Florida Gators Mailbag: Will Dan Quinn's departure affect Gators' defense, recruiting?

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Florida lost a good coach in Dan Quinn. But the Gators shouldn't be too dramatically affected by it.

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How does (Dan Quinn's departure) affect our defense next year? (@_slotkin)

I think that it's pretty likely that losing a defensive coordinator to an NFL team won't actually hurt Florida's defense all that much in 2013. And I think that because Will Muschamp seems to think it, too.

Football Scoop, which broke the news of Brad Lawing coming from South Carolina to Florida, also caught this bit from Muschamp's media availability last Friday:

"We're really excited about D.J. Durkin being our defensive coordinator," Muschamp said. "D.J.'s similar to Dan in a sense that the guy's a very smart, bright, energetic. Dan had never called defenses until he showed up at Florida, and he did a pretty good job in two years. D.J. hasn't, either. We're going to be good."

Muschamp clearly has a lot of confidence in his ability to teach defense, to players and coaches alike.

"More than anything to me, he understands our system," Muschamp continued. "Our system's been pretty good, and we're going to continue to be really good."

That suggests, to me, that Muschamp's in charge of things on defense and always was, despite Quinn's considerable experience and talents, and that it's Muschamp's system (even if he'll call it "ours") that Florida runs. If you want corroboration, look no further than The Gainesville Sun's Robbie Andreu:

Florida's defense losing four or five NFL Draft picks and a few more experienced, mature players is likely to matter more in the end than Quinn leaving will, except on the defensive line ... but the hire of Brad Lawing, who has even more experience than Quinn did, might make that line even better.

Follow-up: does this affect recruiting at all? (@_slotkin)

Not yet? That's the best answer.

The only recruit who I've read negative quotes about Quinn's departure ($) from is Antonio Riles, who has been one of the less secure recruits for quite some time. And Riles hasn't decommitted, or committed elsewhere, and took his official visit to Florida ($) this past weekend, coming out of it seeming solid to Florida. So, no, Florida doesn't seem likely to be affected significantly on the recruiting trail for now.

I'm less sure that things will be unaffected for the class of 2014 and beyond. Lawing and Durkin likely have to split some of the turf that Quinn covered, and losing any coach means losing the goodwill he garnered with coaches, families, and, most importantly, recruits. Quinn was a good recruiter, but was never mentioned as a great one, and so it's not impossible, to my mind, for Durkin, Joker Phillips, and the rest of Florida's staff to maintain or exceed Florida's current level of success in recruiting.

But Durkin's responsibilities are going to change as defensive coordinator, and he might not have as much time to hit the road and work his magic. That possibility that Durkin will be less available or less effective on the road is the biggest threat to Florida's recruiting machine that I see, especially since Lawing isn't known as a dynamic recruiter (though he did recruit Marcus Lattimore) and Phillips isn't a defensive coach.

I would still guess that things are more likely to proceed smoothly than not, but that doesn't mean I'm sure they will.

Most likely hire to coach special teams? (@alexander_marty)

Had I answered this question last week, I would have thought either Vernon Hargreaves II, former USF defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator, because he would have fit the role perfectly, or Ron Zook, because Florida could have used another Florida recruiter. But Muschamp told reporters Florida will apparently coach special teams by committee for now, which sounds like either a disaster waiting to happen or code for "Yeah, Durkin's gonna keep doing that."

For what it's worth, I really think Florida's best bet is to have Durkin's fingerprints all over special teams. He's good at coaching them and players up and down Florida's roster play hard for him. You can't ask for much more than the disciplined, aggressive special teams units Florida had in 2012, after all.

What does Lawing's hire mean for Bryant Young?

Florida's official release on Lawing's hire notes that he's been given the previously unused title of assistant head coach, and will be the co-defensive line coach with Bryant Young. That's a better fate than I would have anticipated for Young, who has been something of a disappointment as a recruiter and whose work with defensive tackles is hard to evaluate because of how good those tackles (Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter, and Dominique Easley) were and are.

Lawing getting the assistant head coach title, though, likely means that Muschamp values him more than Young, and he's probably not wrong in doing that, considering how experienced Lawing is, and how potent "I think you could be the next Jadeveon Clowney" might be on the recruiting trail when it comes from the guy who coached Jadeveon Clowney.

Young's Super Bowl rings from his NFL career have weight, and not just because they're probably literally pretty heavy, but he's yet to prove he's a great coach, which makes recruiting harder for him, and if he's not recruiting at a high level or coaching at a high level, it becomes harder to justify keeping him around. Young was only under contract through 2012, and might yet part ways with Florida, but, if he stays through 2013, he'll probably be the most likely Florida assistant to not be with the Gators in 2014.

After all the coaching turnover Florida's had the past few years, is it too much to ask for one offseason without a major coaching change? (@lrd_15)

This question was sort of rhetorical, and comes from someone who knows a few things, former Alligator Army recruiting writer Lance Davis, but it's still worth answering, even if the answer is an unsatisfying "Yes, that's too much to ask."

Florida's last five years have been almost absurdly tumultuous in terms of coaching turnover, especially considering that the 2008 offseason came after Florida's second national title in three years.

  • 2008: Florida loses offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to Mississippi State, and promotes offensive line coach Steve Addazio to his position.
  • 2009: Florida head coach Urban Meyer "retires" for about 24 hours, Addazio serves as interim head coach for a couple of months, and Charlie Strong reads the writing on the wall and leaves for Louisville. Strong is replaced for all of a week by George Edwards, and then for the 2010 season by Teryl Austin.
  • 2010: Meyer steps down as head coach for good, Addazio leaves for Temple, and Austin heads back to the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Muschamp, Charlie Weis, and Quinn are hired as Florida's head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator.
  • 2011: Weis bolts Florida for Lawrence when Kansas backs up a big ol' dump truck full of cash to make him its new head coach. Muschamp's long search for Weis' replacement culminates in the selection of Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who Florida gets despite reported interest from Nick Saban and Alabama. Weis' departure, especially its timing, likely costs Florida the commitments of one or both of Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor, playmakers it could have used in 2012.
  • 2012: Florida loses defensive coordinator Quinn to the NFL, but promotes Durkin to defensive coordinator just hours later, and has Lawing lined up to replace Quinn's defensive line coaching just days later.
  • That's undeniably a lot of turnover, and, considering that Florida won national titles in two of the last three seasons it managed to bring back the same head coach and offensive and defensive coordinators from the year before, it's not wrong for fans to yearn for a little stability. However, I think it's sort of silly to lump 2012's one departure, especially given how swiftly and smartly it was handled, with those four previous years.

    Muschamp was blindsided by Weis leaving after 2011, even if it inadvertently solved Muschamp's problem with Weis' approach for him, and not having a list of candidates ready hurt Florida's ability to recruit last year. The turnover from Meyer to Muschamp is obviously the most significant one on that list, not least because it has made over almost the entirety of the Florida program. Strong's departure left Florida without a coach so beloved that his former players hugged him after this year's Sugar Bowl, and without a logical in-house successor to Meyer; Meyer handling it by hiring a defensive coordinator who barely even got a chair warm and hiring another defensive coordinator who had never held the role before to replace that guy should've been as stunning then as it is in retrospect. Mullen leaving may have cost Florida both Percy Harvin and a second consecutive national title; it also set in motion what would become Cam Newton's journey to Auburn.

    Replacing Quinn, a well-liked coach with a bright defensive mind and a good work ethic, with Durkin, a well-liked coach with a bright defensive mind and an even better work ethic, doesn't compare to any of those offseasons. And if Florida's going to be a national power again after a couple of down years, it needs to get used to its coaches being coveted by other teams.

    It seems like Will Muschamp already is. Is it too much to ask for Gators fans to trust him?

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