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Who Will Take The Florida Job?

All three realistic coaching candidates for the University of Florida come from the Nick Saban coaching tree.

With just one game left in the fourth season for Dan Mullen as the head coach of Florida, the University of Florida decided to cut ties with the former Gators offensive coordinator that helped Florida win a pair of national championships in 2006 and 2008.

After finishing his time in Gainesville as the head ball coach with a 34-15 record, which included an SEC Championship game appearance in 2020 as Florida took back the SEC East for the first time since 2016, Mullen will have no shortage of suitors looking to hire the offensive-minded head coach.

The same could be said in the University of Florida's case; the Gators own a reputation as one of the top jobs in college football year in and year out. But ever since Steve Spurrier resigned from his job as head coach at Florida, the Gators have fired four of the five head coaches following Spurrier. Urban Meyer, who delivered two national titles before resigning due to health concerns, is the only exception to that statistic.

Who are the top candidates to fill the position in Gainesville?

Billy Napier: Head Coach Louisiana Lafayette

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This will be the second consecutive offseason that the former Clemson offensive coordinator is receiving recognition as some of the top openings in the country are searching for a new head coach. Napier took over as the head man with the Ragin Cajuns in 2018, following a year as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for Arizona State in 2017.

Napier has the Cajuns 10-1 this season, with the lone loss being to Texas in the season opener. The Cajuns are ranked 23rd in both the AP and Coaches Poll and are impressing many for the second year in a row after finishing last season with the same record. So what is Napier's connection to the SEC?

Napier served on staff under Nick Saban at Alabama on three occasions. Following his firing by Dabo Swinney at Clemson from his role as offensive coordinator in 2010, Napier landed an analyst job in Tuscaloosa for the 2011 season before getting the quarterbacks coaching job at Colorado State in 2012.

Napier would leave the Rams after one season for the wide receiving coach job in Tuscaloosa in 2013 and stayed under the tutelage of Saban for three seasons before getting offered the coordinating job at Arizona State in 2017.

Napier brings SEC ties and an offensive mind, something that many schools seem to be favoring in this age of college football. But what separates him from Dan Mullen is his recruiting acumen; many praised Napier for the job he's done on the recruiting trail, something that Florida has lacked over the last four seasons.

Lane Kiffin: Head Coach Ole Miss

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It did not take long after the firing of Dan Mullen to see the name of Lane Kiffin spread around all social media feeds in relation to the opening in Gainesville. The current Rebels head coach is closing out his second season in Oxford and seems to surpass expectations as he is in contention for the SEC West title despite his lacking defense.

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Kiffin's offensive pedigree is similar to Mullen's; both are considered offensive masterminds and know how to scheme out good defenses; if you need further proof, watch the 2020 Alabama-Ole Miss game and the all too familiar 2020 Georgia-Florida game.

Many believe that Kiffin could be legitimately interested in the opening at Florida. Still, others think it's a ploy to get a contract extension, potentially similar to a huge contract extension like the one just handed to Michigan State's Mel Tucker, something that will keep him off this list.

Mario Cristobal: Head Coach Oregon

Now Oregon Head Coach, Mario Cristobal was the offensive line coach at Alabama from 2013-16

Now Oregon Head Coach, Mario Cristobal was the offensive line coach at Alabama from 2013-16

Cristobal looks to be the perfect match for Florida and would send a statement to Georgia as a message of contention in every facet of the game. Cristobal, a former Nick Saban assistant in Tuscaloosa, served on a monstrous Alabama staff (2013-16) that once featured Cristobal, Kiffin, Smart, and Tucker, who are now head coaches.

The SEC ties are obvious, but many may not realize the recruiting prowess that the University of Miami alumni brings with him. Oregon's success on the recruiting trail under Cristobal is boosted by the ties to the southeast that could undoubtedly help him if he decides to leave the PAC-12 contender in the future. The Duck's recent upset loss to Utah this past weekend could allow a program to pry away the Oregon head coach as he may look to move to a program that could vault him into College Football Playoff contention.

Cristobal is an already proven Power-5 head coach, with southeastern recruiting and SEC ties, and wouldn't bring the off-field antics and attention of someone like Lane Kiffin, who famously has trolled Kirby  Smart in the past.

While it is still early in the process for Florida, a lot of smoke seems to be gathering surrounding Billy Napier on social media. Still, it should also be noted that names like Bob Stoops and Baylor's Dave Aranda are being thrown around in connection to the job in Gainesville. 

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