New opportunities await after five solid years
The departure of defensive coordinator and interim head coach D.J. Durkin from the Florida Gators is a certainty now that new head coach Jim McElwain has hired Geoff Collins to coordinate his defense.
But while Durkin’s departure will be viewed as a simple changing of the guard, it should be noted that he’s had a major impact on the program during his time with the Gators.
In his fifth year with the team, Durkin was the second-longest tenured member of Florida’s coaching staff, second only to running backs coach Brian White (six seasons). He originally joined the Gators as a special teams coordinator under Urban Meyer; his unit was so effective, and he received such high praise from Meyer and Florida’s administration, that Will Muschamp thought it wise to retain Durkin (along with White) when he took over in 2011.
And it was quite obvious that Muschamp and Durkin hit it off from the get go; in fact, a source told OnlyGators.com following the departure of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn that Muschamp only reached out to one or two other coaches – both veterans with whom he had extremely close relationships – to inquire about their interest in the job before promoting Durkin into the role. Though most rightly believed that Muschamp was in control of Florida’s defense during his tenure, Durkin certainly contributed and is a big reason for UF’s success at linebacker over the last half-decade.
Now Durkin is looking for another job. The good news is that he is not lacking for suitors or opportunities. He is reportedly the top choice to take over the Texas A&M defense (well, aside from Muschamp, who took the Auburn job) and has been linked to other positions, such as the opening at North Carolina.
However, Durkin’s best potential opportunity is reuniting with a coach largely responsible for his success to this point, Jim Harbaugh. A coaching industry source confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Tuesday that there have been general conversations gauging Durkin’s interest in a position on Harbaugh’s Michigan coaching staff and the interest was most certainly reciprocated.
Durkin is not beholden to the Gators, which have decided not to retain him, to wait until after Florida competes in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl to make his decision official, but he is likely to do so considering how much he is cherishing the opportunity to lead a team into battle for the first time. Durkin has been under consideration for other lower-level head coaching jobs in the past, and a source tells OnlyGators.com that he is truly relishing this chance and wants to lead UF the right way on Jan. 3.
Another staff change ahead for Florida
When Muschamp took over the Gators, he retained other staffers outside of coaches, deciding to leave Mickey Marotti in charge of Florida’s strength and conditioning program. He did this, despite his preference for a power lifting-style program, because Marotti was so beloved by the players and officials and within the building. But Marotti did not last long under Muschamp, departing UF for Ohio State once the latter program hired Urban Meyer following his one-year sabbatical.
Change was the best for all parties involved, and Muschamp filled the open position with a friend, Jeff Dillman, the former director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State whom he met at LSU. Dillman had been working since 2009 as the head of physical conditioning at IMG Performance Institute, and his Olympic lifting style was perfect for Muschamp’s vision of a powerful Gators program.
But with Muschamp fired and McElwain Florida’s new head honcho, a source close to the program told OnlyGators.com on Monday that Dillman will not be returning to the Gators after the bowl game.
The source indicated that Dillman already has another opportunity lined up but did not detail whether Dillman’s departure was McElwain’s decision, his own doing or a mutual parting of ways.
Either way, McElwain has discussed at length his desire to build the Gators’ infrastructure from scratch and make drastic changes to the program. This will just be another in a long line of adjustments being made to Florida this offseason.
Hurricane-force winds of change coming to Gainesville?
As the Gators wait to find out whether defensive backs coach and ace recruiter Travaris Robinson will remain at Florida next year (reports have gone each way on Robinson’s status with one of the latest pointing to him leaving for Auburn), an interesting name as surfaced as a defensive staff replacement.
On Monday, unsubstantiated rumors that seemingly began on Twitter placed Arkansas linebackers coach Randy Shannon at UF; supposedly he would hold the same position while also taking over as the Gators’ recruiting coordinator.
In the evening hours, 247Sports.com‘s Thomas Goldkamp gave the rumors some validity ($), noting that the buzz around Shannon “has grown considerably over the last 24 hours, with one source” indicating Shannon-to-Florida will eventually happen.
A Miami, Florida, native and veteran coach who spent the first 20 years of his career in Miami (17 with the Hurricanes, three with the Dolphins), Shannon served as a defensive coordinator (2001-06) and head coach (2007-10) before being let go by the Canes. He took over as linebackers coach at TCU in 2012 and moved over to Arkansas in 2013, adding the role of associate head coach.
There were some talks that Shannon would be a hot name as a defensive coordinator hire this offseason, though a move to the Gators would make a lot of sense, especially if Robinson leaves and McElwain put him in charge of recruiting (with an emphasis on South Florida). Shannon is well-respected both as a coach and a leader of young men, and he would be an inspired hire for McElwain if these rumors (and one report) are accurate in that he is being considered for a role on the staff.
Not Only Gators: The Interview
Look, I am not going to sit here and tell you The Interview is some sort of cinematic masterpiece, but it is unfair to burden the film with heavy expectations for greatness simply because of North Korea’s objection to the movie and Sony’s putrid response to the threats it received.
I sat down over the weekend and watched The Interview with an open mind and zero expectations. And you know what? I laughed. It was funny. Was it Seth Rogan’s best movie? Not by a long shot. Did it show off James Franco’s improving range? Absolutely not. But it made me smile, which when I see a comedy, means the mission has been accomplished.
So go see The Interview because (most of) you live in the United States of America and are free to do so. Plus, parts of it are funny.
This Week’s Movie Trailer
The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
Late night television hosts (1993-Present):
1. David Letterman
2. Jon Stewart
3. Jimmy Kimmel
4. Jimmy Fallon
5. Stephen Colbert*
* Colbert will have an opportunity to shine as Letterman’s replacement, but considering he played a character on his show, it is tough to rank him higher than fifth.
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