I was sad to see the news on Sunday that Florida is moving on from Will Muschamp as their head coach. It was inevitable, yes, but still sad because Muschamp is a very good coach. I'm not sure why he had such trouble in Gainesville, but I don't think he'll be out of work very long.
The Florida job is one of the best in the country. Not only is there talent already on the roster (a sentiment echoed on Monday by Muschamp himself), but the pool of great high school players from which to recruit is so deep in the state that talent will never be an issue. Short of maybe Nick Saban, I think the Gators should be able to hire anyone they want.
Here are eight coaches, in no particular order, I would call if I was in charge of this hire:
» Dan Mullen, Mississippi State head coach
The connection here is an obvious one: Before taking the Bulldogs' job, Mullen was Urban Meyer's OC at Florida and his QB coach at Utah, coaching both Tim Tebow and Alex Smith along the way. Now he has Dak Prescott, who many have compared to Tebow but who I think is a much better NFL prospect. There's no doubt Mullen knows how to develop quarterbacks. He's also a great recruiter; Mississippi State has a lot of talent on that roster, one of the reasons I had them in my preseason top 25 when many did not. Buyout: $1.4 million.
» Adam Gase, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator
When the Cleveland Browns were looking for their last head coach, I thought Gase would have been a good fit. I think he's an even better fit for the college game, though. If I were a athletic director, I would love for Gase to run my program. He has the traits needed to make the transition from the NFL to college, including an innate ability to relate to young players. I also think he'd have an immediate impact on recruiting and would give Florida State a run for almost every in-state prospect. Some have dismissed his role with the Broncos' offense, saying Peyton Manning is the real OC in Denver. That's far from the case; Gase is highly involved. Calling in plays from the sideline, he has amazing mental quickness that makes the Denver offense move with such great rhythm.
» Dan Quinn, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator
Like Mullen, Quinn has a direct connection to Florida; he was the Gators' DC in 2011 and 2012 after defensive line stints with the 49ers, Dolphins, Jets and Seahawks. He left Gainesville to replace Gus Bradley as Seattle's DC. Last year under his guidance, the Seahawks' defense led the NFL in fewest points allowed and yards, as well as takeaways. If a college team like Florida doesn't make the call to Quinn, those in the NFL with an opening this offseason certainly will. Pete Carroll loves the guy, and no one knows the college and NFL games better than Pete.
» Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator
Smart and Saban have been connected at the hip for some time now, so much so that many see Smart as Saban's eventual successor at Alabama. He certainly knows the SEC well, having coached at Georgia, LSU and Alabama. He also has coached in the state of Florida -- spending two seasons on the Seminoles' staff. He's well compensated, too; 18 months ago he was given a three-year extension, making him the highest-paid DC in college football at $1.35 million per season.
» Jim McElwain, Colorado State head coach
What McElwain has done at Colorado State is worth a call alone. The Rams, ranked 20th in the latest CFB 24/7 Top 25 Power Rankings, are 9-1 this season, with their only loss coming in Week 2 at Boise State. Like Kirby, McElwain has coached under Saban at Alabama (he was the Tide's OC from 2008 to 2011). While money won't be an issue at Florida, it's worth noting that McElwain has a hefty $7.5 million buyout clause in his contract.
» Lincoln Riley, East Carolina offensive coordinator
Riley is only 31 years old, but he's one of the great, young offensive minds in college football. He's a protege of Mike Leach, having played and coached under Leach at Texas Tech for nearly 10 years. No surprise then that he runs an up-tempo, spread offense at East Carolina that has put up huge numbers in his five seasons with the Pirates. Might still be a little young for this job, but worth some consideration.
» David Cutcliffe, Duke head coach
When Virginia Tech "upset" Duke on Saturday, it said a lot about the state of the Duke program under Cutcliffe. One year after getting to the ACC title game vs. Florida State, the Blue Devils are hoping for another shot at the defending champs, and some would give them a fighting chance if they get in the game. Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job since arriving at Duke in 2008 and taking over a program that had lost 33 of its last 35 games. The former Ole Miss head coach and Tennessee assistant knows the SEC very well. He also is Peyton and Eli Manning's offseason quarterbacks coach. Not many people can say that.
» Mack Brown, former Texas head coach
I'll admit this up front: Mack is a personal friend of mine. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that he's a heck of a coach who got enough talent to come to Texas to win a national title. George Wynn, Florida's director of football operations, is familiar with Mack; he was the Longhorns' assistant AD for football ops for six years. Mack is currently serving as a college football analyst for ESPN.