Offensive line coach Summers excited for UF challenge
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 7:53 p.m.
During his search for a new offensive line coach, Florida's Will Muschamp was looking for a veteran guy with lots of experience, an impressive track record and a reputation for developing young players.
In 57-year-old Mike Summers, he found all that — and more. He also found a coach who really, really wants to be at Florida, regardless of last fall's failure.
Summers says there is no other place he'd rather be.
“There are jobs out there when you start out in coaching and look at and think, 'This is where I'd love to be someday,' " Summers said. “Florida has always been that for me. I grew up in Kentucky, grew up in SEC country and have always looked at Florida from the outside wishing I could be on the correct sideline.
“I've been in this stadium several times on the wrong sideline and I'm very thankful to be coming out of this locker room and be a part of this program. The reputation of this program is strong. I've been doing it long enough to know that every program has ebbs and flows to it, but this foundation and the reputation of this program will always been strong.
“The things that I've seen in a short time that I've been here makes me encouraged that we're going to get right back to that point."
Muschamp has entrusted Summers, who has 34 years of college and NFL coaching experience, with a crucial role in the revamping of the offense under new coordinator Kurt Roper.
“He has a diverse background. He is a great addition to our staff,” Muschamp said. “He's done a fantastic job. In the interview process, a fantastic teacher, a good teaching progression. Some young guys are going to need to be developed and developed very quickly.”
Summers comes to UF from Southern Cal. Before that, he was the offensive line coach at Kentucky, where he worked under Joker Phillips, who is now the Gators' wide receivers coach.
Before that, he was Bobby Petrino's offensive line coach at Louisville, Arkansas and with the Atlanta Falcons. He's also coached at Ohio, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, Texas A&M and the University of the South.
At Florida, Summers will be taking over an offensive line that must replace two starters (center Jon Harrison and guard Jon Halapio), lacks depth and will be learning a new scheme.
“I'm just excited to take whatever their development is and see if I can make it better,” Summers said. “That's what coach Muschamp wanted me to come here and do. Hopefully, the things that I bring to the table will make a difference. How quickly that happens, we'll just have to wait and see. But we're going to stay hard at it.
“The one thing that I know is that the players I've met on this football team are hungry to be successful. And they believe in coach Muschamp. They believe in this program. And all of those feelings have come through to me just in the short time that I've been here.
“I'm encouraged that when we start into the offseason program that they've got that hunger that's burning to get themselves back to where they want to be. And because of that, and because of the passion of the coaching staff, I feel confident that we can do that."
Summers said he is in the initial stages of watching tape and evaluating the players. He said he's already had a chance to spend some time with the linemen socially.
“I've enjoyed starting that relationship-building process, which is a really big part of coaching as far as I'm concerned,” he said. “To be able to be with those guys every day, to be able to demand what we are going to demand from them, to get them to the point that they can produce like we want them to produce, I think that happens because of the relationship I have with them and they have with me.
“So we've just started that process and I am excited about that. They may be fooling me, but they acted like they were, too. We'll see how that goes."
Summers said his message to the linemen is they are going to be a tough offensive line that is technically sound.
“So, the first thing we have to do is work on our fundamental foundation as an offensive line,” he said. “So much of our success is dependent on our footwork, our landmarks, our hands and our eyes.
“Those technical developments have to be committed to muscle memory. It has to be trained so when we snap the football, those guys can execute with speed, power and with the kind of emotion that we need in our offense."
It's a big challenge for the veteran offensive line coach. But a comfortable one, he said.
“This is where I want to be,” he said. “I believe I can make an impact in what's going on, on the offensive line. I feel extremely comfortable with the coaches we have on this offensive staff.
“Coach Roper has come in, and he has an energy and a passion with what he does. We've been able to cross paths in the last seven or eight years. We even go back further than that. His energy, coach Phillips' experience, all of us coming together, I feel so good about this offensive staff right now and all of us being able to get in there and lock arms and present a united front to the offensive players on this team.
“They're going to know that they've been coached and they're going to be coached by a group of guys that really cares about them, cares about the University of Florida.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.