Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon looks on during a practice last month. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]
Shannon's approach: 'It's our defense'
With Randy Shannon being promoted from linebackers coach to coordinator, there will be a lot of talk this spring about Florida's seamless transition on defense.
But seamless transition doesn't necessarily mean same defense.
Shannon will have the freedom to put his own stamp on the defense, UF coach Jim McElwain said.
“Here's the good thing, there's a really good carry over because they (Geoff Collins, Shannon and the rest of the defensive staff) were all speaking the same language,” McElwain said. “Obviously, he's putting his twist on it and his stamp on it.”
It will be intriguing to see what the Shannon stamp turns out to be. He has a long and impressive resume that includes linebackers coach for the Miami Dolphins, defensive coordinator at the University of Miami and head coach for the Hurricanes.
He brings a great deal of knowledge and a proven philosophy to the job.
"I don't know if (my philosophy) is any different, but there's some certain things that we may do coverage-wise, certain things that we may do blitz-wise schematically that we may change,” Shannon said. “We're working at it.
“We've just got to get better and keep going. I don't know if it's a stamp. It's a stamp of what we want to get done. There are a lot of big standards at the University of Florida, and we've got standards that we have set for what we need to get done in the spring. We're achieving, but sometimes we fall back. We've got to keep moving forward."
The defense will have some Shannon twists, of course, but the basic scheme and verbiage will remain pretty much intact, he said. Therefore, it should be a fairly seamless transition with his promotion and the addition of two new assistants — secondary coach Corey Bell and linebackers coach Tim Skipper, who moved over from running backs coach.
“What I did was just make things more simple,” Shannon said. “We haven't changed anything, just more simple in what we do so guys can understand and play fast. The most important thing is that when you play fast there's a lot of things that you can cover up. We did a lot of great things with coach Collins last year. We just need to keep improving on them this year.
"Like anything else, you've got to play for what you have on your team at this particular time. We're trying to get everybody knowing strengths and weaknesses with certain calls, certain fronts, certain coverages, certain blitzes. If they know the strengths and weaknesses, then we can get better."
McElwain said one of the defensive staff's priorities this spring will be to improve the Gators' edge pass rush, an area where UF lacked consistency last season.
“One of the big things we need to do is establish a consistent pass rusher where we don't need to always pressure (with blitzes) to create havoc,” McElwain said. “Randy and coach (Chris) Rumph both are doing a great job with that.”
Along with finding some pass rushers, Shannon and his staff will also be facing the task of developing some young talent in a secondary that must replace three potential NFL first-round draft picks.
The good news is one of Shannon's strengths seems to be developing players and getting them to play at a high level. That was apparent last season with the way he brought along UF's young linebackers who were pressed into starting roles due to injuries.
"Just to fly around. Have some enthusiasm, have a lot of confidence,” Shannon said, when asked what he expects from the young defensive backs. “You're at the University of Florida, you're supposed to have confidence. You're supposed to play with a lot of charisma, a lot of attitude. We want guys to take that next step and be those type of guys.”
The secondary will grow even younger this summer with the arrival of six true freshmen. But Shannon said he's more concerned about now than then.
“The only thing I can worry about is what we have (right now in the spring),” he said. “We've got to worry about the guys we have here. We can't worry about the six coming in in the fall. But as long as we get the nucleus here started, when those guys come in, we can find out who's ready and who's not. And maybe some of those guys will be able to play and maybe not. But we've just got to concentrate on what we have now."
That approach is part of Shannon's philosophy, a little bit of his stamp. But the overall defense — whatever it turns out to be in the fall — should not necessarily be viewed as his, he said.
“It's our defense — it's not my defense. It's coach Rumph's, it's coach Bell's, it's our defense. It's coach Skipper's,” Shannon said. “It's the defense that we have, that we developed. So that's the (kind) of chemistry that Geoff did a great job of last year. It wasn't like one individual."
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