Drayton returns to Gator coaching staff, Durkin added

Stan Drayton, center, re-joins the Florida staff after coaching the running backs at Syracuse University in 2009. He has also worked in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 4:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 4:54 p.m.

He's only a few days into his indefinite leave of absence, but it's already becoming more evident Urban Meyer has a plan to return as Florida's head coach sometime in the coming months.

With an assist from interim head coach Steve Addazio, Meyer has moved quickly to replace two of the three assistants on his staff departing for Louisville.

On Tuesday, Meyer and Addazio announced the hiring of D.J. Durkin, who will coach the linebackers and special teams at UF, and Stan Drayton, the former running backs coach at UF under Meyer who spent the last two seasons at Tennessee and Syracuse in the same role.

Durkin will coach the position group that former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong coached at Florida (linebackers). Drayton replaces running backs coach Kenny Carter, who is joining Strong's staff at Louisville.

“Coach Addazio and I worked together on this and we are excited to have D.J. and Stan join our coaching staff,” Meyer said in a UF release. “Both guys are familiar with the plan we have for our program, our coaches and our student-athletes. It will be a smooth transition, and they both bring a high level of expertise to the table and have proven to be good recruiters.”

Durkin, 31, spent the last three seasons at Stanford, where he coached the defensive ends and coordinated the special teams. He joined the Cardinal after serving two seasons on the coaching staff at Bowling Green, his alma mater.

If, as expected, Durkin also coaches the UF special teams, he will be taking some of the coaching responsibility off Meyer, who has coordinated the Gators' special teams in his five seasons at UF. Durkin and Meyer have a past connection. Durkin was a defensive graduate assistant for the two years Meyer was the head coach at Bowling Green (2001-02).

Following his two-year stay at Bowling Green, Durkin was hired by Notre Dame as a defensive assistant with concentrated duties on the defensive ends. In 2004, he helped coach Justin Tuck, Notre Dame's all-time sack leader.

The hiring of Drayton is an interesting (and probably unexpected) move by Meyer. His stunning departure to SEC rival Tennessee after the 2007 season was somewhat controversial, especially after he made remarks in Knoxville that he wanted to coach running backs in a more traditional tailback rushing offense, which the Vols featured under Phillip Fulmer.

When Fulmer was fired after the 2008 season, Drayton was hired to coach the running backs at Syracuse this past season.

Now, Drayton is returning to Florida, where in his three seasons with Meyer he had a reputation for being a players' coach and one of the strongest recruiters on the staff. He was named one of the nation's top 25 recruiters in 2007 after helping the Gators secure college football's No. 1 recruiting class.

Drayton, 38, has spent a combined 13 years coaching running backs on the collegiate level. In addition, he spent three years in the NFL as the Green Bay Packers' offensive quality control and assistant special teams coach.

Even though Drayton never had a dominant, every-down tailback to work with while he was at Florida, the Gators were third in the SEC in rushing in 2007, averaging slightly more than 200 yards a game. Drayton has strong recruiting ties in Florida and in the Southeast. His No. 1 target will be star tailback Mack Brown from Lithonia, Ga. Brown has been committed to UF for months, but Meyer's status and the recent departure of Carter have the Gators a little concerned about his decision.

Meyer, who has lost four assistants from the 2009 staff (Strong, Carter, Vance Bedford and Billy Gonzales), now has brought in three new assistants, leaving him with one opening on the staff (defensive coordinator) to fill. Safeties coach Chuck Heater is under consideration for the defensive coordinator's position.

The responsibility of the assistants will be determined once the staff is complete.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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