Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, OL coach John Hevesy out as Gators begin overhaul

By Adam Silverstein
November 7, 2021
Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, OL coach John Hevesy out as Gators begin overhaul
Football

Image Credit: Alex de la Osa / UAA

Two of the Florida Gators’ most embattled assistant coaches are out of the program as the Gators parted ways with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy, a program source confirmed Sunday night to OnlyGators.com. The staff changes were announced Monday following a team meeting but prior to head coach Dan Mullen’s weekly press conference.

No statement was provided by either Mullen nor athletic director Scott Stricklin.

The departures come at the behest of Stricklin, a source said, though it is not known whether Stricklin specified that assistants much go, let alone Grantham and Hevesy specifically. Prior to the Gators leaving Columbia, South Carolina, Stricklin made Mullen aware that significant changes were necessary.

Linebackers coach Christian Robinson will serve as interim defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season with Paul Pasqualoni, the special assistant to Mullen, stepping into an on-field role.

Robinson does not have prior play calling experience but is considered an up-and-coming coach and strong recruiter who deserves an opportunity. Pasqualoni, 72, was an on-field coach in college and at the NFL level from 1976-2019. Graduate assistant Michael Sollenne will coach up the offensive line over the final few games.

Mullen previously said he was pleased with Florida’s coaching staff, though after the Gators’ last two losses, he refused to answer questions about the statuses of his assistants going forward, saying all would be evaluated after the season.

Florida fell to 4-5 (2-5 SEC) after being embarrassed 40-17 by South Carolina on Saturday. The Gators were beaten soundly on both ends of the field as they started a season below .500 through nine games for the third time since 2013. UF has its first three-game losing streak since 2017, and it’s now 4-8 in its last 12 games with a 2-8 mark against Power Five opponents dating back to the end of the 2020 season.

Grantham and Hevesy, both original members of Mullen’s staff at Florida, have been in command of two of the team’s most disappointing units not only this season but over the last few campaigns. Both Grantham’s defense and Hevesy’s offensive line have imploded in 2021 after it appeared as if both were set to bounce back over the first couple of games.

Florida finished 20th and seventh in scoring defense nationally across Grantham’s first two seasons despite inconsistency in important moments. However, the Gators plummeted to 74th in 2020 (worst mark in a century) and now sit 62nd after giving up 40 points an unranked South Carolina team that entered Saturday’s game averaging 20.9 points on the season. (The Gamecocks played a third-string FCS transfer quarterback making his first FBS start.) Two games earlier, UF allowed a program-record 287 yards rushing to a single player.

This as Grantham was the sixth-highest paid assistant coach in the country, earning $1.8 million in total pay per season.

Grantham was originally hired by Mullen as his defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in 2017. He previously served in that role at Georgia and Louisville where his heavy blitzing style and frequent failures in key situations led to the creation of a “Third and Grantham” moniker.

Hevesy is not only Mullen’s longest-tenured assistant but also a close friend. The pair have worked together for two decades with both serving under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04) and Florida (2005-08) before Hevesy began working under Mullen at Mississippi State (2009-17) and then when Mullen took over at UF.

The Gators have long had issues up front offensively, particularly from a depth standpoint. Hevesy’s coaching skill has not only been questioned, but his lacking recruiting acumen has been a constant issue. Recruiting is a problem across the entire program, including with Grantham, who was previously known as solid on the trail.

Both Grantham and Hevesy have contracts that were set to expire at the end of the season. OnlyGators.com was told after the loss to No. 1 Georgia that Grantham would not be signed to an extension with his departure planned potentially as early as the end of the regular season.

If Mullen is to survive these tumultuous events, he should consider taking a page from Brian Kelly’s playbook by overhauling his entire staff and operation in an effort to enhance and modernize the program.

While Mullen is certainly on the hot seat at Florida, improvement over the final three games of the season coupled with a commitment to make changes where needed could create an opportunity for a do-over of sorts.

Mullen has drastically improved the Gators offense since rejoining the program, though his loyalty to assistants, stubbornness, overall demeanor and relative buffoonery have been black marks within the organization. Worst of all, Florida’s recruiting has not only plateaued among the second tier of programs nationally, it is on its way to falling off a cliff.

Recruiting has floundered due to a lack of emphasis from Mullen and a shocking inability to procure top-tier talent from the rest of the coaching staff, particularly in one of the most talent-rich states in the country. The Gators’ incoming Class of 2022 is currently ranked 22nd nationally and ninth in the SEC after losing a pair of top 100 defenders in October. Florida has not finished with a class ranked better than ninth in the 247Sports Composite team rankings under Mullen.

Whether the ousting of Grantham and Hevesy is the planned first step or entire set of changes Mullen looks to make remains to be seen. It will also be curious to evaluate how Mullen, with his aforementioned stubbornness, handles the notion that he may no longer be in full control of program decision-making.

It’s tough to see the Gators improving significantly on the field over the final few games, but a bowl appearance is still in the cards as Florida will likely be favored in all of it remaining games.

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman first reported the assistant departures.

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