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To McElwain, new football assistants are 'natural fits'

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GAINESVILLE

The phrase kept popping up.

As Florida coach Jim McElwain on Thursday introduced his three new assistants -- defensive backs coach Corey Bell, offensive line coach Brad Davis and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider -- he repetitively mentioned how they were natural fits for the program, exactly what he needs with spring camp opening up on Feb. 28.

There were plenty of candidates for each position, McElwain said.

But in the end, he kept coming back to these three.

“That’s something we hit a home run on,” McElwain said before the new members of his staff took to the lectern for his turn in the limelight.

Here’s a quick look at each of the three new hires. 

Defensive backs coach Corey Bell

Not even a month ago, Corey Bell was working with new University of South Florida head coach Charlie Strong to bring in a strong recruiting class for the Bulls.

Three days after signing day was said and done, the move was announced that Bell would be making his way to Gainesville to be Florida’s fourth defensive backs coach in as many years.

“Just like I told the kids … it's about adaptation and embracing the challenge and embracing the situation,” said Bell, a Miami native. “It's the same thing with me. I just embraced it."

But with the position comes upholding a legacy the Gators have of producing quality defensive backs.

Since 2007, Florida has had 10 defensive backs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft -- including four first-round picks. Both numbers are expected to increase this year with Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson both expected to be drafted in the first or second round.

“He's got a heck of a tradition to uphold,” McElwain said, “and yet has some great guys to work with. I think his comfort level and [defensive coordinator Randy] Shannon's comfort level with each other and what they're teaching that fits to our defense, I know I'm excited to see him work and I know our guys have been excited being around him.”

Bell’s top returners to work with are senior nickel cornerback Duke Dawson, redshirt senior safety Marcell Harris and sophomore Chauncey Gardner. He is also inheriting a freshman class with three four-star defensive backs.

“For the most part,” Bell said, “it’s just putting those guys out there and letting them play within the scheme of things.”

Bell comes to UF after a two-year stint as Florida Atlantic’s defensive backs coach. Before that, he was the director of football operations at the University of Miami from 2007-2010, when Shannon was the Hurricanes’ head coach. He also has ties to the UF program through defensive line coach Chris Rumph, a teammate when they were at South Carolina.

Offensive line coach Brad Davis

The phone call came at the dentist’s office, providing Brad Davis with another positive in addition to his lack of cavities.

Signing day had just ended, and the North Texas offensive line coach was trying to catch up on appointments he couldn’t schedule while out on the recruiting trail.

The phone call from Jim McElwain wasn’t part of the initial plan.

“I’m very fortunate my dentist was very understanding,” Davis said.

Now, as Davis prepares to adjust to his first coaching job in a Power Five conference after stints at four smaller schools (North Texas, East Carolina, James Madison and Portland State), he doesn’t plan to change his approach.

“It’s not about me,” Davis said. “It’s not about my ego, not about walking around and saying ‘Look at me, hey I’m an SEC O-line coach’. It has never been and never will be about that for me. My job is to be a servant to the players that are here right now.

“I’m a vehicle to their success.”

This vehicle might need a tune-up, though.

The Gators’ offensive line is once again looking to rebuild after the departure of left tackle David Sharpe (NFL Draft) and center Cam Dillard (transfer). Florida returns Six linemen with quality playing experience: juniors Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson, sophomore Jawaan Taylor, redshirt sophomore T.J. McCoy and redshirt senior Antonio Riles (who sat out last season with a torn ACL).

But even at that, Florida’s performance in the trenches has been hit or miss over McElwain’s first two seasons.

In 2015, the Gators gave up a nation-high 45 sacks. Last year, the number lowered to 28, which was tied for the 71st most nationally and 10th in the SEC.

“The analogy I've used with the guys the last few days, it's pointless to have a Lamborghini with a bad transmission,” Davis said. “It's worthless. So we have a bunch of tough, physical, athletic football players that really haven't maximized their football potential. My job and why I'm here is to get the best out of them every day."

Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider

Ja’Juan Seider has no problem rattling off the names.

Emmitt Smith. Errict Rhett. Fred Taylor.

The list of successful Florida running backs keeps going.

Seider, Florida’s newest running backs coach, hopes to make sure it continues growing.

And for that to be possible, Seider said every running back -- from the starter to the backup ont the scout team -- needs to be ready.

“The key is that bottom guy shouldn't be far off that first guy if you've recruited well and coached well, and I believe that last guy should be as prepared as the first guy,” said Seider, a Belle Glade native who spent the last  That's just who I am as a coach. I don't think you show a weak link in your armor.”

Seider has an above average group to work with. Last season’s leading rusher Jordan Scarlett (889 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns, 5.0 yards per rush) returns for his junior year. Rising sophomore Lamical Perine and rising senior Mark Thompson also return. Florida also has two quality freshmen coming to Gainesville in the summer in Adarius Lemons and Malik Davis.

“The first thing is trust,” Seider said. “You’ve got to trust me, I’ve got to trust you. That’s on the field and off the field. Trust me that as a staff, not me, we’re going to put you in the best position possible to be successful. We’re talking about some things already as they’re watching. If we can press them a little bit better on this play, it might be the difference between – I told Jordan – it may be the difference of you having 1,000 yards instead of 800-something yards. Just things like that where you come in and they understand what you’re saying from the beginning that makes to sense. In their terms, that’s going to allow them to be a better football player.”

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