McElwain: New assistants are 'right fit'


Florida coach Jim McElwain, right, poses with his new assistant coaches during a news conference Thursday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. From left: Ja'Juan Seider (running backs), Corey Bell (defensive backs) and Brad Davis (offensive line). [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Published: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 4:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 4:10 p.m.

The good mood national signing day put Florida coach Jim McElwain in two weeks ago just keeps getting better.

Coach Mac was at the podium again Thursday, smiling, joking and celebrating yet another happy moment, his formal introduction of the three new assistants on his coaching staff — Corey Bell, Brad Davis and Ja’Juan Seider.

“First and foremost, I want to say how excited I am that they chose to join this family and be part of something great,” McElwain said. “In each of their cases as we went through the process and looking for the right fit, the important thing is making sure you’ve got the right fit for the organization and the guys in the organization. That’s something we hit a home run on.

“These are all guys, as you do the background check, are not independent contractors, but actually care about the players and care about developing them not only as players but as young men. To a coach, as you talk to the guys and you do the background check and you call coaches that they’ve worked with and that kind of thing, that’s something that really resonated with us as these guys’ names came up.”

Bell, a former high school coach in Miami who left Charlie Strong’s new staff at South Florida to join McElwain, will coach the secondary. Seider, another coach with strong ties to south Florida, is the new running backs coach, while Davis has been given the responsibility of making McElwain’s offensive line tougher and more physical.

The three have only been on the job for two weeks, but McElwain said it’s already obvious the new hires are a good fit.

“I've seen so far the interaction that they've had with our team, our coaching staff and the people in the building,” McElwain said. “They're natural fits, man. They've got smiles on their face. They come in with energy, and that's really what it's all about,affecting the people around you in a positive way.

“These are all names that kind of kept coming back (during the search), especially for the fit. It was long. It was arduous. But it was one that needed to be really highly looked into and covered in all respects, because you only get this chance to get this one right. That's why probably the time, No. 1, but No. 2, making sure it was right, not only for us but for them as well."

Of the three, McElwain did not need to do extensive research on Seider, who was the running backs coach at West Virginia. McElwain tried to hire him when he took the Florida job after the 2014 season, but Seider turned him down because his son was battling cancer and he did not want to move him away from where he was being treated.

“Saying no was tough, but my son was the most important thing in my life at that time,” Seider said. “My priority was being a dad, and nothing else mattered at that time. He understood that. They didn't stop trying. They waited a week and we're like, 'Are you sure? Are you sure?' I'm like, 'Yes coach.’

“It made it hard to say no the first time, but I had two little girls I had to think about, too. So you can't just uproot your family even though this hospital may be better here than there. I made the decision and I think Mac understood that. If he didn't, I wouldn't be standing here right now.”

The timing was right this time when McElwain called a few weeks ago to offer Seider the job. His son is fine (he’s a high school sophomore and dual-threat quarterback), he said, and now the family is ready to move to Florida, where Seider grew up and starred as a quarterback at Belle Glade Glades Central and Florida A&M.

“It was a mutual deal where (McElwain) respected me as a family man and that's why I work for the guy,” Seider said. “I don't want to work for a person who's not a family man. Family is bigger than football.

“It had to be right. It gave me a chance over these last couple years to get to know Mac and his staff and what the expectation was and the plan going forward for me to make this leap of faith. And then the thing that made it OK to come is the way they kept after me. They kept recruiting me with the guys on the staff and I felt like the time was right to come now and be part of this great university."

Seider knows UF well. He was recruited by the Gators back in the 1990s and his high school has sent numerous players to Florida, including Fred Taylor and Reidel Anthony.

“My high school was a big Florida Gator school — Fred Taylor, Reidel Anthony, Johnny Rutledge, Louis Oliver, Jimmy Spencer. So as a kid you grew up watching Florida. You always had an affinity for the university.”

Like Seider, Bell also almost became a Gator coming out of high school in Miami. He actually committed to Galen Hall and his staff in 1989, but after Hall was fired during the season, Bell ended up signing with South Carolina, where he would become a teammate and close friend of current UF defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

“That was a long time ago, of course, but I always wanted to be a Gator,” Bell said. “Now I have the opportunity to be that, so I took advantage of it.”

Bell accepted McElwain’s job offer only a few weeks after Strong, the former UF defensive coordinator, hired him to coach USF’s secondary. Bell said Strong was supportive.

“The one thing he knew was I would do things the right way. I wouldn't have a conversation without him and Mac having a conversation first,” Bell said. “I let those two speak and they were both very supportive in the move."

Unlike Bell and Seider, Davis’ only connection with Florida is that he coached in The Swamp the past two seasons, for East Carolina in 2014 and North Texas this past season.

But he does know what is expected. McElwain wants his offensive line to be stronger and more aggressive, and the energetic Davis has taken on the responsibility.

“That's a great challenge because the reality of it, when it comes to being physical or being a tough football player, 99 percent of it is want-to,” Davis said. “The biggest thing right now is to get those guys to see the game the way I see it, to understand their purpose and more importantly understand the privilege that they have of being Florida Gators.

“The analogy I've used with the guys the last few days is it's pointless to have a Lamborghini with a bad transmission. It's worthless. So we have a bunch of tough, physical, athletic football players that really haven't maximized their football potential. My job and why I'm here is to get the best out of them every day."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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