Florida coaching candidates: 11 coaches who could take over for Jim McElwain

Florida has fired Jim McElwain following a 3-4 start to the 2017 season, which means one of the best coaching jobs in college football is now available.

There will be no shortage of coaches interested in the job, and Florida will have plenty of options to choose from.

But which coaches are on the short list for athletic director Scott Stricklin? It's hard to know for sure, but here's a list of likely candidates for the gig.

The Obvious Candidate

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: It's not hard to connect these dots. Not only did Mullen spend four seasons as an offensive coordinator at Florida, where he worked with Tim Tebow, but he worked at Mississippi State alongside Scott Stricklin, who is now the athletic director in Gainesville.

Their first marriage worked out pretty well, as Mullen has gone 67-44 at Mississippi State, winning at least seven games in six of his first eight seasons in Starkville, and he's a win away from getting there again this year. Those numbers may not seem impressive in a vacuum, but considering Mississippi State's football history, Mullen's done a phenomenal job with the Bulldogs. He's also a proven developer of quarterbacks, which is something Florida has sorely lacked since Urban Meyer left, and is one of the key reasons behind Jim McElwain's dismissal.

Mullen would give Florida the offense it has spent the last eight seasons looking for.

Likely Targets

Scott Frost, UCF: Frost will be one of the hottest names on the coaching market this season because of what he's already accomplished at UCF. Frost took over a UCF program that had gone 0-12 in 2015 and went 6-7 in his first season. That's a six-win improvement in Year 1, and the Knights are doing even better this season, as they're off to a 7-0 start, ranked No. 15 in the AP Poll, and are the current favorite for the Group of 5's New Year's Six berth.

The question is whether Frost would leave for the Florida job, or if he has his eyes on Nebraska -- where Frost played quarterback -- should it come open.

Mike Norvell, Memphis: Another former offensive coordinator who is having a strong season in the American Athletic Conference. Norvell inherited the Memphis program from Justin Fuente, and after an 8-5 season in 2016, the Tigers are 7-1 so far this year. They also have one of the most potent offenses in the country, which will be appealing to Florida.

If there's any concern about Norvell, aside from the long track record, it's that he hasn't spent much time coaching in the southeast.

Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: If not Norvell, how about the man Norvell replaced at Memphis? Justin Fuente not only gutted and rebuilt a moribund Memphis program, but he's kept things rolling in Blacksburg after having to replace the greatest coach in that program's history. Fuente went 10-4 in his first season at Virginia Tech, winning the Coastal Division, and his Hokies are 7-1 this season, once again in the hunt for another division title. He also runs an exciting offense that Florida's looking for.

The question is whether or not Fuente would want to leave a good ACC job for the SEC.

Chip Kelly: Kelly will be a name that comes up in a lot of coaching searches this winter, and Florida is certainly an attractive enough job to have a legitimate shot at him. While his tenure in the NFL was a bust, it's hard to argue with what he was able to accomplish at the college level.

Kelly went 46-7 in four seasons at Oregon, winning three Pac-12 titles and reaching the BCS title game in 2010. He's also the kind of offensive innovator that Florida will be looking to hire.

Charlie Strong, South Florida: Strong's name will come up because of his history at Florida and within the state. Strong has spent 15 years of his career as a coach on Florida's staff in some capacity and is very familiar with the territory. He's also recruited the state well, has shown what he can accomplish while at Louisville and is having a nice first season in Tampa.

The problem is that Strong is a defensive-minded coach, and you have to wonder if that's a direction the school will look to go again. Plus, his tenure at Texas has tarnished Strong's reputation a bit. So while Strong might be a good candidate, there's a good chance the fan base wouldn't be excited by it, even if there's a lot of appreciation for what Strong's done for the Gators.

Matt Campbell, Iowa State: Another young coach whose star is rising quickly. Campbell came to Iowa State from Toledo last year, taking over one of the most challenging Power Five jobs in the country. After a 3-9 start in 2016, the Cyclones are now 6-2 in 2016 with a pair of wins over top five teams in Oklahoma and TCU.

If there's a problem, it's that Campbell, a native of Ohio, has spent his entire coaching career in the midwest. He's not as familiar with the SEC or recruiting in the southeast as other candidates.

Long Shots

Randy Shannon, Florida DC: Shannon will finish the season at Florida's interim coach, so he will get consideration, but it's hard to imagine him getting the job permanently.

Bob Stoops: Stoops will be to Florida message boards what Jon Gruden has been to Tennessee message boards for years. An extremely unrealistic pipe dream with just enough of a connection to convince some fans it's realistic. I don't think it is.

Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State: Satterfield's a good coach and has done well for himself at Appalachian State, but I'm not sure he's the kind of home run that Stricklin's looking to hit. If Satterfield ends up in Gainesville, I'm guessing a few other coaches will have had to say no first.

Lane Kiffin, FAU: Yeah, Lane's going to get a Power Five gig again at some point, possibly even this winter, but I have a hard time believing a school like Florida will be the one taking that chance.

For the very latest recruiting fallout from Jim McElwain's firing, check out GatorBait.net. They're on the ground in Gainesville with up-to-the-minute coverage, including updates on who will be the Gators' next coach and how the future of the team will be changed forever. Visit now!    

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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