Ryan Young/SEC Country
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin has an important decision to make, but plenty of coaching candidates from which to choose.

While opinions on right hire vary, Florida’s options encouraging for future

Ryan Young

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After two unsuccessful coaching hires trying to get Florida football back to prominence, fans are understandably nervous about this latest coaching search.

As enticing as UCF’s Scott Frost’s offensive track record is, some remain leery of hiring another coach from a smaller conference.

That said, everybody has an opinion on which direction Florida should go, be it Chip Kelly, Justin Fuente, Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong and, yes, even Lane Kiffin.

That’s the fun part of this coaching search, and leads to the latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day.

Matthew K. asks … “(Is there a) better pool of coaches this time around than when Mac came on board?”

It seems that way.

It’s hard to see 2014 Jim McElwain standing out among the current crop of coaching candidates. He was a third-year coach at Colorado State who had pulled off his first 10-win season and had the added background of being a successful offensive coordinator at Alabama, so there were credentials.

But while his strength was as an offensive coach, his teams never put up numbers close to Frost’s UCF team or Mike Norvell’s Memphis program.

Meanwhile, the other coaches Florida was linked to before deciding on McElwain included former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth and Arizona State coach Todd Graham.

Well, Freeze had an embarrassing exit from Ole Miss before this season, Rodriguez’s early success at Arizona has cooled off, and Hudspeth and Graham have yet to top six wins in any of the last three years while Hudspeth’s program also ran afoul of the NCAA.

Flash forward three years, and while nobody knows how any of the current coaching candidates would fare in Gainesville, athletic director Scott Stricklin has no shortage of attractive options.

Frost turning a winless UCF team into an 8-0 squad with the highest-scoring offense in the country in two years is a greater success story than any of those names being considered a few years ago. Fuente’s work at both Memphis and now Virginia Tech leaves little doubt he can build and elevate a program. Young coaches like Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (albeit with a steep buyout) and Norvell look like legitimate up-and-comers. Kelly may have lost shine during his time in the NFL (and from the show cause penalty from the NCAA that followed his departure from Oregon), but nobody boasts the college football resume he does.

And on down the list.

Everybody has their own opinions on how Stricklin should and will hire, and that’s because there are many appealing options to choose from as he goes through this process.

Florida fans should feel confident, more so than three years ago, that the Gators will end up with a dynamic hire.

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