Three candidates stand out early

Insanity has been categorized as repeating the same action over and over while expecting a different result.

For the three years this has been the Gators’ offense.

There have been two and soon to be three offensive coordinators with the only constant being Will Muschamp. Muschamp came to Florida in a move that was heralded at the time. Jeremy Foley felt as if he had outwitted and outsmarted people in being able to hire the former head coach in waiting at Texas but the results haven’t been what anyone expected after three seasons.

Maybe the offensive insanity is about to come to an end in Gainesville as Muschamp has hinted that a change to his offensive philosophy may be necessary moving forward.

“We need to take a look at ourselves schematically with what we’re doing,” Muschamp said. “There have been some things that have happened that are very difficult to overcome, but schematically, there’s no question we need to take a look at ourselves.”

Muschamp boldly stated in his introductory press conference that Florida would run a pro style offense. The offense has been anything but professional the past three seasons, finishing no higher than 104th best in the nation and were ranked an abysmal 114th in 2013. The lack of offensive firepower finally wore on the defense according to sophomore defensive lineman Jon Bullard.

“I think everybody started looking at the scoreboard as a collective group and saying “Dang, the offense is just three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out.”

Bullard continued, “Give us 21 a game. If they can do that, then I would put the blame on us if they score 21 points or over. Hopefully change for the better, because what we’re doing right now just ain’t working.”

That change is coming. The decision to get rid of Brent Pease and Tim Davis gives Muschamp a blank canvas to work with heading into 2014. There are coaching candidates throughout the country that would jump at the opportunity to add the University of Florida to their résumé; the only question now is which direction will the head ball coach go?


Three Early Favorites

Lane Kiffin

We’ll go ahead and get this hot name out there.

Kiffin and Muschamp share an agent — Jimmy Sexton — and there is no question that Muschamp needs this offensive hire to be a homerun. Muschamp and Kiffin speak frequently and have so for about a year according to sources.

Kiffin has been considered to be an forward-thinking offensive mind and there isn’t a bigger name that Florida would be able to get to come draw up ball plays for the offense in 2014.

Hiring Kiffin would bring buzz to the program — positive and negative — after his very public and embarrassing departure from USC. Kiffin has experience in the SEC at Tennessee and could dominate recruiting.

Kiffin very famously or infamously took a shot at Florida in his first season at Tennessee, accusing Urban Meyer of recruiting violations, but coming off of a 4-8 season Florida can’t afford to hold a grudge if they believe that Kiffin could resurrect this stagnant offense.

Kiffin has run pro style offenses in the past but it doesn’t resemble the three yards and a cloud of Ambien offense that Florida has run under Muschamp.


Major Applewhite

There is an obvious Texas connection here but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Applewhite has a leg up. Muschamp and Applewhite both were on staff at Texas from 2008-2010. Muschamp has hired several coaches in his three seasons but only two of them had he coached with before and he fired one of them on Sunday.

Applewhite is currently the co-offensive coordinator at Texas but rumors are swirling that Mack Brown will retire at the end of the season. A new coaching staff would likely signal the end for Applewhite at Texas and he could jump at the opportunity to call play for Muschamp and the Gators.


Clay Helton

Helton is the current offensive coordinator and play-caller at USC. He took over the play calling when Kiffin was fired and has helped resurrect what looked to be a lost football team out in Los Angeles.

Helton’s father both played for and coached the Gators and when reached for comment said that he still keeps up with the team every week.

Helton’s name has been thrown around a lot in the early going of the coaching search but a few obstacles stand in the way. First, USC is looking for a new head coach. If USC can’t hit a home run it’s likely that they will keep interim head coach Ed Orgeron in place, which means Helton, will likely remain on staff.

Helton’s salary is another thing. He’s currently making approximately $850,000. While the cost of living in LA and Gainesville aren’t even in the same stratosphere — and no state income tax in Florida helps — it’s hard to see Florida making an offer close to what Helton is making at USC and it would be difficult to make a lateral move while taking a pay cut.

Just 24 hours after Florida officially announced that Pease and Davis had been let go there is also a name that has surfaced to replace Davis as the offensive line coach.

* * *

Sources have told Gator Country that Neil Callaway is a potential candidate to replace Davis. Callaway is currently the offensive line coach at Western Kentucky and when reached on Sunday afternoon for comment said he could not comment on the opening at Florida at that time.

Callaway started his career at Wyoming but has SEC experience at Auburn (1981-1992), Alabama (1997-2000) and Georgia (2001-2006) and was even an offensive coordinator at the latter two stops.

Rumors swirl and new names seemingly pop up every day. It’s the nature of coaching searches.

One thing is certain. Florida is doing damage control in recruiting following a 4-8 season and a coaching change. The Gators need to make a move quickly and get that coach up to speed on the recruiting class.

2014 season will be a make-or-break year for Muschamp and this hire will lay the foundation for what the team can and will be in his fourth season. Choose correctly and this Florida team could be playing in Atlanta this time next year. I know it sounds crazy after the season Florida just had but the two teams playing for an SEC crown this year were a combined 2-14 in conference a season ago. Florida has talent on the roster and with a little luck and health, could make a similar run in 2014.

However, if he choose incorrectly, he’ll likely be on the other side of a coaching search, looking for a job rather than handing one out.

This is a moment and a decision that will define the rest of Muschamp’s tenure and legacy at Florida.

Choose wisely, Coach.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC


    • Just what I’ve been told after hitting the phones yesterday. Was told a while ago that it wouldn’t be either. FWIW

  1. Helton, Kiffen, Applewhite…that’s my order of the three. I can’t even believe I’m not spewing vomit just mentioning Kiffin. And after watching what he did at SC, I can’t imagine why he’d be any good here. How long would he even be here? He’s kind of a mopey sour-puss. He did marry a Gator greats daughter-so, he’s go that going for him. I get the recruiting part…but as I’ve said before, there are a lot of schools that have no-name recruits that are coached-up really well and are kicking arse. We’ve been beat by some of them recently. Additionally, Muschamp said we need to take a look at ourselves…he didn’t actually say he needed to change. Change needs to happen like a 2×12 hitting him in the chops. For the alumni, the fans, the players and football in general; change is good- If you have the courage to implement it. Let’s hope the good Lord shines on the Gators again…I know he’s been busy and stuff.

  2. When the Pease firing story broke it said neither Petrino nor Bell would be pursued as replacements. I’m not saying Bell couldn’t handle the OC job here but why hasn’t he moved up the coaching ladder to a job requiring more ability than HC at a community junior college? There’s nothing wrong with him staying where he is if that’s what he wants. It seems like I’m missing something going on with him.

  3. There could not be two better candidates than Bell and Petrino. I really don’t think Florida wants to talk to Bell. I have no idea why, but Florida officeals are skirting the issue of Kerwin.

    Petrino would definitely move the football. He has everywhere he has coached. But I think Muschamp would not want him aroung because of job security. Here we go again with another hire that very few of the real fans will be excited about.