Skipper jumped at chance to coach for Florida

When Tim Skipper got the call from Jim McElwain about coming to Gainesville, they didn’t get deep into the conversation.

The Florida head coach barely got words out of his mouth before Skipper agreed to come. He said on Friday that his position coach responsibilities weren’t even discussed before he agreed to make the move to Gainesville. He found out he would be moving from linebackers coach to running backs coach when he first arrived in Gainesville.

“He’s at the University of Florida and you’re hoping you get that call,” Tim Skipper said on Friday of Jim McElwain. “And then you start thinking of all things that have happened here. We’re just talking as an athletic program the amount of winning that happens within each sport. Then you go to football and you look at how many guys have been drafted in the first round and how many guys have played in Super Bowls, it gets your blood flowing.

“I was ready to walk here.”

The move from the defensive side of the football to coaching running backs isn’t something Skipper expects to be difficult. He has coached running back for three seasons at Fresno State, serving in the position under offensive coordinators McElwain and current Florida coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and helped produced first-round pick Ryan Mathews among multiple other backs that played in the NFL.

Despite working on the defensive side of the football since 2009, Skipper expects a smooth transition back to offense because he believes running back and linebacker are pretty similar.

“Coach Mac kind of calls me the handy man,” Skipper said with a smile. “If the toilet’s broke, he’s going to call me. If he’s got something going on, he’s going to call me. I’ve coached both sides of the ball. Running back and linebacker are very similar now. Both guys are trying to find the open hole, there’s going to be a collision and whoever stops their feet is going to lose it.”

McElwain’s desire to bring Skipper with him isn’t tough to figure out. The new running backs coach is energetic, bouncing up and down in his seat while answering questions with an ear-to-ear grin on his face. Adjusting to recruiting in the Southeastern Conference doesn’t look like it will be very difficult.

Talking to the media for the first time since taking the job at Florida, Skipper already had his selling points down.

He ran through the list of programs that have won national titles at Florida in recent years, talked about the large number of successful players that have come through the program and even said they’re looking for the next Emmitt Smith to run the ball for the Gators.

“I think the school sells itself -- the community, everybody here, the tradition, it really does,” Skipper said. “That orange and blue means something. They see that Gator (logo) and that phone is going to get answered. It’s been awesome. It’s been like a heat wave since we’ve got the staff together and trying to get recruits.

“As far as for me when I talk to a running back, there’s not many in the room. There’s a chance to come in and play pretty soon at a big-time university where they’ve had great ones like Emmitt Smith carry that ball. I think at every position that you, there’s been somebody where a kid says, ‘Oh, he went there.’ We’re using that, playing to that, and just the newness of the staff, the diversity of the staff and everything we got going. I think it’s an exciting time to be a Florida Gator."

When he looked around the running back room after the first team meeting on Monday, it was even more exciting for Skipper.

He has multiple returners with different amounts of experience at Florida. He has an experienced third-year back in Kelvin Taylor that can handle the load, and Adam Lane has become a topic of conversation since his breakout game and Birmingham Bowl MVP honors.

“The first thing I’ll say is those are some great kids in that room,” Skipper said. “They’ve taken me in like I’ve been here forever. Everything’s been going good. We’ve kind of got a little combination of thunder and lightning. You got Adam Lane in there, you got Kelvin Taylor and you got Brandon Powell, who brings a lot to the table.”

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