With Florida's Birmingham Bowl appearance against East Carolina done and dusted — and all of the coaches of the Will Muschamp regime now free to find other employment without leaving the Gators in the lurch during bowl preparation — the Gators now have a coaching staff to turn over.
And so it was a busy weekend for Florida coach Jim McElwain. Reportedly.
The most important news was another poorly-kept secret: Offensive line coach Mike Summers will be the only coach retained from Florida's 2014 staff, as Gator Country's Andrew Spivey reported on Saturday. Summers, whose line's performance and improvement drew approving reviews, was arguably Florida's most critical retention target, with the Gators desperately needing to shore up a line that is likely to be quite green and shallow in 2015.
That news also meant that Travaris Robinson, whose employment had been the most-discussed of any Florida assistant in December, would be leaving. And it didn't take long at all for Auburn to announce that Robinson would be following Muschamp back to the plains: Florida's bowl ended around 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, and Auburn's official Twitter account had the news of his hiring disseminated by 3:55 p.m. Eastern.
But Summers's retention, and the hirings of Doug Nussmeier and Geoff Collins as offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively, still left Florida with many spaces to fill. One was reportedly already filled late last week, with Randy Shannon tabbed as the Gators' next linebackers coach.
Six more have been filled, per reports of varying credibility, since.
At running backs coach, McElwain will reportedly turn to a former Colorado State assistant, Tim Skipper, whom both radio host John Middlekauff and Orlando Sentinel reporter Edgar Thompson report will hire to replace outgoing Florida RBs coach Brian White.
At wide receivers coach, Florida will reportedly hire George McDonald of Syracuse, according to The Gator Fanatic. McDonald served as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Syracuse in 2014, getting stripped of the offensive coordinator title as part of an ugly public saga. (Spivey reported that Florida wide receivers coach Chris Leak will stay at Florida, but in a non-coaching capacity.)
This, though, is the least credible of the reports. I'd honestly never heard of The Gator Fanatic until yesterday, which makes me doubt the veracity of this report on its face, and a Monday morning tweet quoted a McDonald confidant as saying there was "no truth" to the rumor.
At tight ends coach, McElwain has reportedly opted for Western Kentucky's Greg Nord, per Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans, who reported Saturday that Nord would also be Florida's special teams coordinator. Nord, who served as Bobby Petrino's running backs coach in 2014, has more than 30 years of coaching experience, much of it at Louisville — where he coached with McElwain under John L. Smith from 2000 to 2002, and would replace Florida's Derek Lewis.
At defensive line coach, Evans also reported, Florida has tabbed Oakland Raiders defensive line coach Terrell Williams. Williams has been the Raiders' defensive line coach since 2012, and was Texas A&M's defensive line coach in 2010 and 2011; in 2011, the Aggies led the nation in sacks, with 51 over 13 games. (Over the last seven years, only 2014 Utah, with 55 over 13 contests, has recorded more sacks in 13 games.) Williams would replace Brad Lawing, another possible retention target.
At defensive backs coach, McElwain has made perhaps Florida's most logical hire of all, nabbing UCF defensive backs coach Kirk Callahan, per ESPN's Derek Tyson. Callahan is renowned as an excellent recruiter of the state of Florida, was a graduate assistant for the Gators in 2011 and 2012, and is the brother of Casey Callahan, who has worked in Florida's football office in a support role. And the Callahan name holds significant weight: Kirk is the son of Seffner Armwood head coach Sean Callahan, one of the longest-tenured and most successful high school coaches in Florida.
Armwood has long been thought of as a Florida stronghold, with the Gators nabbing player after player from the school (most recently, Matt Jones and Alvin Bailey), and that has been one of the driving reasons behind the suspicion that five-star defensive lineman Byron Cowart would eventually end up in Gainesville. Adding a second Callahan to Florida's staff may not help much with Cowart, but it certainly would not seem to hurt.
Of all the hires, this one seems most assured: Callahan was repeatedly congratulated on the hiring on Twitter on Sunday, including, notably, in a message from his father.
And at strength and conditioning coach, Thompson reported that Florida would bring in Colorado State's Mike Kent to replace Jeff Dillman. Kent, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience, has replaced Dillman once before, at Appalachian State, and, in 2013, earned the title of Master Strength and Conditioning Coach, one of the industry's highest honors, with just over 100 coaches so honored since the title's inception in 2001.
Of course, this is all just reported: Florida, which has kept mum on hires since announcing Nussmeier's, is likely waiting to announce its entire staff at once. And there are always quirks of contracts, like Shannon's reported buyout at Arkansas, to resolve prior to an official announcement, as well as the potential that an eleventh-hour shakeup could change the makeup of the staff.
But McElwain announcing a full staff on the first Monday after Florida's bowl would be a power move, and there's no doubt that he's aiming for something like that.
I expect a full staff announcement by the end of the day. And shortly after that happens, we'll have grades for the hires.