GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s 36-7 win over UAB gave the Gators football team a feel-good moment to enjoy in The Swamp, which have been hard to come by this fall.
They hadn’t felt that feeling since Sept. 30.
Saturday was for the boys — coaches, players and even recruits — and they needed it, if only for a few hours of relief. There’s still a gigantic elephant in the room.
Who will the Gators hire to replace Jim McElwain?
And, more importantly, how many of his assistants will be retained?
There’s a few who could be back next season, but here’s a memo to Florida’s next head coach:
Keep Ja’Juan Seider on staff.
In a season where the Gators have gotten worse offensively and regressed at some positions, Sieder and his running backs have been a bright spot for the unit.
His group had its best performance of the year Saturday, rushing for a season-high 257 yards — albeit against the Blazers. Lamical Perine (86 yards), Adarius Lemons (89 yards) and Mark Thompson (78 yards) all did damage on the ground.
Seider has helped each back progress this season, particularly Thompson.
“The last two weeks, I think that’s the hardest I’ve seen Mark Thompson practice,” Florida QB Feleipe Franks said after the game. “He’s done a really good job. Also I think Perine and Adarius had a good game as well.”
Seider was hired in Febuary to replace Florida assistant Tim Skipper, who switched to linebackers coach this year after working with the running backs in his first two seasons at UF.
Skipper stacked the position with talent, developed Jordan Scarlett as a sophomore and turned Kelvin Taylor into a 1,000-yard back — just the ninth in school history.
Seider has kept it rolling this year, improving Florida’s overall production from 2016 despite losing his starting running back (Scarlett) three days before the season opener.
The South Florida native has also become a hit in the locker room.
“The way he carries himself. His swag,” Franks said when asked what stands out about Seider. “He can relate to the running backs. They love him, the whole team, we really love Coach Seider.
“He has that charisma, just has that about himself. The guys can relate to that, especially the running backs.”
If the Gators eclipse 44 yards rushing against Florida State, they will surpass their 2016 total for rushing yards and reach that mark with two fewer games played.
Just imagine if Seider still had Scarlett and Malik Davis in the backfield.
“I think Coach Seider is a great coach,” Franks aid. “That’s just my opinion.”
Franks is not alone.
Along with his on-field success, Seider brings just as much value — if not more — to the recruiting trail.
Case in point: Dameon Pierce, the nation’s No. 9 running back.
“If Coach Seider would have been one of the coaches to leave with Coach Mac, I probably would have de-committed honestly,” Pierce said Saturday. “Me and Coach Seider have a great relationship between each other.
“He understands what I want as a football player and he’s what I want for a coach as far as leadership goes. He’s just a great guy overall and I wouldn’t trade him for nothing.”
Pierce is former Alabama commit who also had Auburn, Florida State and Georgia among his finalists. He hit it off with Seider when they first met and their connection outweighed his relationships with coaches from other schools.
“He just came at me as a real person. We rarely talk about football. The only time we talk about football is when I’m coming up here for a game,” Pierce said. “But other than that, we chat like it’s a father-son relationship rather than a running back and a running back coach’s relationship.”
The next Gators coach may want to bring in his own guy to work with running backs, but Seider will be an appealing candidate — given his background — should the offense move to more of a spread system. If there’s no predetermined preference, Seider’s work at West Virginia would make him suited for a schematic change of that fashion.
Pierce is confident his primary recruiter and future position coach will remain on staff.
“He said with the way things are going with the athletics director, things look solid,” Pierce said. “But you’re never sure. It’s a day-to-day thing. He’s still here now, so I’m still here.”