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Florida football: 5 realistic replacements for Dan Mullen in Gainesville

Fansided logo Fansided 10/31/2021 John Buhler
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It would not be shocking if this is the last season Dan Mullen is the Florida football head coach.

Dan Mullen goes from being on top of the world to getting toppled on as the head coach of the Florida football program.

The former Gators offensive coordinator and Mississippi State head coach had great success at his two previous posts. However, he is quickly finding out that being a head coach at a place like Florida can be an unforgiving beast. After almost getting shut out by arch rival Georgia, Florida falls to 4-4 on the year. Whether or not the NFL is calling, Mullen may be on the way out at Florida.

Mullen has not been in Gainesville that long and with a very reasonable buyout, both parties could look to separate at the end of a pitiful football season for Florida's lofty standards.

How much does Dan Mullen make?

Mullen makes the sixth-most of any Power Five head coach at $7.570 million annually. However, his buyout is only $12 million, which makes it very easy for the powers at be within the Florida program to make a big decision like firing their head coach.

How long has Dan Mullen been at Florida?

While this is Mullen's second time being a coach at Florida, he has only been in the big chair in Gainesville since the 2018 college season. He left his post in Starkville after nine incredible seasons while at Mississippi State. This is only year four for him at the helm of the Florida program.

Florida football: 5 coaches who could replace Dan Mullen

Jeff Lebby has played a huge part in the Ole Miss Rebels' high-octane offense

There are a handful of coordinators out there worthy of being considered for Power Five jobs. While it is still probably a year away for Ole Miss Rebels offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, there is no denying what his team can do through the air in SEC play. Let's not overlook that he has coached in the state of Florida for three seasons, including two years with the AAC's UCF Knights.

From a schematic standpoint, Florida may not lose a ton offensively by going with a first-time head coach in Lebby if the Mullen tenure comes to an end. Though he could be a better recruiter than Mullen, Florida is an incredibly tough job, especially for a first-time head coach. If offered the gig, Lebby should take it, but there are better candidates out there to replace Mullen than him.

Here are two more candidates who do make sense, but may not be right for the job in Gainesville.

Jeff Hafley is destined for bigger things than what Chestnut Hill provides

Though he is not the hot head-coaching candidate as he was to start the year, Boston College Eagles head coach Jeff Hafley is one name to keep an eye on. Had the Eagles not lost starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec for the season, maybe B.C. is the team to beat in the ACC Atlantic this year and not Wake Forest? Either way, Hafley is not likely to be sticking in Chestnut Hill forever.

Yes, going from Boston College to Florida is a major step up, but he just might win the interview process if given the opportunity. Factor in his NFL background as a coach, and he could play a big part in player development while he looks to establish a recruiting base in Florida. Again, Hafley is a total dark horse to get the job, but he is a candidate Florida can get to replace Mullen if need be.

Luke Fickell has so many opportunities ahead of him

Few college football head coaches will have as many interesting opportunities to explore this next head-coaching cycle as Luke Fickell. The Cincinnati Bearcats head coach leads the best team in the Group of Five. While there is a decent chance he stays put with UC eventually heading to the Power Five level with Big 12 expansion, Florida might be a job worth leaving Cincinnati for.

Admittedly, it is going to take a blue-blood Power Five job to get Fickell to leave Ohio. However, there are several jobs of that grade opening up. USC and LSU are open, and he is a candidate at both. He could also be a candidate at places like Michigan State and Penn State if those jobs open up for different reasons. However, the SEC is a totally different animal, and that could be an issue.

Here are two head-coaching candidates that have already proven themselves in the SEC footprint.

James Franklin may leave Penn State, but what Power Five job will he take?

Though he is a Pennsylvania native, the writing may already be on the wall for James Franklin in Happy Valley. The Penn State Nittany Lions got off to a hot start, but back-to-back losses to Iowa on the road and Illinois at home in nine overtimes seems to suggest his head may not be in it any more. He is arguably the top candidate for USC and may be in consideration for the LSU job, too.

It is established that Franklin can recruit. He won at an absurdly high level in the SEC East before at Vanderbilt. The 'Dores have not been the same since he left for Penn State years ago. While Franklin is the type of coach who could have Florida contending for SEC Championships again, he may not want to go to a school that is second in its own division. Thus, the USC job is beckoning.

Nobody's head-coaching stock is rising faster than Michigan State's Mel Tucker

This is only Mel Tucker's third season as a Power Five head coach, but he has the Michigan State Spartans at 8-0 and on top of the Big Ten entering November in his second season in East Lansing. Though he could be leading his third Power Five team in four years, there are a lot of schools that want to hire Tucker, including LSU, where he may be the top candidate for the Tigers.

What separates Tucker from Franklin is two-fold. One, he was a defensive coordinator in the NFL before coming back to college. And two, he has more recent recruiting ties in the southeast than Franklin. Plus, he will not be afraid to compete in the same conference that has Nick Saban and Kirby Smart coaching at the top of it.

Tucker can stay in East Lansing, go to Baton Rouge, or maybe even replace Mullen in Gainesville.

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