Willie Taggart is out at Florida State and it seems unlikely that the school will take long to begin their coaching search for a new leader of the Seminoles.
Who could the program turn to over the coming weeks as they search for a replacement? A few familiar names in FSU circles likely headline their shortlist of candidates but a few others who have made big strides in recent years at other programs will likely make their way to the top of every search firm’s roster of names as well.
Here are a few names to keep an eye on:
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
The first name many will bring up with the opening is the former FSU defensive coordinator. He obviously has head coaching experience in the South and his connections in the Sunshine State and other fertile recruiting areas are a nice feather in his cap too. He has done a great job in Lexington between the lines too, leading the Wildcats to their third-ever 10-win season last year and generally raising the floor of the program from the dregs of the SEC. One question is whether FSU can pony up for him after dropping $20+ million moving on from Taggart as Stoops’ salary escalates up to $6 million eventually and he has a buyout of just under $2 million if he wants to leave. Brother Bob, the former Oklahoma and current XFL Dallas head coach, is also likely to get traction and used to coach up the road in Gainesville as well.
Mike Norvell, Memphis
After his Tigers beat SMU to take the inside track at the Group of Five bid, Norvell’s stock has never been higher. He’s turned down SEC programs in the past but a gig like FSU could be something that garners his interest. He doesn’t have any deep state of Florida ties but that might be a good thing. His offenses have been among the most explosive in the country and he knows as well as anybody how to find under the radar talent and develop it.
P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
Can the boat be rowed to Tally? Fleck spent time in nearby Tampa as an assistant for the Buccaneers and has specialized in turning around programs at Western Michigan and now with the Gophers. He’s 8-0 this year and in the top 15 in the Twin Cities and has a ton of energy that could help with the transition. He’s recruited well in past stops and that would come in handy given the battles Florida’s big three have over players.
Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator
The Kansas native has been extremely picky about taking his first head coaching gig but FSU is on the level of programs he would likely be intrigued by. He’s helped Dabo Swinney turn Clemson into a juggernaut and been a big part in some lopsided wins over the Seminoles. The familiarity with the ACC and the recruiting areas the school frequents is huge but there would be some questions as to what direction he would take with his staff and on offense.
Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator
All three of the Tigers coordinators (including fellow co-coordinator Jeff Scott) likely will garner interest on the coaching carousel but Elliott seems like a great fit. He won the Broyles Award in 2017 as the nation’s top assistant and his demeanor and workman-like approach could fit in well in Tallahassee.
Lane Kiffin, FAU
I mean, why not? He knows the state well from his time in Boca and has the kind of attitude that most ‘Noles fans would love to embrace in the gig. Highly regarded as a recruiter and play-caller, his ability to bring Nick Saban’s “Process” back to the program would also be viewed as a plus. A long shot sure, but you could also see it working out better than some others.
Willie Fritz, Tulane
Fans may wince at hiring another coach without a winning record (he’s 22-24 with the Green Wave) but Fritz has won at nearly every level of football and done a masterful job rebuilding in New Orleans and beyond. He’ll turn 60 next year which works against him but could well prove a stabilizing force as Florida State likely finds a new president and AD in the coming years.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Gus has been on a revolving hot seat during his time on the Plains and even with eight or nine wins this year might be given a golden parachute by the Tigers to finally end the rocky relationship. FSU fans know Malzahn can lead his team to the final game of the year after all and he can bring pedigree and coaching experience other candidates lack. It’s a bit outside the box but ticks a lot of boxes when you think about it.
A few that could get in the mix as well: Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Tom Allen (Indiana), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Josh Heupel (UCF). One not to consider? Urban Meyer.