Energy returns to Florida football: Change noticeable with Randy Shannon stepping in

By Adam Silverstein
October 31, 2017
Energy returns to Florida football: Change noticeable with Randy Shannon stepping in
Football

If you listened to interim head coach Randy Shannon speak for even 30 seconds on Monday, you noticed the difference. Energy and accountability returned to Florida Gators football for the first time in an extended period as the former Miami head coach and recent Florida defensive coordinator took the podium for his opening remarks as the man tasked with leading the Gators through their final four games of the 2017 season.

It was refreshing.

Practice was opened to the local media. Questions were answered directly with responses that informed and educated. Decisions were made swiftly. Changes were in the process of being applied across the program.

Shannon showed more energy for Florida football in 18 minutes than the ousted Jim McElwain had since losing his mind at running back Kelvin Taylor for a throat slash gesture back in 2015.

Without prompting, Shannon candidly explained the quarterback competition was now open — as is every position throughout the team. He put the onus on the defense to step up against a talented offensive team. And he straight called out special teams — a massive issue since McElwain took over the program, never more so than this year — for being responsible for consistently awful field position in Florida’s games.

“Hey, we got four games left. Nothing matters but this game against Missouri,” he said. “Everybody in the room wants to be winners, they want to be competitive, they don’t want to let anybody down. But most of all, I told them guys, ‘Don’t let yourself down. Compete at a high level, concentrate, get done all the things you need to get done and we’ll be successful.’”

When explaining that star freshman running back Malik Davis would miss the game after suffering a season-ending injury, Shannon took the opportunity to call out redshirt senior Mark Thompson, who has underwhelmed in his two years with the team.

“It’s time for Mark Thompson to step up. He’s a senior; he’s a guy that’s 6-foot-2, 240 [pounds], runs a 4.4. It’s his opportunity to come in and play,” he said firmly. “We got to challenge him on offense, make sure he knows there was a reason why he was recruited to be a part of Florida – and that’s to be a skilled running back like he is but also be productive, be a physical-type guy that can get in open space and make plays. … Mark Thompson has to really step up this game.”

Shannon will not be the next Gators coach for myriad reasons, and he likely knows that, but his experience with the Hurricanes shined through in a massive way Monday.

Unlike his predecessor, the stage was not too big for him. Shannon had no reason to hide anything from the gathered media because he understood they are there to do nothing more than inform the fans, the lifeblood of any and every team.

“Nah, it’s not an audition. I just think it’s an opportunity to coach and have fun with a bunch of guys you have a chance to be with,” Shannon said. “[We] have to represent the University of Florida and we got to go out there as a whole team and unit and coaching staff and have fun with these guys, be very enthusiastic and positive.”

Regarding opening practices, he added: “Yeah! Yeah … back in my early days when I was a coach, it was different. We let you guys come to practice and see what we’re doing and stuff like fly around, run around. You can get your opinions about what you see and stuff like that, just don’t film anything. Otherwise, you can come out there and watch practice and see what we’re doing. It’s part of your job – to give information and see what we’re doing and give your opinion. And I’ll tell you this, you opinions don’t affect me like they did when I was younger. It’s to help you guys do your job the best that you can, more than anything.”

Shannon thinks he will have a unique perspective on the offense because, as a defensive coach, he knows exactly what has been going wrong and how Florida may be able to improve. He also answered a question about his young, underachieving defense with a direct, candid response — taking responsibility for the struggles but fairly pointing out where the Gators are deficient from an experience perspective.

“I don’t think nobody’s young; that’s the problem with me. I always think, no matter who you have, you have to coach them. Being in the NFL, you can trade for somebody, get somebody off the coach and sign them, waiver wire, all those things. In college, whoever you’ve got, you’ve got to coach them,” he explained.

“We’ve been up and down on defense. We’ve done some great things on defense. Starting out the season, you would say, ‘OK, we will have Marcell [Harris], we will have Nick Washington, we will have guys in the secondary.’ But, unfortunately, we didn’t. We’re playing with a bunch of young guys, which in the secondary Duke [Dawson] is the only [upperclassman]; everyone else is a true freshman or a true sophomore.

“Then you go and you say, ‘OK, linebacker wise, they’re all sophomores.’ Then you look at the D-line, and you think that’s the most experienced position, but when you lose [players to injury, you’re young depth-wise]. But they’re energetic. They play hard. They play fast. They play aggressive. They don’t quit. That’s the one thing you know about those guys. Now, we’ll do some stuff that’s not sound – we’ll fill a gap wrong or something will happen – but when it all comes back, those guys still compete, and they fix problems quick. That’s one thing about a young team, you’re going to be on sometimes and sometimes it’s going to be tough on you.”

Shannon closed by showing that the moment and the position were not too big for him. He understands there are high expectations for Florida to finish the season strong despite McElwain’s departure and is completely focused on the task at hand.

“At an institution or at an NFL team, basketball, baseball or a corporation, they want to win. They want the best that they can get. You have to accept the challenge that – no matter what – you have to give them what they want. That’s just the challenge of everything [with a job like this],” Shannon said.

“… The best job I have is the job I have right now because it’s the only job. The best players I’ve ever coached are the players I’m coaching right now, because they’re the only players I can ever coach. You have to take that mindset and capitalize on that.”

Shannon will not be the Gators’ permanent coach, but he presented himself more like one in 18 minutes than the man he replaced had all season — and perhaps even longer than that.

9 Comments

  1. Sydney Croud says:

    I always liked Coach Shannon and feel he got screwed at Miami, so was glad when he came to the Gators. I hope that he has a good run and there can be some positive momentum for next year. Surprised if he wouldn’t be considered if he finishes out. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I am hoping for an 8-4 season.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Nothing wrong with you, man. You’re just being a good Gator. It’s okay to have a little positivity and hope for the best. We don’t all have to be whiners 24/7.

      Go Gators!!!

  2. Corey says:

    Watching Shannon yesterday I got a feeling that troubled me. It was the feeling he would be very successful, become the players’ choice to replace Mac, get passed over for another lovable loser, and go on to win multiple championships somewhere else.

    • GATOR-6 says:

      Boy, Corey, you just scared the bejabbers out of me! Of all the things that have been troubling my sleep since last Saturday, this wasn’t one of them until now. Thanks a lot, buddy. Actually, Randy Shannon did a pretty good job at Miami, and at a time when the athletic department there was a mess-on-a-stick. Accordingly, there’s more to his resume than just won-loss record. So no, I wouldn’t count him out at Florida, just as I think Ed Ogeron at LSU might surprise a whole lot of people once he gets settled in (and brother that athletic department is currently as screwed up as the Vol’s is).

  3. Slash Tmp says:

    da fuq? Why do you affirm (twice) Shannon will not be the Gators permanent coach? I say he try. If he comes in and wins out….he should be seriously considered. I haven’t seen anyone on all the lists that I’ve looked at that’s the Preeminent choice. I look forward to watching the game against Missouri.

    • Shannon went 28-22 at Miami.

    • GATOR-6 says:

      Slash–I was a little offended too when everybody assumed he wouldn’t be considered. That was after I thought about it for a few minutes, at first assuming too that he wouldn’t be. But why not? 28-22 at Miami, coming in during the worst of times for that program says an awful lot, and nobody can deny that the man has tons of big time football experience as well as loads of character. If you want to be really shocked though, take a look at Pat Dooley’s list of candidates he put out today. Some good names there, but a whole lot of names that are either one trick ponies or a flash in the pan. Made me want to puke.

  4. Erng'n Blue says:

    Shannon is saying and doing the opposite of his predecessor. Turns out, his predecessor’s approach was obviously the wrong one up until his dismissal. It’s called Ying and Yang. Shannon is smart enough to understand this and is going to ride this momentum to our last four wins. This is what a very good coach does. Capitalize on momentum swings and garnish a mob mentality to defy offs. Then reality sets in and leadership is the prevailing factor. This is why Shannon is not a candidate. The other reason is Strong. He never made it so please..

  5. Michael Jones says:

    Whether he does or doesn’t become the next Gator HC, Randy Shannon is and always has been a class act. I dislike the Canes only less than I dislike FSU, but I cheered for them while he was there. I think they had a quick trigger on Shannon.

    I’m glad we have him. Loved his first presser. Like most good coaches, you can take his comments and apply them to either football or life with equal success. I plan to enjoy him for as long as he’s around.

    Go Gators!!!

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