Here are things I’m hearing Sunday night on Jim McElwain’s search for assistant coaches to fill out his staff:
1. D.J. Durkin to North Carolina: A very close friend who is one of Larry Fedora’s confidants said that Durkin will be the new defensive coordinator at UNC. I had been hearing for a week that Durkin probably wouldn’t be on the Florida staff next year.
2. Doug Nussmeier/Billy Napier could be co-OC: I’m hearing Doug Nussmeier is definitely going to be on the Florida staff, but a friend in the coaching search business says that Billy Napier, the wide receivers coach at Alabama could come along as the co-offensive coordinator. Nussmeier worked with McElwain at Michigan State and succeeded Mac as the offensive coordinator at Fresno State in 2008 and then at Alabama in 2012. Napier was on the Alabama staff in 2011 with McElwain and then went to Colorado State with him in 2012. When Alabama offered him the wide receiver position in 2013, he returned to Tuscaloosa.
3. TRob to Auburn isn’t a done deal yet: It has been reported by Phillip Marshall, one of the best in the business, that Travaris Robinson is expected to join Will Muschamp at Auburn, but I was told Sunday night that Florida has made TRob an offer that he’s seriously considering. While it’s likely he goes to Auburn, Florida still has a shot.
4. Mike Locksley wanted to return to Florida: Mike Locksley, who was on Ron Zook’s Florida staff as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, wanted to return to UF but I’m hearing it’s not going to happen.
5. Big name defensive coordinator coming to UF: I’m wondering if it isn’t Bo Pelini. I’ve heard for the last three or four days that McElwain is about to bring in a big time defensive coordinator. Pelini is being talked to about coming to Youngstown State as the head coach but I can’t see that happening. I can’t see Bo getting along at all with Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M either, although he’s been linked to that job. I have no concrete evidence that McElwain and Pelini have had any contact, but bringing in Bo would be about the biggest name hire out there for Florida DC.
Was it sour grapes or the truth? When asked about recruits during the press conference when he was named Auburn’s new defensive coordinator Saturday, former Florida coach Will Muschamp said that recruits always told him how nice housing was at Auburn and he followed that up with a statement, “It’s nice to be on the other side of it.”
You may want to believe it’s sour grapes, but Muschamp is as honest as it gets. I’ve been told by more than one person close to Muschamp that he said Florida’s housing situation puts the Gators at a disadvantage with other SEC schools. It’s not like we haven’t heard that before. I remember Florida losing a defensive tackle to LSU because he liked their dorm rooms better and I’ve heard recruits rave for years about the dorms up at Georgia.
Whether we like it or not, things like nice dorm rooms and great facilities do matter to recruits. They also matter to potential coaches. I’ve heard from a couple of folks who know both Ivan Maisel and Dan Mullen that when Maisel asked Mullen about any interest he might have in coming to Florida (about the time of the Missouri loss) that Mullen replied (I’m paraphrasing), “Why go there? I have better facilities here at Mississippi State.”
Asked what restrictions are in place for Muschamp recruiting kids he was recruiting at Florida, Muschamp replied, "As long as Auburn was recruiting a student-athlete, we are more than welcome to recruit them."
Muschamp’s Florida buyout is for $2.1 million a year over three years whether he’s a head coach or assistant coach, so the next three years he will be the 18th highest paid coach – head or assistant – in college football. That’s based on current numbers and could change if coaches get raises, etc., but when you add up the numbers, Muschamp will make $3.7 million next year, $3.8 million in 2016 and $3.9 million in 2017. Going just by his assistant coach’s salary, Muschamp will be the highest paid in the country unless Nick Saban elects to give Kirby Smart a significant raise (he’s making $1.3 million now).
Both Texas A&M and South Carolina had their sights set on Muschamp, also, so who do Kevin Sumlin and Steve Spurrier target as their defensive coordinators now that they’ve been named Miss Congeniality in this beauty contest? The Aggies had Muschamp and Brent Venables as their top two choices so with Muschamp to Auburn and Venables electing to stay at Clemson, that job could fall to Randy Shannon, the Arkansas linebackers coach and former Miami head coach. As for South Carolina, there is a really good chance that Ellis Johnson will return. Johnson was fired by Auburn, but in his four years as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator (2008-11) he turned the Gamecocks into a formidable unit. Johnson is also one of the best recruiters of talent in the Carolinas so he’ll help upgrade the South Carolina roster significantly if he gets the job.
Florida’s 6-4 basketball record can be taken two ways. If you’re the glass half empty type, then you say four losses this early in the season is terrible. If you’re the glass half full type, then you say the Gators are just nine points from being a 9-1 record and Billy Donovan still doesn’t have all his moving parts and some of them still aren’t 100% healthy.
Here are a few things to take into consideration:
1. Even with a depleted roster due to injury, suspension and waiting for Alex Murphy to get eligible (he plays his first game against Wake Forest), the Gators haven’t forgotten how to play defense. Through 10 games, the Gators have yet to allow an opponent to hit 50% from the field overall and only two opponents have hit more than 40% from the 3-point line.
2. The Gators are holding opponents to 38.7% from the field overall and 30.6% from the 3-point line. Last year’s Florida team, considered as good a defensive team as there was anywhere in the country, held opponents to 40.2% from the field and 33% from the 3-point line. The Gators are ahead of last year’s pace in both steals and blocked shots.
3. Although this probably will never be considered a really good offensive team, the Gators are starting to move the ball better, which translates into better shots, which translates into better shooting percentages. In the last three games, the Gators have hit 98-170 from the field (57.6%) and 30-65 from the 3-point line (47.6%). Now, while Yale, Texas Southern and Jacksonville aren’t exactly basketball powers, the same shots the Gators hit against those three were there in the first seven games. Donovan’s offensive schemes are so good that the Gators were just as open in the first seven games but the shots didn’t fall. Some of that can be attributed to streakiness, some of it to playing three straight home games but a good portion of it has to do with ball movement. When the ball is moving well, the shots just fall more frequently.
4. Murphy will make a difference. With him eligible, the Gators will be able to go with a 10-man rotation. Additionally, he gives the Gators more size (he’s 6-8) and a fourth versatile big guy who can stretch a defense. If Donovan goes with any three of these four – Murphy, Jon Horford, Dorian Finney-Smith, Devin Robinson – along with Michael Frazier on the court at the same, Donovan will almost be able to dare someone to throw a zone at him.
1. STILL NO COACH FOR Michigan: Apparently Michigan is 0-3 in its coach search – Jim Harbaugh, Les Miles and Duke’s David Cutcliffe have all said thankee but no thankee. UCLA’s Jim Mora Jr. is the latest candidate and while Michigan folks are hopeful, there are several compelling reasons he will stay in LA. Next two on the list are Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and Joe Moglia, the former CEO of TD Waterhouse who, after making a billion or so, decided he wanted to coach football. He just finished a 12-2 season at Coastal Carolina, which just lost in the Division IAA quarterfinals to three-time national champ North Dakota State in Fargo.
2. Houston, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Houston made its best pitch to Will Muschamp and came up empty in its attempt to make a fast replacement for fired Tony Levine. Next on the list is Tom Herman, Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Herman has interviewed but might choose to one more year to see if there are better opportunities. The coach who makes the most sense is Willie Fritts, who went 9-3 at Georgia Southern in his only season in Statesboro and was ultra-successful at Sam Houston State.
3. Paul Chryst TO Wisconsin? MAYBE NOT: Amid a flood of reports that Pitt head coach Paul Chryst will return to Wisconsin, where he spent seven years as an assistant, a new storyline is emerging. Recruits told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that running backs coach John Settle and director of player development Bob Junko are telling them that Chryst has met with University of Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher to discuss some changes that he needs implemented quickly and if the changes are agreed to, he (Chryst) will stay at Pitt. Under terms of Chryst’s contract with Pitt, no formal offer can be made until after December 17.
4. IF CHRYST LEAVES PITT: If Chryst does leave Pitt, expect one of the first calls to go to Tom Herman, the Ohio State offensive coordinator who has been interviewed by Houston. A couple other names being mentioned are former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, whose name has been linked just about every coach opening this year with the exception of Florida, and Toledo head coach Matt Campbell, who is young (35) and 25-13 in three seasons as a D1 head coach.
5. Colorado STATE: Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin has interviewed to replace Jim McElwain as the head coach and while no announcement has been made, it appears that he’s going to get the job. He’s 59 years old and not the age where you would expect he would be interviewing for head coaching jobs elsewhere if he has a couple of years of success.
This belongs to Steve Shrader of the Detroit Free-Press, writing about Shelley Meyer’s 50th birthday party when her hair caught fire (she’s fine; fire was doused before any damage done) when she was blowing out the candles on her cake: “But cleveland.com recalled that when husband Urban took the Ohio State job, he said he wanted assistants "that coach like their hair's on fire." Apparently she's married to the job, too.”
Do you think Muschamp’s comments about dorm rooms were sour grapes or are they pretty close to the truth?
While driving late last week, I put a Sam Cooke CD on and spent the next 40 minutes singing along. I discovered Sam Cooke during my family’s exile to Mississippi in the 1960s. The woman who kept our house asked me one day if she could bring some records over to play on our big cabinet stereo and I said yes. Over the next two years, she introduced me to the kind of soul music that I didn’t hear on WNOE or KAAY. Sam Cooke became a favorite of mine almost 50 years ago and his songs still make me want to sing along. Todays’ music is “Twisting the Night Away” which was famous long before Flounder and Pinto went to a Delta rush party.