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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NOT Top 13 for 2013: Moments for Gators to forget

At the conclusion of each year, on Dec. 31 to be exact, OnlyGators.com takes a look back at the top on-field moments and off-field stories from the previous 12 months. This year, which will go down as a difficult and controversial one for the Florida Gators, we sort through the Not Top 13 for 2013 – games, actions and stories that fans of the program will look to put in the rear view mirror as the clock strikes midnight. Don’t forget to check out the Top 13 for 2013 to end your year on a positive note!

13 » OFFSEASON GARBAGE
The time between the conclusion of spring practice in April and the start of summer practice in July can be long and seemingly endless for some, especially the media, which drummed up controversy where none should have exited in May. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis, taking part in a Gator Gathering with boosters, jokingly referred to Alabama head coach Nick Saban as “the devil himself.” The slight was made public and Saban took great offense, despite the fact that Davis was kidding. Davis got called “a classless backstabbing coward” for his joke and received other undue ridicule.

Two months later, one of the top college football headlines was a report that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer actually turned in Florida (and running backs coach Brian White) for a petty secondary recruiting violation that the NCAA deemed to be meaningless. Meyer denied his actions and got taken to task for reporting his former school, especially considering he has previously been accused of violating NCAA secondary recruiting rules in a similar fashion.

12 » LACROSSE AND VOLLEYBALL COME UP SHORT
With revenge on their minds and the program’s first national title within reach, Florida lacrosse failed to take down Syracuse on the latter’s home turf in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Orange got the best of the Gators for the second-straight season, winning 13-9 on May 18 after picking up a controversial victory in the 2012 NCAA Final Four. UF had the opportunity to make SU pay while trying to win a championship but instead sent its fourth-year players – the first senior class in program history – home with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Florida volleyball saw its 2013 season come to a crashing halt when it fell 3-2 at home to Florida State in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. One of the top seeds in the tournament and a potential national title team, the Gators allowed their in-state rival to knock them out of postseason play as UF failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Like the lacrosse team, which sent its upperclassmen out in a disappointing fashion, the same happened to senior middle back Chloe Mann.

11 » SAME TEAM!
The moment that checked in No. 1 on ESPN’s own Not Top Plays of 2013 was simply a microcosm of Florida being unable to get out of its own way this year. Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison and redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar blocked each other on a rushing play that actually gained some positive yardage against Georgia Southern in the second-to-last game of the season. In the same game, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye was accused of gouging an opponent’s eyes.


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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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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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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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Changes ahead for Florida Gators offensive staff

With head coach Will Muschamp‘s job secure and the Florida Gators in desperate need of improvement heading into the 2014 season, it is no secret that changes to to the team’s offensive staff are on the horizon after Saturday’s game against Florida State.

Muschamp made a point to hammer the offense’s lack of production after Florida’s loss to Georgia Southern, a move that appeared to make the unit and its coaches a scapegoat for the Gators’ overall struggles.

Though Florida’s defense has struggled in recent weeks, it has been overly impressive during Muschamp’s three years with the Gators. It has finished in the top 10 each of the last two years and is likely headed for a top 25 finish this season.

The team’s offense, on the other hand, has consistently been one of the worst in the nation. UF is currently ranked 110th in scoring offense and 111th in total offense, averaging just 19.9 points and 327.9 yards per game.

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who took the reins for that side of the ball in 2012, has failed to improve on the numbers of his his predecessor Charlie Weis. And the Gators’ offensive line, which was supposed to be much improved in 2013 in its second year under position coach Tim Davis, has struggled to find any consistency even before massive injuries struck the unit.

When jobs are lost and changes are made in the offseason – an inevitability at this point – it appears likely that Pease and Davis will be the first two looking for new forms of employment. CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, citing a source, reported Sunday that outsting Pease and Davis is already a done deal.

The Orlando Sentinel first confirmed Sunday, also citing a source, that changes to the offensive staff were ahead. A source close to the team told OnlyGators.com on Monday that changes would indeed be made on the offensive side of the ball but perhaps elsewhere in the program as well after the season.

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10/23: Muschamp talks injuries, state of Gators, confidence in staff, running Kelvin Taylor

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke twice on Wednesday, making his scheduled appearance on the Southeastern Conference‘s coaches teleconference before sitting down with the media for the only time during his team’s off week.

INJURY UPDATES

Florida lost another player for the season, Muschamp announced, as freshman linebacker Jeremi Powell tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a non-contact situation during the Missouri game while on the field with the punt block unit. He is the eighth player the Gators have lost for the season, four of which have gone down with ACL injuries. “He’s a guy who was really emerging, special teams-wise. He did a great job on kickoff for us and on special teams, was really playing well,” Muschamp said.

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who played Saturday with an injured shoulder after not practicing most of the week, will be held out of practice all week but “will start throwing again next week [and] should be fine” to start against Georgia.

Similar precautions are being used with redshirt junior LB Ronald Powell (ankle), who missed the Mizzou game and will also be held out of practice this week. Muschamp expects to get him back on the field next week. “I think we’ll get Ronald Powell back next week. He’s been unable to do anything thus far this week. He’s been running but just not ready for the change of direction and taking on blocks. But I think he’ll be fine,” he said.

Additionally, senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) should return next week. Jacobs was injured against LSU when his helmet came off in a pile and he got kicked in the head. Florida pointed out that he returned to the game, but Jacobs did not fly with the Gators to Columbia, MO, and has not practiced since. “I felt like he was going to play last week. I really didn’t know until Thursday practice he was not going to be able to go,” Muschamp noted.

He also could not provide much of an update regarding redshirt junior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder), who is rehabbing from his injury but also currently away from the team with his wife, who gave birth to a baby girl Monday night. “He’s been with his family, which is where he needs to be,” Muschamp said.

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