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Rumors already swirling around potential Meyer’s replacements

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It’s been a little more than three hours since Urban Meyer stunned the college football world — again — by stepping down as Florida’s head coach.  We’re still roughly an hour away from the press conference featuring Meyer and athletic director Jeremy Foley that will hopefully shed a little more light on a decision that seems both final — this time — and made with an eye toward family.

And naturally, given the nature of the Internet beast, the rumor mill is already churning out names at a prodigious clip as to the potential candidates to take over one of the premier programs in the country.

First and foremost, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen seems to be at the the top of nearly every early list of replacements.  Given the relative success he’s had in two short years in Starkville and his ties to UF as Meyer’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Mullen’s inclusion is a no-brainer.

Another coach with recent ties to UF is Charlie Strong, and naturally he’s being mentioned in connection to the opening as well.  With just one season as Louisville’s head coach, the former Gators defensive coordinator might be considered a longshot.  Then again, does he deserve any less consideration than Mullen and his two years with the Bulldogs?

As expected, the big-name coaches are being bandied about as well, chief among them Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.  Again, it’s a natural fit after UF tried to hire him when the job came open in 2001.  We spoke to a source close to the Sooners head coach earlier Wednesday afternoon, however, and this person implored us to not connect Stoops’ name to the Gators job because “Bob is not leaving Norman.  Not for Gainesville, not for anywhere else.”  So, take that as you will, but we tend to believe it.

With a perfect record and a spot in the national title game as well, the name of Oregon’s Chip Kelly has been floated as a possibility.  Let’s just nip this one in the bud right now:  Kelly will leave Eugene over Phil Knight‘s even-creepier dead body.  The Nike CEO will simply not allow that to happen, even if Foley were to have him on his initial to-do list.

Here are a few other names that have been tossed around in the initial stages of The Retirement, The Sequel:

Chris Petersen, Boise State — Foley pulled a non-AQ rabbit out of his hat with the Meyer hire; would he tempt fate twice and go after one of the top five coaches in all of Div. 1-A?  I don’t know if he will, but I know he should.  The only question is, would Petersen want to leave?  It’s not that Boise State is a better job than Florida, but it might be a better fit for Petersen than the Gators.

Gary Patterson, TCU — Same boat as Petersen: has done a helluva job with a whole lot less in both talent and revenue streams.  Would almost certainly be on the short list of any A.D. at a big-time program such as Florida, but, again, it would all come down to fit.

Jim Harbaugh, Stanford — Although it’s being rumored already, you can all but forget about this one.  He will stay with the Cardinal… until the Michigan job opens up, which could be sooner rather than later.

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas — Razorback fans are already verklempt over the possibility of Petrino ditching them for the Gators, and he was rumored to be a candidate during Meyer’s brief 24-hour retirement in 2009.  That said, it would be hard to see Foley putting his post-Meyer eggs in the basket of a man who will always have a wandering eye.

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech — Why not?  His name is attached to every other job in the country, why not this one?  And don’t think for a minute that Tuberville wouldn’t ditch the Big 12’s Red Raiders for the chance to return to the SEC.  It’s what he wants before his coaching career is over, but it remains to be seen whether UF would be the right fit.

Jon Gruden, broadcast booth — He flirted with Miami when  their job came open.  Don’t expect this Florida school to do the same, despite the fact that he’s already seeing his name attached to the opening.  UF is in a position where they do not have to entertain a person who’s simply interested in keeping his name in the coaching mix for when he’s ready to return to the sidelines.  The Gators are above that, and they know it.

In the end, I would put a fairly significant amount of money on Mullen returning to Gainesville.  And for it to happen sooner rather than later.

Houston AD goes papal amidst reports of Lane Kiffin hiring

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 19: University of Houston Frontiersman hold the UH flag and the American flag during the University of Houston school song before the Houston Cougars played the Southern Methodist University Mustangs on November 19, 2011 at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas. Houston defeated SMU 37-7.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
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Even in the midst of a coaching search that will determine your football program’s fortunes for the foreseeable future, you gotta have a little fun.

Late Wednesday, it appeared that Houston was zeroing in on a replacement for Tom Herman, who left to become the head coach at Texas late last month.  Thursday morning, it was reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had been hired by UH.

In response to the reports of a final decision being made, Cougars athletic director Hunter Yurachek offered a little papal levity, replete with non-white smoke indicating no football pope has been hired.

The Houston Chronicle, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, subsequently reported that “the University of Houston has not made a decision on its next football coach.”

That said, it’s expected that Kiffin is Yurachek’s man, with an announcement coming as early as tonight. University officials will meet later on today to finalize the search and come to a consensus.

In addition to Kiffin, ex-LSU head coach Les Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite have been under consideration.  ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy writes that “[w]hoever the next coach is, Houston is trying to require an excessive buyout so he can’t leave after a couple of seasons without paying a substantial penalty.”

As a reference point in that aspect of the situation, Herman’s buyout was $2.5 million.  Herman spent two seasons with the Cougars before leaving for the Longhorns.

Jay Norvell reportedly set to be named head coach at Nevada

Jay Norvell, Jerrod Heard
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Yet another FBS opening is reportedly on the verge of being closed.

According to a report from FootballScoop.com, Jay Norvell “will be the next head coach at Nevada.” The Reno Gazette-Journal writes that “Norvell, the third and final candidate to interview for the Wolf Pack football head-coaching vacancy, was so impressive he didn’t even leave Reno before being offered the job, which he quickly accepted.” Norvell was offered the job late Wednesday night.

The other two interviewed were Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. The former interviewed Monday, the latter Tuesday.

If/when hired, Norvell would replace Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This would be Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.

Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff.  With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87).  He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Jim Harbaugh is looking forward to seeing Chief Osceola and Renegade at the Orange Bowl

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Chief Osceola, mascot of the Florida State Seminoles plants a spear at midfield prior to a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.

“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.

“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”

Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.

Houston reportedly closing in on a head coach; Kiffin and Miles still being considered

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 18:  Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches action prior to the University of Alabama A Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.

One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).

As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.