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

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.

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Florida Gators officially hire Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator

Michigan Wolverines offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who was not expected to be retained after the team fired Brady Hoke after the regular season, has been hired as the next offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Florida Gators.

New Gators head coach Jim McElwain tabbed Nussmeier as his second staff hire after naming Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to the same position at Florida last week.

“Doug and I have worked together on the same staff and I’ve known him for years,” McElwain said in a school release. “We are like thinkers in that he will adapt to the players we have in the program and develop them as we continue to evolve.”

Unlike Collins, Nussmeier has worked on the same staff as McElwain. When McElwain was serving as Michigan State’s associate head coach, wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator under John L. Smith from 2003-05, Nussmeier was Smith’s quarterbacks coach.

He also succeeded McElwain twice, first as offensive coordinator at Fresno State (2008) and then again as offensive coordinator at Alabama (2012-13).

“I’m excited to reunite with Coach Mac – we obviously have a long history and share similar philosophies,” Nussmeier said in the release. “I’m honored to join The Gator Nation and work for one of the most storied programs in all of college football.”

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Reports: Doug Nussmeier tabbed by Jim McElwain to be Florida offensive coordinator

Michigan Wolverines offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who was not expected to be retained after the team fired Brady Hoke after the regular season, is set to become the next offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators.

According to SI.com‘s Thayer Evans and FoxSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, new Gators head coach Jim McElwain tabbed Nussmeier as his second staff hire after naming Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to the same position at Florida last week.

Unlike Collins, Nussmeier has worked on the same staff as McElwain. When McElwain was serving as Michigan State’s associate head coach, wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator under John L. Smith from 2003-05, Nussmeier was Smith’s quarterbacks coach.

He also succeeded McElwain twice, first as offensive coordinator at Fresno State (2008) and then again as offensive coordinator at Alabama (2012-13).

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Michigan F Jon Horford transfers to Florida

Updated on Tuesday, May 13 at 5 p.m.

Forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators standout Al Horford, has decided to play out his final year of eligibility in Gainesville, Florida, according to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman.

Entering his redshirt senior campaign, Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be eligible to play immediately due to the NCAA’s graduate transfer exemption after receiving his undergraduate degree from Michigan in May.

The school announced his transfer on May 13, noting that he started graduate-level classes when the Summer A semester began on May 12.

Florida has a crowded frontcourt in 2014-15 but should be able to find a fair amount of playing time for Horford. He averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per contest last season and originally decided to transfer to see more time on the court.

That may not be possible with the Gators, which will have sophomore Chris Walker, redshirt senior Damontre Harris, redshirt juniors Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy, and five-star incoming freshman Devin Robinson in the frontcourt.

Walker is likely to start at power forward or center next to either Harris or Murphy with Finney-Smith playing small forward. Horford will give Florida a big body and great energy off the bench to spell Walker and Harris but could see an uptick in playing time should Harris once again fall out of favor with the program.

With Horford’s transfer, UF has filled its final scholarship for the 2014-15 campaign.

Four-star guard Brandone Francis and four-star point guard Chris Chiozza are the other two incoming freshman aside from Robinson. All three first-year players are ranked among the top 42 prospects in the nation for 2014, according to Rivals.com.

Murphy will not be eligible until the spring semester after transferring in the middle of the 2013-14 season; however, the Gators plan to petition the NCAA for a waiver that would allow the legacy to play at the start of the campaign.

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TWO BITS: Horford transfer, Easley Pro Day

1 » According to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, redshirt junior forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators F Al Horford, is heavily considering choosing to play the final year of his collegiate career in Gainesville, FL. Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be a redshirt senior in 2014-15 and cleared to play without having to sit out a season. He registered 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game for Michigan last season and decided to transfer in order to get more playing time. That is one reason why a move to Florida was not believed to be on the table previously. Though the Gators are in need of frontcourt players, they do have freshman Chris Walker and redshirt junior Damontre Harris at center next season. Florida will also play redshirt juniors Alex Murphy (currently not scheduled to be eligible until the spring), redshirt junior Dorian Finney-Smith and incoming freshman Devin Robinson, though the latter two players will likely play small forward. Horford’s addition would fill UF’s remaining 2014-15 scholarship but not affect the allotment for 2015-16.

2 » Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley has spent the last seven months rehabilitating his torn ACL but is finally getting the chance to show NFL teams what he can do on Thursday as he is participating in a private Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Joining Easley for the workout are outside linebackers Ronald Powell and Darrin Kitchens, who also participated in Florida’s first Pro Day one month earlier on March 17. Easley recently completed a visit with the Dallas Cowboys, his first private trip, and is expected to go on many more after his Pro Day workout is complete. Projections for Easley range from the second to fifth round, but he is likely to be taken on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft as long as he can prove he’s healthy.

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Florida softball wins six-straight to open season

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 3 Florida Gators opened up the 2014 season with a clean sweep of the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, FL, winning six games over four days including a thriller over a ranked opponent.

Florida (6-0) outscored its competitors 40-13 over the weekend as junior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger, who was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday, shined by tossing her first-career no-hitter in the event’s penultimate matchup.

Starting off the season with a win for the eighth time in head coach Tim Walton’s nine-year tenure, the Gators topped the South Florida Bulls in their opening game. Senior RHP Hanna Rogers pitched seven innings, allowing three runs while recording six strikeouts. UF literally weathered the storm – a 25 minute rain delay – with its bats coming alive in the fourth inning.

Sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz led the way offensively with a bases-clearing three-RBI single in the fourth inning, which was part of a seven-run fourth for Florida. The Gators, which won 10-3, also benefited from some free passes. “We had 11 walks and five hit-by-pitches – that’s 16 free bases,” said Walton. “We had really solid plate discipline.”

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Details emerge for Florida-Michigan in 2017

Last December, the Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines jointly announced that the schools had agreed to open up 2017 season against each other at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX in what will be named the 2017 Cowboys Classic.

Additional details on the Sept. 2, 2017 game, Florida’s first non-conference regular season contest outside the state since 1991, were released Friday via a public records request made by the Palm Beach Post‘s Phillip Heilman, among others.

Previously known details:
– Each team receives $6 million for participating in the game.
– Each school is allotted 25,000 tickets to divvy up amongst its fans.
– Florida is the home team and will wear dark jerseys; Michigan is the away team and will wear light jerseys.
– Officials from the Big 12 have been hired to officiate the game.

New details:
ESPN has signed on as a production partner for the game but a broadcast partner (ESPN or CBS) appears to not yet be designated. Whichever network is chosen will have the exclusive rights to sign a title sponsor for the game.
ESPN can cancel the game if the Gators are slapped with serious NCAA violations but will be forced to find Florida an FBS opponent to play a game the same day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (The same likely goes for the Wolverines.)
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Florida and Michigan set to open 2017 football season in Cowboys Classic

The Florida Gators announced on Wednesday that the program has agreed to open up the 2017 season against the Michigan Wolverines at AT&T Stadium – formerly known as Cowboy’s Stadium – as part of the 2017 Cowboys Classic in Arlington, TX.

When it kicks off against Michigan on Sept. 2, 2017, Florida will be playing its first non-conference regular season game outside the state of Florida since 1991.

“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley in a school release. “Our schedule has been pretty consistent through the years. We were presented this opportunity and just thought it was something that our fans would embrace, our program would embrace. It would give us great national visibility. Obviously, a very difficult ballgame against a storied program – that excites us.”

Though a broadcast partner has not yet been signed for the showdown, which will kick off in prime time, it will no doubt be an extremely attractive national matchup. More than 90,000 fans will be able to attend with each school getting 25,000 tickets to divvy up.

The Wolverines announced in their release that they will be the away team with the Gators set as the home team. The Big 12 will send a crew to officiate the game between teams from the Southeastern Conference and Big 10.

Florida and Michigan have not squared off on the gridiron since the 2008 Capital One Bowl. The Wolverines topped the Gators 41-35 in former head coach Lloyd Carr’s last game and the final contest of Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy-winning season.

UF also fell to UM 38-30 in the 2003 Outback Bowl.

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