Head coaches don’t get fired for winning too many football games. When a head coach is fired, it’s not common for a lot of his staff to be retained by the new coach. The new guy comes in and knows that he’s not there because the former staff was getting the job done and normally brings in his own guys.
That rang true for Jim McElwain when he took over the Florida Gators. McElwain retained only one of Will Muschamp’s staff members but that was the best decision McElwain made during his first few weeks on the job.
“I think that was the best move Florida could have done considering the whole situation and the turnover that has been for the offensive line coach position,” former center Max Garcia said. “I think it was extremely critical to keep Coach Summers because the offensive line can build that chemistry with the coach.”
More so than any other position, the offensive line needs to play as a cohesive unit. All five players need to be in sync and attuned to what the others are doing in order for the entire offense to be successful.
“You don’t have to learn a new way of blocking every spring. I thin that’s something that people don’t realize,” said Garcia. “Every spring it’s been a new style of offense. I think just keeping him there will help Florida out in the long run.”
McElwain and Summers have some history together and they have been in similar offensive systems throughout their careers. McElwain was also able to go back and see just how much the offensive line improved after just one season. His first order of business was moving Max Garcia to center, a move Jon Halapio predicted to me during the 2014 Senior Bowl. Then, Summers recognized the strengths of the line and made sure to get redshirt freshman Rod Johnson and true freshman David Sharpe meaningful reps. Florida’s sack total dropped from 27 to 17 in his first season and McElwain was sold.
“I had a great comfort level there and, you know, another thing is, shoot, that’s a position that’s been rolled over it seems like a little bit too,” said Mac. “I felt, you know, those guys are such a unique deal that, having some continuity and a great ball coach and a guy who’s been through a lot of different things and a lot of different systems.”
The continuity is also something that will help on the recruiting trail. A coach should never be hired or retained in order to save just one recruiting class but with just seven offensive linemen on campus and only three signed to the current class, retaining Summers will aid in the Gators’ efforts to rebuild the line this season and next.
“The offensive line is playing really well,” Gator commit Tyler Jordan told Gator Country during the season. “They are a major improvement from last year and that has a lot to do with Coach Summers coming and helping them.”
Fans have noticed, recruits have noticed and the man in charge has noticed just how good of a job Summers did in his first season. Summers has been able to aid the new staff in getting to know the current crop of players, “hopefully that is the role that I can full I have a baseline knowledge of these guys and I do have relationships now with them so I am a bridge between those guys,” he said.
The veteran of more than 30 years knew that being retained would be tough but now that he knows he will be retained he’s ready to make the most of his second year in Gainesville.
“I’m extremely excited to be retained and be a part of Coach Mac’s staff and to move into a new era of Florida football,” he said.
“All of us are ready to roll our sleeves up and go to work to put this program where it needs to be and we can sustain success. That’s what we’re looking for.”