Dan Mullen, Scott Frost among top potential candidates for Gators job
UF parted ways with coach Jim McElwain on Sunday and immediately shifted its focus to searching for a new coach to lead the Gators.
It’s a highly competitive SEC job with administrators working to upgrade facilities, but the offense has struggled since the end of Tim Tebow’s tenure at quarterback.
Here’s a look at some of the potential UF job candidates:
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
The Buzz: The 45-year-old former Gators’ offensive coordinator is the safest choice — and arguably the most proven. Mullen is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks, including No. 1 pick Alex Smith, NFL Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow at UF. Mullen also is in his ninth season as a head coach in the SEC and familiar with the intense pressure from the Gators’ fan base — two qualities that cannot be overlooked in a candidate. Finally, Mullen has consistently lured talent to Starkville, a much harder sell to recruits than Gainesville. One big negative is a 2-17 record against Top 25 teams.
Scott Frost, UCF
The Buzz: It might be too soon for Frost, a second-year head coach, to make the leap to one of the SEC’s premier programs. But the 42-year-old is building an impressive résumé in short order as he leads a remarkable renaissance at UCF. Frost inherited an 0-12 program. Two years later, the Knights are 7-0 and and lead the nation in scoring, averaging 51 points. Coaching not even two hours down the road, the Nebraska alum in on the radar of Gator fans.
Chad Morris, SMU
The Buzz: The former Clemson offensive coordinator has engineered a quick turnaround during three seasons at SMU. The Mustangs are 6-2 and currently average 41.5 points. Morris is a native of Edgewood, Texas, and Texas A&M alum. The 48-year-old might wait to see how the season plays out in College Station. Coach Kevin Sumlin has been under fire since the end of last season but the Aggies are 5-3 after losing Saturday 35-14 to Mullen’s Mississippi State team.
Mike Norvell, Memphis
The Buzz: Norvell, 36, is the youngest on the list and one of the game’s up-and-coming coaches. A record-setting receiver at Central Arkansas and former offensive coordinator at Arizona State, Norvell has had quick success in his first head coaching gig. The Tigers are 7-1. During Norvell’s first year at Memphis, the Tigers won eight games, setting a record for number of wins by a first-year head coach at the school. His current team averages 42.5 points.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
The Buzz: Fuente paved the way for Norvell’s immediate success at Memphis. A longtime offensive coach who served as a co-coordinator three seasons at TCU (2009-2011), Fuente coached Memphis to its first 10-win season and was 19-6 during his final two years. He then opened his stint at Virginia Tech going 10-4 to earn ACC Coach of the Year honors. In the 41-year-old’s second season in Blacksburg the Hokies are 7-1, ranked 13th in the AP Top 25 and still in the College Football Playoff picture.
Mike Leach, Washington State
The Buzz: Leach is an offensive guru with an affinity for the Sunshine State and a home in Islamorada. But Leach, 56, also can be a bit too outspoken for the liking of administrators. Even so, there is little doubt he would generate tremendous excitement in Gator Nation. Washington State is 7-2 in his sixth season and averages 34 points.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
The Buzz: The 37-year-old is another of fast risers in the college game, but offers more experience than most of them. Campbell posted three nine-win seasons during four years at Toledo. In just two seasons at Iowa State, he has returned the Cyclones to the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2005. Long a Big 12 doormat, Iowa State has upset a pair of top-five teams – Oklahoma Oct. 7 and TCU on Saturday – during a three-week span. One issue: Campbell’s buyout is $9.4 million.
Dino Babers, Syracuse
The Buzz: Babers, 56, like McElwain is a late bloomer to the head coaching ranks. He is in his sixth season as a head coach and second at Syracuse, where the Orangemen at 4-4 and have beaten defending national champion Clemson and challenged unbeaten Miami this season. A native of Honolulu who grew up in San Diego, Babers has coached in pretty much every region of the U.S. and on both sides of the ball, but mostly on offense.
Charlie Strong, USF
The Buzz: Strong, 57, has had three successful stints as a Gators’ assistant and mixed success as a head coach. He was 37-15 at Louisville and led the Cardinals to a resounding 33-23 win against UF in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. But Strong was 16-21 at Texas, where he was fired after last season. USF quickly scooped up Strong due to his experience and impressive track record recruiting the Sunshine State. The Bulls responded with a 7-0 start before losing 28-24 to Houston on Saturday.
This article is reprinted by permission from