Three months into the job, things look a lot different in Gainesville. McElwain got the go-ahead from administration to bolster the secondary staff, and he wanted more coaching experience in off field roles that could benefit the program. He has done that, adding experienced coaches and recruiters with ties to different parts of the country and state of Florida.
McElwain retained director of player personnel Drew Hughes to handle recruiting and brought Kevin Barbay from Colorado State to aid the process.
The quality control additions to the staff include multiple coaches that turned down full-time assistant jobs to be off field coaches for McElwain. The biggest name is John Garrett, who served as the offensive coordinator for Oregon State last season and is the brother of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.
Mark DeBastiani (22-year coaching veteran and former Norfolk State defensive coordinator) and Marc Nudelberg (former Cincinnati tight ends/special teams coach) are also new additions with long coaching backgrounds. Marquel Blackwell brings deep recruiting ties to the Tampa area.
Add in a deep group of graduate assistants, and the staff has a different look off the field than it did last season. But they’re still not done.
“We’re getting there,” Jim McElwain said. “We’re still a ways away in a couple spots. We’ve been really fortunate to attract some outstanding talent and guys that are gonna be able to help this program move forward in the roles. Getting another set of quality eyes on your product that can kind of sit back and see a little bit from afar and bring some really good value to what you’re trying to accomplish. I think we’ve done that in those spots. We’re not filled up yet.
“It’s got to be a model that works for the University of Florida. We’re at the University of Florida, we’re gonna fit that model to what’s best for us.”
Many coaches on the staff left full-time assistants jobs to join Florida’s secondary staff. McElwain said there wasn’t a sales job to convince the coaches to make the move to Gainesville, they simply saw a beneficial opportunity for them to be around the program and around a successful staff before finding out what their next move would be.
The full-time staff that McElwain hired is loaded with names of respected assistant coaches that drew others to want to be a part of the group.
“Part of it is the people you get to work with, the new set of ways of doing things and just kind of refreshing yourself as a coach,” McElwain said. “These are transient positions by nature, which is great because we’re able to give an opportunity to a coach to advance his career and then at the same time on the other end, we’re possibly able to bring in new ideas to stay fresh. That’s all part of how this works.
“The other thing is if a coach does move on to a head coaching job, it allows opportunities for guys internally and externally. I’ve seen it first-hand. It really is the way of moving forward and our administration has been fantastic with allowing us the opportunity to at least get near in the ballpark with the way things are moving in that direction.”
Compared to Will Muschamp’s secondary staff, McElwain has basically doubled it at Florida. He knew things had to change when he got to Florida and made it a priority.
When asked how far behind the Florida staff structure was when he took over, McElwain didn’t want to answer it. He said the changes are simply more in line with what he prefers and believes it takes to be successful.
“It’s a philosophical discussion more than it is anything,” McElwain said. “I don’t think we were behind by any stretch in imagination and yet it’s something that I was kind of a part of, I saw the value of. We did the same thing at the place we just came from and it helped us be successful. So bringing that here is just something philosophically that we believe in and something that our administration is totally behind.
“It's hard to have success if you've got different things pulling in different directions. As long as everybody's on board with the right message, what needs to be accomplished and then figuring out ways to do it. That's one thing, I think, that is great about being here: the people we're working with, giving themselves opportunities."