GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain has made another hire to his support staff.
His latest addition is program assistant Ryan Smith, who was on Nick Saban’s staff in the same capacity last year for Alabama’s national championship season.
For Smith, 39, this is his second stint in Gainesville. He had his first head coaching job at Gainesville High School from 2008-10, leading the Hurricanes to their deepest playoff run in 30 years in his final season with the team.
“Ryan Smith got the Gainesville football program restarted,” said Larry Savage, the high school sports editor for The Gainesville Sun. “The Hurricanes used to be successful, but they had been in a lull when he took over. Ryan came in and really shook things up. He put some great teams together.”
Smith coached DeLand in 2011 (9-2 record) before taking over Taylor County High in his hometown of Perry, Fla. After two seasons there, Smith moved to Alabama for the defensive coordinator position at Chickasaw High under veteran coach Ronnie Cottrell, a former Alabama and Florida State assistant.
Smith then landed his job with the Crimson Tide, which wasn’t surprising to Savage.
“He’s a good motivator and players play hard for him,” Savage said. “He knows talent, honestly. Nick Saban probably told McElwain that. He’ll help McElwain with things he sees on the field.”
With the hiring of Smith, McElwain has now filled three support staff openings.
He replaced quality control offensive coaches Marquel Blackwell and John Garrett with Smith and Bret Ingalls, who joined UF last month after spending the past seven years as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints. Keith Murphy is the new special teams quality control coach following the departure of Marc Nudelberg.
Blackwell, Garrett and Nudelberg all landed assistant coaching positions at other schools, something McElwain is proud of.
“It’s pretty cool,” McElwain said. “Part of why you do that is to help guys grow in the profession. To see them have an opportunity to go and get jobs from those spots, that’s why we do this. That’s actually something I learned kind of through coach Saban. It’s our responsibility as coaches to help guys get into the profession and be able to move on and keep expanding your network.
“I know I’m excited for those guys. It’s a chance to get better. Not that the guys that were here aren’t good, but it’s a chance to continually evolve. It’s a chance to learn. It’s a chance to get a new set of eyes. It’s great for the coaching profession.”