After more than a month of speculation, the Florida Gators made one of the oft-rumored shakeups to their football coaching staff official on Friday by announcing updated positional assignments for the 2017 coaching staff.
Those assignments, from Florida’s release:
Chris Rumph - Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
Tim Skipper – Assistant Coach, Linebackers
Corey Bell – Assistant Coach, Defensive Backs
Ja'Juan Seider – Assistant Coach, Running Backs
Brad Davis – Assistant Coach, Offensive Line
The top-line change here is Skipper moving from running backs coach, the position he had held over his first two years in Gainesville, to linebackers coach, a position he had served at under Jim McElwain at Colorado State.
Skipper flipping sides of the ball was frequently mentioned as a key component to Florida adding another strong recruiter to McElwain’s staff. The two coaches most often mentioned as candidates for that ace recruiter role — Alabama analyst-cum-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and the eventual hire, West Virginia running backs JaJuan Seider — were both running backs coaches by trade, and ones with more experience than Skipper has, so it was expected that Skipper would be moved to accommodate such a hiring.
But Florida did not announce assignments for its newest assistants when announcing the hirings of Seider on February 3 and of Corey Bell and Brad Davis on February, despite those coaches logically fitting in as running backs coach, defensive backs coach, and offensive line coach, respectively. And while the most logical reasoning for that was purely timing — McElwain vacationed last weekend, and other coaches also took time off during one of the few true breaks in the college football calendar filled with recruiting and coaching — it also fueled poorly-founded speculation that Skipper might not be wholly happy with moving to linebackers coach.
That appears to be untrue.
The other significant component of Florida’s release is the elevation of Rumph to co-defensive coordinator, a title he will share with Randy Shannon. Rumph is likely to serve as the de facto No. 2 to Shannon, much as Shannon was to Geoff Collins during the last two seasons, with Shannon calling plays just like Collins did.
But Rumph should also receive a bump in pay as co-DC, a deserved reward for the only defensive coach other than Shannon who will be spending his third year on McElwain’s Florida staff in 2017 — and perhaps an incentive that kept Rumph at Florida despite reported interest from Clemson in January.
Unmentioned in Florida’s release: What position group or groups Shannon — listed only as defensive coordinator on Florida’s staff directory — will work with as defensive coordinator. The lion’s share of Shannon’s two decades in coaching has been spent working with linebackers, and he will almost certainly teach that group going forward, but Shannon also worked with the Gators’ safeties in the run-up to the Outback Bowl, which may have been part of why safeties Chauncey Gardner and Marcell Harris each had excellent games, with Gardner being named Outback Bowl MVP after a pair of interceptions.
McElwain’s nine-man staff around McElwain would appear to be at full strength for the moment, with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon, and special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Greg Nord all currently set to return for the 2017 season.