Earlier today, I revealed the beginning of my list of coaches I would like to replace Muschamp. Here are numbers 15 through 11. And keep in mind that these are guys I think would be the best fit, not necessarily who Foley is going after.
15) Gary Patterson
Current job: TCU Horned Frogs
Current age: 54
Overview: Patterson has been wildly successful at TCU regardless of what conference they’ve played in. He did share a 4-8 record with Will Muschamp last year, but this year he has TCU squarely in the race for the national championship. He’s defensive minded coach, which isn’t going to sit great among Gator fans initially, but that defense has his Horned Frogs atop the Big 12 conference right now.
Pros: He’s been at TCU for 15 years. If he comes to Florida, we can rest assured that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He’s also relatively young, so that helps even more. And his long tenure at TCU has shown that he is good at selecting assistant coaches. Finally, recruiting would be a snap for him. With all the religious restrictions TCU has on recruiting football players, he does a fantastic job pulling in top classes. That’s not to say he won’t continue to be a heavy disciplinarian like Muschamp, but it’s just easier to recruit at Florida than it is at TCU by several light years. Oh, and his overall win loss record at TCU will make you giggle with glee if we can can get him (129-45).
Cons: There’s only one, but it jumps out at you- he has no SEC experience. None. And that is a serious problem, even though Urban Meyer didn’t either. But Meyer countered that with a new type of explosive offense that nobody had seen before. Patterson doesn’t have any tricks up his sleeve. He’s just a good football coach with good defenses. That may work in the SEC, and it may not. The question mark is certainly cause for a second thought before making an offer.
Chance he takes the job: 47%. I really have no idea if Patterson would take the job. He keeps his lip buttoned about this kind of thing. That said, if he were to leave TCU, I think Florida would be the type of program he’d leave for. Prestigious, high profile, and easy to recruit.
Overall Grade: 85%. Patterson would be a fine hire on the surface. Are there questions about how he would do in the SEC? Absolutely. But given his gaudy track record of winning games at TCU, including in the Big 12, you wouldn’t get a word of complaint out of me if he was the next hire.
14) Kliff Kingsbury
Current job: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Current age: 35
Overview: What we have in Kingsbury is an extremely young, extremely sharp offensive mind. He is Kevin Sumlin’s star pupil, his top disciple. He was he one who called the shots for Case Keenum, and for Johnny Manziel in 2012. He also has three valuable years of NFL playing experience as a QB at his disposal. Combine those and you get the ideal man to tutor Treon Harris and turn him into a star. Now in his second year at Texas Tech, if the Gators can grab him now, I don’t think he’d leave for a long, long time.
Pros: He is one of the premier offensive minds in the country. I have no doubt he would instantly turn the Gators’ offense into a successful one. He has Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel on his resume of talented QB’s he has developed, and with some hands on work with the talented Treon Harris, I’m excited to see what he can do. He’s also very good at recruiting the talent to be able to develop in the first place. Offensive players in high school would jump at the chance to play for Kingsbury.
Cons: You can’t ignore it. His defenses at TTU have been abysmal. If he comes to Florida, the first thing he’s going to have to do is find a stout defensive coordinator, and then get the hell out of the way. With Kingsbury in full command of the offense, and a sharp defensive mind in full control of the defense, this team will be OK. But the lack of a defensive presence accompanying him wherever he’s gone (both as a head coach and defensive coordinator… which I admit really isn’t his fault) is a concern, just like it is with Kevin Sumlin (spoiler alert, he’s on this list too).
Chances he takes the job: 41%. There’s a somewhat reasonable chance he takes the job, even though he’s a Texas Tech alum. The ability to come to Gainesville, where he would start off with a ferocious defense, has to intrigue him at least to an extent. Bottom line, though, is I don’t know. What the hell, it’s worth the phone call to find out.
Overall Grade: 90%. If Kingsbury would grab a top defensive coordinator and let him be a sort of co-head coach, I’d be jumping for joy at this hire. He has had a tremendous amount of success for a young coach, though, and if you want to try another experiment, you’re much better off going with an offensive minded guy. Make no mistake, his offenses at Texas Tech have not been his problem.
13) James Franklin
Current job: Penn State Nittany Lions
Current age: 42
Overview: Franklin is an interesting candidate. He has a short yet extremely impressive resume of building offenses and developing talented players (Jordan Matthews, Jordan Rodgers). Exceeding expectations at Vanderbilt and now Penn State has to have Jeremy Foley at least thinking about about him. Overachievers are exactly what he’s looking for. Part of that is his cocky swagger, which is a double edged sword. I have to think it will help him at Florida more than it would hurt him, though.
Pros: Franklin had success at Vanderbilt. That’s about all you need to know about him. He took the perennial cellar dweller of the SEC and turned them into a 9-4 team in back to back seasons. Now he’s having success at a Penn State program that’s going to be haunted by the Jerry Sandusky scandal for years to come in recruiting (and it doesn’t matter if that’s a bullshit reason to not go there, the fact is that high school kids are impressionable, and with so many schools to choose from, some will be looking for reasons to write a school off). There’s nothing of the sort that would hinder him at Florida. Recruiting in the Sunshine State would be a breeze for him. And his offenses would be more than respectable. Guaranteed.
Cons: He has an attitude about him that would piss off the boosters, and he’s a bit stubborn, like Muschamp. He might have an initial problem getting acclimated to life at a place like Florida, where expectations are sky high. Then again, his stubbornness hasn’t really cost him anything like it has Muschamp, so saying that’s going to be a problem is mere speculation.
Chance he takes the job: 50%. There’s no way of knowing, so I’m going to cop out and say it’s 50/50. He often hides what he’s thinking, and I can’t really say how happy he is at Penn State. Then again, recruiting would be so much easier at Florida than it is at Penn State, and I still think he hates Tennessee. And yes, his brash and unapologetic mind seems to work in a way that might make the thought of continuing to pound the Vols a real reason to ditch Penn State for Florida. On the flip side, he grew up right outside of Happy Valley, so this may be his dream job.
Overall Grade: 88% Franklin would be the equivalent of the Patriots taking Tom Brady in the sixth round. It has the upside to be the steal of the century in terms of head coaches. He’s also very young, so he could stay awhile. And his cocky attitude would be universally embraced by Gator fans as long as he wins. The only reason he’s not higher is because he might be so emotionally attached to PSU that it would be a total waste of time trying to get him.
12) Todd Graham
Current job: Arizona State Sun Devils
Current age: 49
Overview: Yes, there is a coach currently working for an Arizona school that I’d be excited to have as our next head coach. But he doesn’t coach in Tucson; he coaches in Tempe. And damn well. Graham has an impressive established head coaching record, from Rice to Tulsa to Pitt to Arizona State. Until last night, his Sun Devils were very much in the mix for a national championship. Even without a national title, though, Graham has built a semi-powerhouse in Tempe.
Pros: an established head coaching career that has spanned four FBS schools and the fact that he does better and better with each job he gets makes him very appealing. Arizona State was nothing before he got there, but now they are on the brink of winning 10 games in back to back seasons. To even get them into the national championship picture is an accomplishment. And while he may not be the best recruiter on this list- ASU never cracked the top 20- he’s still a very, very good one. At a place like Florida, it would be a little easier for him, anyway.
Cons: Just like Patterson, his lack of experience in the SEC is certainly something that will make Foley think twice. After all, that’s pretty much the only reason he hired Muschamp. He’s also a defensive minded coach, like Muschamp and Ron Zook. And those two things concern me a little bit, which is why he’s as low as he is.
Chances he takes the job: 45%. I put him slightly under a coin flip because he’s happy at Arizona State. But he’s also on his fourth head coaching job in less than a decade, too, which means he’s prone to happy feet. It’d be very interesting to see how it plays out. I think if Foley made the right pitch and made it sound like he really wanted him, he’d think about it, and after long deliberation, he’d pack his bags and go.
Overall grade: 89%. I’d be happy with Graham because I think he’d be a long term solution. There’s really nowhere higher up he could possibly go. Any job he would leave Florida to take would be considered a lateral move. And I do think he’d have success at Florida after an initial period of lumps that every first year SEC head coach not named Kevin Sumlin suffers through. I’d take him as my next coach any day.
11) Mark Hudspeth
Current Job: Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns
Current age: 45
Overview: Hudspeth may actually be the next best realistic long term option behind Gundy. I give the nod to Hudspeth in terms of calling him before Strong because I think he’s substantially more likely to take the job. Hudspeth has quietly been one of the most successful coaches at the non Power Five conference level in the country. Following a successful run at North Alabama, he posted 9-4 records in each of his first three seasons at ULL, and his Cajuns are 4-3 this year. Not only that, but his teams are capable of scoring at will. His Cajuns failed to score 30 points in just 15 games in his three and a half years at ULL.
Pros: Hudspeth has hit the ceiling at ULL. There’s only so much talent he can recruit and so much he can do with it. But in terms of doing the best he can with what he has- which is really the best measure of a coach- he’s done a phenomenal job. ULL is now a consistent Sun Belt title contender, winning 9 games in each of his first three seasons. You want perspective? ULL had only won 9 games once in their 40 year history before Hudspeth got there. And with no ceiling at Florida, well… (voice trails off; imagine the conclusion of the sentence. Imagine something exciting). And he knows the SEC very well (he was Dan Mullen’s receivers coach at Mississippi State in 2009 and 2010).
Cons: Hudspeth has never coached at the highest level. And aside from those two years at MSU and one year as Navy’s offensive coordinator, he hasn’t even been an assistant at the FBS level. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but it’s why he’s as low as he is on this list. (Of course, lots of guys ahead of him are not as likely to take the job as he is, either).
Chances he takes the job: 50%. Make it another even 50/50 call with Hudspeth. He definitely won’t retire at ULL, but he may be waiting for the perfect job to open up. Jeremy Foley doesn’t like to wait any longer than he absolutely has to. That said, if Foley makes the call soon enough and offers him the job before Christmas, I think he takes it. Face it, ULL will never be able to compete for a national title, though they may be able to scare the shit out of some teams (like Florida). But scaring a team is not the same as beating them, and New Orleans Bowl trophies are not what Hudspeth wants to be remembered for.
Overall Grade: 86%. It’s the most important thing to note about Hudspeth, so I’ll repeat it a third time: he has done all he can do with ULL. It’s time for Hudspeth to compete with the big boys. He’s passed every test at the sub power five conference level.