Replacing Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator

With the surprise resignation of Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who decided to take the head coaching job with the Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday, still the big news of the day, one of the major questions arising is a simple one: Who will replace him? OGGOA has complied a list of candidates who could replace Weis:

Kerwin Bell
Head Coach – Jacksonville Dolphins

Hire him: Bell is almost everything Florida is looking for in an offensive coordinator. He’s talented, runs a pro-style offense at Jacksonville, has professional experience as a player (four years in the NFL, four in the CFL) and coach (two years as offensive coordinator of the Toronto Argonauts) and is a Florida alumnus who was a quarterback on the Gators football team from 1983-87. His JU team features a strong down-field passing game but is also balanced with a solid running attack. Bell told The Gainesville Sun directly that he would be interested in returning to Florida, and a source close to him told OGGOA Thursday evening that he would listen to any offer head coach Will Muschamp might have for him. With orange and blue coursing through his veins, Bell would be loyal to the program and would have no designs on leaving anytime soon.

Hold up: Despite his success both with Toronto (2000-01) and Jacksonville (2007-present), Bell is relatively inexperienced as a college football coach. He spent six years as the top man at Trinity Catholic High School between the two jobs and is currently a coach in the FCS, which is a far cry from the SEC. Weis had total control over Florida’s offense, and it remains to be seen if Muschamp (inexperienced in his own right as a head coach) would be comfortable giving Bell that same power.

Brian White
Running Backs Coach – Florida Gators

Hire him: One of the most experienced coaches currently on staff, White has been an offensive coordinator before during his time at Wisconsin and has been a part of two national championship teams. He is one of the Gators’ best recruiters and is multiple on offense, already proving his ability to coach up running backs and tight ends at Florida. (He also coached quarterbacks and wide receivers at UNLV.) White is well-known and trusted by the players considering he is one of two holdovers remaining from Urban Meyer’s regime and has been with the team since 2009. He could be the safest move in terms of continuity, especially in recruiting where he has excelled during his time at UF.

Hold up: Though he has served previously as both an offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator, White has not called plays since 2007. He will have what may be considered a tryout at the 2012 Gator Bowl, where he will temporarily take over for Weis as Muschamp looks to make a permanent decision on a future offensive coordinator. White is also not the “sexiest” candidate – he has absolutely no NFL coaching experience, something that Muschamp appeared to lean on with his first staff.

Bell and White individually may each be capable of running the Gators’ offense, but hiring co-offensive coordinators is not out of the realm of possibility for Muschamp. Bell (quarterbacks) and White (running backs) each specialize in a different area of the offense and could serve as passing game coordinator and running game coordinator, respectively. Florida had co-defensive coordinators under Meyer with Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong, and the defense was the backbone of the team while both were on staff. Expect Muschamp to give this idea serious consideration as Bell would love to return to the Gators but would likely want more than a “quarterbacks coach” title and White will feel he is deserving of additional responsibilities (and money) considering his work ethic and experience.

Al Borges
Offensive Coordinator – Michigan Wolverines

Hire him: Currently helping turn around Michigan, Borges has served as a college offensive coordinator for 25 years, getting his start back in 1986. He spent four years with Auburn (2004-07), crossing paths with Muschamp during his final two years with the team. When you talk about experience – Borges has it – and his pro-style offense has proven that it can be tailored to utilize speed and quickness.

Hold up: Another candidate without professional experience, Borges’s resume should be enough to overcome that. However, he just took the Wolverines job this year and – considering that offense is on the upswing – probably won’t be too inclined to change jobs after one year. Although he has been an offensive coordinator for a quarter century, he has done it at nine different stops and spent two years or less at five of them, only staying at Portland State, UCLA and Auburn long-term.

Stan Hixon
Wide Receivers Coach – Buffalo Bills

Hire him: He has never served as an offensive coordinator, but it might be time for the 54-year-old to take a step up to the next level. With coaching experience on both levels (14 years in college, 13 in the NFL), Hixon moves on at will and picks his poison. He worked at LSU for four years (three alongside Muschamp) and has plenty of experience both coaching in the SEC and recruiting top-tier players. He left that job to take one with the Washington Redskins, where he stuck for seven years, and has spent the last two coaching pass catchers with the Buffalo Bills (under head coach Chain Gailey – former UF player and GA). Hixon was born in Lakeland, FL and could see Florida as a great opportunity. He is well-known for getting the most out of unknown players and helping them reach their full potential.

Hold up: Hixon has never been an offensive coordinator. He hasn’t called plays for any extensive period of time and has not coached in college in nearly a decade. Some position coaches remain such for a reason, and Hixon may have turned down offensive coordinator opportunities in the past in order to concentrate on the job he does best.

Bobby Williams
Tight Ends/Special Teams Coach – Alabama Crimson Tide

Hire him: Another coach with a history alongside Muschamp (at LSU and the Miami Dolphins), Williams has served under Nick Saban for seven years coaching wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. He was a head coach for three years at Michigan State (beat Florida 37-34 in the 2000 Citrus Bowl) and has extensive SEC recruiting experience. Williams’s versatility is a major plus.

Hold up: Like Hixon, Williams has never been an offensive coordinator and play caller, but his time as a head coach adds another level of experience. His loyalty to Saban is obvious and many believe the chances of him leaving his side are not good.

Paul Chryst
Offensive Coordinator – Wisconsin Badgers

Hire him: Considered one of the best offensive coordinators in the game right now, Chryst would be a huge hire for Muschamp and the Gators. He’s had immense success with Wisconsin and would do great as the “head coach of the offense” with total control over the unit.

Hold up: Chryst has been a candidate for head coaching jobs and may be unlikely to move from Wisconsin unless it is to run his own program. Florida is undoubtedly a step up but probably not enough of a difference for him to move across the country. A year or two of immense success with the Gators could springboard him to a top job, but he is doing fine up north and may be able to pick his spot sooner than later staying put.

Scott Linehan, Brian Schottenheimer, Mike Mularkey
Offensive Coordinators – NFL

Breakdown: Linehan, Scottenheimer and Mularkey all have connections to the program but each has his own reason for not giving much thought to the Florida job. Linehan, who was offensive coordinator under Saban with the Dolphins while Muschamp was there, is leading a burgeoning unit with the Detroit Lions and is unlikely to leave a secure job and take a cut in pay unless he really wants to get back into the college game. Mularkey, a former Gators tight end, has never coached at the college level and is closer to a NFL head coaching job as current offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons than he is to leaving the team and going to Florida. Schottenheimer, currently the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator, was a backup quarterback under Steve Spurrier at UF but also has no college coaching or recruiting experience. He would be the most likely out of the three to have any interest in the job considering he is heavily criticized as Jets’ offensive coordinator and could be on the outs up in New York.

Steve Spurrier, Jr.
Wide Receivers Coach – South Carolina Gamecocks

Hire him: Spurrier, Jr. has been a WR coach at Oklahoma and Arizona and spent time working under his father at Florida, with the Redskins and now at South Carolina. He played college football at Duke and got his master’s degree at UF. He may feel it is finally time to step out of his father’s shadow and up into an offensive coordinator job, and returning home could be especially sweet for him.

Hold up: According to a number of people – including his father – Spurrier Jr. is not ready to be an offensive coordinator. He’s had opportunities to call plays and lead the offense at USC only to have his father demote him back to WR coach and call the plays himself. He probably won’t be a legitimate candidate, but you never know.

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TWO BITS: Injuries good news for NFL receivers

1 » Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell – stuck behind the likes of Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and T.J. Houshmandzadeh during his NFL career – will finally move into a starting role with the team on Sunday. Jordan Shipley, the Bengals’ primary slot receiver, tore his ACL last weekend and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. This allows Caldwell to replace him in the rotation, a move that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown reception just moments after Shipley was injured on Sunday. Caldwell hopes to prove he deserves a starting role going forward as he tries to improve on his performance from 2009, the best year of his career in which he caught 51 passes for 432 yards with three touchdowns.

2 » In a similar situation going forward is Buffalo Bills pass catcher David Nelson. Though Nelson did perform well with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie campaign, he will become Buffalo’s full-time slot receiver after both Roscoe Parrish and Marcus Easley were ruled out for the remainder of the season. Nelson scored the Bills’ game-winning touchdown on Sunday and has been an undrafted free agent gem for Buffalo since the team signed him in 2010. NBC Sports points out that, “The slot receiver in a Chan Gailey offense is a heavily targeted position and Nelson has excellent red zone skills at 6’5/220. There’s major breakout potential here, starting this Sunday with a plus matchup against the [New England] Patriots.”

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Gators undrafted free agents agree to deals

Updated July 27 at 3:30 p.m.

The end of the NFL lockout sent the league into a frenzy Monday evening as teams were officially allowed to contact and agree to contracts with undrafted free agents who were not selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. With only four Florida Gators picked in the seven-round draft back in April, a number of well-known players remained available heading into one of the most questionable offseasons in pro football history.

With contracts now being signed as names continue to roll in, a number of former Gators have already been picked up to join NFL squads this year.

Everything started Monday evening as linebacker Duke Lemmens chose to stay out west and play for the Arizona Cardinals, defensive tackle Terron Sanders got a call from the Baltimore Ravens, and running back Emmanuel Moody decided to join 2010 undrafted free agent wide receiver David Nelson with the Buffalo Bills.

On Tuesday, punter Chas Henry chose to team up with wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Cornelius Ingram on the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive end Justin Trattou decided to play close to home with the New York Giants, and offensive lineman Carl Johnson joined up with DE Alex Brown on the New Orleans Saints.

Wednesday brought two more signings as LB A.J. Jones found a spot with the Denver Broncos and LB Brandon Hicks [unconfirmed] signed with the Bills. Jones joins quarterback Tim Tebow in Denver, while Hicks teams up with Moody and Nelson in Buffalo.

Safety Will Hill was originally reported to have agreed to a deal with the Washington Redskins; however, it surfaced Tuesday that those reports were premature and the two sides have not spoken about a contract.

OGGOA spoke with Sanders early Tuesday morning, and he related to us that former Florida defensive coordinator now Baltimore defensive backs coach Teryl Austin had a lot to do with him getting this opportunity with a top-tier franchise.

“Coach Austin, he’s up there now, and he put in a good word for me and told them that I can plug the hole and knock people back,” Sanders said. “He convinced them to take a shot at me. They called my agent, my agent called me and asked me if I’d be interested in going to Baltimore. I told them, ‘Yeah,’ and the deal is done.”

Though he has been hoping the lockout would end and has been keeping in shape, Sanders also kept himself busy with a regular job until his future was known.

“I haven’t put on a pair of shoulder pads in a while,” he said. “I’ve been working out, doing some running, and I started working at U-Haul about two weeks ago just to get some money in my pocket until this was decided.”

Other players who could be signed include WR Carl Moore and defensive lineman Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh.

OGGOA will update this post as additional signings are announced.

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FOUR BITS: Macklin, Young, planking, Nelson

1 » Though the story is no longer available on the team’s website due to the NBA lockout, the Detroit Pistons had posted an interesting column focusing on their No. 52 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, former Florida Gators center Vernon Macklin. Evaluating his performances in workouts, team vice president Scott Perry raved about Macklin’s potential. “The biggest thing is, he didn’t look out of place,” Perry said. “He was physical, strong, could hold his position in the low post defensively, long arms and he competed. That’s what you want to see.”

Macklin also received support from Detroit personnel director George David, who fueled him during the Portsmouth Invitational. “He said, ‘Are you going to be Joakim Noah or his backup?’” Macklin recalls. “After my first game at PIT, he texted me and said, ‘You were Joakim Noah today.’ And he said the same thing at the end of the workout.”

2 » The 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 Team faltered at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships on Wednesday, dropping a 87-85 contest to Croatia. Just a day earlier, the United States was triumphant in an equally close match, defeating Lithuania 107-105 in overtime. The constant in both games was the play of Florida sophomore center Patric Young, who has turned in some dominant performances after getting off to a slow start. Young went 5/7 both from the field and from the line for 15 points with seven rebounds in 26:24 on Tuesday and followed that up by shooting 7/8 from the floor for 16 points with eight boards in 26:19 on Wednesday. Over his last three international games, Young has shot 85.7 percent and averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

3 » It has been just over a week since Gators redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail went on a planking spree, and OGGOA has had fun following many of Florida’s student-athletes as they take part in the activity. Things seem to have wound down a bit over the last few days and, therefore, we present you with this (potentially final) compilation wrapping up the latest planking attempts. You can view the rest of them here, here and here. The photos below feature Trail and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark, redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison and softball players Hannah Rogers and Ensley Gammel.

4 » Keeping busy during the NFL’s lockout, Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was recently in Las Vegas, NV and ended up on stage during a Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood concert. Below is a picture snapped by one of his friends.

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DE Lynden Trail goes on a planking spree

Most of the stories one hears about athletes and their usage of social media are negative in nature. The headlines are usually outlandish things they have said, inappropriate pictures that have been taken and fights they have started with others.

However, services like Twitter and Facebook can also be used for other things. Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden sponsored a little league team because a fan asked him to. He has also taken groups of fans out to lunch and happy hour simply because he can. Other former Gators have raised money for charity (Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson), given away free stuff to fans (Atlanta Hawks power forward Al Horford) and even had open discussions about Florida’s Ring of Honor qualifications (New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Brown).

So when Florida Gators redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail started tweeting pictures of himself planking on various surfaces and objects late Monday evening, Gator Nation undoubtedly noticed – and laughed.

“Planking,” for those of you uninitiated to the recently popular practice, is defined by Wikipedia as “an activity […] consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body, and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game.”

Trail, who himself was subject of what turned out to be false claims about his persona due to picture uncovered on the Internet during his recruitment, has been an active tweeter for quite some time. He took his game to another level on Monday with the planking pictures you can view by expanding the post.

All pictures above are courtesy of Trail’s Twitter account.

A married man, Trail is already more responsible than most college-aged students and, though the activity may not necessarily hit everyone’s funny bone, it is some good-natured, harmless offseason fun that is nice to see for a change.

He also offered up an open challenge to the rest of the University of Florida. “Planking just got real,” he wrote, “I challenge my fellow gators to participate lol.”

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Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

Usually we have to convince our interview subjects to sit down and talk with us for a half hour. When it came to former Florida Gators now Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson, he had nothing but time while in the middle of a 22-hour drive from Buffalo, NY, to Dallas, TX, and in desperate need of some entertainment.

Catching up with him 14 hours into his trip somewhere in Memphis, TN, OGGOA spoke with Nelson about everything from his family growing up to what he thinks about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp and the future of quarterback John Brantley. He was honest and candid, as expected, and gave us a good look into the journey from high school star to solid college contributor to NFL undrafted free agent.

Nelson hauled in 46 receptions for 630 yards and seven touchdowns during his Florida career. As a rookie with Buffalo in 2010, he matched half that total with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns (in consecutive games).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You’re one of eight children…where do you fall age-wise and what was it like growing up with so many siblings?
DAVID NELSON: “I’m actually the oldest of eight. Growing up there was only three of us – me and two of my younger brothers. My mom and dad were together and it was just us three. We were always real close, always competed and always playing sports and video games and trying to beat each other. We would fight and argue like brothers do, but looking back I cherish those times with my brothers more than anything. I always had a friend and brother to play with, always a partner to go out and do stuff with. It wasn’t until my mom and dad got divorced and both of them got remarried and had extra kids. My mom had three extra kids and my dad had two extra kids. My youngest sister right now is like three years old.”

AS: Christmas and Thanksgiving must be interesting then…
DN: “It is. It is. It’s a lot of fun though. It keeps it interesting and it keeps it fun.”

AS: What was it about Florida that made you decide to attend there over Notre Dame or staying in-state with Texas?
DN: “Growing up I never really knew much about Florida. I had seen them on TV every once in a while, when they were playing a bowl game or playing Florida State or something like that. I was never really a big fan growing up. I was from Big 12 country, so I grew up a huge Texas Longhorns fan, I watched all the Big 12 teams. When the recruiting process started, I didn’t hear anything from Florida. [Ron] Zook was there, didn’t hear anything from him or from his staff. Florida wasn’t even a consideration for me, never crossed my mind.

“When the whole issue with Tyrone Willingham getting fired [from Notre Dame]… I talked to Urban Meyer a little bit while he was at Utah, liked him a lot, but didn’t really feel comfortable going to Utah. When he accepted the job to go to Florida, he called me up and said, ‘Hey, I know you didn’t like it at Utah. What do you think about Florida?’ I was like, ‘I’ll research it, see what it looks like.’ The more I researched it, the more I learned about it, the more I liked it. I got a good feeling about it. [It happened] kind of late in the process, because it wasn’t until after the All-American game I started talking to him and took a visit up there. Got in town with my family, my family loved the community.

“I felt right with the coaching staff. I felt comfortable with the offense they were putting in. I knew that there was going to be something special that was going to happen there, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be one of the first recruiting classes to come in with them, because I knew Coach Meyer was going to be successful.”

AS: What were the first three years with the Gators like with you not getting much time on the field? Did you feel discouraged at all?
DN: “It was tough. It was real tough. An 18-19-20-year old kid coming in from high school, being heavily recruited, you automatically assume you are going to come in and you feel like you should be up for the Biletnikoff Award your first year on campus. When you’re a young kid, you buy into all the hype. You’re just really excited of what is going to happen. You come in and redshirt, the next year you sit on the bench, the year after that you sit on the bench again and you do get discouraged. You have all these people telling you how good you are, all these people from different angles saying you should be doing this…and you start to believe all the hype and all the cousins and the uncles calling you and you start to agree with them. You start to get these negative thoughts.

“The thought had crossed my mind of transferring; we actually pursued it a little bit. My dad and I sat down and looked at some options. Coach Meyer told me to just think about it and get back to him. The more I thought about it, the more we researched, I realized I came here for a reason – I came here to be a part of something special. At that moment we were on the cusp of being a great program. We had just won the National Championship in Arizona, and we were on the cusp of being great. At that moment, I knew I came here, I started something. I’m going to see it all the way through. I’m going to stick to my word and I’m going to ride this out, see where it goes and where it takes me.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with David Nelson…after the break!
Continue Reading » Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

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FOUR BITS: Temple, Gorman, Hounshell, Mularkey

1 » New Temple Owls head coach Steve Addazio has made his first hire, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Addazio has tabbed Florida Gators offensive assistant Justin Frye as his offensive line coach. Frye played under Addazio at Indiana and joined Florida’s staff in 2009.

2 » Four-star safety recruit Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL) plans to announce his commitment on Wednesday at the 2011 Under Armour All-American Game and is expected to choose between the Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida – which desperately needs safety help in the 2011 class – is considered by recruiting analysts to be the favorite to land Gorman. He is ranked as the No. 8 safety (No. 85 overall recruit) by ESPNU and No. 10 safety (No. 174 overall) by Rivals. OGGOA will update you on Gorman’s decision tomorrow.

Current UF commits also participating include five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) and four-stars tight end A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), athlete/S De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL) and wide receiver Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL).

3 » One Florida commitment who will not be enrolling early next week as originally planned is three-star offensive lineman Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH). Hounshell, who remains committed to the Gators, said he will not be graduating early from high school and will instead take his time making his final decision. “I just don’t want to rush the most important decision of my life,” he told the Lake County News-Herald. “I was supposed to be moving down Wednesday, but it looks like I’ll be going back to school.” The only other school Hounshell is considering as of press time is Notre Dame.

4 » Former Florida tight end Mike Mularkey, currently the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, will be interviewing for the head coaching jobs with both the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns at some point this week. Mularkey has served as a position coach and coordinator most of his post-playing career but was head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2004-05.

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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