As the Florida Gators football team prepares for their bowl game, the remaining members of former head coach Will Muschamp’s staff including interim head coach D.J. Durkin have big decisions ahead of them. Should they stay or should they go.
Of course, in the age of the internet when news, real or rumored, travel at the speed of light, conflicting reports abound concerning the future of these lame duck assistants. Who will be retained, who will be let go, who would like to stay, who can’t wait to bolt for greener pastures?
Shortly after Jim McElwain was named as Muschamp’s successor, it was widely reported that athletic director Jeremy Foley had suggested that Coach Mac attempt to retain both Durkin who was Muschamp’s defensive coordinator as well as Travaris Robinson (T Rob) who was the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
This would seem to make sense as the Gators problems under Muschamp were on the offensive side of the ball not the defense. The Gators under Durkin and T Rob finished top ten nationally both of the last two seasons. Additionally, the Gators are loaded with top flight young talent and are in on several top defensive recruits this cycle.
Maintaining the core of the defensive staff including defensive line coach Brad Lawing would certainly help ease the transition to a new head coach allowing McElwain to focus on recruiting offensive talent and installing a new offensive system, the Gators fifth since 2010.
It also should help ease the transition from a recruiting stand point as T Rob and Durkin are the Gators best recruiters and have long standing relationships particularly with top recruits like CeCe Jefferson and Byron Cowart.
On offense, it appears offensive line coach Mike Summers might be sticking around at least according to top OL recruit Martez Ivey who insinuated as much in quotes given to Luke Stampini of 247sports.com.
Keeping Summers may be just what the doctor ordered for getting Ivey’s signature on signing day as he has built a solid relationship with Martez who is choosing between Florida and Auburn but has long been considered to be a Gator lean.
Perhaps even more important for the Gators recruiting effort will be keeping T Rob in the fold. He’s certainly the Gators ace recruiter and has a strong presence in talent rich south Florida. With the Gators being in the mix for a number of top defensive recruits, keeping him might be the biggest sales job of all and could very well determine if the Gators close strong or languish at the bottom of the recruiting rankings.
Right now it appears to be a tug of war between staying in Florida where he has a home or uprooting his family and going back to Auburn where he played and reuniting with Muschamp.
Booger McFarland has reported via Twitter that Muschamp made an impassioned plea for Robinson’s services late Saturday night and had convinced him to leave Gainesville. Despite that, nothing official has been reported and Robinson continues recruiting for the Gators visiting top lb recruit Jeffrey Holland over the weekend. Of course, anything official won’t likely be announced until after the bowl game.
Durkin might be the wild card. While at first it appeared a no brainer that he would be retained, his named has now surfaced in the search for a new defensive coordinator at Texas A&M according to Luke Stampini. There are also rumors he was offered the line backers coach position under Muschamp at Auburn. That wouldn’t seem to make sense unless he knew he wasn’t being retained at Florida.
All this means is that the initial reports that the new coach might seek to keep the core of the defensive staff together may very well be crumbling. At the least it shows the main players have options even if McElwain seeks to retain them and Florida might have to pay up to keep them around.
At this point the only assistant it’s safe to assume will be retained is Summers. After that it’s looking more and more like Coach Mac will be starting from scratch. With the recruiting dead period starting, he will likely be spending more time staff building and we’ll likely know more in the coming days.