GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Randy Shannon is shaking things up as Florida’s interim coach.
The former Miami coach replaced Jim McElwain on Sunday and needed less than a day to make changes.
Shannon opened up the quarterback job, essentially giving former Notre Dame starter Malik Zaire a chance to compete with struggling incumbent Feleipe Franks. He promoted defensive line coach Chris Rumph to defensive coordinator and elevated former Idaho head coach Robb Akey from quality control assistant to defensive line coach.
He also tweaked parts of practice and said there would be an increased emphasis on special teams, an area the Gators have been inconsistent on all season.
“I don’t look at it as an audition,” Shannon said. “I just think the opportunity to coach and have fun with a bunch of guys, the student-athletes that you have a chance to be with. … We’ve got to go out there as a whole team and unit and coaching staff and have fun with these guys, be very enthusiastic, be very positive and whatever happens in the game early, we’ve got to weather the storm.
“And at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters, what happened at the end of the game.”
Florida and McElwain parted ways after two-plus tenuous seasons and a tumultuous week that ended with a third consecutive loss .
Athletic director Scott Stricklin asked Shannon to take over, knowing he would make adjustments that could spark the Gators (3-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) down the stretch. Florida plays at Missouri (3-5, 0-4) on Saturday.
McElwain returned to campus Monday and said goodbye to players at the end of practice.
“Him coming back to see the team was great because people thought that he wasn’t going to come back,” senior safety Duke Dawson said. “He came back and he spoke to us.”
“He still has love for us, and if you need him, he’s there,” Dawson said.
Players said they have little choice but to regroup and move forward with Shannon. One thing he didn’t do was make radical adjustments to a lackluster offense that ranks 112th in the nation. He even stuck with embattled coordinator Doug Nussmeier as play-caller.
“You can’t wholesale everything,” Shannon said. “Coach Mac left a great foundation for us. Now we’ve just got to build on it. We’re going to do certain things in practice that are maybe a little bit different. … You have to change something or it becomes stagnant. We won’t be stagnant. We’ll change some things that we feel are best for us.”
Shannon decided to give up control of the defense.
“As a head coach, I’ve got to be able to multitask on offense, defense, special teams,” he said.
No one would be surprised to see Shannon switch to Zaire at quarterback.
Franks has been benched in three of his six starts. He has completed 60 percent of his passes for 830 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been sacked 19 times, including five in each of the last three games.
Zaire, a graduate transfer, has completed 12 of 23 passes for 142 yards in two mop-up appearances.
“You always want the guy that’s up, the guy that’s going to bring the energy, the guy that’s going to bring the operation, the things that will make you win games,” Shannon said. “That’s why being competitive, when you can make guys compete in practice, you’re really going to find out what you’re going to get in the game.”
The Gators hope to get more with Shannon in charge.
But what he does during his four-game stint as interim coach might not matter in Florida’s coaching search. Shannon said that’s fine with him. He didn’t even talk to Stricklin about being the team’s next permanent coach.
“The best job I’ve ever had is the job I have right now because it’s the only job,” Shannon said. “A lot of times in coaching, guys try to think about the next job instead of the best job they have that’s the one they have now.”
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