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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.

Arizona signee My-King Johnson set to become FBS’ first active openly gay scholarship player

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the Territorial Cup college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.

The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.

In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.

“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”

Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.

From the Daily Star:

When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.

Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.

It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.

Central Michigan AD taking same position at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Wide receiver Samajie Grant #10 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates after scoring on a two yard rushing touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the fourth quarter of the Territorial Cup college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.

Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.

Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.

While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.

Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.

UTEP’s Theron Aych named new receivers coach at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Wide receiver Trey Griffey #5 of the Arizona Wildcats catches the ball in front of defensive back Jaterious Pouncey #48 of the Grambling State Tigers for a 34 yard touchdown in the third quarter at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Spring practice is already underway in Tucson but it took until the end of this week for Arizona to finally have a complete offensive coaching staff.

The Wildcats announced on Saturday that Theron Aych would be taking over as the team’s new receivers coach, filling a vacancy created when Tony Dews left for West Virginia.

Aych helped provide a nice boost to the Miners’ passing game in his one season in El Paso and spent five seasons at Division II Angelo State prior to that. He served as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Rams during his five-year stint before moving up to the FBS level.

The Pac-12 is no new experience for Aych though, as he served as a graduate assistant at Washington over a decade ago.

Aych should have his work cut out for him this spring with the team featuring plenty of young players at the receiver position while also dealing with the loss of standouts like Trey Griffey and reliable veteran Nate Phillips both gone.

Colorado rounds out new defensive staff with hire of former Purdue DC Ross Els

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Mike MacIntyre of the Colorado Buffaloes looks on prior to the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks defeated the Buffaloes 44-10.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Just in the nick of time, Mike MacIntyre has rounded out his new defensive staff for the 2017 season.

The Buffaloes announced on Friday evening that former Purdue defensive coordinator Ross Els would be joining the program and serving as inside linebackers coach. The release notes that Els’ paperwork was completed in time for him to join the team for their second practice of spring ball.

“Coach Ross Els brings a lot of energy,” MacIntyre said.  “He has great experience as a coordinator, positions coach and special teams coach, and we’re really excited about having his expertise in those phases in our program.”

Els adds plenty of experience to Boulder, having coached linebackers at New Mexico State, Ohio and Nebraska. In addition, he was the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator  and safeties coach last season.

The move completes the staff for the Buffs after seeing a number of coaches depart to Oregon with former coordinator Jim Leavitt.