Gators Defensive Coordinator Hot Board

Gators defensive coordinator

The Florida Gators football program made headline news this past Sunday when they announced that they had fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. He was in the middle of his fourth season as the Gators defensive coordinator before they decided to fire him after another rough season for the defense.

With Grantham gone, linebacker coach Christian Robinson will be interim defensive coordinator and call plays on defense. Robinson is unlikely to retain that title so it’s expected that the Gators will hire their long term defensive coordinator from outside the program. Here are five candidates for the Florida defensive coordinator position.

1. Kevin Steele

Kevin Steele is a 63 year old that has a lengthy coaching career and has spent much of his coaching career in the SEC. Steele first got into college football as a linebacker at Furman and Tennessee.

After his playing career, Steele became a graduate assistant and was promoted to outside linebacker coach at Tennessee. Steele got his first head coaching job in 1999 at Baylor University. 

Steele only last four seasons at Baylor before getting fired. He was then fired at Florida State to be their linebacker coach in 2003. In 2007, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide hired Steele to be their defensive coordinator.

Steele would spent the rest of his coaching career at some of the best college football programs in the country as a defensive coordinator or position. In 2021, Steele was hired as Tennessee’s interim head coach before the Volunteers decided to hire John Heupel. 

Steele is currently unemployed and could be a good candidate for the Gators as their next defensive coordinator with his experience in the SEC and as a recruiter. 

2. Gene Chizik

Gene Chizik is a 59 year old coach that has many years of experience as a defensive coordinator and even won a National Championship as a head coach. Before becoming a coach, Chizik played linebacker at the University of Florida.

After graduating from UF, Chizik became a graduate assistant for the Clemson Tigers. After two seasons at Clemson, Chizik made a defensive end coach at Middle Tennessee. He didn’t become a defensive coordinator until 1996 at Stephen F. Austin State University. 

Chizik would also be the defensive coordinator for UCF, Auburn, and Texas before getting his first head coaching gig at Iowa State. After two seasons at Iowa State, Auburn hired Chizik to be their head coach. Chizik spent five seasons at Auburn as their head coach with a 33-19 record including one national championship.

His last coaching job was as the defensive coordinator for North Carolina. After two seasons as the DC at UNC, Chizik resigned. Since his resignation, Chizik has been a studio analyst for the SEC Network. It’ll be interesting to see if he decides to return to coaching at his alma mater. 

3. Doug Belk

Doug Belk is a young, upcoming defensive coach in the college football world. Belk is currently the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Houston. The Cougars have one of the top-ranked defenses in the country this season.

Houston’s defense is ranked seventh nationally in total defense and is tied for 17th in turnover forcing seventeen turnovers this season. During his coaching career, Belk has coached at Valdosta State, Alabama, West Virginia, and Houston. 

During his time as a graduate assistant at Alabama, Belk got to learn under some of the best defensive minds in college football today such as Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, and Jimmy Pruitt. Florida might be willing to take a chance with a young defensive coordinator who seems to be on the rise.

4. Tray Scott

Tray Scott is currently the defensive line coach at the University of Georgia. Scott coaches the deepest and most talented position group in the country. One reason Scott has the most feared unit in college football is because he’s an ace recruiter. 

During the 2022 recruiting cycle, Scott has landed three commits including one five-star and two four-star recruits. Scott was also the primary recruiter that brought superstar defensive tackle Jordan Davis to Georgia.

While Scott has coached up an elite unit and recruits at a very high level, there is one negative with him being the defensive coordinator at Florida. He’s never called a defense. He has been a defensive line coach at Ole Miss, North Carolina and Georgia. It’ll be interesting to see if Florida is willing to let him be a defensive coordinator at their program.

5. Marquand Manuel

The last defensive coach on my defensive coordinator hot board is former Gators defensive back Marquand Manuel. The former Florida safety has been coaching since his retirement from the NFL.

Manuel started off as a special teams assistant coach for the Seattle Seahawks before becoming an assistant secondary coach in 2014. After that season, the Atlanta Falcons hired Manuel to be their secondary coach. 

After two seasons, the Falcons promoted Manuel to be their defensive coordinator. Manuel was the Falcons DC in 2017 and 2018 before they decided to not resign him. After the 2019 season, the Philadelphia Eagles hired Manuel to be their secondary coach but was gone after the Eagles cleaned house. 

Manuel is currently the safeties coach for the New York Jets which including former Gators safety Marcus Maye. Manuel could be another quality option for the Gators to be their defensive coordinator as he’s called a defense before but has no experience in college football as a coach. 

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