GAINESVILLE — At last, there's some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.
The Gators sent a group — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about UF's opening. Stricklin didn't tell reporters much after he disembarked from the plane in Ocala.
"There will probably be some more productive conversations in the days ahead…" Stricklin told SEC Country. "Lot of interest in the job."
The problem for UF is that there is also a lot of interest in Kelly, the 53-year-old New Hampshire native.
UCLA fired coach Jim Mora on Sunday, and Kelly would make a lot of sense for that job, too. His four seasons as a college head coach (2009-12) were in the Pac-12. UCLA has great facilities (including a new $75 million football facility) and a fertile recruiting base. Kelly would also blend in more in Los Angeles than he would in Gainesville, which seems like a plus for the laser-focused football mind.
Whether UCLA is a smokescreen to boost negotiations or a legitimate option for Kelly remains to be seen.
Regardless, Kelly would be a splash hire to replace Jim McElwain with the Gators, despite two unsuccessful NFL stints with the Eagles and 49ers. Kelly was 46-7 with four appearances in BCS bowl games during his time in Oregon. He won with offense — his Ducks averaged at least 36 points every season — which would endear him to a fan base desperate for points.
If UF wanted to hire him, the school would have to run it by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey because of Kelly's NCAA recruiting violations at Oregon. That's not believed to be a deal breaker.
Because Kelly isn't an active coach — he works as an ESPN analyst — UF could hire him immediately, or soon after Saturday's regular-season finale against rival Florida State. The ongoing rumors aren't a concern for Gators interim coach Randy Shannon.
"I really don't worry about those types of things, to be honest with you," Shannon said.
Franks vs. FSU
UF-FSU doesn't have its usual sizzle — both teams enter with losing records for the second time in series history — but it has some special meaning for Gators QB Feleipe Franks.
He used to live near Doak Campbell Stadium before going to high school in Crawfordville. One of his former Wakulla High teammates, WR Keith Gavin, plays for the Seminoles.
"It's Florida State, man," Franks said. "Nothing really to say."
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher had plenty of praise for Franks.
"(He) can throw it a mile…" Fisher said. "You see the athleticism, keeps plays alive. Each week gets better and better. Big, strong, athletic guy that can make plays."
Gators QB Malik Zaire (right) remains day to day with a knee injury. Franks started in his place last week and could start again this week. UF WR Kadarius Toney also remains day to day.
"He gets all the credit and all the glory. He should. 1,000 percent, he earned it." — Fisher on walk-on WR Justin Motlow. The Tampa Catholic product had his first career touchdown catch last week, becoming the first member of the Seminole Tribe to score for the Seminoles.
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.