Candidates to Replace Urban Meyer

Yup, we did this last year.

Urban Meyer has resigned again, and given that it's lasted more than 24 hours already, it's likely to stick. Meyer told UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley over the weekend that he's stepping down again, and here we are on Wednesday with the announcement. That likely means that Foley has already gotten the wheels of the replacement search turning, knowing what I know about him.

Florida has flexibility with this hire. If Foley wants to stay with the spread option, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed are around to run it. If he wants to go away from it, John Brantley has another year of eligibility to tide things over. Plus, it's not like the pieces from Larry Fedora's 2004 offense fit Meyer's scheme all that well anyway.

So who are the candidates this time?

PRIME TARGETS

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State - This is the most obvious one, repeated by everyone who's made a list like this. Last year, I was a little concerned about Mullen's viability for the job as he had only been a head coach for one season. State's improvement over last year eases those concerns quite a bit. If Foley wants continuity, he'll find no one better for the job than Mullen.

As an added bonus, Mullen probably could destroy the talisman that prevents Florida from ever playing well in Starkville before he leaves town.

Chris Petersen, Boise State - Petersen's name gets thrown around for a lot of jobs and he's turned down plenty of them, but I don't believe he's been offered anything like the position at Florida. I wouldn't be surprised if now is the time he considers leaving Boise State too, what with Utah and TCU going to AQ conferences and BYU going independent. Boise's not getting into the Pac-10 any time soon, and the possibility of joining a MWC with an automatic bid has vaporized.

Petersen fits precisely the mold of the kind of coach that Foley looks for in every sport (as does Mullen). I have a feeling Mullen's higher on the list thanks to familiarity and continuity, but I really think Petersen's probably up there too.

THERE, BUT NOT AS PRIME

Charlie Strong, Louisville - Another obvious candidate, and he'd probably bring UL Offensive Coordinator Mike Sanford, who was Meyer's OC at Utah. He is another big play for continuity all around. With only one year of head coaching under his belt though, I don't think he's as high on the list as Mullen is. Plus, Strong is said to be extremely loyal to Louisville, the school that finally gave him his shot at being a head coach.

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas - Petrino was on the list last December, but things have changed. He's got Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, for one, and there's no reason to think he can't keep things going if he stays. He'd have to start the building process all over again in Gainesville, and maybe he's actually found a place to stick around.

PROBABLY NOT COMING

Kyle Wittingham, Utah - Wittingham, like Petersen, has turned down many a job offer before. Florida's in a different league than some of those, but he seems perfectly happy at Utah. Plus, that program is entering the Pac-10 next year, so he doesn't have to leave to get a major conference job. He's worked hard to keep Utah at the level Meyer got it to in order to make that Pac-10 move happen. I don't see him bailing on it right as that process pays off.

Gary Patterson, TCU - Basically just cut and paste the bit about Wittingham and put it here. TCU's not going to the Big East until 2012, but that's about the only difference. Plus, Foley hasn't generally hired defensive types in any sport.

Jim Harbaugh, Stanford - Everyone seems to think that Harbaugh will either go to Michigan or the NFL. In that light, going to Florida doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless he's just looking to get a pay raise until going to the pros. He could make it work if hired though, being an offensive mind who likes to shoot his mouth off. 

Mike Leach, Key West - Leach would come in a heartbeat if offered the job, don't get me wrong. However, I don't see Foley hiring a coach with baggage like Leach has. Even if he'd won all his lawsuits a month ago, I still doubt Leach would be a strong candidate for that reason.

Gus Malzahn, OC at Auburn - Things didn't work out so well the last time Foley hired someone with no head coaching experience. I don't put Malzahn and Ron Zook in the same league by any stretch of the imagination, but this is not a job for someone to learn how to be a head coach. Especially someone with only five years of college coaching experience, period.

FORGET IT

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma - Stoops has turned down Florida at least twice already, and there's no reason to think he'd change his mind now. Besides, which conference would you rather try to win a championship in: the SEC, or the newly watered down Big 12? I thought so.

Chip Kelly, Oregon - Call it the Les Miles corollary. A coach is not going to leave for another job while he's preparing for a national championship game. Besides, Kelly has no ties to the South that might entice him to leave, and Phil Knight can pay him whatever he wants.

Any NFL Type, Anywhere - Foley is no fool. He knows how bad the track record of NFL coaches coming to college is. He has no reason to take that kind of risk right now.

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