A Big Name to Fill Big Shoes

Florida football coach Urban Meyer has known for weeks he would need to hire two assistant coaches, but chose to wait until after signing day to begin making moves. Once a third position came open with the Baltimore Ravens apparently luring away defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, there was no delay in resolving the situation at all.

Former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney will join the Florida staff after spending 2007 as associate head coach and defensive line coach with Jim Leavitt at South Florida. As of 5 PM Friday, UF officials insist Mattison's departure from the coaching staff is not a settled question despite multiple media reports indicating he will leave for the NFL job.

Mattison's departure will be a significant loss for Florida. He is an excellent teacher of defensive line technique and his players love playing for him. His ability to get quality performances out of previously unproductive players like Steven Harris and Joe Cohen after the loss of Marcus Thomas may have made the difference for Florida's defense in their run to the national championship in 2006. With such a young group of talented defensive linemen on the Florida roster, his replacement has a great opportunity but also a great challenge to develop them to their full potential.

Mattison wasn't actively seeking to leave Florida, but new Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his family have a longtime close relationship with the Mattisons. Harbaugh wanted Mattison to be part of his staff enough to come back with a bigger offer after Mattison declined the first one. Mattison will reportedly be in a new role with the Ravens, serving as linebacker coach since the team had retained the defensive coordinator and DL coach from the fired Brian Billick's staff.

In many ways, McCarney is similar to Mattison. He's 54 years old and spent five years as a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in the Big Ten at Wisconsin. Like Mattison, he comes to UF with no previous experience in the SEC. He does have two things Mattison did not - head coaching experience and some in state recruiting experience. In his twelve years at Iowa State he featured Miami tailbacks Troy and Darren Davis prominently on offense and signed other Florida talent as well. Spending the last season with USF should also have helped him build connections that will help him recruit for Florida. McCarney recruited the Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach areas for USF, which may help fill the gap left by South Florida specialist Doc Holliday's departure as well.

McCarney's performance with USF indicates he's capable of filling Mattison's very large shoes on the field. He took unheralded defensive end George Selvie from a freshman who had 5.5 sacks with the Bulls as a redshirt freshman to Nagurski Trophy finalist status and Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. Selvie had 14.5 sacks and nearly set the NCAA record for tackles for loss.

Iowa State is a very difficult job, and McCarney found ways to draw attention to his program and get it to a school record five bowls during his tenure. He's known for being a personable guy with the media and fans as well as a strong salesman on the recruiting trail. Couple that with the experience he brings in managing a program and it appears Meyer has made an excellent hire to fill the void that will be left by Mattison's departure.

The Heath Cline Show airs daily from 11-1 on Gainesville's Star 99.5 FM

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