Dawson helping younger teammates with UF coaching change

Florida defensive back Duke Dawson, a second team AP Preseason All-America, is doubtful to play Saturday at Kentucky. (AP Photo/Samantha Baker)

To most who follow, support or even play for the Gators, the last week has been a whirlwind. In the 24 hours that followed Florida’s 42-7 loss to Georgia in Jacksonville, the Gators had parted ways with head coach Jim McElwain, with the players left to find out through social media of his impending exit. Once again, the Gators have an interim head coach, and a new starting quarterback, too.

But to some on Florida’s roster, they’ve seen this drama unfold before.

“I’ve done been through it with (former coach Will) Muschamp, so it’s no surprise,” senior defensive back Duke Dawson said. “I mean, it was very surprising for a lot of guys, especially the young guys who just got here. It’s eye-opening to them.”

As a freshman in 2014, Dawson watched as the head coach he signed for a mere 10 months prior was let go before the end of the season. So while he was surprised to see reports emerge Sunday of McElwain’s impending departure, it wasn’t unbelievable. Considering the culture at Florida, anything is possible when winning seems to be impossible.

But Dawson denies that the team views the remaining four games as “a new season”. They’re still the same players, and Shannon has been coaching them the entire season, albeit in a different capacity.

“The season is still here. We have to continue to play. Coach (Randy) Shannon is a great coach. I felt like Coach Mac was a great coach as well. We just got to continue to play,” Dawson stated. “A lot of players relate to (Shannon). Some do. Some are still the same. It is what it is.”


If there’s a part of McElwain that remains in the culture, it’s his motto frequently used to fuel those on the roster waiting in the wings. The saying now applies to the Florida program entirely. Next man up.