Update: Florida’s search for OL coach intensifies

Updated on Monday at 12:30 p.m.

With a new offensive coordinator on board and one open position remaining on his staff, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has intensified his search for an offensive line coach over the last few days.

Early Sunday morning, a report surfaced that Muschamp had decided on Texas Longhorns offensive line coach Stacy Searels to replace Tim Davis. However, just hours later, Florida denied that the long-rumored hire had been made.

“There are still multiple [offensive line] coaching candidates and there will be no hire today,” said the school via its official Twitter account.

According to CoachingSearch.com, Western Kentucky offensive line coach Neil Callaway was an early candidate for the position. The same website reports that former USC offensive line coach Mike Summers has already interviewed with Muschamp.

Summers was expected to be the choice for the assistant gig had USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton joined the Gators coaching staff. He is currently without a job as new coach Steve Sarkisian chose not to retain his services.

Sunday night, CBSSports.com‘s Jeremy Fowler reported that Central Florida assistant head coach and offensive line coach Brent Key is scheduled to be interviewed by Muschamp on Monday. Key interviewed for the same job with Alabama last offseason.

Monday morning, the Orlando Sentinel‘s Paul Tenorio reported that Key changed his mind and ultimately “opted not to interview” for the job.

Original Post – 1:35 a.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp is set to fill the final open position on his coaching staff, according to a report Sunday from 247Sports.com ($), with current Texas Longhorns offensive line coach Stacy Searels ready to take the same job with the Florida Gators.

The third assistant Muschamp would bring in this offseason, Searels is a known quantity for Florida’s coach, who is looking for assistants he can trust in a make-or-break season. The men spent two years together (2003-04) working under Nick Saban at LSU.

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Reports: Florida Gators to hire Duke’s Kurt Roper as next offensive coordinator

Duke Blue Devils offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will be hired to the same position with the Florida Gators, according to an ESPN report released Tuesday citing sources.

Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer and CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman both confirmed ESPN‘s initial report.

Roper arrived in Gainesville, FL, for an official interview with Florida head coach Will Muschamp at 8 a.m. on Monday, according to travel records from the University Athletic Association’s private jet. The same plane departed Gainesville hours later, returning Roper to Raleigh, NC, shortly after 4 p.m.

One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award, which is handed out annually to the best assistant coach in college football, Roper is in his fifth season with the Blue Devils and also serves as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

His unit has finished in the top 70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense by utilizing a pass-heavy attack.

Muschamp has been telling players and recruits that UF hopes to switch to an up-tempo spread offense in 2013.

Duke is scheduled to face Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. in Atlanta, GA. It is currently unknown whether Roper will remain with the team through the bowl game before beginning his duties at Florida.

Roper has been a highly-regarded assistant throughout his career, which includes plenty of experience in the Southeastern Conference. He started off by serving as a graduate assistant at Tennessee (1996-98) before moving on to Ole Miss and working under David Cutcliffe as a quarterbacks coach (1999-01) and passing game coordinator (2002-04). In the latter role, Roper helped direct Eli Manning to a 2003 SEC Player of the Year Award; he would eventually become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

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Muschamp interviews Roper for Florida OC job

Updated at 4:15 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp on Monday interviewed Duke Blue Devils offensive coordinator Kurt Roper for the same position on the Florida Gators staff, according to CoachingSearch.com, and was still in the process of doing so as of press time.

According to the travel history of the University Athletic Association’s private jet, Muschamp or Florida representatives flew into Raleigh, NC, Monday morning around 6 a.m. but left a half hour later, arriving back in Gainesville, FL at 8 a.m. with Roper as a passenger. The same flight departed from Gainesville in the afternoon and has already set down back in Raleigh.

One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award (which is handed out to the best assistant coach in college football), Roper is in his fifth season at Duke and also serves as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. His unit has finished top-70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense.

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Florida announces hiring of Coleman Hutzler as special teams coach, replacing Jeff Choate

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp on Friday officially made a third adjustment to his coaching staff following the disastrous 2013 season, in which his team went 4-8, when he announced the resignation of special teams coordinator / outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate and subsequent hiring of Coleman Hutzler, who held the same position with the New Mexico Lobos.

FootballScoop.com and CoachingSearch.com both reported the transition Thursday night.

Choate, who left a position as defensive coordinator with UTEP in January – just three months after taking the job – for the opportunity to coach at Florida, came highly recommended by former offensive coordinator Brent Pease, whom he coached side-by-side with at Boise State from 2006-11.

Hutzler worked at Stanford as a recruiting assistant (2007) and defensive/special teams assistant (2008-09) while current Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin served as special teams coordinator at the school. He joined Durkin at Florida in 2010 under then-head coach Urban Meyer as a defensive/special teams assistant, remaining with the program in 2011. He was hired by New Mexico in 2012 at his current position.

“Coleman is a young coach with a very bright future,” said Muschamp in a school release. “He has a great work ethic and obviously is very familiar with our special teams’ schemes. It will be a seamless transition for our players.”

Said Hutzler: “I’m excited to be returning to Gainesville and be a part of the Gator family again. I enjoyed my time there and have the utmost respect for Coach Muschamp and the administrative team in place at Florida. I understand the value placed on special teams under Coach Muschamp, and look forward to getting to work.”

Former Gators punter Chas Henry told OnlyGators.com Thursday night that he felt Florida was bringing back someone who could help the program going forward.

“He was a great young coach while I was there, seemed to absorb everything that coaches were teaching as a graduate assistant,” Henry said.

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Florida Gators announce six transfers including TE Taylor, OL Silberman, QB Staver

The Florida Gators on Thursday announced that six players have decided to transfer out of the program, confirming the three freshmen already known to be leaving while adding three additional names – sophomore tight end Kent Taylor, redshirt junior offensive lineman Ian Silberman and freshman quarterback Max Staver.

“These young men felt it was in their best interest to look for an opportunity to play somewhere else,” said Muschamp in a release. “We wish all of them the best of luck.

The No. 1 ranked tight end in the Class of 2012, Taylor was a four-star prospect who was expected to have a major impact as an offensive playmaker for the Gators. Instead, he barely played as a true freshman – catching just two passes including a touchdown in the 2013 Sugar Bowl – and did not step on the field during his sophomore season. Taylor will have three years of eligibility left as he will be able to take a redshirt for 2013.

“I’m gonna miss my friends, my teammates, and gator fans, but you have to do what’s best for u, so thank you for 2 great years gatornation,” he explained in a tweet.

Silberman has started seven games over the last two seasons due to injuries and only has one year of eligibility remaining. Because he is graduating on Saturday, he will be able to transfer to another program and play immediately without sitting for a full season.

“Very blessed to play for this great University for the last four years but it is time for the next chapter. I’ll always be a Gator!” said Silberman via his Twitter account.

A three-star prospect, Staver committed as a big-bodied, strong-armed pro-style quarterback who wanted to play under offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

With Pease being fired and head coach Will Muschamp planning to switch to an up-tempo offense, Staver felt his time was up before it ever began. He will transfer with all four years of eligibility remaining.

“Thank you to everyone for the experience down there and the support. I will miss my teammates, friends, and also the Gator fans. God Bless,” he said via Twitter.

There are more a few more transfers expected in the near future.

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Replacing Brent Pease as offensive coordinator

Updated on Dec. 23 at 10:00 a.m.

It was no surprise on Sunday afternoon when the Florida Gators fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease after his unit averaged just 18.8 points and 316.7 yards per game in 2013. But who head coach Will Muschamp will hire to replace Pease – and become Florida’s fifth offensive coordinator in a seven-year span – remains a huge unknown. OnlyGators.com has compiled a list of potential candidates:

Clay Helton
Interim head coach / offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach – USC
Update II added on Dec. 23 at 10 a.m.

Hire him: Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com floated Helton’s name on Sunday because he fits with Muschamp’s core beliefs of “ball control and an emphasis on running the ball.” Helton also has a family coaching connection with current Western Kentucky offensive line coach Neil Callaway, who has been rumored to be Muschamp’s top choice to replace Tim Davis. Callaway, a 33-year coaching veteran and the former head coach at UAB, hired Clay’s father Kim Helton as his offensive coordinator in 2007. Kim was a Gators offensive lineman from 1967-69 and UF offensive line coach from 1973-78. Clay was born in Gainesville, FL.

Update: Helton has committed to remain at USC through its bowl game and serve as interim head coach following the departure of Ed Orgeron. Florida leaked Tuesday that it may not make a hire until after the bowl season.

Update II: Helton was retained as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. However, he has not officially signed a new contract and UF has not hired anyone just yet.

Hold up: There does not seem to be much of a solid connection specifically to Muschamp, and the hire would be curious because Florida’s head coach supposedly wants to go in a different direction with his offense. The Trojans may also retain Ed Orgeron as head coach, and Orgeron could certainly make an offer to Helton in hopes that he sticks around to help lead the offense for the foreseeable future. He would probably be the least-exciting hire, which probably makes him the most likely one.

Major Applewhite
Co-offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach – Texas
Added on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m.

Hire him: At just 35 years old, the former Longhorns quarterback has spent the last six years with his alma mater after stints at Syracuse, Rice and Alabama. On the same staff as Muschamp from 2008-10, the Gators’ head coach saw Applewhite co-coordinate an offense that finished 11th, 11th…and then 74th in total offense during his three years with the program. Things have not been better over the last few years with Applewhite’s unit finishing 50th, 37th and 64th, respectively, though Mack Brown has shouldered much of the blame for Texas’s problems. The familiarity is undoubtedly there.

Hold up: OnlyGators.com erroneously reported that Applewhite would be Florida’s offensive coordinator in 2011 after Muschamp was hired. A source close to the program explained that he was the top candidate on the new coach’s list at the time. Instead, out of nowhere, Charlie Weis was hired. One year later, after Weis left, Muschamp had a second chance to hire Applewhite away from Texas but instead linked up with Pease. He has now had two opportunities to bring him aboard but chosen not to do so. Why would it be different this time? Just because he could potentially lose his job due to a staff change?

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Pease Out: Florida fires offensive coordinator; Gators release OL coach Davis, too

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

The Florida Gators on Sunday fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis less than 24 hours after the team fell 37-7 to the No. 2 Florida State and competed its worst season since 1979.

“I have a lot of respect for Coach Pease and Coach Davis,” said Gators head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “They are both good football coaches and even better people. There have been a lot of unfortunate circumstances this year, but that is part of the game sometimes. I want to thank each of them for their contributions to the program both on and off the field.”

According to CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, Pease and Davis had “friction” throughout the season and were “never on the same page.”

Pease was hired by Muschamp before the 2012 season and charged with an improving an offense that ranked 105th nationally under Charlie Weis, who left to become head coach at Kansas after the 2011 campaign.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to come to the University of Florida and work with a bunch of great coaches, administrative staff and players,” Pease said in the same release. “I know we came up short of our ultimate goal, but I will carry on knowing I gained valuable friendships and relationships during my time here.”

The Gators finished 103rd in total offense under Pease in 2012, averaging 334.4 yards per game. UF was even worse in 2013, coming in 112th nationally with an average net gain of just 316.7 yards per contest.

Florida’s offense averaged 414 yards over its first two games before junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was lost for the season with a broken fibula. The Gators also played most of the season without their top three offensive tackles, starting running back and one of their expected starting wide receivers.

Nevertheless, Florida never scored more than 44 points in a single game under Pease and only eclipsed 30 points seven times in his 25 games as the team’s offensive coordinator. The Gators averaged 26.5 points per game in 2012 (76th nationally) and only 18.8 per contest in 2013 (111th nationally).

“You got to change the scoreboard offensively. You got to be able to change the scoreboard. We’ve just struggled scoring points offensively. It’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence. My job to get it fixed and it will get fixed,” Muschamp said after UF fell 26-20 to Georgia Southern two Saturdays ago. “It’s very difficult for us to create explosive plays to get anything down the field. Just don’t ever do it.”

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Friday Final: Bittersweet finale for Florida seniors

Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s season finale against the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles, which is scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, and air live on ESPN.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that either broke towards the end of the week or fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the five posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links below).

Monday: Changes ahead for offensive staff | Will Muschamp talks coaching changes, fixing the Gators and more injuries
Tuesday: Brent Pease asked 17 questions about job status, future at Florida
Wednesday: Snell’s Slant: Beat Florida State? It can happen. | Muschamp provides updates on injuries, thoughts about Pease


Fifteen Gators football players are guaranteed to step onto Florida Field for the last time as student-athletes on Saturday as they will have used up their eligibility as either true seniors or fifth-year seniors. Below is what many of them had to say about their careers, final home game and last time wearing a Florida uniform.

» Senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins: “It’s going to be very emotional for all of us. We’ve been here four years, some five. We have some who have been here six years. It’s a new chapter for most of us to after football and actually graduating. Some of us are graduating next month. It’s going to be very exciting for both us and our families. … This is our last game we’ll ever play in The Swamp in an orange and blue jersey, so all of the seniors I know are going to go out and give everything they’ve got.”

» Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who will have his parents and fiancée there to support him after running out of the tunnel: “I just hope I don’t cry like everybody else has been saying. It’s going to be very emotional coming out the tunnel one last time. I’m very excited but sad at the same time.”

» Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, who transferred from a junior college: “It’s bittersweet. Not even just because of the simple fact that this has been a bad season. Mostly because I’m ready to move on to the next part of my life. So it’s bittersweet that way. … I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty emotional, yeah. It’s the last one. It’s probably not going to hit me until probably after a week later that it was my last one.”

» Senior do-everything Trey Burton, who will have multiple members of his family there as well as his wife and baby daughter: “A lot of mixed emotions. I’m really happy for my time here. I wouldn’t want to take anything back, all the challenges and all that type of stuff has helped me mature as a man. I’m just really happy with how things have gone. … I’m going to try not to cry. My family will be out there so I hope it won’t be too bad. I play and I have a lot of emotions for everything I do, so we’ll see. … I think it’s bittersweet for everybody. You don’t want your last game in college football to come and it’s coming.”

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