Ex-Miami coaches Scott, Shannon match wits in Swamp SEC showdown Saturday

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2015, file photo, then-Miami interim head coach Larry Scott leads practice in Coral Gables. Former Miami head coaches Larry Scott and Randy Shannon will square off when No. 23 Tennessee travels to Florida to take on the 24th-ranked Gators. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Randy Shannon and Larry Scott have history. Both are former Miami coaches, and Shannon was the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator when Scott’s brother played there.

Now, Scott is in his first year as the Vols’ offensive coordinator while Shannon enters his first season as the Gators’ sole defensive coordinator.

Their individual coaching matchup should add intrigue to Saturday’s Southeastern Conference showdown between the No. 23 Tennessee (2-0) and No. 24 Florida (0-1) in the league opener for both teams.

“We’re just football coaches,” Scott said. “It just so happened on the schedule, (our) paths cross. I promise you, we’re very competitive. All of us are, and everybody wants to win.”

Shannon went 28-22 at Miami from 2007-10 before getting fired. Scott, a former Miami tight ends coach, went 4-2 as the Hurricanes’ interim head coach in 2015 after the midseason firing of Al Golden .

Shannon didn’t address the matchup this week because Florida was closed since last Friday because of Hurricane Irma, thus cutting short media availability.

Scott and Shannon never worked together at Miami, but they do know each other pretty well thanks to a family connection. Scott’s younger brother, LaVaar Scott, played defensive end for Miami from 1998-2002. Shannon was Miami’s defensive coordinator from 2001-06.

“They eat and breathe the game of football,” said LaVaar Scott, who now coaches at Sebring (Florida) High School. “They’re both very knowledgeable coordinators. … I think it’s going to be a great chess match between them.”

LaVaar Scott said his years with Shannon at Miami inspired his own coaching pursuits.

“Even though I wasn’t a star player, he didn’t treat me any different,” LaVaar Scott said. “His office was always open for me to come in. I could kind of hang out and just kick it with him and soak in some knowledge, talk football and talk life. That’s one of the biggest things I appreciated about him.”

One of LaVaar Scott’s former Sebring players is Luke Ancrum, now a reserve defensive lineman for Shannon’s Florida defense. LaVaar Scott said he hopes to attend Saturday’s game to watch his brother match wits with his mentor.

“I think this is one time — maybe the only time — I won’t be a Randy Shannon fan,” LaVaar Scott said. “I’m all for my brother on this one. Family first.”

While this marks Larry Scott’s first season as an offensive coordinator, Shannon has a much longer track record.

Shannon was part of three national championship teams at Miami as a player and assistant coach. He was co-defensive coordinator at Florida in 2015-16 before becoming the sole coordinator this year. Shannon helped the Gators rank fifth nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring defense last season. He’s been a position coach or coordinator for such NFL stalwarts as Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

His defense has accounted for both of Florida’s touchdowns so far this season, as the Gators scored on two interception returns in a 33-17 loss to Michigan. Shannon and the rest of Florida’s staff have motivated the Gators by pointing out they missed a combined 78 tackles in their last two games with Tennessee — a 28-27 Florida victory in 2015 and a 38-28 Tennessee triumph last year.

“Seventy-eight is a big number,” Florida linebacker David Reese said. “That’s the breaking point of winning the game or losing the game.”

Shannon might have the longer resume, but Scott has delivered solid early results for Tennessee since getting promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. Scott inherited an offense that lost most of its top playmakers from last season, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs. The Vols still have found a way to score 42 points in each of their first two games, including two overtime touchdowns in a season-opening 42-41 victory over Georgia Tech.

Scott realizes he faces a much tougher task Saturday. Scott praised the speed and physical nature of Florida’s defense and referred to Tennessee’s challenge by saying that “it’s big-boy ball, it’s time to play ball.”

“They’re the Florida Gators,” Scott said. “(We’re) the Tennessee Volunteers. It’s SEC football. Let’s go play. Put it down. Let’s go play ball.”