In addition to working exceptionally well together on the field, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and now-former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn were great friends off of it as well. While losing a terrific coach and friend may have been difficult for Muschamp on Thursday, it was not completely unexpected and something he was certainly prepared to handle.
“I appreciate the foundation he laid here at the University of Florida defensively. He’s an outstanding coach and an outstanding friend and a guy that’s going to be very successful in Seattle,” Muschamp said of Quinn on Friday. “That’s probably the only job he would have left here for because of his relationship with John Schneider, the general manager of Seattle, and his relationship with Pete Carroll. … I knew that would be a possibility if [that] chain of events happened.”
Muschamp explained Friday that part of his job is “to anticipate when things are going to happen” and “start planning on things for what you need to do and what you feel like is best for the program.”
It is for that reason why Florida was able to simultaneously announce Quinn’s departure and the promotion of linebackers coach and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin to permanent defensive coordinator.
“D.J.’s experience with our system and with our players, the stability and continuity we provide for our players in that decision, I think it is our best decision,” Muschamp said. “I’ve watched him for two years do a fantastic job with our players. He’s a great motivator, smart, intelligent, understands the game, sees the big picture. All of the things I think it takes to be a successful play caller on offense or defense, he has.”
Durkin was one of two coaching staff holdovers from Urban Meyer’s final Gators staff. Though Muschamp had never coached with him before, he received plenty of support from colleagues that keeping Durkin in the fold was the right thing to do for the program.
“There was a lot of carryover as far as people that I know and have tremendous respect for that know D.J. very well. He was very highly recommended to me from some people that I trust their opinion when I got here,” he said.
Then Muschamp got the opportunity to see for himself how Durkin operates as a coach.
“To stand on the [Outback Bowl] practice field and watch him teach and coach and interact with the players was very impressive,” he said. “And then in two years, that’s a job interview for two years. That’s a long job interview but it’s very evident to me that he is the right guy for the job.”
Durkin’s aggression and ability to relate to players is a big reason why he received the promotion. Muschamp also pointed to the special teams unit’s “relentless attitude” during games, something that the defense already carries and will hopefully continue to exhibit.
“People understand, defensively, we’re not changing. Schematically, the terminology is not going to change,” Muschamp said. “We don’t have to wholesale change anything within our organization because you want to hire good enough [assistant] coaches that you know can be coordinators and you know can be in that role when those situations happen.”
Though the defensive coordinator position is now filled, because Muschamp did so internally there is now a vacant spot on Florida’s coaching staff. The Gators no longer have a special teams coordinator or defensive ends coach.
Muschamp said Friday that he has “some ideas about the next hire” but is not quite sure how he will go about making the decision on how the coaching staff will move forward.
“We got a lot of different avenues to travel down. I’ll address it when we do it,” he said.
“I’ve been in situations where you have a special teams coordinator that coaches everything like D.J. did. I’ve been a part of staffs where we’ve been very successful in special teams where each coach had a part [of the special teams unit to coach]. I’ve been down a lot of those roads. The bottom line is we’re going to find the best fit for the University of Florida, and we’re going to make it work.”
Muschamp has already replaced two coordinators in his two years at Florida and done so on both occasions without drastically affecting the Gators program. It appears as if he is once again prepared to fill in the blanks and keep Florida heading in the right direction.
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