Potential Staff Candidates

After three years without movement on the Florida football coaching staff, Urban Meyer has two jobs to fill. If the method he used to put together his original staff tells us anything, it's that the Gator head coach values people he's personally familiar with.

Of the original nine assistant coaches that began the 2005 season with Florida, only the now departed Doc Holliday had never been on a staff with Urban Meyer during his rise through the profession.

Florida needs a running backs coach as well as someone for a defensive position. (Holliday handled safeties, but cornerbacks coach Chuck Heater potentially could be assigned to coach the entire secondary for the realigned staff.) High quality recruiting skills will be a priority, since both coaches leaving have been considered strong at luring talent.

Stan Drayton's departure leaves Charlie Strong as the only current black Gator assistant coach. Most coaches prefer to have a better ethnic balance than that on their staff, so improving that situation is likely a priority as well. Here are five names with previous connections to Urban Meyer that seem to fit what Florida is currently looking for.

Vance Bedford

Bedford was most recently secondary coach for Michigan, returning to the school he spent four years at during the 1990s after two seasons as defensive coordinator with Oklahoma State. More importantly, he spent 1990-92 on the same Colorado State staff as Urban Meyer. Bedford is 49 years old, has a six year stint in the NFL as Chicago Bears secondary coach on his resume and would add another black assistant to the staff. Bedford coached Charles Woodson during his first stay at Michigan, making him the only person to be a defensive position coach for a Heisman Trophy winner. He's known for being a good recruiter as well as good with the media. Bedford has already interviewed with Meyer for a spot on the staff, although no offer is known to have been made for a position yet.

Don Soldinger

Soldinger spent sixteen years as an assistant at Miami. He coached running backs from 1995-2005, a time when the Canes sent a number of big names to the NFL at the position. His other coaching years have been spent at Miami area high schools. Soldinger and Meyer have never worked on the same staff, but Meyer has publicly referred to Soldinger as a friend. Soldinger coached current Gator linebacker Jerimy Finch in the East Meets West all star game last year and recommended to Meyer that Florida pursue him. With Holliday no longer in the role of the South Florida specialist, Soldinger could be a big help there. One potential concern about Soldinger is that he's 63. That's quite a bit older than anyone else on the staff. Soldinger could also be a factor for the Director of Football Operations post vacated by Troy Starr in December after eight months on the job, as Meyer has said he would like a coach in that position.

Tommy Thigpen

Thigpen has spent the last three years as linebackers coach at North Carolina. He was cornerbacks coach under Meyer for two years at Bowling Green but accepted a position with Illinois rather than accompanying him to Utah. Ron Zook tried to retain him with Illinois, but given the chance to return to his alma mater Thigpen chose to accept their position instead. Thigpen was named the ACC recruiter of the Year in 2007 by SI.com for his performance in helping land Butch Davis's first signing class in Chapel Hill. The main question about any possible interest in Thigpen is whether he'd be willing to leave his alma mater behind to advance his career.

Matt Lubick

One of the mentors Urban Meyer most frequently cites as having made a difference in his career is Sonny Lubick. Matt is the 36 year old son of the former Colorado State head coach, so Meyer's certainly familiar with him. He's currently at Arizona State as safeties coach and recruiting coordinator and is known as being one of the most aggressive recruiters in the country. One of the significant commitments he's landed for the Sun Devils this year is John Elway's quarterback son Jack. Lubick recruited in the South Florida area as part of Ed Orgeron's Ole Miss staff in 2005 and 2006, so he could help fill the Holliday void while also adding connections in California. One of the reasons Lubick gave for leaving Ole Miss was a desire to get closer to family, so coming back east a year later might not be something he's interested in.

Desmond Robinson

Robinson was the running backs coach for Meyer's final four seasons at Notre Dame and is considered a solid position coach. He's currently the Director of Football Operations at Syracuse after two years coaching running backs for the Orange, so he could be a potential candidate for either spot at UF. Robinson could help fill the need for additional minorities on the staff as well. One possible drawback for UF: other than a four year run at Tulane, Robinson's played and coached his entire career in the northeast. Syracuse coach Greg Robinson will be on a very hot seat this season, though, so if Florida shows interest a move might make sense.

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