Why Florida’s coaching staff may not be complete until after National Signing Day

By Adam Silverstein
January 18, 2017
Why Florida’s coaching staff may not be complete until after National Signing Day
Football

Image Credit: UAA

There’s a good reason the Florida Gators should not prevent media members — particularly beat writers — from being present for speaking engagements to crowds of fans and boosters. The media can help ensure speakers’ comments to such large groups are shared accurately and not misconstrued.

The opposite happened Wednesday night after new Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin spoke to one of the aforementioned groups in Orlando, Florida.

Stricklin, while presumably answering a question from the crowd about when the Gators will complete their football staff by adding two coaches, was misunderstood by at least two members of the audience. One “reported” that Stricklin directly stated head coach Jim McElwain will not make the hires until after National Signing Day. Another noted that Stricklin “strongly implied” that McElwain “can’t both recruit and hire assistants at the same time.”

To his credit, Stricklin responded directly on Twitter, calling these comments “a gross misrepresentation of what I said.”

However, Stricklin followed up by saying that McElwain’s “focus is on recruiting” at this time. He also went so so far as to say Florida football is at “full strength” on the road recruiting because “two off-field staff members have been cleared to recruit off campus in interim” while hires are being made.

A couple points to make off these comments.

1. McElwain’s focus should be on recruiting right now, especially considering the state of the Gators’ class, which is ranked 22nd nationally at this time — eighth in the SEC and behind both of UF’s in-state rivals.

2. However, though McElwain’s focus may be on recruiting, it’s clear that the Gators were blindsided by Mike Locksley‘s decision to stay at Alabama. If Locksley (or Mario Cristobal) was not the target, perhaps one that had indicated a principle agreement to return to Florida, there was no reason whatsoever for McElwain to wait until after the College Football Playoff National Championship to fill the open position. “Obviously want to have it done before we get back on the road recruiting after the first of the year,” the coach said back on Dec. 19.

3. Regardless of the Locksley situation, there is no excuse for Florida being so ill-prepared to not have a back-up candidate in place if the program was going to wait this long to make a hire. You have to have a Plan B and Plan C, even if you hold off on putting it in motion, especially considering the timing and recruiting situation. A staff being down one position coach (offensive line) is not a huge deal entering National Signing Day, but to be down two — with the other a coordinator-level assistant and presumably a recruiting specialist — is the furthest thing from “full strength” even if two additional bodies are on the road. And that’s not to slight director of player personnel Drew Hughes, who does a great job and is an asset. He should be filling in for the position coach missing on the recruiting trail, not the coordinator-level one.

4. Whether McElwain is “capable” of hiring two coaches while simultaneously recruiting is not at issue here. He should have never put himself in the situation where he would need to do both at the same time. And Florida should have never been in a position where it needed such upheaval so late in the game. McElwain has been notoriously slow-acting since taking over the Gators, and it’s one of a few flaws that he needs to fix immediately.

5. At this point, with the athletic director buying into Florida being “full strength” on the recruiting trail with two staffers on the road, it’s quite believable that one or both hires may not actually come until after National Signing Day is in the books. It’s plausible that some of McElwain’s candidates will feel loyalty and a responsibility to their current employers to play out this process, and it’s hard to blame them this late in the game with just two weeks left until the big day.

Coaches have notoriously switched staffs the days following NSD over the past few years, to the dismay of players and under the criticism of fans. So while it may make sense for it to go down that way at this juncture, that doesn’t make the situation any better.

35 Comments

  1. MG says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I just don’t sense that Mcelwain really knows what he is doing. His poor recruiting and lack of urgency really bothers me. I don’t see him being around long term.

  2. cline says:

    Maybe someone on an NFL staff?

  3. Ed says:

    Could also be coaches waiting till after signing day to get bonuses they earned.

  4. Keith Carlough says:

    Coach Mac is finding out that there is more to being successful than meets the eye. I think the ship has sailed.

    • Jemery says:

      Adam, I’m still back and forth on my opinion of MAC. I’m not sure I’ve seen enough of the good or bad to have a solid opinion on him. How much time do you legitimately think he has left to prove himself? Does it depend on the direction of his 3rd year?

    • Jemery says:

      sorry, not sure how that ended up a reply.

  5. T Mack says:

    When are the “faithful” going to realise McElwain is a huckster?

    I can win with my dog. I didn’t know Grier took the first snap. We’ve won the east two years in a row.

    They hired a mid level coach at a group of 5 conference. He was, at most, the third best coach in the WMC.

    What a failure. This “qb whisperer” has produced offenses worse than Muschamp.

    Now have to endure him one more year. All I can say is I’m glad Foley is gone. Since he’s not a Stricklin hire, he may not be particularly beholden to him and he can bring in a REAL coach. Maybe even Dan Mullen now that Foley is gone

    • senuod says:

      ….nobody wants Dan Mullen at Florida again

      • Michael Jones says:

        That’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard. Lots of Gators I know, including me, would love to have Dan Mullen back as HC. Tampa Gators I’m around talk about it all the time. And when you say “again,” you say it like he screwed up while he was here. How? By helping us when National Championships?

        The anti-Dan Mullen sentiment so many of you take on this website will forever puzzle me. He’s a good coach who might be a great coach given the resources and facilities, and especially given a shot at a program like UF.

        All that said, I don’t think it’s time to pull the plug on Mac yet. Hopefully it never will be. But I like the rest of you am not happy with the current situation involving the lack of hires. Agree with Adam whole-heartedly in this piece.

        • T Mack says:

          Mullen apparently had an issue with Foley.

          Not an issue anymore.

          He’s a good coach who runs a clean program.

          He brought MSU from the toilet to being highly ranked.

          He’s literally everything Mac is not.

          Yeah, what a horrible choice.

          I know the Meyer tenure left a bad taste in people’s mouths but Mullen wasn’t part of the problem.

          • Michael Jones says:

            Preaching to the choir, brother. I love Dan Mullen. I know plenty of other Gators who do, too.

            And St. Foley might have done a few good things, but I don’t hold him in the same revered esteem that many of my Gator brethren do, and I have no problem with the fact that Mullen stood up to him. Like you said, that’s irrelevant now anyway.

          • senuod says:

            I have nothing against Mullen. Just don’t see him coming in and being the Savior some are hoping for. He is obviously talented.

            I wasn’t there, none of us were, but supposedly the issues were with more in the athletic department than just Foley.

      • T Mack says:

        I bet his old ad does

  6. firemcelwaintoday says:

    The data keeps coming in that bolsters my assertion that McElwain is a joke of a coach who should have never been hired. When will you, Adam, finally figure that out? Will it take Kentucky beating UF, to end another streak like he did with Tennessee this past year?How about another beat down by FSU at Jimbo Fisher Field, with UF not figuring out where the goal line is, again, on offense? McElwain is a con man, and you could see it from day one when he bragged about having a good offense with his dog at QB. UF has finished with two of the worst offenses in Gator history under this clow. Even Muschamp, who was rightly criticized for his poor offense, wasn’t this bad. He had four attempts, and was only successful once at producing an offense as bad as McElwain has. You could say McElwain is perfect, perfect at producing the worst offense imaginable.

    • I’ve been criticizing McElwain all year. For two years actually. Not sure why you think I’m protecting him. You’re responding to a critical story.

      • T Mack says:

        That’s what I don’t get. You’re reviled at Alligator Army for being a “hater”

        Also known as critical.

        Point of interest, Colorado State’s recruiting worsened under Mac. Now, when you’re talking about classes in the 70s, 80s and 90s you can say it’s negligible, but the fact it’s recruiting dropped.

        Meanwhile the clowns at AA act like it’s no big deal. Development and hidden gems matter.

        Yeah, that matters for perennial losers to get to bowl eligibility.

        You need horses to win big.

        Clemson is an outlier in that they only had 1 top 10 class in the previous 4 years. They also had an 11.

        History shows you need talent, not hidden gems.

        It’s terrifying to think Florida, FLORIDA, ranks in the bottom half of the conference. The two other big in state schools are out recruiting them.

        Oh and the mighty offensive genius Mac, with all that blue chip talent at Alabama, was shut out by LSU

        This QB whisperer offensive genius from Alabama made recruiting worse. WTF.

        • Reviled? That doesn’t sound good. I ultimately think I’m a completely fair critic and evaluator of Florida and McElwain. It’s not my job to tell a sweet story. My job is to tell the truth as I see it.

        • Michael Jones says:

          In a perfect world I like both, T Mack. Brilliant, right? Who doesn’t, ha ha. . But my point is that guys like Pinkel at Mizzou, even Franklin for awhile at Vandy, Sweeney consistently at Clemson, and other guys at other places, have caught lightning in a bottle plenty of times through good development and finding those “hidden gems.” I’ll take coaches like that over guys like Miles and Freeze who can recruit but can’t coach their way out of a paper bag. And if you look at all the D-linemen Clemson has put in the NFL over the past few years, Dabo seems to have found a formula for finding future studs that were apparently overlooked by others.

          But, in support of your point, we just got out-horsed too many times these past few years. . especially on the O-line. That’s where we need the studs the most. I think a blind man can find fast guys in Florida who can catch and run the ball. Hell man, Antonio Brown played at Central Michigan! But it’s those horses. . we need more 4 and 5 star horses on those lines.

          Go Gators!!!

          • T Mack says:

            But that’s just it. Guys like Franklin – more with less.

            You knew he’d probably do well at PSU. Yes for every Franklin that ascends to a blue blood and excels, there’s a Rich Rodriguez who fails. For every Urban Meyer there’s a Charlie Strong. Often times that’s a result of the$$ people undermining them from the get go.

            Here’s my problem with Mac – what’s he ever done? Won a title with Bama ? Get in line. That’s Saban, not Mac.

            He coached a team in the Mountain West to a 10-2 record. They didn’t win the conference. He was, at best, the third best coach out there. All his “pedigree” and recruiting DROPPED under him. Oh, but he ran a rinky dink offense in a weak conference and Garrett Grayson and Rashard Higgins piled up numbers. Big whoop.

            Who has he ever actually developed and coached up?

            And Nuss….I don’t care what Saban says. He knows how to play the game and won’t speak ill of people. Nuss was forced out because he was useless. He took a backwards move to Michigan. Look at what he did there. Michigan has plenty of offensive talent all the time and what did he do?

            Not only can Mac but recruit, he seemingly can’t even recruit good recruiters.

            I hope I’m wrong. I hope Franks lights it up. I doubt it.

            The reality is Foley screwed up. Not by hiring Muschamp; he was well regarded. He screwed up by not firing him after 2013 and missing the boat.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Will anyone ever get the “dog at QB” story right? He said that he was the type of person who believed he could win with his dog at QB to illustrate how much of an optimist he is and how much he believes in his abilities as an offensive coach. Good lord. . dude doesn’t really think he can win with his or anyone else’s dog playing QB. . talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill.

      • T Mack says:

        Nobody thinks he actually thought he could put his dog there. He said that in his greasy, smarmy, fake folksy attitude.

        They bring it up because Harris was WORSE under Mac. They bring it up because the “QB whispere” has produced WORSE offenses than Muschamp.

        They bring it up because despite Mac having to rebuild the line, they are WORSE.

        And worst of all he got played by Muschamp.

        Muschamp said in his final press conference ” don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got no good players”

        It was well orchestrated.

        Then Mr can win with his dog produces a worse offense and complains about it, giving Muschamp the opportunity to say “is he saying he’d rather his dog out there?”

        The offense hasn’t improved and his recruiting is terrible. It’s really not hard to figure out

  7. GIL GRIGNON says:

    Adam, Saw these names on another site Rob Sale,Derek Frazier,Jeff Stoutland, Ryan Silverfield for OL coach. And Jajuan Seider for RB coach. Have you heard anything on those names?

  8. Jemery says:

    Adam, I’m still back and forth on my opinion of MAC. I’m not sure I’ve seen enough of the good or bad to have a solid opinion on him. How much time do you legitimately think he has left to prove himself? Does it depend on the direction of his 3rd year?

  9. Matt says:

    Wow..Some objective perspectives on here…Nice! You guys are not making comments that sound like Florida started playing football in 2015. I here no comments about needing more time. “Every coach needs 5 years”, dont you know…The poor guy has had nothing to work with and yet he wins the East…Poor ole Mcelwain started at zero, heck, they didnt have footballs when he got here, he had to kill the pig, work the leather, stitch the ball together, and create the laces from his old tennis shoes. Never has a man started with so little and overcome so much..

  10. g8ter27 says:

    Adam or someone please help me out here. Collins gets a head job after giving up 54 points to Bama with potentially 4 first round draft picks on the defense. I have not heard one word about Brent Venables getting a head job (and of course he beat Bama). Speaking of Bama, anyone heard Pruitt’s name mentioned for a head job? He (arguably before the NC game) had the best defense EVER. Best defense ever and not even mentioned for a HC job? But Collins was a hot name out there, even after giving up the second most points in an SEC championship game? I just don’t get it.

    • Venables turns down head coaching jobs each year. He likes his position and is comfortable in his role. Collins was without his top four linebackers and his top safety, going up against the second-best team in the nation. He also had a defense that was on the field the entire game because the offense couldn’t put drives together. Pruitt has only been coaching in college for 10 years and only been a DC for four.

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