The Silver Lining: Florida Gators coaching staff changes continue under McElwain

By Adam Silverstein
December 30, 2014

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

Get Hard:

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.

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.

32 Comments

  1. Dave Massey says:

    Bringing Shannon on board will definitely help recruiting in the South Florida area. Can’t wait to see the final staff whoever they are and just move forward. Nowhere to go but up.

  2. SW Fl Joe says:

    After making Aubrey Hill resign because of the Shapiro mess, I’d be very surprised if Foley would hire Shannon.

    • senuod says:

      The investigation had been over for some time and, if you believe some of the past players, Shannon was one of the few people in the Miami program at that time that tried to warn the players about staying away from Shapiro.

      I would like the hire. Would be huge for future recruiting classes.

      • 305Gator says:

        You are correct, it is well known in Miami that Shannon knew Shapiro was scUM, did not want anything to do with him, and warned the players to stay away.

  3. Joe says:

    Hiring Randy Shannon is genius… there is no one in coaching that can recruit South Florida like Randy… No one!

  4. Ken (CA) says:

    So if T-Rob leaves, that means Brad Lawing, Chris Leak, and Brian White are the only ones left at this point from the old staff? Who am I leaving out, seems like someone.

  5. Michael J. says:

    A Miami guy coaching at UF? That would be hard to believe. I know FSU and Florida are bitter rivals, but Miami and UF are at another level. UF has tried to disparage Miami for a long, long time and stopped playing Miami because, well because they could get away with it. The excuse given that UF wanted to pay a more “national” schedule was B.S. Remember all the ‘national’ teams scheduled after Miami was dropped? No, I don’t believe a word of it unless Shannon is so pissed about being fired by Miami that he wants to burn all his bridges with his alma mater. Take my word for it, he would be persona non grata for the rest of his life if he went to Florida. Miami make not like FSU, but they absolutely detest UF. It’d be a very stupid move for Shannon if he values his friendship with former teammates and anyone at the U.S. I also question the value of him coming to UF as far as recruiting South Florida. People don’t take kindly to traitors, and if you don’t think that’s how he would be portrayed, you need to learn about human nature. We will see, but I don’t believe a word of it.

    • Oldflyer says:

      Huh? It is a business.

      Are you one of those who thought that Muschamp was disqualified because he played at UGA?

      How about T-Rob and his Auburn roots? Auburn and their damn War Eagle yell, and their dominance over the Gators, were as detested in Gainesville as anyone back in the day.

      USCe seemed able to adjust to SOS. Alabama sure as hell had no problems with Saban; nor did Cowbell U with a former Gator coach.

      Take the best coach/recruiter you can get.

      • Buster says:

        Muschamp should have been. I don’t want an FSU or UGA grad coaching my program.

      • Tyson W says:

        Thank you for your well thought out response and please bring Shannon to Gville…Plus Plus Plus….We will be back in the BUSINESS of Winning

    • Daniel M. says:

      Take your word for it? A ‘hole troll?

      Bias much?

      Your post is nonsense.

    • Ziggy says:

      That’s funny MJ… I’m down in South Florida right now and am around a bunch of Miami fans. They don’t like UF nor FSU, but absolutely despise FSU, not UF as you put it. The fact is, the Seminole influence diminishes quickly outside of Tallahassee. You’re just scared of the recruiting inroads that Mac is building.

    • 305Gator says:

      Boy are you way off. The best OC Miami has had in the past decade, Fisch, is a Gator grad. Aubrey Hill also worked as their WR coach during the Shapiro mess . Mario Cristobal, a former cane player was hired as their LB coach when he was fired from FIU only to leave for the same position at Bama just a few months later. These are just a few recent examples. Shannon going to UF is a promotion for Shannon, Miami does not want anything to do with Shannon, this move would be a big plus for Shannon’s future. You don’t know what you are talking about.
      Funny how an ACC fan tries to disparage an SEC schedule. We stopped playing Miami because we don’t need them, we already play one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Miami has become a second rate team that would do nothing to help our SOS. Only the few obnoxious Miami diehards continue to complain about that game not being played, no one else cares. No one else except a moronic Nole troll posting on a Gator site, go figure.

  6. Michael Jones says:

    Randy Shannon would be a great hire. Always liked him, even as the head coach of the much disliked Canes.

    Being able to successfully recruit South Florida would be HUGE. I was amazed at how H.S. teams from South Florida once again dominated the state playoffs this year . . and against some pretty good competition statewide.

    Every bowl season I watch teams from around the nation and, invariably, many of their star players come from our state. We have to start winning the recruiting battles in our home state.

    And then there’s Dalvin Cook, and Ermon Lane. . and on and on it goes. . we have to start winning those battles.

  7. Buster says:

    Crazy thought. Everett Golson is a senior with eligibility left.
    Would he be able to do the same thing as a Russell Wilson and transfer and play somewhere one year?
    If so I know the perfect place for him.

    Driskel and Harris are not the answers for the gator offense. McElwain knows it too.

    • 305Gator says:

      Driskel is definitevely not the answer, even he knows this, that is why he is considering a transfer.
      We don’t know about Harris yet, his resume is very short and his coaching and development have been lacking.
      We don’t know about Grier either.
      Why don’t you give Big Mac and his staff a chance to work with our guys this Spring and Summer and see what they look like next Fall before you start with some make believe scenarios?

    • Michael Jones says:

      I’ll believe that Driskel is not the answer when MCELWAIN says he’s not the answer. . and not a minute before.

      None of our current QB’s have had any decent coaching or the benefit of any decent offensive scheme or even decent play calling. It’s not a coincidence that the QB’s who leave our program to play somewhere else suddenly become better.

      Driskel has a lot of talent and, admittedly, some flaws. McElwain comes heralded as a QB whisperer of sorts. If anyone can fix Driskel’s flaws–which appear to be largely mental–it’s McElwain.

      He’ll get it all sorted out. . but none of us should be surprised if our preconceived notions of who should or shouldn’t be the Gators’ QB turns out to be wrong.

  8. Dustin says:

    Hate to break it to you, but North Korea didn’t do the hacking. I don’t know why anyone takes words from the FBI at face value. Fool me once…. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/fbi-briefed-on-alternate-sony-hack-theory-113866.html

  9. SJ210 says:

    Remember the controversy when Shannon falsely claimed (aka lied) that his best friend had been murdered in Gainesville? Let bygone be bygones I guess.

  10. 305Gator says:

    Jay Leno and Fallon are the top two on my list. I never cared much for Letterman aside from his top 10 lists.

    • Feel free to never post here again w/ that first name. Joking…but come on man.

      • 305Gator says:

        Take it easy Adam, different strokes……..

      • Ken (CA) says:

        I used to like Letterman myself until he went all crazy NY liberal about 10-15 yrs ago, now I can’t stand him. I would agree that Leno is much more funny in recent years.

        • Sgt. Friday says:

          You’re not a liberal? I would have never guessed with your calls for suspending players for nothing and worrying about pot laws being ignored. What a shock? It’s so easy to make fun of conservatives because they are so stupid, like the guy who claimed that a woman’s reproductive system stopped working if she was raped. Letterman just goes for the hanging fruit, it’s just to easy to ignore.

          • Michael Jones says:

            It’s not conservatives who get upset about pot laws being ignored, it’s incessantly whining liberals who get your panties in a wad when they get enforced.

            And it’s “too,” genius, lol. Talk about your low-hanging fruit.

          • Michael Jones says:

            Just re-read your comment. Can’t help but love the irony of someone like you calling somebody, anybody, stupid.

          • Ken (CA) says:

            I wasn’t going to reply to this at all because it was really beneath any comment, but finally thought about it and decided I should, whether or not it is too long ago for you to go back and read it or not.

            You have no idea what my political beliefs are other than I believe following the law whether you agree with it or not is correct (there are other ways to change laws than to simply break them because you don’t agree). We are supposed to be governed by laws, not by men, and I hold to that conviction. I have never said anything about my views on abortion here as you intimated I must believe, and I never will, as this isn’t the forum for it.

            My comment about Letterman becoming a NY liberal was because he, in recent years, has gone non-stop far left in his attacks and has strayed from his Midwestern background in favor of the NYC culture of intolerance. I have no problem with people making fun of conservatives or liberals as long as they aren’t so lopsided that it seems more venom than humor. When they get so one-sided it is difficult to continue to appreciate them but rather it gets tiresome.

            Your personal attack on me for what you think my beliefs are and your rant about conservatives in general is completely unwarranted and unfair, and the perfect example of a completely intolerant mind.

            We can agree to disagree on some things, but we can do it civilly, hopefully without personal attacks on anyone’s perceived ideology or politics. Unfortunately, often the left’s tactics are based on Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (dedicated to the original radical, Lucifer, by the way) and that is isolate and marginalize anyone that disagrees which is exactly the tone your post took, isolate as ridiculous and out of touch with reality.

            I will understand if Adam deletes this post because it is way off topic, and I have no intention of replying further on this topic, but I felt it important to correct some of the things you said about me and apparently anyone who disagrees with your position in general.

            • Michael J. says:

              There is no doubt that you are a right wing nut. Your Alinsky reference is straight from fools like Hannity. I am 100% convinced that you watch FoxNews and listen to talk radio as well. You say you’ve never disclosed your ploitical leaning, but even a blind man could see it. Who are you trying to fool? I’m fine with it, believe what you want, but you are so transparent that it’s easy to see where you are coming from. You’re not alone, I think you are a white middle-aged man that, if you don’t actually have one, believes in the nonsensical bumper sticker “Take our country back.” I hope you now realize that it’s not hard to figure someone’s views from what they write, and it’s child’s play with you.

  11. KarVer says:

    Mike Peterson a UF grad an NFL great was working on the football staff. Hopefully he will get to stay.

  12. GatorKen says:

    I’ve been hoping for years that UF would bring in Shannon. He did a lot of work in Miami to clean the culture up down there. I think people forget just how much change he brought there. He’s a great LB coach and hell of a recruiter. I had hopes Muschamp would bring Shannon in for DC but Muschamp was all about promoting from within. Of course his coaches never got job offers of promotion either.

    McElwain is showing that he has plans for UF and has plans of building his own coaching tree. Which is what championship coaches do.

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