The Florida Gators were set to bring back just one coach from Jim McElwain’s final staff to be part of Dan Mullen’s first one.
Make that zero.
Per reports from Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country, Andrew Spivey of Gator Country and Graham Hall of The Gainesville Sun, Florida tight ends coach Ja’Juan Seider will leave the program — likely for Penn State, where he is likely to coach wide receivers.
This move comes after Seider managed to stick with Mullen’s staff through December despite a slew of McElwain assistants being dismissed early in Mullen’s tenure and a few others leaving as the month wore on — and, perhaps more importantly, after Seider’s assignment on Mullen’s staff was revealed as tight ends coach, not the running backs coach role he had held under McElwain.
Seider’s work with running backs last year was widely hailed by pundits and the Florida fan base, as the Gators weathered the loss of Jordan Scarlett to what would become a season-long suspension and freshman sensation Malik Davis to a knee injury to still get admirable production from their running backs.
Davis and Lamical Perine each topped 500 yards on the ground despite sharing duties, and Davis, Mark Thompson, Adarius Lemons, and all-purpose weapon Kadarius Toney all averaged better than five yards per carry. Those top four running backs combined for 292 carries for 1,521 yards on the season, for a healthy 5.2 yards per carry.
So Seider could reasonably have been expected to stay on as running backs coach, if he stayed on — and yet Mullen brought in Greg Knox, who worked as his running backs coach at Mississippi State, and shifted Seider to tight ends coach, bestowing a title that Seider has not held as a college coach and one that is generally considered the least prestigious of the offensive assistant coaching positions.
If that led a miffed Seider to pursue other opportunities — as has been the implication of some reporting of late about Seider interviewing with the Cleveland Browns — it would be perfectly understandable.
Seider is considered an ace recruiter, and an especially good one in South Florida, if more so in his native Palm Beach County and in and around the notoriously talent-rich “Muck” of Belle Glade. And he was integral to both the original assembly and scrambling re-assembly of Florida’s 2018 recruiting class, including thumping Georgia running back Dameon Pierce and New Jersey all-purpose back Iverson Clement.
It would seem likely that Florida will attempt to replace Seider with another excellent recruiter — and, perhaps, someone more keen on coaching tight ends.