After Charlie Strong was officially hired as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, the Florida Gators took a month to replace him with former Miami Dolphins inside linebackers coach George Edwards. Now, after less than a month on the job, Edwards has left to be defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills leaving head coach Urban Meyer and, more specifically, interim head coach Steve Addazio with another staff position to fill. Assistant head coach, defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney and assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater are currently the Gators’ leading replacement candidates, though the team may hire someone from the outside.
Check out some potential candidates to replace Edwards after the jump!
Co-defensive coordinator, secondary coach
A 33-year coaching veteran, Heater has worked with Meyer at four different programs including the Ohio State Buckeyes, Colorado State Rams and Utah Utes. He has worked with six National Coaches of the Year (Barry Alvarez, Earle Bruce, Lou Holtz, Meyer, Bill McCartney, Bo Schembechler) and coached in 22 bowl games including six on New Year’s Day and two BCS National Championship games. Heater, 57, was the Gators’ recruiting coordinator in 2006 and 2007 for two of the team’s best recruiting classes to date. His cornerback units helped Florida lead the SEC in interceptions with 16 (2005, T-Georgia) and 21 (2006), respectively.
Assistant head coach, defense/defensive line coach
A 32-year coaching veteran, McCarney remains the longest tenured head coach in Big 12 history, leading the Iowa State Cyclones to five bowl games from 1995-2006. He was named Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2004 and was responsible for the rebirth of Iowa State’s defense, which ranked among the Big 12 leaders in total defense in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. Prior to his tenure with the Cyclones, McCarney, 56, was the Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator. In 1993, his defense ranked 19th nationally against the run and allowed only 16.3 points per game. Wisconsin recorded a nation’s-best 23 interceptions as well as 34 turnovers that season.
Assistant head coach, defensive coordinator – Ole Miss Rebels
Considered one of the top up-and-coming defensive coordinators in the game, Nix is a 14-year coaching veteran who also played three years of linebacker at Southern Mississippi. At 37, he has already created a defense that led the SEC in tackles for loss in each of the last two seasons (tied for nation’s lead in 2008). His unit led the conference in sacks in 2008 and finished second in 2009. Prior to joining Ole Miss, Nix was a defensive assistant at his alma mater from 1995-2000, its defensive coordinator from 2001-04 and South Carolina’s defensive coordinator from 2005-07. After three years leading Ole Miss’ defense, Nix was promoted to assistant head coach by Houston Nutt in January 2010.
Co-defensive coordinator, secondary coach – Clemson Tigers
Hired as Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach in December 2008 by head coach Dabo Swinney, Harbison has 25 years of coaching experience (11 of which were in the SEC) under his belt. A defensive backs coach on two SEC Championship teams (Alabama in 1999 and LSU in 2001), Harbison most recently held that position with Mississippi State in 2007 before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008. There are no known connections between Harbison and Meyer or Addazio.
Added Feb. 10.
Defensive backs coach – Arizona Cardinals
Coaching since 1991, Austin has experience on both the collegiate and professional levels. Tutored by names like Joe Paterno, Dick MacPherson, Lloyd Carr, Mike Holmgren and Ken Whisenhunt after playing four years of college football at Pittsburgh from 1984-87, the 44-year-old has yet to hold a defensive coordinator position at either level. Both of his stops in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, reached the Super Bowl while he was leading their respective defensive back units.
Added Feb. 9.
Defensive coordinator, secondary coach – North Carolina Tar Heels
With experience both in the NFL and college ranks, Withers has been coaching professionally for 20 years with eight years as a defensive coordinator. He has coached under Mack Brown with Texas, Jeff Fisher with the Tennessee Titans and most recently Butch Davis with North Carolina, all of whom he considers strong influences. In 2008, his Tar Heel’s defense was eighth in the nation with 20 interceptions – the secondary is his specialty. During his time with Texas, he improved Brown’s secondary from 75th in the nation in pass defense in 1997 to first in 2000.
Defensive coordinator, linebackers coach – Utah Utes
The most inexperienced coach on this list, Sitake has only been coaching since 2001 and served as defensive coordinator for the first time this season for Utah. Previously the team’s linebackers coach for four seasons, Sitake was promoted after Gary Andersen resigned from his position. At only 33 years old, he is easily one of the youngest coordinators in Division I college football but has been playing a “significant role in Utah’s game planning and play calling,” according to his official bio. A former fullback at Brigham Young, Sitake joined the Utes when head coach Kyle Whittingham took over following Meyer’s departure.
Sitake’s name was added to the list on suggestion of GatorCountry.
Defensive coordinator – Kentucky Wildcats
After spending five years in the NFL coaching various positions with the St. Louis Rams from 1995-2000, Brown took three years off before returning to coach defensive backs at Kentucky in 2003. Brown, who played and coached 14 years in the pros and is both a former player and coach under head coach Rich Brooks, returned to coaching on Brooks’ request. A fan of an attacking and aggressive defense, Brown has significantly decreased the points and yardage allowed by the Wildcats the last three seasons since taking over as defensive coordinator.
Brown’s name was added to the list on suggestion of Yahoo! Sports’ Tom Dienhart.