The Silver Lining: McElwain’s staff decisions, comments from Muschamp and Mullen

You’re getting what you wanted

Over the last two seasons – and a little before that as well – my inbox, the @OnlyGators Twitter account and the comments section here on OnlyGators.com have each been inundated with requests and demands for Will Muschamp to lose his job. And while it may have taken longer than many of you have wished, it happened. Muschamp was fired, athletic director Jeremy Foley hired a new head coach Jim McElwain and – though some of you were not pleased with that replacement – the program is headed in a different direction.

Well, you know what happens when one head coach gets fired and another is hired in his place? The coaching staff changes, too. That’s the name of the game. It’s how this process works and thinking otherwise is absolutely foolish.

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Odds and ends on Florida’s Jim McElwain hire

The process of transforming Colorado State’s Jim McElwain from a top candidate to the next head football coach of the Florida Gators was long and involved, likely longer and more involved than originally expected with plenty of twists and turns occurring throughout. OnlyGators.com is here to break a lot of it down.

THE BUYOUT

Colorado State will tell you, which it did in what is likely the first-ever press release ever sent about a buyout, that while it ultimately compromised with Florida, the program still received 93.3 percent of the $7.5 million buyout attached to McElwain’s contract. And that will, years from now, be true. It is also true that the $7 million that will come the way of the Rams will eclipse the $4.3 million Texas paid Louisville to snag Charlie Strong.

What Colorado State chooses not to mention in its braggadocios press release – titled “Colorado State University receives largest-ever buyout as Jim McElwain goes to University of Florida” – is that it did indeed compromise, a lot more than the school wanted to initially.

In the end, the Gators actually worked out a pretty sweet deal (for a $7 million buyout), especially considering the original $7.5 million buyout was due as a lump sum 30 days after the contract was ended. Let’s take a look at how Florida and athletic director Jeremy Foley turned a lump-sum $7.5 million buyout into $4 million paid out over six years.

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The Silver Lining for Thursday, November 20: Gators coaching search candidates, mailbag

Florida Gators coaching search

Ah, a coaching search. So much fun. Such little stress. Not taxing whatsoever on my time, energy or sleep patterns, which are already way too out-of-whack. The simple fact is that this will likely be a long and tedious search and no one will experience that as much first-hand as athletic director Jeremy Foley, who not only has to go through the entire process but is also tasked with making the all-important decision.

As this process unfolds, you are going to see such a wide variety of lists and reports posted by different media outlets that your head may spin. My hope with the candidate list that OnlyGators.com posted on Sunday was that you would understand it to be a pros-and-cons breakdown of some of the most talked-about names for the job that also provided you with a comprehensive list of names that could fit what the Gators are looking for in their next coach.

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Keanu Neal, young defensive linemen emerging; Gators evaluate each other before season

About a dozen Florida Gators players met with the media over the last couple weeks to discuss fall practice and how the team is coming together ahead of the season. With less than a week until the start of the 2014 campaign, OnlyGators.com is cleaning out its notebook and present you with a bunch of their thoughts.

TWO SECONDARY STARTERS

When head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday afternoon unveils the team’s first depth chart since last November, one position group that will draw some of the most attention in the secondary. A unit full of talented starters that was ravaged by defections (graduations, early departures, a transfer), the secondary currently only has two players that have locked down roles at this time – sophomores cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal.

Hargreaves, after a stellar freshman campaign, is already a known quantity. Neal, on the other hand, earned his job during training camp after impressing with some big hits during the 2013 season.

“Just my effort [has improved],” he explained. “This year seems like everything clicked versus last year. My recognition on plays and things like that is a lot better.”

Muschamp singled out Neal early in fall camp as the best safety on the roster, locking him into a starting role early and never backing off from that stance. Suffice to say, the player was flattered.

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Defensive line shake-up working well for Gators

It was no surprise when the Florida Gators defensive line struggled last season after defensive tackle Dominique Easley, the star of the unit and a leader on the team, went down with a torn ACL during a late September practice.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp tried to fill in the gaps the best he could, but the Gators had issues stopping the run, getting to the quarterback or doing much of anything at times with their defensive front seven.

So while the offense is in the middle of an overhaul under new coordinator Kurt Roper, Muschamp and defensive line coach Brad Lawing are tweaking a unit that must make significant improvements if Florida is going to have substantial success in 2014.

Before the Gators could begin improving came the realization that they would have to do so without redshirt senior Leon Orr, who is not expected to be cleared until May 1 as he recovers from a fractured wrist he suffered last season.

Filling in for him on the interior is junior Jonathan Bullard, a defensive end who played some tackle in 2013 despite not actually having the desire to switch positions. Bullard admitted Tuesday that he was frustrated when Muschamp asked him to move inside because he had never played the position before and felt like his production would significantly decrease (which it ultimately did).

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Defense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

PART ONE: Offense

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (1/2): Redshirt senior Leon Orr
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshmen Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick, sophomore Joey Ivie

Losing Dominique Easley so early in the season gave senior Darious “Bear” Cummings more field time than he likely would’ve had during his first year with the program as a transfer from East Mississippi. So while Florida will only be entering 2014 with one returning starter in Orr, who should be primed to finally put everything together at nose in his final season with the team, Cummings may also be poised to have a breakout year if everything lines up correctly. Ivie was on his way to a redshirt before having it pulled due to depth concerns; he saw action in three of the final games. Brantley and Bostwick, on the other hand, were able to go the distance without seeing the field in 2013. Both are expected to be major contributors this year with head coach Will Muschamp mentioning more than once last season that he was on the verge of pulling Bostwick’s redshirt and getting him some playing time.

DEFENSIVE ENDS
Returning starters (2/2): Juniors Dante Fowler, Jr. and Jonathan Bullard
Fresh faces: Redshirt sophomore Alex McCalister, redshirt freshman Jordan Sherit

Fowler returns as Florida’s starter at the hybrid Buck linebacker/defensive end spot after leading the Gators with 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2013. He also checked in second on the team with 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries, amassing 50 total tackles in the process. Bullard was unable to find much of a groove at end – he rotated in at tackle on occasion – but still managed to be productive; he should be even more so this year as a matured junior. Neither McCalister, who entered the season with high praise from the coaching staff, nor classmate Brian Cox, Jr. saw much action last season, and Sherit (torn meniscus) wound up not stepping foot on the field in 2014. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing will have his work cut out for him not only helping his starters improve but coming up with a solid second-string to spell them at times.

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Will Muschamp, coaches discuss Florida Gators 2014 signees, recruiting process

National Signing Day LIVE COVERAGE page
2014 Florida signee bios | Gators flip four-star QB Treon Harris from Seminoles, add WR C.J. Worton | Three-star OT Andrew Mike flips to Florida

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff finished inking its 24-member 2014 recruiting class on National Signing Day. Below are the most notable quotes from that session as well as player evaluations made by other members of the coaching staff.

OPENING STATEMENT

”It’s a great day here at the University of Florida, a lot of hard work put in by our staff. I don’t think people realize the contribution it takes from everybody. It’s a total team effort on campus, professors, our administration, our academic people do a fantastic job. When a young man comes on campus for an official visit, all of the people that have to contribute to make that a special experience, and our people do it the best. Our travel people do an amazing job. All of our pilots, [the media seems] to track pretty well, but they do a phenomenal job. It takes all these moving parts to make things work the right way. So we got a great staff. Our staff did an outstanding job.

“We had a miserable fall, and to have the staff come together – three new coaches in Kurt Roper, Mike Summers and Coleman Hutzler come together and change a little bit, not philosophically, but schematically offensively, adjust some things that we need to do in midstream as far as some of the guys we were recruiting and to put together this class – I’m really proud of that. I don’t know where we ended up as far as any rankings and all. You all know me, I don’t get overly concerned with that.”

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Four-star OL David Sharpe commits to Florida

The Florida Gators got a big boost for their offensive line, which will be rebuilt in 2014 following the departures of two seniors, by gaining a long-awaited verbal commitment on Thursday from four-star offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, FL).

Sharpe (6-foot-8, 295-pounds) has been a Florida lean for quite some time and was finally able to make his college decision known in his third attempt at an announcement.

His two previous tries were thwarted by his high school for undisclosed regulatory reasons, so Sharpe on Thursday decided to announce his commitment live both on the radio and in person at a local Jacksonville restaurant.

Listed as the 23rd highest rated offensive tackle and 215th overall player by Rivals, the highly-regarded Sharpe ultimately chose UF over Tennessee but also took visits to Clemson, Florida State and Georgia.

ESPN ranks Sharpe much higher than Rivals, also listing him as a four-star prospect but placing him as the No. 18 overall player – and No. 2 offensive tackle – in the nation.

Sharpe commits to the Gators even though the team is currently without an offensive line coach after Will Muschamp fired Tim Davis after the season. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing also played a big role in the player’s recruitment.

“I talked to Coach Muschamp about it and he just told me it was the time and they are great guys but they have to get the offense on board and they just had to be let go,” Sharpe told InsidetheGators.com on Dec. 1.

The fourth offensive lineman to commit to Florida this cycle, Sharpe joins four-star Nolan Kelleher (Mount Pleasant, SC), three-star Dontae Angus (Philadelphia, PA) and three-star fellow local area product Travaris Dorsey (Jacksonville, FL) as the 17th member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class.

Check out Florida’s entire 2014 recruiting class in full by clicking here.

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