GC podcast: Florida Gators coaching talk, plus Missouri prep

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we discuss Randy Shannon’s first few days as the interim coach of the Florida Gators.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre talk about what changes Shannon made, plus how things can improve against Missouri.

Andrew and Nick also breakdown the keys for Florida in this game against Missouri, and how we think they must attack the Tigers on Saturday.


Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, we’re moving forward here. Randy Shannon took over officially as interim coach on Monday. Had a pretty good press conference, so it’s on to Missouri. We’ll try to talk as much Missouri as we can, but we still have to talk coaching change.
Nick: Yeah. I think the first thing we’ll talk about then is, whether he wants to admit it or not, it’s an audition for Randy Shannon. He basically has a month, and if you make it to a bowl game, two months, to put his best foot forward and say, “This is what I can do when given the keys, and what I can do when I’m running a program.”
Andrew: I don’t think he has two months. I think he has four games. Florida’s going to have a coach by the early signing period. Everything we’ve been told behind the scenes is that Scott Strickland plans to have one first week of December, if at all possible. Let’s face it, Nick, Randy Shannon is not getting this job at Florida. He’s just not.
Nick: No. I’m not saying that. I don’t think a new coach would take over the team to coach a bowl game.
Andrew: You’re saying an audition for …
Nick: Yeah. It’s an audition for Randy Shannon nationwide to say, “This is what I can do when I have the chance.” Florida’s next head coach is out. He’s not going to get the head coaching job at Florida. I’m saying he would have two months. You get a month for a bowl practice.
Andrew: Okay. I see what you’re saying now. I took it as you were saying he was auditioning for the Florida job. For sure. Here’s the thing, Nick, and this is what I’ll say. I’m not a fan of Randy Shannon being the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. I think his time has passed. I think his defense is very soft. I think his defense plays not to lose, and I’m not a fan of his recruiting at all. I will say this, and that is that his press conference on Monday was very good. It was very energetic, and it was very needed. Randy Shannon has that swag about him.
I think Randy Shannon may just need to go find a smaller school, be the head coach there, do his thing, and then retire. That’s nothing against Randy Shannon. He’s had a great career. I told you that on Monday’s podcast, when we taped it on Sunday. 15 years ago Randy Shannon was one of the best minds in the game. He didn’t lose that, but he hasn’t grown with the game, and that’s nothing against Randy Shannon. That’s a tough job to do. I just will say this, and that is that right now he’s a good job trying to get things refocused on the way things need to go to get that three wins to get to that bowl game.
Nick: Randy Shannon’s 51. He’s not retiring.
Andrew: I didn’t say that. I said find another job, a smaller job. Coach for a few years, and then ride off into the sunset. He’s been doing it for a while. Like I said, or go be a position coach somewhere. Randy Shannon, nothing shows me and is going to show me that Randy Shannon needs to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. His recruiting, as well, is staggered at times, and there’s nothing that proves to me that Randy Shannon is going to do that. I don’t want to harp on Randy Shannon this whole podcast. Everyone knows my opinion of Randy.
Nick: Be retained for a year, or for two, depending on who the next head coach is.
Andrew: I seriously doubt it. From everything I’ve been told, that is not the case.
Nick: I wouldn’t be surprised.
Andrew: I would be shocked. I would be beyond shocked to see that happen. Some of the things that have went on behind the scenes with Randy, with Mac, and different things like that. I think the people that need to know know what Randy’s about, and that’s not a bad thing. They know the divide that Randy’s caused with some people, and the recruiting. Let’s face it. Randy’s guys were the guys that committed this credit card fraud. Whether we like it or not, that’s the guys he recruited. Someone’s going to have to take the blame for it. Mac and Randy are taking that blame for it. It just is what it is. Is it fair? No. They’re taking the blame for it though.
Nick: Okay. You and I are never going to agree on Randy Shannon. So we can talk about Missouri?
Andrew: Yeah. Let’s talk Missouri first. Let’s talk about some of the things that was said on Monday, and that is fixing special teams. Here’s the thing for me. Can you fix this offense to make it look better? No. You can change some things up and maybe make a wrinkle here or there. You can make special teams good in a week. It’s simply putting some guys out there that want to. Special teams isn’t hard. Special teams is all a want. Special teams is all a will. Special teams is all an effort, and that’s not there. I do think, and that’s one of the things that I give Randy credit for, he said this week of practice is going to determine who’s going to play. It’s kind of a new outlook on things. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see some guys that hadn’t played all year on special teams play on special teams this week.
Nick: You got to figure out something on special teams.
Andrew: Atrocious.
Nick: It’s a joke among us. Florida’s kick return coverage is #1 in the country, because they haven’t had a return yet. Eddy just kicks the ball out of the end zone.
Andrew: Let me say this, Nick. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. You’re guaranteeing they’re going to start at the 25. That’s a good thing against some teams, because they can take it back. You see teams across the country who are able to sky kick it to the 1.
Nick: I’m not interested in that. Remember, Mac and Muschamp both had Austin Hardin do that?
Andrew: I remember that. What I’m saying is you have teams around the country who are able to put the ball on the goal line, and they have a good special teams that’s able to go down there and make tackles to the 15-20. I don’t know this stat right off hand, Nick. I don’t have this in front of me, but I would stay Florida’s started inside their own 20 probably 10 or 15 times this year.
Nick: Yeah. That’s an issue. I don’t think it’s even the returners per say, as much as it is the blocking scheme for kick return.
Andrew: Exactly.
Nick: That probably goes to your special teams coordinator, and it’s all Greg Nord. There’s other special teams coaches that are involved in that. It’s not just your returners. If you’re having to make somebody miss, you take a ball out, and you’re having to make somebody miss on the 15, it’s going to be hard to get those extra 10 yards. I think Adarius Lemons, he might not be getting great returns, but I like that he is returning the ball, and it doesn’t look like he’s running scared.
I remember when Chris Thompson returned kicks. It’s just that full speed ahead, make one guy miss. Listen, on punt return you see it when Florida’s giving up big punt returns. Guys are running down the field full speed. It’s easy to make that first guy miss, but if you don’t have the scheme to where now you’re making your guy try to miss four tackles just to get back on the 25? You got to start looking at what your blocking scheme is, and maybe even who the personnel is when you’re returning kicks and returning punts.
Andrew: That’s what I’m saying. When you think about Eddy, it’s almost like you’re saying, “My special team sucks. They’re not going to be able to keep them inside the 25, so I better kick it out of the end zone.” That’s not saying anything’s wrong with it, except to say that if you can start at the 15, instead of the 25, that’s 10 yards. That could be a big difference. That could be the difference between a field goal and a non-field goal, a punt or not a punt.
Let’s face it, as bas as Florida’s offense right now is, that 10 yards could be the difference in Florida scoring a touchdown or kicking a field goal for themselves. It shows the lack of them thinking they’re going to be able to stop the other team. Then vice versa, the other team knows, Florida doesn’t block well for their kickoff. If I can kick it to the goal line or to the 1, they’re not going to be able to get 25 yards.
Nick: I agree with that fully. What do you think it is, more scheme or players, the personnel that you have there?
Andrew: Say that one more time.
Nick: Do you think Florida’s issue has been scheme, as far as blocking scheme and deciding how to set up returns, or the players that they have on the specific, whether it’s punt return or kick return?
Andrew: Players. Effort. A couple weeks ago you see Mark Thompson, and he had a guy that was coming right at him. Nick, I’m going to ask you to try to remember that. I believe that was one of Lemons’ first returns. I could be completely wrong, and if I am just say something. Had Mark Thompson made that block, it was an extra 15-20 yards, but Mark didn’t block anyone. CJ McWilliams is another guy that I remember fully that didn’t block anyone.
It’s an effort thing. You have one guy that you’re determined to block, and it’s every time. It’s the same thing every time. When you line up, you always count from the left to the right, and each guys knows who they’re picking up. That’s the design. They know who they’re picking up, and it’s a situation of getting to that spot, blocking that guy, and giving effort. When you whiff, and you don’t give effort, it shows on special teams.
Nick, I’m forgetting his name. The guy that blocked the punt, Garrett Stephens. Is he a better athlete than some of these guys playing? No. The difference is Garrett Stephens is a walk-on who wants his name in the paper, so he’s going to give it his all on special teams. I don’t mean that to laugh at Garrett, but it’s the truth. He wants to do something well, so he is going to give full effort. That’s why you always hear coaches say, “They got to earn their playing time on special teams first,” because you want to see them give effort. I just don’t see these guys giving effort. It shouldn’t be that way. Go back to Urban, and I would say probably 75-80% of his special teams guys were starters.
Nick: Urban had, and I think at the time they said it was because of him playing special teams when he was in college, but had this entire philosophy about the best athletes are playing on special teams. The special teams guys ate first. I mean, you had Carlos Dunlap, Joe Hayden, Janoris Jenkins, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps. You had these superior athletes. Jeff Demps almost made the Olympics out of high school. This was a huge point of emphasis for Urban, and their special teams won them games. When you look at a team like Florida, where you’re struggling offensively, your defense gets worn down, your defense has bad drives, you’re looking for a spark somewhere. That can come from special teams. It hasn’t, for eight years, for the past two coaching staffs.
Andrew: Right. You know what I’m saying? Do you agree that it’s a lack of effort? What’s your assessment?
Nick: I think it can be boiled down to effort. Also, I think the effort part comes in you’re not putting those players there. It almost becomes like a second-class thing. That’s what I was getting at. I’m only special teams. You know what I mean? I’m not good enough to play anything but special teams. I’m not going to go out and look like I’m trying too hard then, because I’m already thought of as second-class on this team.
Whereas you had to compete to even make special teams in the past. Carlos Dunlap was playing every defensive snap, and now he’s on four different special teams. If I want to get any kind of playing time, I need to play my ass off on special teams, so that I’m better than the first team All-American defensive end, who’s now on special teams. “If I want to find playing time, it’s going to be on special teams,” rather than just, “I didn’t find playing time, so I’ll be on special teams.”
Andrew: I guess I put that a little bit on Mac, and his staff. If that’s the way things are being looked at, then something’s wrong.
Nick: I think that is the way things are looked at. You can say that’s dumb. If you’re a fan, you can say that’s dumb. They shouldn’t have that attitude. It’s kind of just human nature.
Andrew: You know what I’m saying though? I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess we’re going to go too far to this and spend a whole podcast on special teams. I don’t get that. I’m only going to get frustrated. I did seem like, Nick, though that Shannon was at least considering giving Malik Zaire the go on Saturday. He kind of left the door open and said, “We’ll see who has the best week of practice.” Listen, Nick, it’s what I said to you the other day on Monday’s podcast, and that is is Malik Zaire better than Franks? I don’t know. I don’t know if either one of them are very good.
The only thing that I do say is that I think Zaire can bring some things to the table that Franks can’t, and maybe that’s the answer. As we said, I don’t think either one of us expects Feleipe Franks to be that guy for the future anyway, so why are you basing your whole last four games on that?
Nick: I had somebody make the argument to me that Feleipe Franks is the younger guy. Zaire’s going to be gone in a month. Why are you taking away chances to have Feleipe Franks develop or be coached? Here’s my thing. They’ve had two years to develop Feleipe Franks, and the next coaching staff isn’t here. So he’s going to have a new coach. If you think Malik Zaire gives you a better chance to win Saturday in Columbia, then you play Malik Zaire.
Andrew: You got to get to a bowl game, Nick.
Nick: That’s what I’m saying. I disagree with that line of thinking. You don’t wait for that. You don’t take next year into consideration when you’re a coaching staff that’s probably not going to be here next year.
Andrew: Can I ask you this, Nick? Let me just throw this at you. What makes Feleipe Franks entitled to all this?
Nick: Nothing.
Andrew: That’s what I get a sense from people is that he’s entitled to things. I guess that pisses me off a little bit. What has he done to earn this stuff? I mean, if you’re going to say he’s the young guy, then Jake Allen deserves to play. You know what I’m saying? I’m not arguing for Jake Allen to play. I’m just saying, if you’re going to argue that because he’s a young guy he deserves to play, then so does Jake Allen.
Nick: I think Jake Allen always knew he was coming in to redshirt.
Andrew: What I’m saying is if you’re going to make the argument to me that he deserves to play, because he’s a young guy, and he might be the future, so does Jake Allen.
Nick: Yeah. I didn’t agree with the sentiment. Then again here though, if you get into this week of practice, and Feleipe Franks is better.
Andrew: Play him. I’m cool with that. I’m not arguing that he shouldn’t play, because of what happened. I’m just saying that if he’s not the better of the two, then no, he shouldn’t play. I guess that’s what bothers me a little bit is it just seems like it’s a situation where because he is the younger guy he deserves to play, or he is entitled to play. I don’t think that’s fair. Nobody’s entitled to do nothing.
Nick: How much do you think Randy, and I asked him on Monday, how much do you think Randy is going to be involved in the offense?
Andrew: I can’t sit here, Nick, and tell you he’s going to be very involved, because where do we get that from? You know what I’m saying? Why would he be so much involved now? At the same time, and I don’t mean this in a bad way, but what does he know about this offense? You’re in Week 9. Yeah.
Nick: What about this, obviously he’s not calling plays or anything like that. What if it’s just gets on the headset and says, “Doug, get this dude out of the game. Put somebody else in.”
Andrew: I do think he’ll do that. I do think he’ll do that. I 100% believe he may get on the radio and say, “Stop this shit. Stop it.” I don’t think that. One of the things that I do know about Randy, and that is he doesn’t care about stepping on toes.
Nick: No. It goes back to what I said at the beginning of the podcast. He won’t say it, but this is really an audition for him. If Randy wants to be a head coach again somewhere down the line, he’ll be damned if some quarterback that he didn’t recruit, and may not care for, is standing between him and his next job.
Andrew: Right. Like you say, I don’t think that that’s anything bad on Randy. It’s just it is what it is. If you and I stepped into a position where we were auditioning for a job, and we knew the other side sucked, we wouldn’t put up with it.
Nick: Yeah. To me, it’s interesting, because I think the offense right now is what it is.
Andrew: It’s not getting better.
Nick: Yeah. Randy’s not an offensive coach, but I think it would be in his jurisdiction, or he wouldn’t have a problem making changes. That’s not just quarterback. That could be all over the field as far as who’s playing.
Andrew: Let me ask you this. How much does he have in the defensive play calling with Chris Rumph?
Nick: That’s interesting to me as well. Now Randy is the head coach. He promoted Chris Rumph to defensive coordinator. Is Rumph calling plays now?
Andrew: I think so.
Nick: How much input? Randy had been up in the box before, right? Is he now down on the field? Is Rumph up in the box?
Andrew: Randy’s definitely on the field.
Nick: Is Rumph down on the field calling plays? Is he up in the box calling plays?
Andrew: I would say probably Rumph is down on the field, because he’s a defensive line coach. Well, no, because they promoted the defensive line coach. Rumph may go upstairs. That’s an interesting point. Something we need to look into, for sure. Maybe something to even ask Randy himself. That’s a good point. I would say probably he does go up, now that you have the defensive line coach. He’s able to be on the field and kind of do the rotations himself, because that’s a big thing for a defensive line coach is being able to be down there and rotate guys in and out. That’s a good point there. That’s interesting to see.
Let’s go ahead and talk a little Missouri, Nick. Couple quick stats on Missouri. They going to come into this game averaging 35.5 points a game. Pretty good on offense. They’re giving up 35.8 points per game, and they’re getting thrown all over, Nick. 2,000 yards is what’s been thrown against them already. They’re giving up 5.85 yards per play.
Nick: Missouri’s defense has been just atrocious.
Andrew: Yes.
Nick: All season. But they can put up points.
Andrew: They can put up the points. That is for sure. I mean, they’re kind of getting ran all over period too. Given up 1,500 yards on the ground already. Defense is bad. Offensively, they’re averaging 7.33 yards per play. Not too shabby for them. They’re going to put up some points, I think. It’s going to come into this game to see how your offense does. They even scored points on Georgia in the first half.
Nick: Yeah. It really starts with them up front with Drew Lock. Talented quarterback. Good arm. Not really where I think Florida, he’s a great quarterback, but I don’t think, if you’re Florida, you’re worried about Drew Lock. You haven’t really been worried about your secondary when it comes to pass protection. Drew Lock is a junior. He’s playing well right now. Last five games he’s completed 65% of his passes, almost 1,700 yards his last five games, and 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Someone who takes care of the ball, and has been able to pick apart some defenses.
They are coming off two wins, albeit non-conference wins. They’re 0-4 in the SEC. To me, the biggest challenge for Florida is you’ve had a very emotional last two weeks, and you have an 11 AM kickoff time.
Andrew: Across the country.
Nick: Yeah. It doesn’t get farther. I think this Columbia trip is a little bit farther than College Station. This is the farthest trip you can make playing a conference game, for Florida. That’s early. Everyone says noon kick, and I’m thinking, “Nope. I’m going to be in Columbia. It’s 11 AM.”
Andrew: That’s the thing that it is. You’re going to go into this game at 11:00, and it’s a noon kick back home. It’s 11:00 there though.
Nick: You’re facing a 3-5 team. That stadium only seats 71,000 to begin with.
Andrew: They hate their coach.
Nick: I’ll go with, generously, 75% capacity.
Andrew: They’re not high on their coach, and then you’re looking at an 11:00 kick, so you’re probably looking at a 6 AM, 7 AM, wakeup call. You’re looking a game that is going to be an early game. Again, it’s a situation where you’re going to have to go in, you’re going to have to figure out a way to score some points, and you’re going to have to go into this game looking to put pressure on Drew Lock.
He’s a guy that will make mistakes and turn the ball over, but how do you capitalize on that? Florida wasn’t able to capitalize on it last weekend on Duke Dawson’s pick. How are you going to capitalize this week? Can you set yourself up offensively to score points and get in good field position? You got to find a way to run the ball this week as well, because that’s what Florida does. That’s a grind they have. Now, here’s another thing. You’re missing Malik Davis.
Nick: Yeah. Missing Malik Davis. Adarius Lemons, who tweeted in the early part of the season that the playbook, talking about the playbook, he’s really only had special teams experience. He has three carries on the year, all last week. Somebody you’re going to have to bring in there. I think you’re fine though with Lamical Perine. That’s a guy that can carry the ball, if you need him to, 30 times, and then sprinkle Mark Thompson in there when Perine needs a rest.
Another mark, I think, another key thing we’re looking at in this game, is 3rd downs, getting off the field. It’s an area where both teams are pretty good. Florida is allowing conversions just 30.5% of opponent’s 3rd downs. That’s 21st in the nation. Missouri is 35th in the nation on offense, converting 44% of their 3rd downs. To me, when we talk about Florida’s defense and when they start to struggle is when they let teams have long drives. Then the offense comes on the field, goes 3 and out, and now you’re back on the field, and you have another long drive.
I think Florida, a big key for them will be run the ball with Perine. If you’re running with Malik Zaire, then he’s part of the running game too. Get off the field on 3rd down. Let your offense control the clock. Just play a smart game. Get out of there with an ugly win if you have to. I don’t know if this Florida team is capable of winning any other way right now.
Andrew: Here’s another step, Nick. I think this is a step that you and I overlook. Florida is 11th, really tied for second to last, only one team has less, with sacks. They only have 15 sacks on the year. It seems like a lot more, but I guess just because it came in bunches early on. Missouri is 5th in the conference, with 21 sacks. I think that’s a part of the game we have to look at as well. Really how does Florida get to Lock and create that? Is Florida able to protect Franks, or Zaire, whoever it may be at quarterback?
Nick: Not much you can shake up though. I mean, other than shaking up the quarterback. Not much you can shake up with the offensive line.
Andrew: No. I’m saying, because the offensive line has done well at times. I blame 90% of the sacks on Franks being dumb in the pocket. When I say that that means him either walking, I mean last week he walked into a sack. The guy was on the ground, and he literally walked into his arms. That and running into. I’m just saying the ability to protect, and that goes back to the ability for Florida to get the ball out quick. Don’t make Franks hold the ball. If he’s quarterback, he needs about two seconds to read a pass, and then make sure he gets rid of it.
Nick: We’re talking about Franks reading passes.
Andrew: No. I’m not asking him to read nothing. I’m telling him to get two seconds, read where he’s going to throw the ball to, because he has one guy. Throw that ball, and if it ain’t there, please tell him to run. If he’s going to get sacked, please tell him to throw it up in the stands. You might catch a pass this weekend.
Nick: What do you think, I kind of gave my formula for how you win the game. Do you think it’s the same?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, you’re going to go into this game, and the best way of keeping Missouri’s offense off the field is kill the clock. Kill the clock. At this point in the juncture of the season, and with Mac gone, if you win ugly, you win ugly. Just get to a bowl game. Find a way to win the games. Get to a bowl game.
Nick: What bowl game?
Andrew: You’re probably coming to Birmingham. Probably coming to Birmingham, Nick. Drew Lock though, Nick, he has nine interceptions on the year, but has only been sacked eight times on the year. It’s a Missouri team that offensively does make some mistakes, but don’t get sacked a lot. I think that Florida’s defense has to show up in this game big time, and then defensively Missouri’s not going to do much to stop your offense, but does your offense stop itself? Because at times Florida’s offense has been their biggest critic. No? Yeah?
Nick: I don’t know what you mean. What do you mean their biggest critic?
Andrew: I mean Kryptonite. Sorry. They kill themselves. Florida kills themselves.
Nick: Okay. I got what you’re saying. Florida’s offense has killed themselves, and they’ve killed the defense, and all that. This is a Missouri defense that is medicine for struggling offenses. The defense is so terrible. The problem is Florida’s offense is medicine for sick and bad defense. To me, it’s kind of like the battle of the worst here. It’s like what happens when a moveable object meets a stoppable force. I don’t know how this game comes out. I just don’t have any confidence. If I had even a little bit of confidence in Florida’s offense, I’d say they’re going to put up points against Missouri, because Missouri can’t stop anybody. I have no confidence in Florida’s offense.
Andrew: Do you have confidence that they can stop, Florida’s defense, can stop Missouri’s offense?
Nick: Yeah. I do.
Andrew: Do you really?
Nick: Yeah.
Andrew: Seriously?
Nick: Yeah.
Andrew: Okay. You got more faith in them than I do.
Nick: That’s clear. We’ve made that point abundantly clear throughout the season, that I have more faith in their offense than you do.
Andrew: I don’t know. We’re not going to go back there again. I don’t have faith. I think Florida’s offense has got to score 30 points to win this game.
Nick: I don’t think so. I think this game will be in the high teens, low twenties, mid-twenties.
Andrew: Missouri scored 21 points in the first half against a pretty decent Georgia defense.
Nick: You can have a good game plan.
Andrew: You can? Nussmeier says he disagrees.
Nick: I’m wondering, almost wondering why Randy wouldn’t have made a move and said, “Ja’Juan, you’re going to call plays.”
Andrew: I laugh. I did a radio show, and the guy that was asking me the questions he said this. I laughed about it, and I shouldn’t have laughed about it. He said, “What if the offense comes out and looks good? Do people say Doug Nussmeier might not be the problem?” I said, “Weirder things have happened in Gainesville lately.”
Nick: You’re saying maybe McElwain was holding Doug Nussmeier back?
Andrew: I don’t know. I’m just saying maybe Randy knows something we don’t. I don’t think so. I personally think that Doug had the controls, because everything we’ve been told is that. I’m just saying maybe Randy knows something we don’t.
Nick: Man. We’ll see.
Andrew: Weirder shit’s happened, Nick. I didn’t think two weeks ago we’d be talking about a head coaching search either.
Nick: No. How things change.
Andrew: Let’s talk some coaching, because I’m sure people are going to come here and listen to this podcast to talk about that. Nick, I wrote that piece on Tuesday, kind of about Florida’s recruiting class. Again, I don’t think you make any decisions based on recruiting this recruiting class. You got to have a head coach that can recruit. You’ve obviously got to do that. You do hire your coaching staff to recruit and be good on the field coaches. Yes, that’s possible around the country. Ja’Juan Seider, Tim Skipper are living proof of that.
Mentioning those two guys, I do know the people around the program. Nick, I know you know the same, have heard the same, and that is that the people, Scott Strickland, the search committee, that kind of stuff, they know about who the big time recruiters on this staff are, the Brad Davis, Ja’Juan Seider, Tim Skipper’s of the world. That’ll be something they recommend to the new coach. Definitely won’t be something they push on him. I think that when you push a coach on someone then that’s bad news, like Charlie Weis to Will Muschamp, Randy Shannon to Jim McElwain. I think it will be said to the new coach, “Think about these guys.”
At the end of the day, it’s getting a coach in before Signing Day. Now, I move forward to when we start to talk about the new head coaches, the Scott Frosts, Willie Taggarts, those guys. Whoever that coach may be you hire, Nick, has got to be a damn good recruiter.
Nick: So much is made of that about the head coach being a damn good recruiter. I think it’s more on the assistant coaches.
Andrew: That’s where you and I disagree. If you have a piss poor head coach that doesn’t want to recruit, and I’m not saying Jim McElwain was. Jim McElwain just wasn’t aggressive. If you have a guy like a Spurrier, who doesn’t like to recruit, when he was at South Carolina he didn’t. When you have a guy like Tommy Tuberville at Auburn, guys that don’t like to recruit, then it shows to your assistants. If a head coach doesn’t like to recruit, then the assistants have nobody to look up to.
Then also, at the end of the day, Nick, the head coach is the guy that can be the difference maker. Look at Nick Saban, Nick. I mean, does he like to recruit? I don’t know if he does or not, but he knows, when I call a kid I’m going to get their attention. That’s what I’m saying. You have to have a head coach that maybe doesn’t enjoy it, but does it, and does it well.
Nick: Okay. I get that. It’s just my thing is, maybe even to your point, the attitude of the head coach and his attitude towards recruiting kind of trickles down into his staff. To me, he’s not the one that spends most of the time. You hear all the time a player say, “Who do you talk to most?” “My position coach, my area guy.” “What about the head coach?” “Every once in a while.” It’s kind of like the head coach picks and chooses his spots and guys of when to talk to and who to talk to, versus the running back coach who’s talking to every single running back that they’re trying to recruit, as well as the guys in the area he’s assigned to.
I guess that’s where I was coming from when I say I would put more importance on recruiting when it comes to the rest of the staff, more so than the head coach. Every coach, whether you’re a graduate assistant or a head coach, in college football has to know that that’s the lifeblood of your program. You have to be able to recruit. I just think, from a hands-on perspective, it’s more the assistants.
Andrew: Yeah, but a head coach has to be interested. You look at Urban and those guys, you look at your upper echelon programs in the country, you look at Kirby Smart, you look at James Franklin, you look at Nick Saban. Those guys are all very, very involved in recruiting, very involved. I say this, and here’s the only thing that I’ll ever harp on Jim McElwain with his recruiting. He wasn’t aggressive enough, and he didn’t look his assistant coaches in the face and say, “Listen, it’s your position. Fix it.” He didn’t look at Randy Shannon and say, “Get me linebackers.” He didn’t look at Mike Summers and say, “Get me offensive linemen.”
He didn’t look at those positions, and now look at where you’re at. You’re dealing with an offensive line that if you lose someone you have nobody. You look at a linebacker core that is playing a walk-on in Christian Garcia. It’s nothing wrong with him. He’s a decent player, but you shouldn’t be at the University of Florida. You should be seven, eight deep at that position.
Nick: Yeah. That’s good. Then that falls down on the head coach to …
Andrew: To get it fixed.
Nick: To hire a guy that doesn’t need to be micromanaged then.
Andrew: Right. At the same time, Nick, let’s just say you and I are both recruiting, or both looking at John Doe’s film. If I’m the assistant, and you’re the head coach, the head coach should be the guy that says, “I like him.” Period. You should have the final say.
Nick: Yeah. I get that. There can be an argument to say Jim McElwain shouldn’t be telling Chris Rumph, “I don’t like that defensive tackle.” “Don’t worry, Coach. You’re not the one that’s going to be coaching him.”
Andrew: Chris Rumph’s not getting fired for that guy. Jim McElwain is.
Nick: Right. I mean, Jim McElwain could have fired Chris Rumph, you know what I mean? I get what you’re saying. I’m just giving a counterargument to that as well. I get what you’re saying.
Andrew: Let’s look at the first rumor. First rumor pops up on Monday about Willie Taggart having some interest, and the talks are there. Of course, he instantly says, “Hey, I haven’t talked to nobody.” Of course, you haven’t talked to nobody. Agents talk to agents, that kind of stuff. Just like Scott Frost. Someone talked to Scott Frost. Agents talk to agents. The first feelers went out on Monday, and they’re out there. Everyone is not interested in the job. Everyone is 100% committed to their program. Guess what? No, you’re not.
Nick: I would even venture to guess that through back channels, the first interest probes, calls for interest, went out even before yesterday.
Andrew: I agree. You know what I’m saying in that when you have this kind of stuff they’re automatically going to come out and say, “I haven’t talked to nobody, and I’m not interested. I’m focused on my team, and I’m 100% committed to my program.” That’s what everybody’s going to say.
Nick: Yes.
Andrew: 100%. Matt Campbell at Iowa State, Willie Taggart, Scott Frost, whoever it may be, is not coming out and saying, “I’m not committed. I’m going to look at that job at the end of the year.” They’re not going to say that. Zero. Period. Not going to happen.
Nick: Give me a little more there. Why?
Andrew: It looks bad, because then it’s like he’s already looking at that job. He’s not committed to us as a program. What happens if he doesn’t get that interview, or doesn’t get that? Then he gets fired for looking at it, or that school starts looking elsewhere. You know what I’m saying? For instance, Willie Taggart, if Oregon doesn’t think he’s fully committed, maybe they decide we need to look another way, if he’s not fully committed after just Year 1 here. That kind of stuff. That’s where I’m saying they always do that.
Now, let’s give our candidates real quick. Do I think Willie Taggart’s been spoken to behind back channels? Yes. Do I think Scott Frost has been talked to behind back channels? Yes. Do I think Dan Mullen’s probably been talked to behind back channels? I’m sure. Do I think Matt Campbell at Iowa State has been? I’m sure. I’m sure.
My personal top two candidates are Scott Frost and Matt Campbell. I’m not a big Willie Taggart fan. That’s nothing against Willie Taggart. I think he’d make a fine coach at Florida. I’m just not a big Willie Taggart fan. I’ve heard different things about how he is as far as on the field, that kind of stuff. I’ve heard he’s not aggressive per say. My personality is I think you need somebody aggressive in here at Florida. Nothing against Willie Taggart. I think he’d make a hell of a coach. I’m just not sure he’s the fit for Florida.
Nick: I would say Taggart is probably on the short list right now, and that’s a list that’s ever-evolving. I’d say Dan Mullen’s on that list. Scott Frost would probably be my first pick. Obviously, Dan Mullen. I think the things that are being looked at as the most important are, first and foremost, being a good fit for Florida. Scott Strickland says it’s a championship experience with integrity. When you look at that word, integrity, I think you start crossing people off. People like Mike Leach. Unfortunately for me, people like Lane Kiffin. You start crossing people off.
Then you look at the state of Florida. Name me a school that doesn’t run some version of the spread. That’s an exciting offense. Scott Strickland says, “From looking on the outside, when Florida was great, it was fun.” A fun, fast, exciting offense.
Then third, a coach who has a pedigree and a track history of developing quarterbacks. I think that’s where Dan Mullen comes into play. You go all the way back to Utah with Dan Mullen, when he was there with Urban Meyer and Alex Smith. You look at coaches who have histories playing with great quarterbacks, because that’s where Florida has been struggling since 2010, since the Sugar Bowl in 2010, when Tim Tebow played his last game.
Andrew: Let me make an argument for Mullen for you, Nick, real quick. I’m not sure that I think Dan Mullen is the right fit for Florida. I don’t think he’s a great recruiter. I think he’s a decent recruiter. Listen, he is probably, if not the best, one of the best guys that you can hire that can fix the quarterback position. Look what he’s done with Nick Fitzgerald. He will have the support of a lot of former players, including Tim Tebow, who isn’t around the program a ton. He’s going to run an exciting offense, and he’s won in the SEC. I think that’s key. How much Jeremy Foley’s involved in this search process is going to be key. They don’t like each other. They don’t.
Nick: Talking about Mullen and Foley.
Andrew: Yes. We don’t know truly how Strickland and Mullen feel. We’ve both been given shaky answers. Some say, yes, they like each other, and some say they were on shaky ground. They’re both very direct people. That’s my argument for Mullen. I don’t think he’s the best guy for the job, because I don’t think he recruits great, and I think he maybe is just a mediocre coach that does okay with senior classes at Mississippi State, but I think you can do a hell of a lot worse.
I do like Norvell at Memphis as well, Nick. Exciting offense. Young guy. Brings energy. Like I said, Norvell, Frost, Campbell.
Nick: Norvell was also a name that was talked about before McElwain, during the McElwain search.
Andrew: Exactly. There’s a lot of names. Me, this is me, Nick, and I’m just going to give my criteria for this coach. Aggressive recruiter, young guy, passion, fun offense, and is confident in being the Florida Gator coach.
I’m going to say this one thing, and then we’re going to get out of here, because we’re running out of time. I’ll let you have an argument as well. That is there is a lot of people that have got jobs right now at the University of Florida who are not confident in their abilities, who are not confident that with that Florida logo they can land anybody in the country. Nick, I’m just going to say this. University of Florida should be able to recruit anybody in the country. When you talk of top tier programs, academically and athletically, you should be there. When you put that logo on, you should feel confident. You should walk around with confidence. That hasn’t happened. Whoever that may be better have confidence. Period.
Nick: I will just let you have more time. How is Frost as a recruiter? Taggart was a great recruiter at USF.
Andrew: Yeah. I’ve heard that Taggart is a good recruiter. The only question mark is that he doesn’t have a ton of ties yet in the state of Florida. A lot of his ties are still in the Midwest to West Coast, because of that. They say that he’s very hands-on. He likes to hire his assistants and give them leeway, but that he, I don’t want to say micromanages, but stays on top of them, because he knows what he wants. I give approval on Frost as a recruiter as well. Same thing with Willie Taggart. I just don’t think Willie Taggart’s aggressive enough as a recruiter and that kind of stuff. I could be totally wrong. If I am, cool. I like Willie Taggart as a person. I think he’s a good person. I’m just not sure he’s the right fit for that.
Nick, we’re running. We’ve got like 30 seconds. Tell the people where they can find us. Real quick, if you’re looking for coaching search news and stuff, we got that information for you. Hit us up for a coupon code. We’ll get you that coupon code. Message boards are flying off the hook. A lot of good things. Our writers are pouring it out. Not just Nick and myself, but everyone. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us.
Nick: www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. We’ve been having trouble with iTunes. You can still find us there, but if you’re having trouble with iTunes, the podcast is there on the website. Social media, @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter, @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: There you go, guys. As always, guys, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.