The Florida Gators (4-5, 2-5 Southeastern Conference), are heading into the final three games of its season with a new play-caller on the defensive side of the football.
With Todd Grantham officially out of the picture, Florida head coach Dan Mullen has called on young linebackers coach Christian Robinson to lead the group, at least for now.
The results are to be determined, but Robinson's infectious personality and ability to relate to his players has been part of the reason why he's thought to be one of the better up-and-coming defensive coaches in the country.
While his unit as a whole has struggled this season - especially without the presence of true middle linebacker Ventrell Miller -, his ability to lead his unit has never been questioned.
Now, his players will see first-hand what he is capable of when creating a defensive game plan, and the energy he brings has already been felt by some veterans on the roster, at least that's what starting LB Mohamoud Diabate said on Wednesday when speaking with the media.
“He’s bringing tremendous energy, juice, encouragement to the players. He’s bringing a different aspect of coaching that’s really helping us. We appreciate that," Diabate said of Robinson. "The younger guys are coming up to me after practice like, ‘Yeah, we like Rob.’ So everybody’s buying into what Coach Rob’s doing.
"Everybody is ready to go to work for him. There’s not a doubt. We’ve always been like that behind Coach Rob, just him being a guy who really cares about you and makes players play like that for him.”
The test will come soon against the Samford Bulldogs. While, sure, the Bulldogs are a program in the FCS, essentially a level below the Gators, it will still be an opportunity for not only Robinson but the rest of the Florida defense to prove themselves in a difficult time.
Essentially, this will be a three-week tryout for the young linebackers coach, and he has an opportunity to prove why he should become the permanent play-caller moving forward.
Gators head coach Dan Mullen is certainly excited to see his young pupil grow.
“He’s been with the defense, he’s been with me a long time,” Mullen said.
“He knows our defense inside-out, really well. I think he’s a really sharp, bright, up-and-coming, young coach, so give him the opportunity to go call plays and bring some energy and excitement to the defense. I’m really excited to go watch us play on Saturday.”
Mullen said on Wednesday that he met with the team and asked them to rally around Robinson, buy into what he's teaching and latch onto the excitement that he brings to the table as the defensive coordinator over the next few weeks. This week is the first test.
Moving forward, Mullen will look for his coordinator to replace Grantham. Whether that will be Robinson remains to be seen, but he certainly does have criteria in what he's looking for. First and foremost: the fit.
“Any time you’re hiring a coach, it’s finding a guy that fits, that’s going to hold the players accountable, that’s going to be sound in what they do, is going to have the energy to get our players playing with the level that we expect them to play at and that’s going to fit in with the staff,” Mullen summed up.
That fit will be necessary and will likely be one of the biggest decisions that Mullen has had to make since his arrival at Florida for the second time in his career.
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