It’s rumor day on the reservation, which is to say there are plenty of rumors and not a lot of fact to go on regarding Jim McElwain’s search to fill his coaching staff. Here are the latest completely unsubstantiated rumors, but at least you know what’s being said in several circles:
1. Kirby Smart for defensive coordinator: There was some talk Tuesday morning that perhaps Kirby is ready to jump ship at Alabama and see what life is like without Nick Saban looking over his shoulder every 17 seconds. This seems unlikely because (a) Kirby has a buyout and Florida has probably hit its limit on buyouts for one hiring season and (b) he’s been turning down head coaching jobs the last three years. If anything, he’s probably looking for a raise (currently makes $1.28 million) and will stay at Alabama until he either takes over for Nick Saban or returns home to Georgia when Mark Richt leaves.
2. Bo Pelini for defensive coordinator: There was some talk Monday evening that Pelini and McElwain have already had some conversations. That’s all rumor and unsubstantiated. What is factual is that Pelini has indeed had conversations with Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. The storyline that was coming out of Columbia Monday evening was that Pelini would be the Gamecocks’ new defensive coordinator if Will Muschamp said no. It was also being whispered that if Muschamp takes the South Carolina job that Pelini will be working with Gus Malzahn at Auburn.
3. Brent Venables for defensive coordinator: This one was snuffed out almost as fast as it began. Venables was supposedly in the running for the Texas A&M vacancy and the money was substantial (something in the neighborhood of $1.5 million a year). Then this morning there was this whisper that he was thinking Florida but friends at Clemson say he’s not going anywhere that he’s not a head coach.
4. TRob to USF as defensive coordinator: Why would Travaris Robinson go to USF? First off, they can’t pay him as much money as he’ll get to stay at Florida or to go with Muschamp to Auburn. Second, the dance band on the Titanic had more job security than Willie Taggart. If they could afford to buy out his contract, he would already be gone. TRob is a smart cookie who knows better than to tie his fortunes to a coach who will be walking college football’s green mile next year.
5. TRob is staying: Most Gators would be happy if Robinson were to stay. He’s done a terrific job coaching Florida’s corners the last four years and he’s a lockdown recruiter. Some think that he’s leaning toward staying while folks up at the loveliest village on the plains say he’s coming home with Will Muschamp. If Muschamp takes the Auburn defensive coordinator job – reportedly his wife would prefer Auburn over Columbia – then it’s more likely that TRob goes. If Muschamp takes the South Carolina job, chances are he stays. There is also another juicy one out of College Station that says if Muschamp decides he’s an Aggie he brings TRob with the guarantee that TRob becomes the DC when Will gets another head coaching job.
6. Summers and Durkin are staying: The only fact we know here is that anyone not named James McElwain doesn’t know whether they stay or whether they go. Of the two, it would seem more likely that D.J. would be asked to stay since he’s a great recruiter and has a rising reputation as a defensive coordinator. Since most offensive-minded guys like to bring in their own O-line coach, it would seem Summers might be on the shakiest ground.
7. Brian White and Chris Leak will be retained: Again, nothing substantiated here, just some of the things that are out there. White’s advantage is he’s a former offensive coordinator who really knows the running game, having called the plays for Heisman winner Ron Dayne at Wisconsin. His disadvantage is he’s known as a good but not great recruiter. While Florida’s wide receivers showed improvement under Leak, he’s not a wide receivers coach. What has been suggested but not confirmed is that he would coach quarterbacks for McElwain. If you’ve ever seen Chris Leak do footwork and fundamentals drills with quarterbacks then you know he could handle the job, but Leak staying depends on McElwain bringing in an offensive coordinator who is not a quarterbacks coach.
8. Billy Napier as offensive coordinator: Of all the Tuesday rumors, this one seemed to be growing the most legs. Napier played quarterback at Furman where he led the Paladins to the national championship game in 2001. He was the offensive coordinator at Clemson at age 29 in 2009 when the Tigers scored 54 offensive touchdowns. In 2012 he worked with McElwain as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State where he’s given some of the credit for discovering Garrett Grayson, who threw for 32 touchdowns this past season. Since 2013, Grayson has coached Alabama’s wide receivers including Amari Cooper, who will be on the Heisman podium.
Monday night’s 85-47 win over a Yale team that beat UConn on the road just Saturday night is an indicator that Billy Donovan finally has his Florida basketball team’s full attention. This was the best the Gators have played all season long on both ends of the court. The best evidence that the Gators are starting to figure out that Billy has grown weary of the chuck and duck offensive style that dominated the first seven games was the fact UF scored 52 points in the paint. The ball moved, people took the ball to the rack and the result was one layup after another. The Gators only took 19 3-pointers, made 10, and finished the night with an overall 63.8% shooting percentage.
Things are only going to get better from here on out. Eli Carter will be returning from his injury soon and the inside depth gets a substantial boost this weekend when Duke transfer Alex Murphy is eligible to play. With walk-on senior Jacob Kurtz playing such an indispensible do-everything type of role, Donovan will have a 10-man rotation to work with for the first time this season.
There will only be three on the Heisman podium Saturday night in New York, which is usually an indicator that the winner corralled a substantial portion of the votes. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has been the Heisman frontrunner all year and it’s likely that he will win the trophy by one of the widest margins in history. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper will also be on the podium but that’s because they need two other guys up there to at least give the appearance of prolonging the drama until the envelope is opened and the winner announced.
This is Marcus Mariota’s trophy. If he didn’t win it would go down as the greatest upset since Charles Woodson beat out Peyton Manning for the 1997 Heisman.
1. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: All is not well at the last outpost before you get to the end of the earth. Mike Gundy could be walking the green mile at Okie State and it could be as early as midweek. Gundy has burned a significant number of bridges, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if T. Boone Pickens were firmly in his corner. Unfortunately, for Gundy, the biggest of the burned bridges belongs to T.Boone. If the go-zillionaire benefactor for the entire athletic program isn’t in your corner, you might as well follow the signs and take that 15-minute hike from downtown Stillwater to the end of the earth.
2. Living on Tulsa time: The guy they wanted was Chad Morris but he took the SMU job because it pays about $2.4 million more than the Tulsa job and the facilities are vastly superior. They would also love Mike Norvelle (Arizona State OC), a former Tulsa assistant under Todd Graham, but he makes almost as much money working for Graham as Tulsa can afford. Jake Spavital (Texas A&M QB coach) would make sense except that his high school coach is the guy they just fired (Bill Blankenship). Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports says Scott Frost (Oregon OC who was bypassed by alma mater Nebraska) could be the guy. Another one to keep an eye on is Houston Nutt, who hasn’t coached in three years, which means Tulsa could get an experienced guy cheap.
3. Kansas goes el cheapo: Kansas hired Texas A&M wide receivers coach David Beaty for $800,000 although the contract has plenty of incentives that could raise Beaty’s pay by $700,000 if he meets all the objectives. Why go cheap? Well, KU will be paying Charlie Weis $2.5 million not to coach each of the next two years and this was after an expensive buyout of Turner Gill. All that buyout money prevents KU from spending more on basketball.
4. Tony Levine, Houston: They want an offensive guy with head coaching experience. That would seem to point the finger at Willie Fritz, the former Sam Houston State head coach who led Georgia Southern to a 9-3 record in its first year ever in Division I.
5. Colorado State: Most likely, Jim McElwain’s successor will be offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. He’s the popular choice among fans and the players Coach Mac left behind.
6. Doesn’t anyone want the Michigan job?: Jim Harbaugh will stay in the NFL and will likely be traded by the 49ers to the Oakland Raiders for draft choices. Les Miles is telling recruits he will be at LSU next year. Dan Mullen is about to get a pay raise pretty close to what Ole Miss gave Hugh Freeze. Former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Bucs coach Greg Schiano could end up the winner by default.
7. Brady Hoke to Oregon State?: It sounds far fetched but if former Cal coach Jeff Tedford is a serious candidate to fill the vacancy left by Mike Riley, then why not Hoke? He’s a former Beaver assistant and his track record would indicate he is every bit as capable of going .500 as either Riley or Tedford.
8. June Jones could resurface at UNLV: While all the talk has centered around high school coach Tony Sanchez of local powerhouse Bishop O’Gorman, the June Jones rumors are picking up steam. Since Hawaii is taking its sweet time deciding whether or not to fire Norm Chow, UNLV is probably as good a gig as anyone for June and his version of the run and shoot.
Among the assistant coaches from Will Muschamp’s staff, which ones do you hope to see Jim McElwain retain?
I have a growing appreciation for the music of Atlanta-based Blackberry Smoke, versatile enough to have a strong following by both the country and Southern rock crowds. If you haven’t seen them in person, they’ll be playing The House of Blues in Orlando on April 25. Lead guitar/vocalist Charlie Starr is absolutely worth the price of admission. This is “One Horse Town” from their 2012 album “The Whippoorwill,” which made it to #8 on the country charts and #12 on the rock and roll charts.