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Florida hires Wesley McGriff as defensive assistant coach

Half of Florida’s openings have been filled — but it’s not precisely clear how.

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers

The Florida Gators have hired Wesley McGriff as a defensive assistant coach, the program announced in a release on Saturday.

McGriff’s hiring was first reported by Football Scoop on Thursday.

A three-decade veteran of the professional and collegiate coaching ranks, McGriff has a long history of teaching defensive backs and ties throughout the Southeast. He comes to Florida following a second stint at Auburn under Gus Malzahn, where his tutelage helped make converted wideout Noah Igbinoghene a first-round pick as a cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft, and has previously coached at Baylor, Kentucky, Miami, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt, making Florida his fifth stop in the SEC and seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

McGriff came to Auburn from Ole Miss, where he spent three years as a much-maligned defensive coordinator and associate head coach from 2016 to 2018, with the Rebels never fielding a defense that finished in the top 110 of the FBS under his watch.

Prior to his arrival in Oxford, McGriff had not been a sole defensive coordinator: He held a co-defensive coordinator title at Auburn in 2016, coached defensive backs for the New Orleans Saints from 2013 to 2015, and held a co-defensive coordinator title at Ole Miss in 2012.

It thus seems likely that McGriff won’t be adding co-defensive coordinator to his title at Florida, and is probably going to be handling Florida’s defensive backs — corners, more likely than not — in some capacity. Just what capacity that is remains to be seen: Florida’s release doesn’t specify McGriff’s duties, and Florida’s reportedly been in pursuit of Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash as a safeties coach and possibly a co-defensive coordinator to help out beleaguered current DC Todd Grantham.

McGriff’s considerable experience in the South should help him recruit well at Florida, and his reputation as a recruiter is fine but not legendary, despite being the listed recruiter of record for Robert Nkemdiche and five-star safety Tony Conner at Ole Miss.

McGriff picked up the nickname “Crime Dawg” in elementary school thanks to a teacher mispronouncing his last name as McGruff — the name of the cartoon Crime Dawg well-known in American popular culture in the 1980s — and still goes by “Coach Crime” on occasion.