GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All the Florida players know at this point regarding the Gators’ defensive coordinator job is that assistant coach Randy Shannon will fill that role through the bowl game.
They wouldn’t be surprised, though, if he kept the position full-time.
“I think everyone’s kind of leaning on Shannon. Like everyone kind of expects that he’ll be the guy,” senior nose tackle Joey Ivie said Friday. “Like I said, he’s got a lot of respect from all of us guys so I would not be surprised if he gets put in that position.”
Former defensive coordinator Geoff Collins accepted the head coaching position at Temple earlier this week, ending a successful two-year run with the Gators.
Head coach Jim McElwain has not formally addressed the interim status yet, but a couple players acknowledged that Shannon is leading the defense in preparation for the Outback Bowl game vs. Iowa on Jan. 2, as was first reported by The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley.
And the veteran assistant coach seems to have the support of those guys if he were indeed to take over the job moving forward.
“Right now Coach Shannon’s out there with us. We appreciate everything he’s doing for the program. A lot of guys respect him, a lot of guys look up to him and follow him and his direction,” junior safety Marcell Harris said. “So however the program goes about the situation and who is the defensive coordinator, then that’s who were going to ride with.”
Said redshirt freshman linebacker Kylan Johnson, who was recruited to Florida by Shannon: “You don’t know who’s going to be there (long-term). I hope it’s Coach Shannon because me and him have got that connection. The whole team (has) got the connection because he’s been here, so I hope he is our D coordinator.”
McElwain said on Tuesday that Shannon is “absolutely” a candidate for the full-time position.
Shannon, who has spent the last two seasons coaching the Gators’ linebackers while also holding the titles of co-coordinator and associate head coach, would be a logical choice. He had a highly successful six-year run as the defensive coordinator at Miami from 2001-06, ranking his defenses in the top-10 nationally most of those years, before taking over as the Hurricanes’ head coach for four seasons.
As Harris put it, “I mean, check his resume out.”
Said Ivie: “Coach Shannon, as you know, he’s got a lot of great background. He’s a great coach, great guy, great mentor. You know, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I think he’s a great guy for it. Like I said, everyone on the team, everyone on the defense enjoys being coached by him. He’s definitely, for me, the guy for it.”
That particular answer was in response to how he thinks Shannon will fare taking over for the bowl game, but as previously stated, Ivie also feels Shannon would be a good fit for the long term, too.
As his teammates agreed.
“I think he would do a great job. No doubt,” junior cornerback Jalen Tabor said.
As for Collins, many or most of the players haven’t had a chance to speak with him since the news broke, but he’s expected to address the guys Monday when he returns to Gainesville to clean out his office.
Collins was long viewed as a likely head coach candidate after this season, but Johnson said he still wasn’t expecting the news this week.
“I was surprised when I saw it, but I’m happy for him, though,” the young linebacker said. “We have a coach that we’re used to. Coach Shannon, he’s been here, so we’re not too worried about it.”
The players who met with reporters after practice Friday were all, of course, supportive of Collins getting his first head coaching opportunity.
“I’m so happy for Coach Collins. He’s like family to me. I’m just happy for him,” Tabor said. “Words can’t even describe how happy I am for him.”
Said Ivie: “Everyone loved Coach Collins so they’re all real happy for him. It’s huge when an assistant coach gets a head coaching job, so we’re all real happy for him and we know that the right people are going to be put in the right place. And I think the defense is going to be fine.”