Coleman Hutzler Returns to Florida; Gators Hire Special Teams Coordinator

Florida has hired a new assistant football coach. Coleman Hutzler will return to the Gators as the special teams coordinator. Hutzler was previously on the Florida staff during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, working with current defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.

Coleman Hutzler, Florida Gators

Hutzler’s hiring comes after special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate resigned to pursue other football opportunites. Choate leaves Florida after only one season with the program.

Hutzler spent the past two seasons at New Mexico where he led special teams and coached outside linebackers. The Lobos kickoff return unit featured Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year Carlos Wiggins. Wiggins was the only player in the nation to return three kickoffs for touchdowns during the 2013 season.

Prior to his first stint at Florida, Hutzler was on John Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford.

Will Muschamp is one step closer to filling his staff for the 2014 season, although there’s still a big position to fill we’re all impatiently waiting for.

2013 Football Recruiting: Florida Gators Part Ways With LB James Hearns

The Florida Gators have cut ties with linebacker and now former commit James Hearns. Hearns – a four-star LB from Lincoln (Tallahassee, FL) was one of the first members of the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class. Florida has pulled his scholarship offer due to concerns over whether Hearns will be able to qualify academically.

James Hearns

Hearns expressed no ill will toward the Gators, simply stating that it was time for both sides to move on. The Florida coaching staff was concerned with his academic record and Hearns was hoping to look at a few other schools before National Signing Day as it is. He got the call from newly appointed defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, letting him know that he wouldn’t be a part of the Gators’ class.

Hearns is currently visiting a Florida SEC rival–Kentucky–and seems to favor the Wildcats. He’s also considering visiting either Houston, South Carolina or Washington over the last weekend before NSD.

Durkin and head coach Will Muschamp will now turn their focus to Mainland (Daytona Beach, FL) linebacker Quinton Powell. Powell, you will remember, was also a member of Florida’s 2013 class until recently.

Saturday Blitz Podcast: Florida Gators, Recruiting, Tim Tebow, And More

Kyle Kensing of Saturday Blitz was kind enough to have me on his podcast last night and we talked Florida Gators in detail.

Check out the entire 30 minutes. We discussed National Signing Day and the impact made by D.J. Durkin the Gators’ linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. We looked at recruiting on the national level and discussed the importance of schools looking beyond their state’s boarder.

Kyle asked me if there was ever Florida athlete as polarizing as Tim Tebow. My answer may surprise some, but hopefully not too many. We also talked about Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer and debated who was the better Gators’ head coach.

We covered Florida basketball and looked ahead to the 2012 football season. I took a guess at which quarterback will take control of the starting job, but didn’t really because no one knows.

All-in-all, it was fun to be a part of and I hope you all enjoy the listen.

For more college football coverage, check out Saturday Blitz and follow Kyle on Twitter.

Florida’s D.J. Durkin Named Rivals Recruiter Of The Year

I’ve been hard on D.J. Durkin during his two seasons with the Florida Gators. During the 2010 season, the linebackers struggled and during 2011, special teams left more than just something to be desired at times. But I can swallow my pride and give the man credit where credit it due. On Monday, Durkin was named Recruiter of the Year by Rivals.

Durkin’s unit started to show life as the 2011 season progressed and definitely had their moments. I’m sure we’re all hoping 2012 is the season players like Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins reach All-American levels of play. Durkin’s biggest impact, though, may be happening off the field.

Durkin was credited for seven commitments in the 2012 recruiting class, including five-star offensive lineman D.J. Humphries and five-star defensive end Johnathan Bullard. He played a major role in kicking the door to North Carolina wide open. Durkin was also instrumental in keeping cornerback Brian Poole committed to Florida and following up with linebacker Jeremi Powell to ensure he would become a Gator.

Coaches, Oh We Got Coaches

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Florida has gone on a feverish tear naming eight coaches in all.  That is if you count those that remained on the staff, and we here at The Bull Gator do.

Will Muschamp needed a good support staff behind him.  You can’t BOOM! all alone.  Not only is it a sad existence to not have others to BOOM! with, but eventually your BOOM! loses power and meaning.  It’s like having no one to break the wishbone with.  No other man to hug during those important moments in life that can only end in a man-hug.  No one to high five (for more on the high five, I direct you to our good friends at Wikipedia).
Boomchamp needed to surround himself with those he felt would ride with him into the future.  He wanted experience at both the professional and collegiate level.  Those familiar with the Florida program and those that might not be.  Old friends and new friends.  Frontbutts and those in top physical condition.  It almost all came together in what seemed like a matter of moments.  One day there was Muschamp, standing alone atop the mountain.  The next it was a packed house.  Here are the few, the proud, the lucky ones…
Charlie Weis – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks – Make fun, we all do, but be prepared to witness a – dare I say it – better offense.  Lost in the weight jokes, arrogance references, and resume as a head coach is the fact that Weis is a pretty darn good offensive mind.  See: New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and a good portion of his time at Notre Dame.  He isn’t fun to look at and borders on annoyingly annoying at times during press conferences and interviews, but his offensive mind can’t be dismissed.  The stat you want to hear is three top 15 passing offenses in five years at Notre Dame and the NFL top rushing offense this season with the Chiefs.  Weis is typically credited for making Tom Brady the sexy Bieber beast of a quarterback he is.  That could be a good or bad thing depending on how you want to look at it.  The Gators have had some experience with someone credited for Brady.  Weis’s most important contribution to the program is four Super Bowl rings.  While parents are asking questions about academics and study time, recruits are in awe of all the pretty diamonds.
Stan Drayton – Running Backs – The first of the holdovers and one many wanted to stay.  Drayton and departing head coach Urban Meyer had their moments and they weren’t always good, but Drayton may be suited better for a new offense. And yes, he has the prerequisite NFL experience.  Drayton was with the Green Bay Packers from 2001 to 2003.  Something about offensive quality control.  Yes, Brett Favre was the quarterback for the Packers at that time.  I don’t think the means anything.  It’s probably better if it doesn’t, but if it does Favre had good seasons all three years.
Aubrey Hill – Wide Receivers – Raise your hand if you feel old because a Gator you actually remember watching play is now a coach.  My hand is raised.  Hill doesn’t have NFL experience, which makes him an interesting choice considering Muschamp is clearly gearing up Florida to be the next NFL expansion franchise, but he is a great hire.  One of the nation’s up and comers, Hill has moved up the job ladder and has landed in the perfect position.  Weis gives offenses the tools that help receivers excel.  Hill can’t wait to be a part of what is happening at Florida.  He might even want to suit up.  He won’t, that would be a NCAA infraction of some sort, but he might think about it.
Brian White – Tight Ends – Another holdover, but another assistant without NFL experience.  Although White is another you want around.  As Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator he put up points and yards, both good things Florida struggled to do in 2010.  In 2009 during his first season with the Gators, White coached Mackey Award winner Aaron Hernandez.  In 2010 during his second season with the Gators, his first choice at the position was moved the quarterback forcing him to, well, we don’t really know.  Expect 2011 to be a better tight end year for the Gators and White.  EXPECT IT!
Frank Verducci – Offensive Line – I’m not scared of a lot of people.  Okay, that’s not true; I’m scared of a ton of people.  Verducci is one of them.  To be fair though, all offensive line coaches scare me.  Well, all expect one.  I’m betting you can guess which one.  Verducci brings experience from all over the place.  College, the NFL, you name it.  He has coached All-Americans and Pro Bowlers.  His lines have paved the way for some great rushing attacks and, let’s face it, he’s just a man.  A man that will chew you up, spit you out, knock you to the ground, run you over, and then help you up to do it all over again.  We’re in pro-Gator mode at the moment so we’re thinking all of these are good hires.  Verducci is a great one.
Dan Quinn – Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line – Not to worry, Quinn isn’t an amalgamation of former MTV personalities Dan Cortese and Colin Quinn.  At least let’s hope not.  You already get your fill of “not funny” right here.  This Quinn is a bag of mixed results.  He has been in the NFL for the last 10 seasons and has had some success, but has had other seasons that didn’t shape up too well.  In terms of the defensive line, he did rank in the top 10 in terms of sacks in four of his eight seasons as a DL coach.  What is interesting and somewhat frightening is that Quinn hasn’t been a defensive coordinator in 10 years…and that was with Hofstra.  No offense to the Pride (yes, that’s Hofstra’s nickname), but this is the SEC.  Quinn will be heavily supervised by Boom himself and sounds like a DC in name only.  Familiarity is there though as both worked together with the Miami Dolphins.
D.J. Durkin – Linebackers/Special Teams – The final holdover was a bit of a surprise.  For most of the 2010 season, the Florida linebackers were invisible.  Talent wasn’t an issue.  Coaching and defensive schemes were.  Due to the lack of overall production from the unit, many expected Durkin to be looking for work, but that wasn’t the case.  Muschamp likes something he sees in Durkin and our best guess is that Durkin wasn’t allowed to do a lot of what he wanted to do with the linebackers throughout 2010.  He has a solid resume as a defensive line coach and has coached special teams in the past, but this is LBs and Florida’s special teams had consistency issues throughout this past season.  Durkin will be given another chance to prove he was the right hire when Meyer brought him aboard a year ago.
Travaris Robinson – Defensive Backs – Robinson comes via the Auburn connection.  He was All-SEC as a player, spent two years in the NFL, and then returned as a member of the staff in 2006 and 2007.  While he doesn’t have professional coaching experience, he has a personal relationship with Muschamp and had been climbing very quickly as an assistant.  In three years, Robinson went from Western Kentucky to Southern Miss to Texas Tech.  While passing defensive statistics aren’t impressive, Robinson wasn’t working with players he had brought in and had yet to establish a solid secondary at any of the schools.  He would seem like an odd choice were it not his relationship to Boom and the experience he had under the coach a few years ago.  He gets a pass for being a former SEC star.  And before you ask, yes, they all do.
There are a number of others that make up the entire football staff, including legendary strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti and recruiting guru Mark Pantoni.  As for the on-the-field coaches, Muschamp still has one more spot available.  There are plenty of rumors circulating.  A linebackers coach with Durkin handling just special teams, a position-specific DB coach with Robinson taking one unit and a new coach taking another, Bud Kilmer as a discipline supervisor, Michael “Dauber” Dybinski…it really could be anyone.  Or no one, but that’s unlikely.  Though the positions seem to be covered at the moment, the more the merrier when it comes to recruiting.  Sources will tell you it could be a while before the final coach is announced, and we’ll all wait eagerly with bated breath.

Gators Looking for a Defensive Coordinator Again

Nearly two months ago, I put together a brief piece on possible defensive coordinator candidates for Florida.  It was extremely brief because I only focused on the current defensive assistants already on the staff.  This time around – thanks to George Edwards’ departure for the NFL – that list may be even smaller.  Vance Bedford has since followed Charlie Strong and is now the defensive coordinator at Louisville and new linebackers coach D.J. Durkin may need a few more years before being considered for coordinator openings.  So from an internal perspective, that leaves us with…
Chuck Heater (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties) – What I said then: “Heater may have the advantage since he currently holds the role of assistant defensive coordinator.  He also has been a coordinator before, spending two years in the role at Colorado State in the early 90s.  As the Gators’ recruiting coordinator from 2005 to 2007, Heater has been tasked with bringing in top talent to Florida.  Like Bedford, take one look at the current safeties on the roster and those committed to come to Florida in 2010 and you can clearly see how impressed kids are with Heater.  Being able to keep the safety rotation as strong as it has been the past couple of years was no easy task, but Heater made it look so.” What I think now: I’d imagine Heater would have a natural progression to drop “co” from his title. At the time Florida was first looking, he was merely the assistant coordinator.  Heater received the co-coordinator title when Edwards was hired and it seems logical he could have a leg up on the other candidates.
Dan McCarney (Assistant Head Coach, Defense/Defensive Line) – What I said then: “McCarney has the most high-level experience of the group.  He was the head coach at Iowa State from 1995 to 2006.  Before that, he was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for five years.  Before coming to Florida in 2008, McCarney led the defensive line at USF.  He’s overseen one of the best units in the nation in the Gators’ defensive line over the last two seasons.  With the level of experience he’s had over his entire career, McCarney might hold a slight advantage over the other two.” What I think now: McCarney’s advantage has probably moved to Heater given the latter’s new title.  Add to that speculation that McCarney didn’t want the job when Florida was looking after Strong left and McCarney may be comfortable staying where he is.
As for looking outside of the program, many believe if Urban Meyer was looking toward the NFL once, he will look again.  And why not?  Then again, with how quick Edwards went back to the pro ranks, Florida may stay within the college level this time around.  Of course, apparently interim head coach Steve Addazio is leading the search and who knows which direction he’s taking it.
But here’s an interesting side note: per regulations, at least two minorities must be on a coaching staff.  I had no idea of this rule until very recently (a few minutes ago to be honest with you), but it comes into play here.  Basically if either Heater or McCarney were to be promoted to sole defensive coordinator, someone else would have to be hired for another role.  So that puts a twist into.  Not a bad one at all mind you, but just a twist that must be taken into account.  With only three defensive assistants on the staff at the moment, hiring another coach despite promoting from within might be a good idea anyway.
Outside of the program, names like Bud Foster and Tyrone Nix already came up before, so don’t expect them to come up again.  It might just seem like flat out begging at this point if the Gators were to go back to either of them, and if they said no once it would be surprising for them to do a 180 and say yes only a month later.
I’m still for staying in-house if possible, especially after being jilted on the external hire.  But if Florida does go external, who do they go to?  This time of year most would be pretty comfortable where they are.  Of course, money and prestige talk.  And the money coordinators in the SEC are getting these days is not bad at all.

The Long Snapper (1/29/10)

Florida is doing its best to bring in Homestead linebacker Darrin Kitchens.  Kitchens plays well above his three-star status as evidenced by the 19 sacks he racked up as a senior.  He’s down to the Gators, FSU, Kansas, Syracuse, and Texas Tech and doesn’t seem to have a definite leader at this point.  New Florida linebacker coach D.J. Durkin (like him, if you don’t yet, you’ll just be jumping on the bandwagon later, make it easy on yourself and get onboard now) will visit with Kitchens before the linebacker heads to Texas Tech for his final visit.  His decision might not come until National Signing Day.
The nation’s top outside linebacker will be announcing his decision today.  Ohio’s Jordan Hicks has been a big target for many of the nation’s top programs, but he has been down to Florida, Ohio State, and Texas for quite some time now.  Many believe the Longhorns pulled ahead a while ago and that’s where Hicks will head, but there’s still a chance for a surprise.  Hicks isn’t revealing his hand, but we’ll all know later today.  Quiet sometimes equals surprise.
This year’s top recruit from the state of Texas – for those of you that know recruiting, you’re aware of what that means – will stay in state for college.  Jackson Jeffcoat – the nation’s top strongside defensive end – will announce his intention to attend Texas.  Florida was in play briefly, but Jeffcoat eliminated the Gators a few weeks back.  The son of former NFL star Jim Jeffcoat will pick the Longhorns over Oklahoma (where his twin sister will head to play basketball).
A Tampa connection has joined Lane Kiffin at USCJoe Barry spent much of his NFL career on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ staff.  He will join Kiffin with the Trojans to coach the linebackers.  Barry played linebacker at USC during the 90s.  Kiffin seems to have the same plan in Los Angeles as he did in Knoxville.  Hire big names and hope they can actually do the coaching.
Turner Gill done got paid by Kansas.  The first-year head coach of the Jayhawks will make $2 million a year over five years.  As with most college head coaching contracts, a good deal ($1.7 million) will come from various appearances.  His base salary is actually a very small part of it.  All-in-all, Gill will only make slightly less than he predecessor Mark Mangino.

Florida Gators Hire an Assistant Coach, Possibly Lose Another

When Florida lost Charlie Strong to Louisville, the Gators didn’t just lose their defensive coordinator, they also lost their linebackers coach.  It looks like Florida has filled at least one of those openings with the hiring of D.J. Durkin to coach the linebackers and special teams.  The defensive coordinator position is, of course, still up in the air.
Durkin comes to Florida from Stanford where he coached defensive ends and special teams.  He’s yet another assistant with previous links to head coach (to be I guess) Urban Meyer.  After playing defensive end at Bowling Green from 1997-2000, Durkin joined Meyer’s staff as a graduate assistant for two years.  In 2001, he was part of a staff that produced the MAC’s top defense.
In 2003, Durkin went to Notre Dame for two years where he continued his work as a graduate assistant before returning to Bowling Green.  During his second stint with the Falcons, Durkin coached defensive ends in 2005 and linebackers and special teams in 2006.  In 2007, he left for Stanford where he spent the last three seasons leading defensive ends and special teams.
Durkin seems like a great addition to the staff.  He’s a young coach with a lot of fire who has worked his way up the ladder fairly quickly.  He inherits a linebacker unit rich with talent despite the departure of leaders Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper.  As for special teams (which Meyer oversaw himself), Durkin will have his work cut out for him not having Brandon James in a Gator uniform for the first time in four seasons.  The return jobs will be wide open when spring practices begin.
On the other side of the ball, rumors are spreading rapidly that running backs coach Kenny Carter may be out.  Carter is rumored to have told Florida commit Mack Brown that he is moving on for another opportunity.  Immediate speculation has Carter joining Strong at Louisville, but at the moment nothing seems definite.  With the Carter’s possible departure and the rumors surrounding cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, the Gators could be looking for more assistant coaches very soon.