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Urban Meyer Resigns: Which Coaches Can Keep Florida a Top-Tier Program?

Charlie MillsonCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2010

Urban Meyer Resigns: Which Coaches Can Keep Florida a Top-Tier Program?

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    This is one steely-eyed missle man.Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The announcement that Urban Meyer is (again) stepping down as the head coach of the Florida Gators does not have that shock value that the the first announcement did almost a year ago.

    Meyer produced a less than stellar product this year in Gainesville, and, for him, that was completely out of character. We're used to Meyer putting top-notch teams on the playing field despite what troubles can come at him off of it.

    After the lull in success that followed the Steve Spurrier era at Florida, Meyer returned the program to among the best in the nation; everyone knows about the two national championships in three years and that he was a game away (2009) from doing it again.

    The question is now: Which coach will succeed him at the helm of the Gator program, a coach who will keep Florida where Meyer has brought them?

    This slide show looks at some possible candidates who could do just that.

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio

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    Dantonio would be the second former MSU coach in the SEC after Nick Saban if he took over at Florida.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Mark Dantonio has a strong SEC pedigree. He was a letterman at South Carolina (even though SC was not in the SEC at the time), so he knows about football in the south.

    Also, he was an assistant under Alabama's Nick Saban at MSU before becoming head coach there; he will face Saban in a bowl game this year.

    He trained under Earle Bruce and Jim Tressell, so he has ties to OSU as well and can recruit up north. His emphasis has been defense, which might not sit too well with Florida's offensively minded fans.

    With a career record of 55-31, Dantonio has led his teams to a bowl game every season except one. His 11-1 record this year and a share of the Big 10 crown has made him a hot commodity in coaching circles.

    Given the better talent he would get at Florida, he could maintain the level of success Meyer has achieved.

BSU's Chris Petersen

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    Reach out to a coach of a mid-level western school? Can you say Urban Light?Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

    Here's a chance, Florida fans, to get a coach that has a career record of 60-5 and has won two BCS bowl games.

    And you can have him for less than $2 million.

    He's Chris Pedersen, the head man at Boise State. And, after butting his head against the BCS glass ceiling for the past several years, he may be ready to move up to the Big Time in the SEC.

    It's not like the Gators haven't gone this route before. They plucked a young coach from the ranks of a mid-level program a few years ago; how did that one work out for you, Gator fans?

    It worked so well that Florida might want to try it again.

    Besides, he's already used to the color scheme.

CBS Announcer, Mike Leach

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    He'd certainly be offensive.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    If Florida fans are looking for an explosive offense, they can look no further than former Texas Tech head man Mike Leach.

    The Red Raiders scorched the Big 12 with a high powered passing attack that few have seen since the days of, well, Steve Spurrier at Florida.

    Leach is currently a football analyst for CBS Sports, but, given the right situation, he could be coaxed back into the coaching ranks, especially at a school like Florida.

    Leach, too, has an SEC pedigree. He was Kentucky's offensive coordinator under former coach Hal Mumme, and under his tutelage the Wildcats set many school records for offensive production.

    After a year removed from the sidelines, it may be time for Leach to reshape his legacy after being dismissed from Texas Tech for poor choices regarding a player.

    He, too, could keep Florida near the top of the heap.

TCU's Gary Patterson

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    It's a long shot, but still. He'd do well at Florida.George Frey/Getty Images

    Sure, many may say that there's no way that TCU's Gary Patterson would bolt from that program to go to Florida, but hear us out.

    First of all, it's true; the Horned Frogs will play, beginning the 2012 season, as incredible as it may seem, in the Big East. And while that is certainly moving into a BCS conference, let's face it. The Big East is possibly the worst BCS conference there is.

    If Patterson wants the big time, you can't get bigger than the SEC.

    Secondly, he brings a solid resume and long term experience. He's approaching 100 wins on his career (a .720 winning record, too).  He has BCS experience and several coach of the year awards.

    True, he is more defensively minded, but he would continue the winning tradition at Florida and, if he takes the job, would be there for the long term.

    We know Patterson turned down a lucrative offer from Minnesota to coach there, but let's face it. A Gator chomps a Golden Gopher every time.

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops

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    He knows Gainesville well having been a DC under Spurrier.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Bob Stoops? At Florida?

    Sure, why not? He was Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator for three years and part of that 1996 National Championship team there.

    How's that for a legacy?

    Besides, if you're a Florida fan, which coach in the Big 12 would you rather have-Mac Brown or Bob Stoops? Stoops has, after all, won six Big 12 crowns and a national title there as well as having been to the title game two other times. Mac, who is much older, has only 2 conference titles to go along with his championship.

    Besides, this may be the perfect time to leave Oklahoma. Since Nebraska and Colorado are leaving next year, the conference will revert to not having a championship game. Gone will be the ability to win only a six team division and still play for the conference title.

    And, with a resurgent Oklahoma State team (among others), Stoops may think the grass somewhat greener in Florida.

    But he won't come cheap.

Oregon Ducks Coach Chip Kelly

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    Well, he DOES have the visor thing going for him.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    After leading the Oregon Ducks to a 22-3 record over the past two seasons, is there a hotter coach in the nation than Chip Kelly?

    Probably not. He's got his team in the National Championship game after only two seasons at the helm.

    And talk about offense; his spread offense makes Steve Spurrier's look like Grandma Moses. Kelly has his Ducks in a row, for sure.

    Florida fans would salivate at the thought of all that O going through Gainesville. And, win or lose against Auburn, Kelly would be a good get.

    Is he too loyal to Oregon to leave? We think not. He's been there only three years counting his first year as the offensive coordinator under Bellotti.

    And, at only 47, he has a long career in front of him.

    True, with USC on a downward spiral, now may be the time to be a head coach at Oregon. But with Stanford and conference expansion, maybe not.

    Florida would be wild for Kelly, and we think he'd be a good fit.

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