Greg Knox is big on loyalty. But you don’t have to hear that from him. It’s reflected in his coaching track record.
In his 24 years in the SEC (which is a long time), Knox has worked for only two head coaches — Tommy Tuberville and Dan Mullen.
That screams loyalty.
“I’m not a guy that jumps around,” said the new Florida running backs coach. “I don’t go chasing jobs.”
Knox spent 14 years as Tuberville’s wide receivers coach at Auburn. The only reason that coaching relationship ended is because Tuberville was fired after the 2008 season.
About a month later, Knox got a call from Mullen, the new head coach at Mississippi State, and the two have been together since.
“We had gotten let go at Auburn and I was actually on my way down to the Senior Bowl,” Knox said. “I was headed down to the Senior Bowl to watch those practices and talk with some NFL scouts and he called. I was about halfway to Mobile. I turned around, put a coat and tie on, and met him in Birmingham and the rest is history.
“I told Dan when he hired me, number one thing is loyalty. This is my twenty-fourth season in the SEC and it’s under two coaches, so I’m big on loyalty and he is also. That right off the bat connected us together and it has been tremendous ever since.”
Knox’s loyalty has been on display twice in a big way over the past two months.
First, it was loyalty to his school, Mississippi State. He agreed to stay on and serve as the interim head coach for the Bulldogs. It was a tough assignment.
With Mullen and three of assistants — co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales, co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham — already in Gainesville, Knox had to put together a makeshift staff while also trying to hold the team together.
He succeeded on both fronts.
Knox and his staff kept the Bulldogs focused and fired up, and MSU went out and beat Louisville 31-27 in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville.
Four days later, his loyalty to Mullen swung back into play when he joined Mullen’s staff at Florida.
It’s been an eventful two months for the veteran assistant.
“That was a great experience (being in interim coach), a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I learned a lot from it, learned what it means to sit in that head coach’s chair, making decisions. It’s a lot different than managing just a running backs group.
“And then getting that call from Dan to come on down and be a part of this program was tremendous. That was a big call. I’m excited about the opportunity to be here.”
Knox’s role will remain the same as it was on Mullen’s Mississippi State staff. He will coach the running backs and serve as the special teams coordinator.
His running back group likely will be missing last season’s second-leading rusher, Malik Davis this spring. He continues to recover from knee surgery. But the group does add one in Jordan Scarlett, the Gators’ leading rusher in 2016 who was suspended last season for credit card fraud.
Scarlett will be joined in the competition by junior Lamical Perine, true sophomore Adarius Lemons and true freshmen Iverson Clement and Dameon Pierce.
“I hear I’ve got a good room,” Knox said. “I think there’s a lot of talent in my room. I’m really looking forward to having them on the field (this spring) and being able to work with them.”
Knox has had a chance to view a few of the team’s early morning workouts. He said he’s not sure how the long layoff has affected Scarlett, who appeared to be an emerging star heading into last season before the suspension.
“Hard to tell,” he said. “It’s hard to say where he’s at because I don’t know where he was. He looks like he’s still developing, getting back to working out again and in a regular routine.
“I do know he’s a tremendous athlete and there are a lot of good things he can do. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
The two true freshmen — Clement and Pierce — have made a favorable early impression on Knox.
“They work hard,” Knox said. “They work with a determination, and I’ve been able to see that so far in the morning workouts and in the weight room. So, really looking forward to those guys. I had a chance to watch them during the recruiting process and those type of guys are SEC guys.”
Knox said the competition at running back will be wide open in the spring. By the fall, he’ll have a running rotation established.
“Anywhere from three to four that will be ready to go in the game plan that we’re doing,” he said. “Now I say three to four, but everyone will be ready to play. If they are dressing out, they are ready to play in some shape, form or fashion.”