With Geoff Collins taking Temple’s head coaching job, the Florida Gators need to hire a young, energetic defensive coordinator to keep the ship running smoothly.
Geoff Collins is gone. He’s headed to Temple to replace Matt Rhule as the Owls’ head coach. Given his successes, the departure was a long time coming.
Collins earned his “Minister of Mayhem” nickname with four impressive seasons at Mississippi State and two years in Gainesville, leading the Gators to top-15 finishes in both total defense and scoring defense in 2015 and 2016.
It was expected that Collins would look to cash in on his first head coaching gig, and now it’s coming to fruition.
So, what now for Florida? The offense still isn’t performing at the level many hoped by the end of Jim McElwain’s second season. The defense is currently on auto-pilot, but, at some point, McElwain has to provide some stability to the job and hire someone who will move to Gainesville and buy a home instead of renting one.
The quick fix, in terms of recruiting, would be to promote from within.
Randy Shannon has served as Florida’s co-defensive coordinator and had the linebacking core performing well — despite being plagued by injuries. When Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone went down, true freshman David Reese and redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson stepped in and filled their shoes.
Or maybe McElwain will want to take advantage of Florida’s claim for DBU. The Gators currently have some momentum with its secondary. Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal were both top-20 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are both projected to be first-round picks in the 2017 draft — with Marcus Maye going anywhere from late in the first to the middle of the second round. Their coach, Torrian Gray, is one of the best recruiters around and a well-respected defensive backs coach.
Promoting Gray to the position would provide what Florida really needs for the job: youth and energy.
Gray will turn 43 years old in March and isn’t afraid to set up shop at one school. He spent 10 years with Virginia Tech before joining the Gators. A promotion would help elevate his career while also attracting defensive recruits to Florida.
For example, the Gators are vying for a commitment from 5-star safety Devon Hunter simply because of his relationship with Gray. They’re battling with the Hokies in his recruitment, and if Gray weren’t on McElwain’s staff, Hunter would be already be penciled into Justin Fuente’s roster next year.
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph would also be a solid hire, considering he’ll be 45 on Dec. 21 and is one of Florida’s best recruiters. He’s done a great job working the Tampa area for the Gators.
Gray and Rumph offer more youth than Shannon. They also have more to fill on their respective resumes, meaning that they are not immediate flight risks. An older coordinator like Shannon, who has previously served as a head coach, could use a successful season as a springboard to another coaching position. The door would keep revolving, and McElwain would find himself back in the same situation of plugging holes.
Should McElwain choose to go in a different direction with an outside hire, he has to be picky. He needs to find someone who makes recruits’ ears perk up — someone to leap up and chest bump with his players after a big hit or stop.
If there is any kind of big splash McElwain could make with his next defensive coordinator hire, it’s Tosh Lupoi.
Lupoi is easily a top-10 recruiter in the country, more likely top-five, in all honesty. He was promoted from analyst to outside linebackers coach for Alabama following the 2014 season, and he’s been a snake charmer to the nation’s top defensive recruits for a while, going back to his days with Cal and Washington.
At Alabama, Lupoi has reeled in 5-star linebacker Dylan Moses, former 5-star linebacker Mack Wilson, 4-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and 5-star running back Najee Harris, the No. 1 player in the 2017 recruiting class.
Let us not forget he helped make Keenan Allen a Golden Bear and brought Shaq Thompson to the Huskies.
Lupoi is the guy. He is the one McElwain and Scott Stricklin, Florida’s new director of athletics, need to open up the purse strings for and bring to Gainesville.
There are other candidates capable of doing the job and doing it well. Chris Partridge, Michigan’s linebackers coach, is a name that comes to mind.
But it’s Lupoi who would be the ultimate hire for McElwain if he does go out-of-house.
As long as the Florida offense continues working to find its legs, the defense can’t afford to stumble.