Updated on Tuesday at 1:30 a.m.
It has been nearly three full weeks since Jim McElwain was hired as the new head coach of the Florida Gators – 18 days to be exact – yet the exact makeup of his coaching staff remains largely unresolved. According to McElwain, it will remain that way for at least another week…or possibly three.
To this point, little is known about who will join McElwain in Gainesville, Florida, though he told Tampa Bay’s WDAE 620 AM on Monday that the process is “going really well.”
The one hire he did make – pulling defensive coordinator Geoff Collins from the same role at Mississippi State – has received widespread praise, but McElwain still has a ways for to go with eight additional coaching positions to fill.
So what exactly is taking so long?
McElwain is targeting a number of coaches who have yet to see their seasons come to an end, including what appears to be more than one working in the professional ranks.
“Obviously we’ve got guys that are currently in major bowl games that will probably jump on board and then some guys obviously that still have an NFL game or maybe even some playoff games left. So we’re being patient,” he explained during the radio hit.
The NFL regular season ends in one week, while every bowl game except the College Football Playoff Championship will be played in two week’s time. Of course, considering McElwain coached at Alabama and is believed to be targeting one or two Crimson Tide staffers for promotions, the wait to have a 100 percent finalized coaching staff could extend to three weeks. And if he is hoping to pull in an assistant from an NFL team set to make the playoffs, obviously the delay could extend even longer.
In a second radio interview later on Monday, this time with Jacksonville’s 1010 XL, McElwain insinuated that fans could expect to hear at least a few staff additions come to fruition sooner than later.
“You’ll start to see some guys trickle in as we finish some bowl games and the NFL season and then really get after it right after the first of the year,” he said.
There are other concerns McElwain has while building a staff, such as quality, familiarity and overall fit. He wants his first Gators coaching staff to be a well-oiled machine from the start rather than a patchwork accumulation of random parts.
“The one thing, a piece of advice I’ve gotten from many head coaches over the years, was the one thing you got to do is make sure you get that staff right. Be patient, make sure it checks all the boxes with recruiting ties, with coaching ability and obviously with like thinkers, guys that don’t have separate agendas and aren’t independent contractors,” he told the Tampa Bay station.
“It’s really about the family because at the end of the day, these kids are the reason we’re here and we’ve got to put everything we have in everything we do to help them be successful.”
There is an overriding belief that at least two members of the current Gators family – defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and offensive line coach Mike Summers – have been asked by McElwain to stay at Florida. Both have reportedly told recruits that they are sticking around, but nothing is set in stone with either coach and McElwain is still fending off Will Muschamp (now defensive coordinator at Auburn), who is trying to pull Robinson back to his alma mater.
However, Collins is the only official hire to this point, and McElwain explained to the Jacksonville station why Collins was the perfect hire to lead the Gators’ defense.
“We met each other at the University of Alabama, and he’s a guy that I’ve followed. He’s a guy that does a great job not only putting a plan together but really getting the guys excited to play the game,” he said.
“One of the things I did know was obviously we had success on defense, and I want to maintain some of the same things they did schematically and not [make] wholesale changes on that side of the ball. He’s a guy that kind of fell out of the same tree – as a lot of us have – with that Nick Saban defense. It was a natural fit and obviously a guy that has experience within the conference. There’s no replacing that.”