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More thoughts on Leavitt and Gregory ...

22

January

After a day to let things settle down on Greg Gregory's demotion from offensive coordinator over the weekend, I can expand a little on what's happened and what might be next.

-- In talking to people over the past two days, it seems most people can understand the actions taken by both Gregory and Leavitt in the past week. Gregory, given an uncertain future with Leavitt at USF, saw an opportunity to join the national champions, albeit in a lesser role, which is probably a better job than what he might find in a few weeks if he were let go after National Signing Day. By all accounts, he did what is generally considered the professional thing to do, letting your current employer know you're pursuing a position elsewhere. Leavitt, too, has good reason not to want a coordinator in the middle of a key recruiting month to interview for a position-coach job at a state rival he's battled for some important recruits.

I asked Leavitt on Tuesday if this situation felt similar to that at Boston College, where coach Jeff Jagodzinski was fired by athletic director Gene DeFilippo after being warned he'd lose his job if he interviewed with the New York Jets. (Similarly, Jagodzinski didn't get the Jets job and now is looking at NFL coordinator jobs.) Leavitt said Tuesday he didn't think it was the same situation, arguing that there are better lines of communications at USF, though the last few days aren't exactly a very good illustration of that.

-- Leavitt said Tuesday night that he understands that Gregory isn't to blame for all of this year's offensive problems. "Some things that happened this year were certainly outside his control, like some of the injuries that we had," Leavitt said. USF's running game was hindered by ankle injuries to Mike Ford, Jamar Taylor and Ben Williams, and the offensive line was depleted by injuries, especially in the loss at Cincinnati. Still, Leavitt made it clear he was considering making a change before Gregory's pursuit of a job at Florida: "Greg was aware I may or may not go in another direction," he said.

-- Awkward as it seems, there are certainly precedents for coaches remaining on a staff after taking a demotion from coordinator status. In Ron Zook's first stint at Florida, he spent three seasons as Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator before being demoted to special teams coach in 1994. The Gators reached the national championship with him on the staff in 1995, and of course he later was head coach at Florida. Leavitt said Tuesday he believes there are situations where Gregory would remain on his staff.  "I wanted to make it clear he was not going to be a coordinator," Leavitt said. "Whether he ends up back with us next season, that's something Greg and I will spend time on." Still, I would be surprised if those two can co-exist -- to literally be on the same team -- after the way this has gone down.

-- My understanding from the Gainesville end of things is that offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was interested in hiring Gregory, but Urban Meyer was more comfortable hiring an assistant he himself knew well and had worked with in the past. Meyer worked with the coach he hired, Brian White, when White was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 1998-99. White has a solid resume -- he's a Harvard grad with two master's degrees and seven seasons as a coordinator for BCS teams -- but with these coaching hires, familiarity is a huge asset as well.

-- Talk about landing on your feet: White had been Wisconsin's offensive coordinator but lost that job after the 2005 season when Barry Alvarez stepped down as coach. He joined his brother Chris as offensive coordinator at Syracuse, but the Orange went 6-18 in the next two seasons and he was fired after the 2007 season. He landed at Washington to coach tight ends and special teams, and the Huskies went 0-12. So he's going from winning two conference games in three seasons to a program that's won two national titles in the last three seasons.

-- Who would Leavitt hire if he didn't promote receivers coach Mike Canales to coordinator? If you're looking for someone Leavitt has worked with who is still available, one name is John Latina, who was Charlie Weis' offensive line coach at Notre Dame the past four years and spent five years as Ole Miss' offensive coordinator before that. Latina was an assistant coach with Leavitt at Kansas State from 1989-93, so the two know each other well. I reached Latina at his Indiana home on Wednesday, and he said he and Leavitt had talked recently, but only about their days at Kansas State and not about any potential openings. Asked if he was interested in a position at USF, Latina politely declined to comment.

Thoughts? Comments? Hopes for what happens next on the coaching staff?

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 5:50pm]

    

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