Missing: Wide Receivers Coach
New Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain was methodical in filling out his initial staff, but a hole nevertheless remains with one assistant spot still yet to be filled as of press time.
Florida has not yet hired what will be its seventh wide receivers coach in as many seasons – seriously, seven in seven seasons – despite every other member on McElwain’s coaching staff not only being in the building but already having gone out on the road recruiting. Currently, the Gators are using director of player personnel Drew Hughes as their ninth recruiter with McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier paying extra-close attention to available wideouts.
So why exactly does Florida still have this position open and when will a hire be made?
Well, let’s just say the Gators are in no rush. A source close to the program told OnlyGators.com over the weekend that one reason why Florida has not filled the role is because a number of the coaches being considered for the position are currently in the NFL. Professional staffs have yet to fully shake out due to head coaching changes throughout the league and there are still head coach positions available.
Those head coaches need coordinators and assistant head coaches and wide receivers coaches. There are also a larger-than-usual number of wide receiver coach openings unfilled both in the college (Cal, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin) and NFL ranks. Assistants are not only angling for the best possible landing spot but also looking to maximize their earnings at their chosen destination.
McElwain feels no pressure to hire a receivers coach because the rest of the staff is already on the road recruiting. National Signing Day is just over two weeks away, and it would be difficult for a brand new assistant (unless he has an absurd pedigree) to jump in and make a major impact in such a short period of time. That is why a hire may not even be made until after signing day, though it is still expected to be completed beforehand.
Plus, McElwain’s specialty is wideouts as he coached the position for the first 19 years of his career at Eastern Washington, Montana State, Louisville and Michigan State. And though former Gators quarterback Chris Leak has not been guaranteed a staff role but is nevertheless expected to take a non-coaching position at Florida, he will still be around as well.
The long and short of it is that fans are much more impatient about this hire than McElwain, who has filled his initial staff with top-notch recruiters with Southeastern Conference experience and track records of success. This hire will be no different.
Names to Know Down the Stretch
Speaking of recruiting and National Signing Day, here are 10 names you need to know as the big day approaches. The Gators are struggling mightily at this time with just eight commitments, all of which are three-star prospects and none of whom are rated in the Rivals250. Florida lost its top four commitments since the middle of the 2014 season and has added only one verbal pledge since McElwain took over in December.
DE Byron Cowart (Seffner, FL)
The No. 1 player in the nation, Cowart is believed to be down to a final two of Auburn and Florida with the Tigers picking up additional momentum now that Will Muschamp is in Auburn and defensive line coach Brad Lawing was not retained in Gainesville.
OL Martez Ivey (Apopka, FL)
A long-time Gators lean, Ivey is not only a top talent but plays a position of dire need for Florida. Offensive line coach Mike Summers has done a great job recruiting the No. 4 player in the nation.
DE CeCe Jefferson (Glen St. Mary, FL)
The Gators hoped to get Cowart, Ivey and Jefferson all in their 2015 class but program instability and Muschamp’s departure hurt those efforts. Jefferson likes Florida and will take it down to the wire, but he has not trimmed his list and UF is definitely worried it could miss on the 20th-ranked player in the country.
QB Deondre Francois (Bradenton, FL)
Whether Florida will be able to flip a Florida State quarterback commitment for the second-straight recruiting cycle remains to be seen, but Francois was once extremely interested in the Gators and appears to be again now that McElwain has taken over. Francois is one of three signal callers currently committed to the Seminoles, and UF believes it will get a legitimate chance to sway him with an on-campus visit.
RB Jordan Scarlett (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
With Matt Jones leaving school early, adding a talented rusher became a necessity for Florida, and McElwain has zeroed in on Scarlett, a Miami commitment. As with Francois, the Gators will be trying to flip a Hurricanes running back commitment for the second consecutive year.
OL Tyree St. Louis (Bradenton, FL)
A Miami pledge like Scarlett, St. Louis has responded to Florida’s advances and is also considering a flip. The Gators can offer offensive linemen the opportunity to play immediately with only eight scholarship players returning off last year’s team.
WR Van Jefferson (Brentwood, TN)
Whether Florida will be able to change the mind of this Georgia pledge is unknown, but McElwain has his work cut out for him here with Ole Miss also in heavy pursuit.
OLB Jeffery Holland (Jacksonville, FL)
Currently uncommitted, Holland has already had new Gators linebackers coach Randy Shannon in his ear, convincing him to take the short trip south and play in Gainesville.
QB Lamar Jackson (Boynton Beach, FL)
McElwain and Nussmeier want one quarterback each cycle, but they would not be upset with adding two. Whether Francois is interested in flipping to Florida or not, the Gators have a high level of interest in Jackson, a soft pledge to Louisville who has more than reciprocated Florida’s advances. A talented and underrated dual-threat signal caller, Jackson is planning to visit UF at the end of January, a source close to the player told OnlyGators.com on Sunday.
WR Derrick Dillon (Franklinton, LA)
Though he is currently committed to Florida, Dillon’s services appear to be up for grabs, especially since McElwain did not retain tight ends coach Derek Lewis, Dillon’s primary recruiter. An emerging and underrated talent, Dillon has interest from home-state powerhouse LSU, which is definitely a threat to unseat UF in what would be yet another recruiting blow delivered to this class of 2015.
Not Only Gators: Way Behind
With the 87th Academy Awards set for about one month from now, I am way behind on my normal film-watching leading up to the event.
Though I have seen a couple of the nominees for the major awards – The Grand Budapest Hotel, Gone Girl, The Judge – only one of those is actually a Best Picture nominee.
On the list for the next 30 days are American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash.
With the Super Bowl taking up next weekend and National Signing Day set for early February, that is entirely too tall of a task to actually complete. But it will be attempted, and this “Not Only Gators” section of The Silver Lining will keep you updated on my progress over the next four weeks.
This Week’s Movie Trailer
Avengers: Age of Ultron (#2):
The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
Tie knots, ranked:
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