Florida football: Charlie Strong may return to Gators in analyst role, per report

By Adam Silverstein
January 30, 2020
Florida football: Charlie Strong may return to Gators in analyst role, per report

Image Credit: ESPN Images

After a whirlwind decade that saw him lead three major college football programs, former long-time Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong may be on his way back to Gainesville, Florida. Veteran Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley tweeted Wednesday that he’s “hearing” Strong will return to the program in an analyst role under head coach Dan Mullen.

Strong, who spent the last three seasons as head coach at South Florida with stints in the same role at Texas (2014-16) and Louisville (2010-13) before that, served as defensive coordinator at UF for seven seasons from 2003-09. In total, he has spent 15 seasons with the Gators, also working as a graduate assistant (1983-84), outside linebackers coach (1988-89) and defensive line coach (1991-94).

Gainesville radio host Buddy Martin, who has co-authored numerous books with Florida football coaches, also reports that Strong is on his way back to the program but notes he is not coming in alone. Martin has also heard that former Gators quarterback Kerwin Bell will return to the program in the same role. Bell was Strong’s offensive coordinator at South Florida last season, has 13 years of Division II head coaching experience and was a graduate assistant at UF in 1990.

Though an analyst role is not as glamorous as an on-field coaching position, it is beneficial both to programs and the people who fill the jobs. Analysts scout opponents (often one week ahead), help coordinators and assistants devise game plans and provide support during practice; however, they are not allowed to coach players or recruit prospective student-athletes.

Analyst roles are often filled by either inexperienced future coaches looking to opportunities in the profession or — a trend that has developed more recently — experienced coaches looking to refresh their careers and reestablish their names. Former head coaches Steve Sarkisian, Mike Locksley and Butch Jones are among the names who have served as Alabama analysts recently. Sarkisian is now Bama’s offensive coordinator and Locksley has moved on to become head coach at Maryland.

Strong struggled for years to get a head coaching opportunity while at Florida but finally got one with Louisville where he excelled, leading the team to a 37-15 record in four seasons. He was poached by Texas to take over for Mack Brown (considering UF had taken coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp) but struggled mightily with the Longhorns, compiling a 16-21 record before being fired. He looked set to rebound at South Florida where he went 10-2 in Year 1, but an 11-14 record over the last two seasons (4-8 in 2019) saw Strong unemployed.

It is unknown whether Strong has received offers to be a coordinator or position coach elsewhere, but returning to a familiar program under a former colleague in Mullen would be a comfortable landing spot for Strong as he attempts to determine what’s next in his career. Considering his family moved to the Tampa area when he took the USF job, it also means he likely does not have to uproot them immediately.

The move would also be a positive one for the Gators considering the value Strong brings to the program not only with his veteran mind but his experience in Gainesville and leadership qualities.

Considering defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has received significant interest from other programs and NFL teams over the last two offseasons, it also puts an experienced coordinator in Mullen’s back pocket — just as Sarkisian was for Nick Saban when then-Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin left for the FAU job.

Though the coaching staff is not perfect, Mullen has done an excellent job building it at Florida, and there has been little turnover with the entire staff remaining in tact following the 2019 season. As such, the Gators will enter the 2020 with the same coordinators for the third straight year, a level of continuity the program has not experienced in a decade-plus.

The fact that Mullen could add Strong — someone he knows, trusts and has experience working with for years — is a no-brainer. And for Strong, the opportunity to reestablish himself at a major program like Florida was likely an easy decision, too

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