Randy Shannon is off to a busy start as Florida’s interim football coach.
He’s opening the quarterback competition. He’s promoted two coaches. He’s changing some things up in practice. He’s opened more of practice to the media.
On thing he’s not doing is looking back on what put him in this position. He’s moving forward, and he’s bringing the Gators with him.
“We have to look forward, we can’t look back,” Shannon said Monday, the day after UF and Jim McElwain agreed to part ways. “Sometimes when you look back, that tends to bring you down. These guys take that approach. They’ve done a good job. We’ll practice today and then move forward.”
Shannon has wasted no time taking command of the football program. He’s already made some significant changes, the biggest being promoting defensive line coach Chris Rumph to defensive coordinator, his former role.
“Promoting Chris Rumph, a guy who’s done it, that’s prepared for it,” Shannon said. “He’s ready to do a great job. For me as a head coach, I’ve got to be able to multitask on offense, defense, special teams.”
To fill Rumph’s role on the defensive line, Shannon has elevated defensive quality control assistant Robb Akey.
“NFL guy that was at the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, been around in the Pac 10 for a long time, also was a head coach,” Shannon said.
Shannon is not making any changes with the offensive staff. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will continue to call plays.
“Doug’s going to continue to lead the offense,” Shannon said. “You can’t wholesale everything. A couple of things we’ve changed. 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. The way we probably do certain things off the field will be a little bit different, but it’s giving us a chance to win. It’s giving us a chance to do certain things. When you have change you have to change certain things. You have to change something or it becomes stagnant. We won’t be stagnant. We’ll change some things that we feel is best for us.”
A change could be coming at quarterback. Shannon said he’s opening the competition at the position between struggling starter Feleipe Franks and Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire.
Franks had another tough outing in the loss to Georgia, throwing for only 30 yards and getting sacked five times. Zaire came off the bench in the fourth quarter and led the Gators to a touchdown.
“We’ve got some competition at quarterback,” Shannon said. “A lot of guys want to know what we’re doing at quarterback. My theory and my thoughts are you compete every day at practice.
“It depends on who does the best things in practice. The one thing that’s hard to do is judge on one game or one series. You’ve got to judge on what they do in practice. I think the more competitive guys are, you bring the best out of them.
“Either you’re going to be up or you’re going to be down. 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 also hinted at possible changes on special teams, another area where the Gators have been unproductive. UF is 114th in the nation in punt returns and 71st in kickoff returns.
“We’ve got to do a better job of special teams,” he said. “Big emphasis this week is special teams. We have to get field position. We have to get field position on our punt return team and also our kickoff return team. We have to do a tremendous job of getting the offense not 80 yards to make it, 60 or 50 yards to go to give us more of a chance.”
A lot of what goes on in practice will end up on social media. Shannon is giving the media access to more practice time.
“Back in my early days when I was a coach ya know what it was different. Let you guys come to practice and see what we’re doing and get your opinions about what you see and stuff like that,” he said. “Just don’t film anything. Otherwise you can come out there and see what we’re doing. That’s part of your job is to get information and see what we’re doing and get your opinion.
“Your opinions don’t affect me like they did when I was younger. I’m kind of used to it now. But it’s just to help you guys do your job and be the best you can be more than anything.”
Just one day into the job, Shannon has already put his stamp on the program.
He and the Gators are moving forward, hoping to turn around what has been a disappointing season. It starts with Saturday’s game at Missouri.
“The message yesterday for the team is, hey, we’ve got four games left,” Shannon said. “Nothing matters but this game coming up against Missouri.
“Everybody in the room wants to be winners, they want to be competitive. They don’t want to let anybody down. Most of all, I told them, ‘Don’t let yourself down. Compete at a high level. Concentrate. Do all the things that you need to get done and we’ll be successful.’ ”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.