Image Credit: GatorVision
“I’ve been cavity-free since the fourth grade, just so you know.”
Those were the closing words of new Florida Gators offensive line coach Brad Davis at his introductory press conference, and while humorous (we’ll get to why in a bit), they shine a light on what appears to be a meticulous, demanding and confident assistant that is drastically different than the man he is replacing.
After listening to the self-described “little short guy” speak for 14 minutes on Thursday, one could not help but come away impressed by the former Oklahoma offensive lineman who spoke with determination and spirit that should not only motivate his players but attract some of the top recruits in the nation.
“I’m a hard coach to play for, and I don’t say that in terms of bragging or any of that kind of stuff. I have a process, and I believe in that process, and I think it works,” said Davis, beginning one of many lengthy responses to a variety of getting-to-know-you questions in the press conference.
“The first thing is they have to know how much I care about them. They have to know that their success is the most important thing to me — and not just in football, their success in their personal lives, in the classroom. I tell them that them building their brand — what do they want people to say about them when they leave here — those are things that never take second place to football. From there, once I’ve captivated their attention, and they understand how much I care about them, they will allow me to push them harder. They will allow me to go out there and challenge them; they will go out there and allow me to chastise them and coach them hard.
“Our position is different in a lot of ways. When we don’t execute an assignment, when we have poor technique, when we don’t play hard, bad things happen — catastrophic things can happen to other players, not necessarily just a bad play. So we have a little bit of added pressure and added incentives to go out and perform well.
“To me, we talk about being physical and being tough; it’s not so much about rah-rah. To me, it’s about a mindset. That’s where I’m trying to really, really pierce these guys right now and really alter their mindset and really make them understand how much harder you can go, how much more of yourself you can give. The things that some people think go unnoticed as it pertains to effort, making them understand that those things never go unnoticed by me. … My expectation is show them the standard, and if they don’t meet the standard, there will be consequences for not meeting the standard.”
To that end, Davis sees his role as a coach as being a “servant” to his players. He is not coaching his former position to serve his ego but rather be a “vehicle” to help lead his players to success. “Their job is to utilize me to help me enhance every aspect of their lives,” he said.
On the field, Davis’ process begins with educating the players about football – not just their play-by-play assignments but the “broad perspective” of the game. “I want them to see the big picture, see the field, understand scheme, understand plays and why they work,” he said. “But more importantly, understand your role on that given play.”
He starts with the basics, such as why perfecting a three-point stance is important and why something as simple as an inside zone run can see so much success and is basically used in every offense nationwide. From there, Davis moves on to the ins and outs of his scheme and the offense itself, but the work does not stop with simply knowing the plays and the expectations every time the whistle is blown.
“When it comes to being physical or being a ‘tough football player,’ all those things, 99 percent of it is want-to. My expectations for my players are one thing, but they have to also match those expectations,” he said. “The biggest thing right now is to get those guys to see the game the way I see it, to understand their purpose and more importantly understand the privilege that they have of being a Florida Gator.
“Those are the daily reminders that they get from me: to not waste an opportunity, to not take this opportunity lightly and to go out there and really utilize your talent. … It’s pointless to have a Lamborghini with a bad transmission. It’s worthless. So we have a bunch of talented, physical, athletic football players that haven’t maximized their football potential. My job and why I’m here is to get the best out of them every day.”
From watching film and casually meeting his new players, Davis has already determined that junior Martez Ivey has “limitless potential.” Davis said he’s “been investing a lot of time” in Ivey, a player he believes loves football and has already “expressed a strong desire to improve his game.”
“The bottom line is, for me, I don’t ask my players to lead by example — there’s no such thing. I ask my guys to set the example and hold other guys accountable to the standard,” he explained. “That has been conversation to Martez. Yes, you’re a tremendous football player. Yes, we see a big future for you in football. But the bottom line is you want to make sure that you leave this place better than when you got it, whenever your time is up here.”
As for the rest of the group, Davis stressed he did not begin his evaluations with any “preconceived notions.” While the film from 2016 does some talking, he is more worried about the players buying into him as their new coach and allowing him to guide them down a new path.
“It’s not really what I think of them. It’s what they think of me. For me to get the best out of these guys, they got to 100 percent believe in me, buy in to me and really understand what my expectations are for them,” Davis stressed. “Right now, my biggest challenge right now has been getting as close to my players as I possibly can. I’ve been investing time within the parameters that are allowed – texting, calling, having them come by the office, position meetings, talking to them after workouts, things of that nature. Really trying to get those guys to understand my passion for success. That’s the biggest thing right now.”
It is that attitude and confidence that makes one believe right off the bat that Davis will be a strong recruiter for the Gators. While dismissing the notion of such a designation, the coach doubled down on his perspective of player development by discussing what he looks for in players when trying to fill out his roster.
“I don’t understand the label of being a great recruiter or not great recruiter. The bottom line is to me when it comes to recruiting football players, number one, they have to embody a certain skill set that you find appealing. For me, we want lengthy guys, guys with range that can bend well and move well in space, that have great footwork. So once you identify those things, then there becomes a whole new set of parameters,” he explained.
“Number one, how tough is he? How intelligent is he? How well will he learn? Will this kid come here and under my guidance and be a kid that flourishes and becomes a player that helps us win championships, or will he be a washout? Will he be a four- or five-star kid we never hear from again? It happens all over the country. For me, my model is really just diving into kids’ lives and getting to know so much about them. … That’s been my model.
“Is it going to be a lot easier with a Gator head on my shirt when I walk into a school? Yes. Heck yes. But at the same time, the kids we want and anticipate landing here are going to be national recruits that we are going to have to work our butts off to land here. It’s a daily deal. It takes due diligence like coach said. It’s something you never take time off from doing it. I anticipate that we’re going to get the right ones here. That’s more important to me than stars. We want to get the right ones, the guys that embody the values that Coach Mac has set for this program. We’ll win a lot of games with those guys.”
Davis believes he and head coach Jim McElwain share a similar mindset when it comes to coaching, and he appreciated learning how much McElwain values family when interviewing for the position. Davis also noted that he got his official job offer from McElwain while at the dentist’s office, and one could tell it was not a moment he is going to forget any time soon.
“I’ve been fortunate, the places I’ve gone, I’ve worked my butt off trying to do a great job, and fortunately some of the people Coach Mac trusts have expressed that to him as well,” he explained. “So yeah, in a million years did I expected to be here? Absolutely not. But am I fired up and thrilled? Heck yes, it’s the highlight of my coaching career. Ten years ago to the day, I was stapling papers, fixing coffee, getting cars washed, sleeping in my office, typing up scouting reports, breaking down film. So, it’s amazing; it truly is.”
Comments like that make Davis sound like the perfect assistant for McElwain, and he later expressed that he is fully aware of the gravity of donning the orange and blue and representing a program the caliber of Florida, which he has not done since playing for Oklahoma.
“I’m a little short guy that probably wasn’t good enough, so what I had to do was I had to overachieve. I had to learn to give more of myself. I had to learn to be more selfless. I had to learn to study more. I had to learn that I didn’t have the leeway to make some of the mistakes that the more talented guys did,” Davis explained of his playing days.
“This opportunity that I have right here, there’s no leeway to come here and be average. Coach Mac didn’t bring me here to be average or to try and figure it out on the fly. I know what the expectations of Gator fans are. I have to be great at my job. So there’s not been a day that I’ve been here, or a day that I’m going to be here, that I’m going to take being here lightly. So I expect the same from my players as well.”