries, but this one seems far-fetched.
Derek Dooley — The ex-Tennessee coach worked with Muschamp under Nick Saban. He’s currently coaching receivers in the NFL, but his friendship/familiarity with Muschamp might make this a real possibility (as hard as that is to believe). On the other hand, Dooley has never been an offensive coordinator.
Clay Helton — He’s Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator and the Trojans’ interim coach for their bowl game. Helton’s father played and coached at Florida.
Lane Kiffin — Another former Tennessee head coach, Kiffin is looking for work after losing the Southern Cal job. Don’t forget that Kiffin once accused then-Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating. Hard to see him getting the nod, especially after his offense struggled this season.
Mike Mularkey — The former Florida player has been an NFL man since 1994.
Kurt Roper — David Cutcliffe’s right-hand man at Duke, Roper has SEC experience.
Muschamp has reportedly also reached out to Noel Mazzone, UCLA’s O-coordinator, only to be rebuffed. He could also promote from within and tab receivers coach Joker Phillips or running backs coach Brian White as offensive coordinator. Both men have done that job before and both would provide Muschamp with a known commodity.
Our best bet? Muschamp needs to hire someone he’s familiar with and someone with a proven resume of running quality offenses. He also needs to find someone who’ll be willing to take what could be a one-and-done job if next year’s Gators flop. That suggests Christensen (out of work), Helton (depending on his relationship with new USC coach Steve Sarkisian), and Kiffin (unlikely, but he was once hailed as an offensive whiz kid — as well as just plain ‘ol offensive).
Without a doubt, this one will be the most important hire of Muschamp’s young head coaching career.