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Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain said Monday that he will not be making any additions to staff until after the 2017 Outback Bowl on Jan. 2. In the meantime, co-coordinator Randy Shannon will serve as defensive coordinator for the bowl game now that Geoff Collins has left and taken over as head coach at Temple.
“We’re not going to make any full-time decisions on that until after the bowl games out of respect for coaches and people that are coaching at other programs,” said McElwain. “Just don’t think it’s right this time of year. Let them focus on [their games] and then move forward after that. There is no timeframe, but obviously [I] want to have it done before we get back on the road recruiting after the first of the year.”
With recruiting being of utmost importance every year — but especially in 2017 based on where Florida currently stands in the recruiting rankings and considering how many players the Gators are expected to lose after the season — McElwain also admitted that he is taking that into consideration when the time comes to make a new hire.
“Continuity in what we’re doing is important and a couple other factors … make sure we answer some recruiting needs that we have … as well,” McElwain said.
As one would expect, players have voiced their support for Shannon to take over the defense, and McElwain confirmed Monday that he is “absolutely” considering him for the job. “Randy is more than qualified for that position,” he said.
Shannon spent 12 of the first 15 years of his coaching career with the Miami Hurricanes, serving as defensive coordinator from 2001-06 before being elevated to head coach. (The other three years were spent with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.) As a coordinator with the Canes, he put forward a top-five defense nearly every season; of course, Miami was also loaded with NFL talent. Since being fired as the Canes’ coach, though, Shannon has not called defensive plays as a linebackers coach at TCU (2012) and Arkansas (2013-14) before receiving his three-pronged title (associate head coach, co-coordinator, linebackers coach) at Florida.
If Shannon is ultimately the choice, McElwain delaying his decision makes a lot of sense as it will give him a couple weeks to evaluate Shannon as he manages the defense off the field and calls a live game against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
Speaking to the “continuity” end, that appears to be the direction in which Florida is leaning at this time, especially as McElwain mentioned strengthening the Gators’ recruiting with his new hire. Should Shannon be promoted, McElwain would then have the option to hire an assistant to a similar role to the one Shannon possessed or perhaps shake up the coaching staff by moving running backs coach Tim Skipper — who has experience coaching defense — to that side of the ball and hiring a running backs coach. OnlyGators.com first broached this as a possibility back on Dec. 14.
Whether hiring a defensive coordinator or position coach, the delayed decision also provides McElwain with a deeper pool of coaches from which to choose. Not only would NFL assistants come into play (Sal Sunseri, for example) but coaches currently on teams competing in major bowls or for national titles (Tosh Lupoi, Pete Kwiatkowski, to name a couple) become options now that their obligations are completed.
There is also the possibility that Florida hires more than one new coach after making an additional staff change, which would allow McElwain the flexibility to move his coaches around to fill two potentially open positions at the end of the bowl season.
Either way, it’s clear a decision is not coming anytime soon, so for now, all the Gators can focus on is facing Iowa in two weeks.