The next domino on the Florida coaching staff has fallen with the departure of Mike Summers to Louisville and it’s not going to be the only one. Within a matter of a few days, Jim McElwain’s staff should take on a radically new look as we hit the stretch run until National Signing Day.
That Summers would leave for Louisville might seem strange but it makes perfect sense when you check out his bio. He is a native Kentuckian who played high school football in Lexington and then college football at nearby Georgetown (KY) College. He has a graduate degree from the University of Kentucky where he has worked as a grad assistant and O-line coach. His roots and family are all in Kentucky and then there is the Bobby Petrino factor. Summers worked for Petrino as the OL coach at Louisville (2003-06), with the Atlanta Falcons (2007) and at Arkansas (2008-09).
Current speculation is Mac and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier want to reunited with Jeff Stoutland, currently the OL coach of the Philadelphia Eagles but the coach of national championship O-lines at Alabama in 2011 (Mac was the OC) and 2012 (Nuss was the OC). At Alabama Stoutland was making $395,000. Some NFL O-line coaches make more than $1 million but typically, the salaries range from $500,000-700,000. Stoutland has a good reputation so you can almost bet that he’s closer to $700,000 than $500,000. When Will Muschamp was Florida’s head coach, he wanted to hire Stacey Searels but Searels was making more than $500,000 and the hire was vetoed because of the money. Summers got a $538,959 deal for 2016, but he was making $200,000 in 2014 and 2015 when Southern Cal was still paying buyout money. If it takes $700,000 (or more) to hire Stoutland, new AD Scott Stricklin is going to have to okay more money. He’s certainly not going to pay Stoutland more money than he’s paying Nussmeier ($526,500) so Florida’s OC will have to get a raise to whatever Stoutland is being paid then some.
Maybe the move that would make the most sense from a cost standpoint would be to hire former Gator O-lineman and OL coach under Ron Zook Joe Wickline, who is making $350,000 at West Virginia, which is notorious for paying low salaries. Wickline is a no-nonsense tough guy who is exceptional in the area of player development. When he was Mike Gundy’s OL coach at Oklahoma State, Wickline’s units were consistently among the very best in the country. In most years, Okie State produced a 3,000-plus yard passer, a 1,200-plus rusher and a 1,000-plus receiver. Things did not work out for him at Texas under Charlie Strong but that was a smoldering fire at the city dump from day one.
Whereas Stoutland hasn’t recruited since 2012, Wickline is an excellent recruiter but even more important an extraordinary developer of talent. There is talent in place at UF but it’s certainly in desperate need of development. At Oklahoma State he rarely paid attention to stars but developed O-lines that were great in both pass protection and run blocking.
What makes the Wickline move intriguing is that it could also open the door for WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider to make the move, too. Seider is a Florida native who has established a pipeline to West Virginia from his home state. He makes $342,000 so Florida could give him an increase and bring in a lights out recruiter on the offensive side of the football, something that would be woefully missing from the current staff.
Another name being thrown out is Tennessee RB coach Robert Gillespie but money might be a factor since he is making $480,000.
Just adding a new OL coach, a running backs coach and moving Skipper to defense would dramatically re-shape the staff, but I have been told by a couple of folks who are on top of the assistant coach carousel that Florida could make two more moves. Expectations are that the staff of 2017 will have quite the different look from 2016. The next few days will tell a lot.
TIME FOR CANYON BARRY TO ASSERT HIMSELF
Nobody on the planet has tried harder to fit into a situation more than Canyon Barry. The College of Charleston graduate transfer has passed up countless open and makeable shots while doing everything he can to prove he’s an unselfish player. Barry has shown he’s not afraid in the least of doing the dirty work on defense and rebounding. He’s Florida’s best all-around player and has the highest basketball IQ (and probably in the classroom too considering he’s a nuclear physics major) on the team, yet he has willingly accepted the role of sixth man for Mike White.
The way things are going with the Gators (14-3, 5-0 SEC), it might be a mistake to insert Barry into the starting lineup because you don’t want to upset an established chemistry, but whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, one thing has become perfectly clear – it’s time for Canyon Barry to really assert himself on the offensive end.
He’s a serious shooter who has tremendous range and when he gets his feet set and shoulders square, you like the odds of the ball going in the hole. He’s also quite capable of creating his own shot off the bounce. Watch him when he’s putting the ball on the floor. Head is always up, eyes always open and looking for an open shooter. He can take it to the rack and finish in a variety of ways and he’s strong enough to absorb contact and still get the shot off. Did you happen to see him run the baseline and take a pass under the basket for an easy reverse layup when things were tight late in the second half against Georgia? That happened because Barry just doesn’t stand around. He kept moving and was rewarded
That reverse layup Saturday was overshadowed by a pair of 4-point plays (first time that’s happened in UF history) as part of a 27-point scoring effort that led the Gators to an 80-76 win. He hit 5-8 from the 3-point line, converted 8-8 from the foul line, came away with 7 rebounds, created at least 5 other rebounds with great box outs or by tipping the ball to opponents, and played tough defense.
All this on a day when Georgia had KeVaughn Allen smothered and frustrated and Devin Robinson’s game once again had a bad case of the sputters. Typically, they’re good for about 26 points a game. Saturday they combined for 14 but Barry was there to pick up the slack and he got help from another one who has begun asserting himself in Keith Stone, who finished the game with a career-high 17.
Allen and Robinson will bounce back but even when they do get back into a rhythm Barry needs to be THE man on the offensive end. He is capable of carrying the team without disrupting the chemistry. He doesn’t have to defer to anyone anymore. He fits in, it’s his time and his team needs him.
BILL BATTLE RETIRING
It’s being reported that Alabama athletic director Bill Battle will retire this week and will be replaced by Arizona AD Greg Byrne. Byrne is the former AD at Mississippi State and was mentor to UF AD Scott Stricklin.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: Former Bama QB David Cornwell will transfer to Nevada where he will be eligible and have two years to play ... Justin Ruiz, the nation’s #1 placekicker, de-committed over the weekend. This is the second straight year Alabama has lost the nation’s top placekicker.
Arkansas: Arkansas wanted former UConn head coach Bob Diaco as its new DC but Diaco took the DC job at Nebraska instead. The Hogs may choose to move internally and promote former Iowa State HBC and Auburn DC Paul Rhoads, who worked as secondary coach in 2016. Arkansas could change another 2-3 coaches.
Auburn: Apparently, former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich will take a year off rather than accept an OC job. Helfrich is being paid an $11.6 million buyout. He was rumored to be either #1 or 1A on Auburn’s wish list.
Georgia: Georgia will open the 2020 season with Virginia at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Kentucky: The commitment of athlete Lynn Bowden from Youngstown, Ohio gives Kentucky a chance to finish fast and complete the best football recruiting class in history. Currently, Kentucky’s 2017 class is ranked #26 nationally by Scout.com.
LSU: Brandon Harris will be with LSU at least until May. He graduates in May so he would be immediately eligible if he elected to transfer. Harris could transfer to Louisiana-Lafayette and take over for good buddy and former LSU QB Anthony Jennings, who transferred out of LSU last spring.
Mississippi State: With the hire of Todd Grantham from Louisville as the new DC, Mississippi State will transform to a 3-4 scheme. Grantham is expected to completely overhaul the defensive coaching staff so expect several changes this week.
Missouri: Missouri’s recruiting class is currently ranked #39 by Scout.com. Only Ole Miss (51) and Vanderbilt (68) have lower ranked classes among SEC teams.
Ole Miss: Sometime in the next 2-3 months the NCAA is expected to announce its findings from the investigation of Ole Miss and that could decide if Hugh Freeze will be gainfully employed next year or dismissed.
South Carolina: It is being reported that Director of Football Operations Jamie Speronis will be leaving the program soon. Speronis worked for Steve Spurrier at both Florida and South Carolina and remained on Will Muschamp’s staff when he took over.
Tennessee: Former QB Joshua Dobbs will be playing at the Senior Bowl, but he’s got a lot of work to do to impress the scouts. Currently he’s listed as fifth round or lower and possibly free agent material.
Texas A&M: Early enrollee dual threat QB Kellen Mond will be given every chance to earn the starting job in the spring. His only competition will come from holdover backup Jake Hubenak, who has thrown for 9 TDs and 3 INTs in the last two years.
Vanderbilt: All-America linebacker Zach Cunningham has elected to enter the NFL Draft. He had 125 tackles with 16.5 tackles for loss last season. He was in on 256 tackles in his career.
If they haven’t turned in the votes for NFC MVP just yet, the people who make that decision have a touch choice between Atlanta QB Matt Ryan and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Ryan lit up the Seattle defense for 338 yards and 3 TDs Saturday to put the Falcons in the NFC championship game against Green Bay. Rodgers threw for 356 yards and 2 TDs to lead Green Bay past Dallas Sunday night. Did you see that throw he made to Jared Cook to set up the game-winning field goal? Both Ryan and Rodgers had extraordinary regular seasons and now they’re showing they are the best in the playoffs.
Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers is unquestionably the best center in all of pro football. Watch him leading running backs 20-30 yards down the field. There isn’t another center in the league with his speed, athleticism and ability to make all the right line calls. Well, that is unless you’re talking about twin brother Mike of the Miami Dolphins. Interesting stat: The Dolphins averaged more than 135 rushing yards when Mike was in the lineup. When he was injured they averaged less than 90.
For the second straight year, Alabama lost a football commitment from the #1 placekicker in the country. Last year Alabama los Eddy Pineiro to Florida. This year, Justin Ruiz de-committed and is expected to stay home and play for Arrizona State.
California hired former Wisconsin DC Justin Wilcox as its new head coach. Wilcox spent two years at Tennessee working for Derek Dooley and two years at Southern Cal working for Lane Kiffin. He has never been a head coach and now he’s going to a place that needs to hire an exorcist to deal with its entire athletic administration. I’m taking the under in an over-under of four, as in he’ll be fired or will quit in three or fewer years.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you had a vote for NFC MVP who would you choose: Matt Ryan or Aaron Rodgers?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of my favorite musical discoveries of the last three years has been Fitz and the Tantrums. They’re a better live act than a studio band but either way they have a great sound. The band has put out three albums, the latest entitled “Fitz and the Tantrums” from June of 2016. Today’s music is their first album, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” from 2010.