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Replacing Muschamp: Group of 5 offers best options for Gator turnaround

A G5 head coach is the right choice if you're looking to turn around an SEC program. Just ask Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Butch Jones, or Gary Pinkel.

Rob Foldy

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported "breaking" news early Sunday morning that Gator fans have yearned to hear for months now: Muschamp - out. The University of Florida's Head Coach will finish out the regular season, then step down after the Florida State game.

This move comes as a surprise to no one. There will be no statue erected at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to honor Coach Muschamp. His underwhelming tenure will be remembered by the following failures in sequential order:

3. Coaching down nationally acclaimed recruiting classes to a 28-21* record (including an 11-2 record in 2012)

2. His look of pure confusion while getting housed by SEC powers.

1. And, of course, losing in the Swamp to our very own Georgia Southern Eagles in 2013.

*assumes a W v Western Kentucky and an L vs Florida State

Athletic Director Jeremy Foley gave Muschamp every opportunity to turn the program around. Foley and others, including myself, have heaped praise upon the Head Coach for his ability to keep his roster off Gainesville PD incident reports. Even on the field the Gator defense has, at times, looked NFL caliber against top SEC competition.

But, and there is a very large but, the offense has been anemic throughout Muschamp's four years. His inability to gel with an offensive coordinator, find an offensive identity, or develop a competent quarterback has done Mushchamp in. That, and the wins just aren't coming.

A lame duck coach riding out an underwhelming few years into the FSU game should feel awfully familiar to Florida fans. Ron Zook found himself in the same position closing out the 2004 season, ending his three year run with a record of 23-14.

In replacing Zook, AD Foley had three options: attempt to lure an NFL head coach with the freedom and autonomy of the college ranks, overpay for a big name head coach or coordinator from a top flight Power 5 program, or bring in a Group of 5 head coach with a track record of success, an offensive system in place, and proven ability to recruit and develop talent.

He chose option 3: Utah's Urban Meyer. This proved to be the wise decision as Meyer led Florida to its most successful run in school history, highlighted by 2 BCS National Championships.

Foley's search to replace Muschamp will naturally be full of rumor and speculation.

Chip Kelly misses the recruiting!
Mike Shanahan and John Gruden miss the competition!
Charlie Weis still owns property in Ocala!

If Foley and the rest of the search party are smart, they'll ignore the big names in bright lights and look towards the Group of Five's top programs. The goal should be to find a coach who has done Much with Little, so that when given the resources UF has to offer, like Meyer, he can do Even More. Where should the un-sexy coaching search begin?

How bout Northern Illinois' Rod Carey? Carey is 20-5 in 2 years as Head Coach at NIU . He earned 2013 MAC Head Coach of the Year, and OC'd the 2012 team that reached the Orange Bowl. Carey also ran the offense that allowed superior talent like Jordan Lynch to excel. Carey's two predecessors, Jerry Kill and Dave Doeren, have taken head coaching positions at Minnesota and North Carolina State with significant promise of turnaround. Heck, Minnesota - MINNESOTA! - came into the week ranked in the top 25 thanks to Kill's impact on the program.

Carey doesn't have enough of a track record for you? That's fine. I give you Bronco Mendenhall, Head Coach at BYU. Mendenhall is 88-38 at BYU. Obviously coaching at Brigham Young, with its religious affiliations, brings about its own challenges. Mendenhall has excelled nonetheless. His Cougars win big games, he consistently gets the most out of his recruits, and he has a track record of success that will please UF alum. Bronco Mendenhall is the definition of getting More out of Less.

Also, I stand by my claim that had Taysom Hill's leg not snapped in half, the Cougars would be undefeated.

The reason Mendenhall is still in Provo is because, well, he also has those religious affiliations. And that may be a tough obstacle for Foley to overcome. But the list goes on. Ruffin McNeill has made East Carolina a C-USA power at the 5th strongest school in a basketball state.

I believe Arkansas State head coaches are only allowed to stay for one year before they jump to SEC programs, so Blake Anderson should at least be worthy of a look.

Marshall's Doc Holliday is in his 5th year running the program. It took some time, but he has developed a senior class that 1) won't lose and 2) leads the nation in total offense.

Florida went the Group of 5 route with Meyer, and it took the program to new heights. Florida went the hot coordinator route with Zook and Muschamp and the program fell flat. A G5 head coach is the right choice if you're looking to turn around an SEC program.

Just ask Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Butch Jones, or Gary Pinkel.