Here are names that I continue to hear associated with five key positions on the Florida coaching staff. None of this is official and is simply stuff I am hearing from a variety of sources.
1. Greg Mattison, Michigan: He was the co-defensive coordinator at Florida from 2005-07 before leaving for the Baltimore Ravens and from there to Michigan. He was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach in 2011. His 2014 Michigan defense ranks #11 nationally. He still owns a home in Gainesville.
2. Todd Grantham, Louisville: Formerly the DC at Georgia, Grantham is in his first year working for Bobby Petrino. His defense ranks #6 nationally overall, #7 in sacks and #1 in interceptions. There are two stories associated with Grantham: (1) Supposedly, he and Petrino aren’t best of buds and is available if the right job opens up and (2) he is really happy with Petrino but is bucking for a raise.
3. Bob Shoop, Penn State: Vanderbilt’s defense went from average to outstanding while Shoop was working for James Franklin in Nashville. This season the Nittany Lions are the nation’s #2 defensive unit.
4. Geoff Collins, Mississippi State: This is what you need to know about Collins. Mississippi State ranks #1 nationally in red zone defense. He’s worked for Nick Saban at Alabama and George O’Leary at both Georgia Tech and UCF.
1. Thomas Brown, Wisconsin: In his one season as the running backs coach at Wisconsin, Melvin Gordon ran for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns. Prior to Wisconsin, Brown coached 1,000-yard runner Essray Taliaferro at Marshall. Brown played running back for Georgia. He’s young and considered a great recruiter. He is an Atlanta native who could give the Gators a presence in that talent-laden region.
2. John Settle, Pitt: There is a connection with McElwain through Pat Hill. Settle was the running backs coach for Hill from 1998-2005. McElwain worked as Hill’s offensive coordinator in 2007. At Pitt in 2014, he coached James Conner, who ran for 1,675 yards and 24 touchdowns. When he was the running backs coach at Wisconsin he produced six 1,000-yard rushers. He has NFL experience with the Browns, Ravens and Panthers.
3. Telly Lockette, USF: He’s the former head coach at Miami Central where he compiled a 60-10 record and won two state championships. Before that he coached the running backs at Miami Northwestern. Hiring Lockette would give the Gators a serious presence in Dade and throughout South Florida.
4. Calvin Magee, Arizona: Following his NFL playing career, Magee finished college at USF and then became the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Tampa Catholic. He spent four years with Jim Leavitt at USF and has been with Rich Rodriguez all but one year since 2001. He’s a native of New Orleans, has recruited the Miami and Tampa area extensively and is a highly respected coach and individual.
1. Robert Prunty, Cincinnati: Bob and I first met him in San Antonio at the US Army All-American Bowl when he was an assistant coach for the East team and was head coach at Hargrave Military Academy. He’s a terrific personality, which might explain why he’s considered one of the nation’s best recruiters and an outstanding D-line coach. His front four registered 32 sacks during the regular season.
2. John Papuchis, Nebraska: Worked as a graduate assistant at LSU under both Nick Saban and Les Miles, and under coordinators Will Muschamp and Bo Pelini. Defensive coordinator at Nebraska from 2012-14 and before that was special teams coordinator and D-line coach. Outstanding special teams coach.
3. Steve Caldwell, Boise State: For 14 years he was the defensive line coach for Philip Fulmer at Tennessee, where John Chavis was the coordinator. He was part of the Vols’ 1998 national championship. He worked three years for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas after Fulmer was fired. During Fulmer’s final season as the Vols head coach (2008), the Vols finished third nationally in total defense.
1. Vernon Hargreaves, Houston: All you have to do is look at his son to know this guy can coach. VHIII came to Florida about as well prepared as any freshman defensive player in modern Florida football history, a tribute to the skills he learned from his dad, who coached linebackers on the Miami staff in 2001 when the Hurricanes won the national title.
2. Tony Grantham, Louisville: He’s the younger brother of Todd Grantham, the Louisville defensive coordinator. Coached defensive line and then linebackers at Navy under current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo. Worked as a defensive graduate assistant under Nick Saban at LSU where the coordinator was Will Muschamp.
3. Sal Sunseri, Florida State: He’s coaching defensive ends at FSU but coached linebackers at Alabama and was on the staff with McElwain.
1. Mike Reed, Clemson: At North Carolina State, Reed’s secondaries were among the nation’s leaders in interceptions. This year at Clemson, the Tigers rank third nationally in pass defense. Has NFL experience with the Philadelphia Eagles.
2. Torrian Gray, Virginia Tech: He’s a graduate of Lakeland Kathleen who played at Virginia Tech. He spent a couple of years coaching with the Chicago Bears and has been at VaTech since 2006. He coaches his corners and safeties to make plays on the ball.
3. Greg Burns, California: He coached corners with McElwain at Louisville and for Pete Carroll at USC from 2002-06. He has also coached for Bill Snyder at K-State and for Jon Gruden with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
4. Deshea Townsend, Mississippi State: Played college football at Alabama and won two Super Bowl rings in a 13-year NFL career. He coached two years in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals and has been at Mississippi State for two years.
5. Kirk Callahan, UCF: He was a grad assistant at Florida in 2011 and has been the secondary coach at UCF ever since. The Knights rank #11 nationally in pass defense and #9 in interceptions.
1. LES WILL STAY AT LSU: No one should be surprised but Les Miles has elected to stay at LSU rather than take the Michigan job. Michigan might be home, but the LSU roster is so stacked that the Tigers might contend for the national title no matter what Les does.
2. MICHIGAN COULD BECOME THE NORTHERN VERSION OF TENNESSEE: Remember when Tennessee fired Phattus Maximus after the 2008 season? Lane Kiffin was something like the sixth choice. Then Lane left after one year. Derek Dooley was something like the seventh choice. Then Derek got fired. Butch Jones was something like the eighth choice. At Michigan, they keep hoping Jim Harbaugh will change his mind and say yes, but donkeys might fly first. Les Miles has said no. David Cutcliffe has said no. They are optimistically targeting UCLA’s Jim Mora, but Mora’s turned down Texas last year to stay in LA. Mississippi State is planning to give Dan Mullen, the next choice, a Hugh Freeze type raise of $1.3 million and seriously up the ante so he can keep and hire good coaches. He could say yes, but it’s more likely he stays. If they say yes, Michigan is 0-5. Sounds like Tennessee all over again.
3. ONE MORE DAY AND Paul Chryst WILL BE THE WISCONSIN COACH: Apparently it’s a done deal that Chryst is leaving Pitt for his alma mater. He can’t be officially offered the job nor can he accept it until Wednesday. Who will succeed him at Pitt? The leading candidate could be Teryl Austin, a Pitt grad who is formerly Florida’s defensive coordinator (2010) and now the DC for the Cincinnati Bengals.
4. TOM HERMAN TALKING TO HOUSTON: The deal isn’t done yet for Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman to take over at Houston. As of late Monday they were still in negotiations but that might be a matter of a few minor details. At Houston he will have a year-old on campus stadium that seats 40,000 and all the talent he will need to win in the American Athletic Conference within a 100-mile radius of the campus.
Best hire of the year: Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin were supposed to be oil and water and there were predictions they would be on their way to a nasty divorce by midseason. Instead Lane gave Nick the best offense of his eight-year stay in Tuscaloosa. Another year like this one and Lane’s head coaching career will be revived.
Worst hire of the year: Vanderbilt went to three straight bowl games under James Franklin. In his first year on the job, Derek Mason took Vandy back to the dark ages of the pre-Franklin years. It’s bad enough that Vandy lost all its SEC games, but it did it with the worst offense in the SEC and #122 out of 125 D1 teams.
Surprise of the year: Nine weeks into the season both Mississippi State and Ole Miss were both unbeaten and ranked #1 and #3 respectively in both the AP and coaches’ polls.
Surprise of the year, part II: How many of you thought Blake Sims would wind be the starting quarterback at Alabama? How many of you thought he would put up record-setting numbers?
Surprise of the year, part III: How many of you had Missouri winning the SEC East for a second straight year?
Dud of the year: South Carolina was in everybody’s top seven or eight teams in the nation when the season began. The Gamecocks are lucky they had a D1AA team on the November schedule otherwise they wouldn’t be going to a bowl.
Dud of the year, part II: Jeremy Pruitt’s defense was supposed to turn Georgia into one of the nation’s elite units. A Georgia fan told me Sunday that if you take away the South Carolina, Florida and Georgia Tech games, Georgia had one of the best defensive units in the country. That’s like saying a 747 pilot did a great job flying the plane but had a teensy problem landing, which is why it crashed.
Dud of the year, part III: Auburn’s defense gave up 31 or more points in its last five SEC games, which is why Ellis Johnson is the former defensive coordinator and Will Muschamp is the new defensive coordinator. Muschamp is expected to the Auburn defense into a unit that resembles something other than a matador.
Dud of the year, part IV: The Florida offense was supposed to flourish under Kurt Roper. It was improved – an offense with a 3-toed sloth at QB would have been better than what we saw in 2013 – but not enough to save Muschamp’s job.
Dud of the year, part V: Folks were calling the Aggies a final four team after the first four weeks. Then they started playing teams with an offense and the defense got exposed.
Stud of the year: Amari Cooper of Alabama is in a league of his own as a wide receiver.
Stud of the year, Part II: Shane Ray was Missouri’s second straight defensive player of the year in the SEC when he racked up 14 sacks.
Stud of the year, Part III: Vernon Hargreaves III simply takes one side of the field away from opponents. Nobody covers better.
Stud of the year, Part IV: Reese Dismukes made first team All-America at center. All he did was start every game for four years at the toughest position on the O-line.
Studs of the future: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia; Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU; Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M; Travin Dural, WR, LSU; Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama; Derek Barnett, DT, Tennessee; J.T. Gray, LB, Mississippi State.
Did more with less talent: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Did less with most talent: Mark Richt, Georgia.
Who is your ideal candidate for Florida’s next defensive coordinator?
Some of the best music of the 1960s never was played on contemporary radio airwaves. You either had to have a friend who was really into the blues or access to a station that played a lot of music but didn’t make much money to hear John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. I worked after school at The Record Bar on University Avenue my senior year at GHS and Al Hospers, who played bass in a couple of local bands, introduced me to the blues and especially to Mayall. This is “Steppin’ Out,” an old Memphis Slim song that Mayall recorded in 1966 with Eric Clapton playing the lead guitar.