Tim Skipper (Jacquie Franciulli)

Gators’ staff getting noticed

College football staff changes are inevitable. Sometimes they are a nuisance and a head coach has to pick up the pieces after an exodus and sometimes an exodus means there are good things going on. Jim McElwain feels comfortable with his guys and so do others that are seeking their employment according to the Gators’ Head Coach.

McElwain lost three assistants off of the 2016 coaching staff. Geoff Collins left as the defensive coordinator at Florida to become the head coach at Temple. Torrian Gray fulfilled a dream of becoming an NFL coach after just one season at Florida by jumping to the Washington Redskins. McElwain also lost offensive line coach Mike Summers to Louisville in the same capacity in what appears to be a mutual agreement to separate.

In all, McElwain is happy for the guys that come to Florida, do their job well and get recognized by a promotion one way or another.

“I was really sad to lose Geoff Collins and yet his opportunity to be a head coach is really what it’s all about. I am excited for him and excited for his family. Having a guy like Randy Shannon (take over as defensive coordinator) who can move in and not reinvent the wheel has been huge.

“You hate to see guys leave. Torrian did a great job for us, but his dream when he came here… he had 10 years at Virginia Tech and never had the opportunity to go in the NFL and coach. He spent one year with us and the next thing you know he was with the Washington Redskins. That’s the way it should be.”

The replacements for the three he lost seemed to have stepped in and filled the voids nicely. Tim Skipper was the running back coach a year ago but has wanted to coach linebackers and with two vacancies on the defensive side of the ball, he moved over. That made room for former West Virginia assistant Ja’Juan Seider to take over the running back coaching duties.

“You talk about Ja’Juan Seider who obviously is from this state, played here, played in this state,” McElwain started. “He’s been recruiting this state forever. He’s a guy we tried to get on our first staff and it didn’t work out. His son was ill and just the timing wasn’t right. As soon as this was going to happen we knew that he was going to jump on board.”

With Gray’s departure, there was a void to fill in the secondary and McElwain went with someone that worked with Shannon before to fill that void. So far it has been another seamless fit.

“Corey Bell of course worked with Coach Shannon down at Miami. Long time high school coach and obviously grew up in (Miami).”

One of the things that Summers lacked was a personality that was aggressive enough to push his guys. McElwain asked around and found one of the more aggressive offensive line coaches you will see in Brad Davis and he believes that this particular addition has made a huge difference.

“I think Brad Davis is a direct reflection of how well our offensive line really did during the spring and how much better they’re getting,” McElwain said. “I just can’t tell you how excited I am about that. Those (new coaches) being a part of it, it’s fun.

He understands when they succeed at what they are doing, they are going to get looked at by others and opportunities for advancement are going to come. McElwain said that he had five of his assistant coaches from last year that he was contacted about possibilities for head coaching jobs. He talked like a proud papa when mentioning this.

“It’s about opportunities and that’s what I love,” McElwain said. “I think when you look at it… I had five guys on our staff that I was contacted about potential head coaching jobs. I think that’s awesome. I think what it does, nationally, people recognize what we’ve been able to do here, which is unbelievable knowing how it was when we got here. That’s a credit to these coaches.”

McElwain went on to name the five coaches he was contacted about.

“Geoff, Randy, Nuss (Doug Nussmeier), obviously Skip, and Coach Nord (Greg Nord) actually.”

There are different reasons for staff turnover. What is going on at Ole Miss where the impending NCAA sanctions loom is one thing, but when your coaches are sought after and moving on to bigger things, you are creating an atmosphere that other good coaches want to come to. Stability can be a great thing, but there is only so much stability on a staff when things are being done right. That is what you aim for.

 

Off-the-field staff taking steps forward too…

Many are probably not aware, but the work McElwain has done in creating and developing a pretty robust off-the-field staff of coaches, recruiters, etc. has been something that hasn’t ever been done before at Florida.

The recruiting staff has taken major strides as well as other areas of the program under McElwain’s direction.  He said Tuesday that there will likely be more additions over the summer.

“Yeah we have some guys that will be joining us,” he said. “We’re not ready to announce that yet. I told our new Athletic Director we’ll wait until after the fiscal year and help him on the budget because I know how tough that is and make sure we do it right.”

 

Academics on point…

One of the things a coach worries about after fall and spring is the academic progress of the players. Football schedules can take a toll on student athletes that don’t spend their time wisely or just don’t take care of their studies one way or another. McElwain said so far his players will all be set for the fall.

“We did well,” he said of the academic progress of spring. “How many guys did we have, 20, 31 guys over a 3.0 average?  I know with the classes they’re in with the student population that comes into the University of Florida with like a 10.9 GPA or whatever the heck it is.  I thought we did well. We didn’t have any casualties. Obviously we had some guys that we wished would do better, but at the same time, they will all be checking into fall camp when we start.”

 

Update on Signees Grades

Seven from the 2017 recruiting class have already arrived on campus and are enrolled including two that showed up last week. The majority are due on campus in June. McElwain says that it appears right now that all of the rest of the class look to be on target to make it in.

“As of right now I’d say everybody is on track,” he said. “Two of them are there right now. Those two are working out and doing a great job. The rest of them, just the way our calendar falls, won’t be able to be there until Summer-B, which is… June 19 or something like that. For them to report they have to be stamped and qualified and walk across the stage.”

 

 


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