Tackling questions about how Dan Mullen will fill Florida coaching staff
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New Florida football coach Dan Mullen has had a busy first few weeks on the job, trying to pull together his first Gators recruiting class while also assembling his coaching staff.
There will be at least a little more clarity on the first matter later this week when Florida announces which recruits are signing with the program on Wednesday, the start of the NCAA’s new three-day early signing period.
As for the second order of business, we offer some thoughts in the latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day:
Chris C. asks … “Any ideas as to when the staff is fully announced? Think we have a lot of turnover after the early signing day?”
Ankit S. asks … “Who are the possible candidates to be our OC?”
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. Florida already has its offensive coordinator (or coordinators).
Mullen’s first two hires the day after being formally introduced at Florida were his longtime offensive assistants Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy.
Those two served as his co-offensive coordinators for the last four seasons at Mississippi State while Mullen acted as his own play caller on game days. Gonzales worked with the wide receivers and oversaw the passing game, while Hevesy worked with the offensive line and oversaw the running game. While Mullen hasn’t outlined roles for his offensive staff yet, expect that successful arrangement to continue.
The interesting wrinkle is that new hire Brian Johnson was the offensive coordinator at Houston last season after previously serving as Mullen’s quarterbacks coach with the Bulldogs. But perhaps the position of quarterbacks coach at Florida (and the salary attached to the offer) was enough to entice him to leave an FBS coordinator position.
As for the rest of the coaching staff, Mullen said from the start he likely wouldn’t have all the spots finalized until after the new year.
The NCAA is allowing teams a 10th on-field assistant coach effective Jan. 9, so it could take a few weeks before the staff is set. Here’s an overview of what’s happened so far and what could happen between now and then.
Getting through the early signing period was one obstacle, and Mullen initially retained four holdovers from former coach Jim McElwain’s staff to help with that transition. There was never any guarantee of their long-term status, though, and defensive line coach Chris Rumph and offensive line coach Brad Davis have already left for jobs at Tennessee and Missouri, respectively.
Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider and linebackers coach Tim Skipper remain for now. It is sounding likely that Seider will remain on staff beyond the transition, while Skipper’s future is to be determined.
Meanwhile, Mullen has hired a defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham and a secondary coach in Charlton Warren.
The other factor in filling the remaining spots on the staff is that Mullen is likely eyeing coaches he’s not yet able to formally announce.
One possibility is Greg Knox, who coached running backs at Mississippi State since Mullen arrived there in 2009 and added the role of special teams coordinator in 2014. Knox is serving as the Bulldogs’ interim coach through their bowl game, but new MSU coach Joe Moorhead has already hired a running backs coach for his staff.
Knox has been linked to the Florida job, and he could fit in as either just the special teams coordinator or in the same dual role as before with Seider potentially sliding into a different position. (Florida doesn’t yet have a tight ends coach.)
Another name that is out there in the rumor mill is Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who spent three seasons in that position at Mississippi State under Mullen (2010-12) while also serving as co-defensive coordinator in 2010 and defensive coordinator from 2011-12. Earlier, he spent the 2013 season at Georgia working under Grantham.
As for the remaining positions …
It’s still unclear whether Mullen will hire a second defensive backs coach, as he had at Mississippi State with separate coaches for cornerbacks and safeties. Two names that fans have inquired about for such a role — Bulldogs cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley (a former Florida State star) and former NFL star and coach of American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla., Patrick Surtain Sr. (whose son is the top cornerback recruit in this class) — are unlikely additions. Who else the Gators might consider for that position is unknown.
Continuing through the defense, Grantham was his own linebackers coach at Mississippi State, but the ability to have 10 assistant coaches could open the door for Skipper (a strong recruiter) remaining in the fold.
If Seider and Skipper both remain, Florida would still have three spots left for Knox or another offensive assistant, Wilson or a different defensive line coach, and a second defensive backs coach.
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