University of Florida

Florida missed on hiring Chip Kelly as its football coach. Now what?

Chip Kelly agreed to a five-year, $23.3 million deal to become UCLA’s football coach on Saturday, Nov. 25. The former Oregon coach returns to the Pac-12 to replace Jim Mora, who was fired Monday with one game left in his sixth season in Westwood.
Chip Kelly agreed to a five-year, $23.3 million deal to become UCLA’s football coach on Saturday, Nov. 25. The former Oregon coach returns to the Pac-12 to replace Jim Mora, who was fired Monday with one game left in his sixth season in Westwood. AP

Chip Kelly, the former Oregon coach regarded as an offensive innovator, is taking over at UCLA. The school announced him as its next coach on Saturday.

Kelly had been linked to the UF opening pretty much since former coach Jim McElwain and UF parted ways. School administrators flew to New Hampshire to meet with Kelly last weekend, though it’s unclear if he was offered the job, and it doesn’t matter now.

The Gators either didn’t want or couldn’t sway Kelly from the Bruins, so they must move on. The name that seems most likely to appear on Florida’s wish list next is UCF’s Scott Frost, whose team completed an undefeated regular season on Friday with a thrilling win over USF. However, landing Frost got harder this weekend.

Nebraska, Frost’s alma mater, fired coach Mike Riley on Saturday, and Frost is viewed as a potential replacement. But Florida is still likely to inquire about the 42-year-old who took UCF from winless in 2015 to bowl eligible in his first season before leading it to perfection this year.

Other names to watch are Memphis’ Mike Norvell, whose No. 20 Tigers are 10-1, and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell.

Oregon’s Willie Taggart, who is in his first year coaching the Ducks after migrating west from USF, is also a big name with ties to Florida who could get a look from UF.

“The new coach has to come in here and just get us in position to win,” sophomore receiver Josh Hammond said. “I think that’ll be the biggest thing. I think guys here are ready to play.”

SENIORS HONORED

Duke Dawson emerged from the tunnel first. He carried roses and raised his hand in the air as he trotted toward his family, wearing his white pants, white helmet and orange jersey. He looked ready to play. That wasn’t true for many of the seniors who followed him to be honored on Saturday’s Senior Day in The Swamp.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio was next, and he wore jeans. So did offensive lineman Antonio Riles, special-teamer Garrett Stephens, safety Nick Washington and quarterback Malik Zaire. All were contributors, and all missed this game and others this season with injuries.

Defensive end Jordan Sherit wore shorts after sustaining a season-ending injury early this year. And safety Marcell Harris, who didn’t play a game this season, was driven to his family on a golf cart.

Several South Florida players were honored during the ceremony, chief among them starting receiver and Deerfield Beach High alum Brandon Powell, who snagged two touchdowns against the Seminoles. Linebacker Cristian Garcia from Belen Jesuit and receiver Jacob Mesenger from Piper were honored as well. Powell and Garcia also served as captains.

Punter Johnny Townsend got the loudest ovation.

“I grew up a Gator fan and it was my dream my entire life to come here and play,” Townsend said. “So just hearing that response from the crowd, it’s an honor to be recognized like that.”

▪ FSU linebacker Dontavious Jackson was ejected in the third quarter of Saturday’s game after committing his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the afternoon.

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