Florida Parted with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy on Monday, the school announced, as the Gators plunged into the 4-5 season just a year after winning the SEC East title and courting a College Football game. In subsequent moves, linebacker coach Christian Robinson will act as the defensive play coach, and special assistant Paul Pasqualoni will move into a field role.
Grantham and Hevesy were the assistant coaches most caught up in Mullen’s crew due to their two units playing. Grantham has trained with Mullen since he was assigned to lead the Mississippi State Defense in 2017, while Mullen and Hevesy have served in the same coaching staff for 20 years under both Urban Mayer and Mullen himself.
“It’s always difficult. These guys are my friends. I have a lot of respect for them,” Mullen said during his press conference on Monday. “They are both excellent football coaches. My responsibility is to do what is best for the Florida Gators. This comes above all else.”
Grantham’s defense currently ranks eighth in the SEC in defensive yards per game (5.44) and 12th of 14 teams in tackles for loss per game (5.22). The Gators are coming off a miserable performance as they lost 40-17 to South Carolina, a team led by third-series quarterback Jason Brown, who moved from FCS St. Francis pre-season. The Gamecocks averaged 20.9 points in entering the game, and 40 of them dropped the Gators to 62nd place nationally in their defense scoring.
Grantham’s defense posed some problems even during last year’s SEC East Championships. She lost 6.06 yards per game, 30.8 points per game, allowing 64.4% of the opponent’s red zone trips to land, all while seeing opponents gain more than 10 yards on 185 different occasions, 13th in the SEC.
Grantham previously served as Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2010 to 2013. He had the same role at Louisville from 2014 to 2016 before being hired by Mississippi’s Mullen in 2017.
Hevesi’s offensive line hasn’t been as much of a burden this year as the defense. The Gator ranks third on the SEC in a fast attack at 224.78 yards per game and only allowed nine sacks through many games. However, the country’s number two running game has been out of business over the past few weeks, and there are massive deep problems at stake. This year after the Gators struggled hard for football management and gave former quarterback Kyle Trask any help.
Both Grantham and Hevesy struggled to recruit, which was a pain point for Florida under Mullen. The 2022 Gators class is currently ranked 22nd nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings, and Mullen has not attended a class ranked better than ninth in his first few seasons in leadership.
Let’s take a look at what this news means for Florida ahead of its Saturday game against Stamford and possibly entering the 2022 season.
Mullen feels hot
The moves come at a turbulent time in Gainesville, Florida, where the SEC Eastern champions were unable to live up to the pressure of wearing the target on their backs. The Gators have lost three games in a row, four of their last five and have conceded 34 or more points in each of their last three games. Florida is also 4-8 against its last 12 opponents[دت بك]to last season and 2-8 against strength five opponents in those games.
The .500 sub-season caused the Gators coach to heat up in the fourth year. Mullen’s public blunders in the media didn’t sit well with Gator Nation, who views him as a coach who – in some ways – vetted him. Mullen has been outwardly stubborn, reckless and a fighter while previously refusing to make significant changes to a team that most saw as faltering.
Do fans make decisions? No, but athletic director Scott Stricklin sacked former coach Jim McElwain in the middle of the third year even though McKelwin had led the Gators to two consecutive East Asian titles in the previous two seasons (2015-16). It happened, in part, because of comments McLean made public about receiving death threats that were never verified.
Stricklin and Mullen had a long-term relationship dating back to their time in Mississippi, but since Stricklin already used a speed hook during his time in Gainesville and reportedly had a tense relationship with Mullen before bringing him to Florida, that possibility still exists overseas.
“I’m the coach. I take it all in. It’s on my shoulder,” Mullen said. “I am in charge of this programme, responsible for this team. … My job is to make sure that we play and that this team plays according to the Gator standard, which we are not doing now.”
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Loyalty can cost a coach
Hevesy has been a member of Mullen’s staff since his first season as a Mississippi State coach in 2009. He was previously in contact with Mullen on Urban Mayer’s Bowling Green (2001-2002), Utah (2003-2004) and Florida (2005-08). Hand-picked by Mullen as Mississippi’s star superstar in 2017, Grantham made him the sixth highest-paid assistant in the country with $1.8 million a season when he brought Grantham to Florida.
Both Grantham and Hevesy were retained after last season despite increasing pressure from the fan base. The point is, Mullen was loyal to the coaches…in this case to a mistake. The fact that Mullen made these moves – and may have been forced to do so – suggests that things are getting worse within the program.
How will Mullen deal with his parting with the men he’s clearly cared about keeping for as long as possible while the rest of his job approaches? This is something that will have to be evaluated by Stricklin during the last few games of the season.
Recruitment will suffer
The rest of the staff remains the same for now, but the news of Grantham and Hevesy’s departure will certainly raise some eyebrows down the recruiting path. In fact, the Gators had already lost two of their top 100 defensive commitments last month as news of Grantham’s possible departure leaked out after the Florida-Georgia game.
We are just over a month away from the early signing period, and the instability within the coaching staff will be worrying for recruits looking to make decisions about their future over the next few weeks. On top of that, the hot seat Mullen is sitting on could cause many of the existing commitments to come off a bit, which would allow other schools to pounce and try to keep them away from the Gators.
For a team already struggling with recruitment, this does not create a rosy picture. Florida may be able to make some waves with its new hires ahead of National Signature Day in February and through the transfer gate, but this employment chapter may be headed for an all-time low rating for Gators.
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