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Which Florida Gators Coaches Could Be Retained by New Leadership?

While the Florida Gators will undergo plenty of wholesale changes with its coaching staff, a couple of members could be worth holding onto.

Photo: Wesley McGriff; Credit: Zach Goodall

With the Florida Gators set to create a new environment within the football program by way of bringing in a new head coach to replace Dan Mullen, there are plenty of questions that remain to be answered.

RELATED: Billy Napier Emerges as Florida Gators Top Head Coach Candidate

One of those questions is certainly: Who on the coaching staff makes sense to retain?

Now, for whichever coach decides to plant their flag in Gainesville for the foreseeable future, the likelihood of them retaining many or any of their coaches would probably be slim.

When Mullen was hired in 2017, going into the 2018 year, he retained none of the coaching staff, though Corey Bell would return earlier this year. Simply put, for plenty of reasons, it is rare for a coach to consider the previous regime's staff when thinking of their own staff, bringing in people they know or trust.

Sometimes, though, the stars do align, and the coaches involved mesh well enough and have performed well enough to be retained. Today, we took a look at some of the coaches currently on staff that would be intriguing to retain under whichever coach ends up at Florida.

Note: As a reminder, none or all of the coaches listed below could be retained, it is simply an exercise to see who might merit such consideration.

Wesley McGriff

One of the more important hires of Mullen's tenure would actually come this season following a year of a heavily scrutinized secondary in 2020. Hiring McGriff, a well-respected recruiter and secondary coach, to coach the team's safeties ended up becoming one of the more positive steps the Gators defense took this year.

This season, both starting safeties Rashad Torrence and Trey Dean looked the part for much of the year. Torrence would end the regular season as the team's leader in interceptions with three, while Dean has been credited with the most pass breakups on the team with seven this season.

Both Torrence and Dean finished second and third, respectively, in tackles behind Mohamoud Diabate. McGriff has also been credited for being a secondary recruiter for 2021 commits WR Chandler Smith and RB Terrance Gibbs, both highly recruited players.

McGriff has an extensive DB coaching background, including in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints (2013-15). Keeping a veteran coach like McGriff on the team, one that was well-liked with the players, could be a net positive. 

Tim Brewster

Brewster, the team's tight ends coach for the past two seasons, is one of the most respected tight ends coach in college football. Last season, Brewster got plenty of credit in working with TE Kyle Pitts, who won the John Mackey Award last season as college football's best tight end.

Pitts would eventually go on to the NFL, selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Brewster's pedigree goes beyond that, however, having extensive coaching experience, including years in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers (2002-05) and the Denver Broncos (2005-07).

He famously coached converted basketball player and NFL Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates, one of the best football players of all time.

But more than that, Brewster's coaching seems to have led to solid seasons from the current tight ends, who while they weren't used very much this season, seemed to perform when their name was called.

Kemore Gamble ranks third on the team in catches with 30, going for 399 yards and four touchdowns this year, career highs in each category. Keon Zipperer hauled in 11 passes for 133 yards this season.

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Aside from coaching, Brewster's recruiting prowess proceeds him, thought of as one of the best recruiters in the country, something that Florida's next head coach will need.

He recruited three five-star players at Florida State while hauling in a couple of commits to Florida recently, including Gage Wilcox and Nick Elksnis in 2020 and Tony Livnginston (OL/TE) in 2022, while landing an early commit from 2023 TE Mac Markway.

Billy Gonzales

Gonzales, the team's wide receivers coach, has also been thought of as one of the better position coaches in college football. Though his units individually don't always put up the greatest of numbers, Gonzales has coached plenty of players that have gone on to join the NFL.

That includes 2020 NFL Draftees Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland and Freddie Swain, while sending Josh Hammond to the league via undrafted free agency. In 2021, both Kadarius Toney (first round) and Trevon Grimes (UDFA) went to the NFL.

Players such as Jacob Copeland and potentially Justin Shorter are also expected to be in the NFL one day.

In March, Mullen was asked how the team could replace Toney, and he gave a solid note on the impact Gonzales has made:

"I know Billy Gonzales does such a great job developing those guys to not just be great while they’re here and put them in position to be successful in what we do but, also develop them to have the opportunity to play in the National Football League one day.”

Aside from development, similarly to Brewster and McGriff, Gonzales has done a solid job recruiting for Florida over the past several seasons and throughout his extensive career at Florida. He brought in players from Percy Harvin (2005) to cornerback Kaiir Elam (2019) in recent years.

The fit would have to make sense for both Gonzales and the prospective HC, but if Mullen isn't coaching anywhere in 2022 and Gonzales wants a gig, I wouldn't be surprised to see him retained.

Nick Savage

This one has already been discussed, but Florida's Director of Football Strength and Conditioning coach, Savage, has been lobbied to be kept by plenty of current and former Florida players due to his ability to re-shape and mold the players into great athletes at both the collegiate and pro levels.

"Coach Savage, we spend the most time with him because he’s our strength coach. So Coach Savage has a lot of close relationships with us and he really takes the time to get to know players and he really pours into the players," defensive end Zach Carter said last Monday.

"So, as y’all see, a lot of guys are tweeting today about keeping Savage. He’s had a big impact on a lot of players here and former players. So guys around here love Coach Savage.”

Part of keeping a strength coach could be for continuity with players in their respective strength programs, along with the relationship that the strength coach has formed with certain players, both can be true. Though, typically, a head coach would bring in his own guy, just like Mullen did years ago.

The strength and conditioning coach works closely with the head coach to maintain his players at the level that is effective for how they want to run their team. For that reason, both coaches must work in lockstep, and that may not be the case for any coach that comes to Gainesville.

Still, Savage has done well in re-shaping plenty of Florida players over the years and is part of the reason why Florida has sent some of its players to the NFL.

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