Thursday, June 12, 2014
More turnover for Florida receivers
By Jeff Barlis
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One thing is clear in the wake of Joker Phillips' sudden departure from Florida on Wednesday: The Gators haven't had much luck with wide receivers coaches in recent years.
It's no coincidence that Florida hasn't had a wideout with more than 600 yards since Riley Cooper led the team with 961 yards in 2009. That was UF's last season of stability at a coaching position that has been turbulent ever since.
In 2009, Billy Gonzales ended a five-year run as Florida's wide receivers coach when he reportedly resigned with a sticky note that said, "I'm going to LSU."
Then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer replaced Gonzales with Central Michigan receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who only lasted one season. He was not retained when new head coach Will Muschamp took over for Meyer and assembled his staff in 2011.
Muschamp brought in former Gators standout Aubrey Hill, who coached one season before resigning amid allegations of involvement with improper benefits in his previous coaching job at the University of Miami.
Hill's departure came in August 2012, weeks before the season began.
"Aubrey informed me he was resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the University of Florida," Muschamp said in a statement at the time.
Muschamp promoted graduate assistant Bush Hamdan to replace Hill and then hired Phillips after the 2012 season.
At the time, Phillips was quoted on the school's official website as saying, "I’m looking forward to contributing to the long-term vision that [Muschamp] has for this program."
Surely that vision wasn't one of nearly constant turnover, as Phillips left for "personal reasons" of his own.
With graduate assistant Chris Leak's promotion on Wednesday, Florida is on its sixth wide receivers coach in six seasons.
Perhaps that's why Muschamp made sure to mention Leak's standing, saying, "He is one of the all-time Gator greats and being at Florida is very important to him."
In promoting Leak, Muschamp is hoping the former star quarterback is ready to be a full-time assistant coach at the age of 29 and can bring the continuity that has been missing for so long.
Leak inherits a receiving corps largely comprised of talented youngsters who must be developed. Florida has six wide receivers entering their first or second season this fall.
When asked early in spring practice if this group is the most talented he's had in his three years at Florida, Muschamp said, "I don't think there's any question."
Now, after Phillips' departure, the unit and its inexperienced coach are surrounded by questions.
If the Gators are to rediscover their winning ways through the air, Leak and his receivers will have to factor in prominently. If they do that, perhaps Florida will have something as rare as a 1,000-yard receiver -- a wide receivers coach roaming the sidelines for a second season.