The Silver Lining for Thursday, November 20: Gators coaching search candidates, mailbag

By Adam Silverstein
November 20, 2014

Florida Gators coaching search

Ah, a coaching search. So much fun. Such little stress. Not taxing whatsoever on my time, energy or sleep patterns, which are already way too out-of-whack. The simple fact is that this will likely be a long and tedious search and no one will experience that as much first-hand as athletic director Jeremy Foley, who not only has to go through the entire process but is also tasked with making the all-important decision.

As this process unfolds, you are going to see such a wide variety of lists and reports posted by different media outlets that your head may spin. My hope with the candidate list that OnlyGators.com posted on Sunday was that you would understand it to be a pros-and-cons breakdown of some of the most talked-about names for the job that also provided you with a comprehensive list of names that could fit what the Gators are looking for in their next coach.


Many of the names on that list were ones I was asked about immediately via Twitter or email – What do you think about XYZ? – while others were coaches I thought were legitimate and interesting candidates for the job. I purposely did not even put some names on there – Steve Addazio, Kerwin Bell, Butch Davis, Jon Gruden, Tim Tebow – because I gave you all the benefit of the doubt that you did not think they were actual candidates for the job. Thank you for proving me right on that.

So here we are, five days after the announcement of Will Muschamp’s dismissal, and seemingly all I am being asked is who I actually believe are the legitimate candidates. I’ll tell you, because the truth is that it’s not all that hard to eliminate names.

Before I get into that quick list, let me lay down one rule for you about this hire: believe Foley. On Monday, Foley said he is looking for a “high-integrity, high-character” individual who meets the mantra “championship experience with integrity.” He has no plans to deal with someone who has committed NCAA violations, broken the law or is not considered trustworthy by his peers. These issues made up many of the cons in the initial breakdown.

Foley also wants someone who has a “track record of success on the offensive side of the ball,” though the coach need not have an offensive background himself. Foley was not blowing smoke; he means what he said.

So based on those criteria, here is a list of six coaches (some of which are commonly mentioned, others not) who I believe are legitimate options for this job, in no particular order: Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Gary Patterson (TCU), Jim McElwain (Colorado State), Jim Mora Jr. (UCLA), Mark Hudspeth (UL-Lafayette), Justin Fuente (Memphis).

Return of the OGGOA Mailbag

Years ago, when OnlyGators.com was still in its infancy, we ran an OGGOA Mailbag that took some of the top questions you asked via email and provided answers to them.

Though the questions have been fast and furious since Sunday, when Muschamp was officially dismissed by Foley, a couple of interesting ones happened to come in on Tuesday and Wednesday via Twitter. Therefore, let’s open up the old OGGOA Mailbag and answer them one-by-one.

@mmajosh: do you think there is any chance any of the coordinators stay on board when Boom leaves?

While there is certainly a chance that Kurt Roper and/or D.J. Durkin remain with Florida in their current roles, it is unlikely. In fact, the only Gators coordinator (offensive or defensive) who has kept his job between head coaches in consecutive seasons since 1960 (I did not have the motivation to keep checking past then) is Charlie Strong, and he is not only a special talent but was also forced to share the defensive coordinator role with Greg Mattison. When you consider that Roper has deep ties with a variety of coaches and Durkin was for the most part running Muschamp’s defense, it is unlikely that either remain. (Durkin has some strong ties of his own, by the way, and I’ve always contended that he would be an interesting choice for head coach of a MAC school.)

That being said, the next Florida coach would be smart to retain some assistants, such as defensive backs coach and star recruiter Travaris Robinson, defensive line coach Brad Lawing, current wide receivers coach Chris Leak (if he’s moved to a quarterback coach role) and running backs coach Brian White (a versatile stalwart who has been with the Gators for six seasons). Durkin was at his best as a special teams coach, so if he would accept a “demotion,” that would be a no-brainer.

@BrunoSahara: could any one missed recruit or asst coach have changed muschamp’s fate? If so, which one(s)?

The way things played out, it is hard to pinpoint one player or hire that could have made that much of a difference for Muschamp, especially when Florida missed on so many players and Muschamp hired so many assistants. Consider that many of the Gators’ top targets at running back and wideout over the last few years are thriving elsewhere (including at Florida State) – I’d run down the list, but you’d probably get queasy. Then realize that Muschamp has gone through three offensive coordinators, four wide receivers coaches and three offensive line coaches in four years. That’s insane.

Now, that being said, had Muschamp never hired Charlie Weis as his first offensive coordinator, perhaps his fate would have been different. If Muschamp had hit on the right offensive coordinator his first go-around and found offensive success during his first season or two, the recruits would have come, there would have been less turnover with assistants and players would have gotten comfortable learning a single system for a few years. But barring the hindsight to go back and change Muschamp’s biggest hire, no other assistant or individual recruit would have made that much difference. Plus, while Muschamp may never have called the plays on offense, he absolutely dictated Florida’s style of play. And putting out a conservative offense when you need to go out and win a game is something that only works some of the time.

@ScottLerner: IF we do make it to a Bowl who do you think will coach?

First, barring an unforeseen collapse, Florida should run through Eastern Kentucky on Saturday and become bowl-eligible with six wins. (And for those of you who have asked whether UF would petition to play in a bowl game with just five wins should it lose to EKU on Saturday, the answer is absolutely not. The Gators will fail to sell all of their tickets for whatever bowl they make as-is and owe said bowl plenty of money for the unsold allotment; the last thing Florida would do is beg to put itself in that situation because of a cancelled game.)

Now onto the question at hand. I could see it going a few ways. As the second-longest-tenured member of the staff, Durkin will probably get the chance (five years with the program), though the Gators will likely need someone giving 100 percent effort to defense with Muschamp not there. The same goes for Roper with Florida needing 100 percent concentration on the offensive side of the ball. It is definitely possible that Lawing – the team’s assistant head coach – gets the chance. In the end though, I’d guess that it goes to Durkin.

@iketaylor: Is it possible that the current staff prepares for the bowl game while the new staff recruits like Urban did at OSU?

Well, the current staff will absolutely be preparing for the bowl game, but whether Florida’s next hire will have a staff of his own in place to begin recruiting that early is another story. You must also remember that Ohio State’s hire of Meyer was unique because he was out of coaching, so he had no other responsibilities and was able to immediately go to work recruiting for the Buckeyes.

Chances are that whoever the Gators hire will be the head coach of another program; while it is not uncommon for a coach to leave his team before a bowl game (and Florida, I’m sure, would ask that he do just that), if that coach wishes to bring his assistants along (or add some from other programs), it is not likely he could just pull them all out of their contracted jobs.

Not Only Gators: Dumb and Dumber To

While not nearly as laugh-out-loud hysterical as the original, Dumb and Dumber To is definitely a must-see if you enjoyed the adventures of Lloyd and Harry some 20 years ago. The guys are older, some of the jokes are a bit tamer, and the story is actually somewhat weak compared to the original. Nevertheless, there are plenty of callbacks and gags to make this film well worth a watch. Plus, when Harry sees Kathleen Turner and says, “Excuse me, sir,” I almost fell out of my seat laughing.

You certainly do not need to run to the theater as this will play just fine at home – though a full theater for a comedy like this does naturally make it funnier – but you will absolutely have a hankering for the original by the time you’re done. Simply put, I look forward to Dumb and Dumber For in 2034.

This Week’s Movie Trailer

American Sniper:

The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…

Worst high-end purchases ($100+) I’ve made:
1. Sega Saturn
2. Nike FuelBand (original)
3. Every extended warranty ever (for a product)
4. My high school ring (college ring would have been much smarter)
5. My current couch

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.

28 Comments

  1. bdown15 says:

    More excited to see American Sniper than the coaching search! Great work Adam, always on point with all that is Orange and Blue…richrod….

  2. Frank says:

    Adam- Think Unbroken rolls out Christmas Day also. Great story. Hope movie does it justice. Coaching-wise, I’m intrigued with Hudspeth. Seems like a players coach and definitely gets his boys ready to play. Thanks again for your hard work and solid writing. Might want consider changing Snell’s Slant to Snell’s Rant after all his dropped F-bomb tweets last Saturday 😉

    • Yeah, I saw him going off.

      • Frank says:

        Hey- Just noticed UL and Hudspeth likely to play in New Orleans Bowl on Dec 20…Foley’s soft deadline is Dec 25…Hmmm

        • Gatoralum88 says:

          So, I did a google search on Mark Hudspeth to learn more about him. Great resume! Then, while reading other posts about him the sentence “Dude’s wife wants to be a man!” caught my eye. Tyla Hudspeth is a female bodybuilder (google image search her)…Yikes!…not someone to mess with…yet, as Seinfeld would say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

          • senuod says:

            It’s not everyone’s “cup of tea”….but I have a great appreciation for ANYONE who takes great care of their body and wants to be as physically capable as possible. It’s a great feeling.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          I don’t think the search is going to take that long, I think it will be quite swift, maybe even before the SEC championship game and as soon as the season ends. I certainly think it will be before a single bowl is played. Of course, I have no idea, but I believe while he needs to make a great decision, Foley also understands he needs to move as swiftly as possible for recruiting purposes.

  3. Adam says:

    Good stuff, Adam, thanks as always. Curious why you think there hasn’t been much if any discussion of D’Antoni (Mich St) or Gary Anderson (Wisconsin). Anderson doesn’t have a long recruiting track record at Wisconsin but he pulled a couple of 4 star guys from Jax and Georgia without a whole lot to sell, and he was in it til the end for a few others. He won the WAC, and his teams show a good handle on both sides of the ball.

  4. Michael J. says:

    I disagree with the premise of keeping any of the assistant coaches. Muschamp was not alone in creating a situation at UF where he was fired. All of the coaches will, and should be, fired. None of them has done that great a job. There has not been a coach that hasn’t had great success recruiting at UF. Even Mr. Charisma, Galen Hall, did very well recruiting. There’s not one guy on the present staff that not expendable or could be replaced with someone that, in a year or two, would do just as well, or better, on the recruiting front than the present staff. You don’t get a halfway divorce, the same goes with firing a coach. Him, and his staff, have to hit the road. Now it may be the case that the new coach has worked with someone on the present staff before and thinks they fit in with what he wants to do, if so great. But other than that, I’d rather not have any of this “transition” crap. The reason For a new coach is because the old regime was a failure, that includes everyone. Charilie Strong knew he had to make changes, and it was painful at first. He got rid of everybody, including players, because he knew he had to start from the ground up to change the losing culture at Texas. You can already see some tangible results from his rebuilding project with the team he puts on the field. I think people that want to keep this or that coach are like those who complain about the “bums” in Washington. They’re all “bums” except for their guy, for some reason he or she is o.k. I say if your going to clean house, you don’t leave anything that made it dirty. That’s true of this present staff, they helped make UF a mediocre team. It’s time for all of them to hit the road.

    • That’s pretty short-sighted, bud. There are a bunch of good assistants on the team. And I even left out Mike Summers. Assistants don’t set the tone and make the decisions – Muschamp did and he got fired.

      • Michael J. says:

        If Summers has done such a wonderful job, why couldn’t UF run on South Carolina? Everyone else has. I disagree with you, no one on the staff has done anything to warrant their retention. Their only hope is that they have a previous relationship with the incoming coach. They understand this and are busy with their resumes as they speak Summers and Roper don’t feel the same urgency, they got guaranteed contracts for taking the risk of coming to Florida with a head coach on the hot seat. Like Muschamp, they’ll get paid regardless if they get a new job immediately. The others aren’t in that boat, along with game planning for the last two games they are worried about getting a new gig. I don’t think you have ever been in the military, the captain is responsible overall, but the men under him are accountable too. You seem to think the assistants are blameless, that is not true.

  5. Daniel M. says:

    That’s one damn comfy looking couch. I”m in the sofa market and I swear I looked at that exact model. Rut-roe! What’s so bad about it? Did it quickly go from new feeling to frumpy? Wimpy cushions? I need to know these things.

  6. Brandon says:

    I’m hearing Mike Shanahan is the early leading candidate to be the next head coach at UF.

  7. Mike the Red says:

    What about Holliday and Strong?

    • senuod says:

      I highly doubt Strong would leave Texas, even though I’m sure the UF fan community would welcome him back with WIDE open arms.

      I like the idea of Holliday coming back, especially with the success he’s had at Marshall and the connections he seems to have in Florida (i.e. recrutiting). Not sure that he fits all of Foley’s criteria though.

  8. gatorboi352 says:

    Ah yes. The Sega Saturn. Should have gone with the PlayStation or N64 there, man.

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