Florida Head Coaching Hot Board: 1.0
With Florida on the hunt for a new head coach following Sunday's dismissal of Dan Mullen, who finished his four-year tenure with a record of 34-15, Gators Territory dives in to break down our first head coaching hot board.
Louisiana HC Billy Napier
It's not much of a surprise considering Napier has been linked to a flurry of high-profile jobs in recent years, but some reliable people close to the program told me it's someone UF will definitely take a look at.
Louisiana, which is currently a top-25 program, checks in with a 10-1 record this season, with its lone loss coming against Texas in the season opener. He has a 31-5 record over the last three seasons with 11-3 and 10-1 records in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Napier, 42, is a former assistant under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney and continues to rise up big boards across the map. This is a hot name among the UF fan base as well; however, there will certainly be competition here. Napier's name is linked to jobs at the likes of LSU, USC and Virginia Tech as well.
Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin
Although a report states that Kiffin covets the University of Miami job, there is no doubt he would take a serious look at the Gators as well.
Kiffin is one of the best offensive minds in college football and has led the 10th-ranked Rebels to a 9-2 season. He has also done an incredible job of developing former Gators commit Matt Corral, a projected first-round pick in April's NFL Draft.
Returning to the Sunshine State, I believe Kiffin would make a splash on the recruiting trail as well. Many believe he does not enjoy that part of being a college football coach, but it does not mean he does not excel there. He is consistently in the running for high-level recruits, and there is no doubt he would raise that bar as the head coach of the Gators.
While Kiffin would likely assemble an impressive coaching staff, I believe he would need to hire a top-notch defensive coordinator to match, or come close to, the expectations on the offensive side of the ball.
Oregon HC Mario Cristobal
Oregon is fresh off a crushing performance at the hands of Utah, losing 38-7, but that should not completely wipe Cristobal's name off coaching big boards.
The Ducks entered Saturday's game as a top-five program and currently hold a 9-2 record. It's likely they will receive another chance at the Utes in the Pac-12 Championship as well, so the Ducks are performing on the field with a 34-12 record since Cristobal arrived in Eugene.
Well, the Ducks are recruiting better than Florida as well.
According to Rivals, Oregon currently has the No. 8 recruiting class, finished with the No. 3 class during the 2021 cycle, and then logged the No. 9 class in 2020 and No. 7 class in 2019. Considering Cristobal's strong ties in his home state of Florida, there is no reason not to believe that he wouldn't attract top-notch talent to Gainesville, especially early on.
Cristobal belongs on this list.
Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell
A former nose tackle at Ohio State, Fickell is a Midwest native who has strong ties in that area of the country. Taking over for programs such as Ohio State or Notre Dame would be a dream scenario, but those jobs will not be available anytime soon. If Fickell does relocate to a Power Five program this offseason, there will likely be a huge change of scenery due to the jobs currently out there.
The Bearcats are currently undefeated at 11-0 and check in with the nation's third-ranked football program. They cracked the top five during the first week of October following a 23-13 victory in South Bend, cementing Fickell's Bearcats as a legitimate threat when matched up with top-tier competition.
Since arriving in Cincinnati prior to the 2017 season, Fickell has posted a record of 46-14. He is 2-1 in bowl appearances and has earned AAC Coach of the Year honors on multiple occasions.
Switching over to the recruiting trail, the Bearcats currently hold the No. 26 recruiting class on Rivals. They finished 39th during the 2020 and 2021 cycles as well. He also proved to be an effective recruiter during his time in Columbus, so he has plenty of experience recruiting prospects at a national level.
Michigan State HC Mel Tucker
Michigan State is reportedly set to offer Tucker a life-changing contract extension of 10 years, but since that deal is not finalized, I'm including him on this list.
Despite being blown out by Ohio State, the Spartans are still 9-2 on the season and a top-10 program. Tucker is the first coach in Michigan State history to defeat Michigan in each of his first two seasons, while Wake Forest running back transfer, Kenneth Walker III, has transformed into a Heisman Trophy candidate under Tucker's guidance as well.
In addition to receiving a contract extension that included nearly $100 million, I'm not sure if Tucker is itching to making another switch. Florida is definitely a step up in the coaching world, but Tucker received a lot of criticism after publicly committing to Colorado's program before leaving for East Lansing roughly a week later.
Landing Tucker would be huge for the Gators, but all bets are on him staying put at Michigan State. I don't blame him either.
Former Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops (Retired)
The numbers from Stoops' time in Norman speak for themselves. He racked up a record of 190–48 over 18 seasons and led the Sooners to the 2000 BCS National Championship, closing the book on a 13-0 season. He also won 10 conference titles, so the accolades are there.
However, a number of high-profile jobs have been available since Stoops retired in 2017 and he never pounced on any of them. He currently serves as an analyst on Fox Sports as well, so it's safe to say life is well and certainly less stressful behind the desk.
Stoops' name will continue to be linked to job openings, but it's difficult envisioning him leaving his current situation.
Iowa State HC Matt Campbell
While 2021 has been a disappointment after kicking off the season at No. 9, Matt Campbell has still brought life back to Iowa State's program, explaining why he has been linked to high-profile college jobs and even ones in the NFL.
The Cyclones check in with a 6-4 record, including 4-4 in the Big 12, but they are also set to make their fifth-straight postseason appearance. He has a record of 41-33 in Ames and went 35-15 while at Toledo. He has a 4-3 record in bowl games as well.
Iowa State is also a difficult place to recruit. The Cyclones prioritize the Sunshine State year in and year out, so there is familiarity with the recruiting landscape. They currently hold the No. 21 recruiting class on Rivals, with six of their 19 commits hailing from the state of Florida.
Many believe Campbell, a native of Ohio, prefers to stay in the Midwest, but unless James Franklin departs Penn State, I do not see any high-profile jobs becoming available. If he does stay put at Iowa State, his chances at winning the Big 12 become even greater over the next several years once Oklahoma and Texas head to the SEC.
If the Gators were to take a serious look at Campbell, it would likely be after missing out on several top targets. He is worth including on this list though.