Sources: Florida fires D-coordinator and OL coach

  • College football reporter
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
  • Graduate of the University of Tennessee

Florida coach Dan Mullen, on the heels of three consecutive losses and mounting pressure, fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy on Sunday, sources confirmed to ESPN.

The moves come one day after Florida (4-5) continued its downward spiral, losing 40-17 to South Carolina — the Gators’ most lopsided loss to the Gamecocks in school history. The Athletic first reported the firings.

According to sources, Mullen told the coaches — both of whom had been with him going back to his tenure at Mississippi State — that he needed to “create a spark” for the rest of the season. Hevesy, also the Gators’ running game coordinator, had been with Mullen since 2001 at Bowling Green, when Mullen was the quarterbacks coach there under Urban Meyer.

Mullen said after the South Carolina loss that he “didn’t see it coming.” The defeat dropped the Gators below .500 for the first time in Mullen’s tenure at Florida.

The Gators have struggled to stop teams on defense going back to last season, when they finished eighth in the SEC in scoring defense (30.8 points per game) — their worst mark since 1917. They gave up 321 rushing yards earlier this season to LSU in a 49-42 loss, and have allowed a total of 798 rushing yards in their past three losses.

But what’s crippled Florida this season is turnovers. The Gators are tied for 116th nationally out of 130 FBS teams with 18 turnovers. In their three consecutive losses, they’ve turned the ball over eight times, and three of those have been returned for touchdowns — an Emory Jones fumble against South Carolina, an Anthony Richardson interception against Georgia and a Jones interception against LSU.

In a 20-13 loss to Kentucky on Oct. 2, Florida also had a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. In SEC games only, Florida is ranked fifth in the league in total defense, but the Gators are also next-to-last in rushing yards per carry (5.1) in league games only.

Offensively, Florida has thrown 14 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in league games and ranks seventh in rushing offense (180 yards per game) against SEC opponents. In three of its past four losses, Florida has been held to two or fewer touchdowns.

In the Gators’ loss to South Carolina on Saturday, they allowed 459 total yards to a Gamecocks team playing a transfer quarterback, Jason Brown, who was making his first FBS start. And the Gators’ running game mustered only 82 yards on the ground.

Mullen said afterward that Florida’s roster had been depleted by the flu and that anywhere between 20 and 30 players missed practice during the week.

Following the 34-7 loss to Georgia two weeks ago — a game that Georgia led 3-0 in the final minutes of the first half before three Florida turnovers on three straight possessions led to three straight Georgia touchdowns — Mullen angered fans by downplaying recruiting in his Monday news conference.

“We’re in the season now,” Mullen said when asked about recruiting. “We’ll do recruiting after the season. When it gets to recruiting time, we can talk about recruiting.”

The Gators are ranked seventh in the SEC by ESPN among 2022 recruiting classes. Mullen later clarified his remarks and said they were taken out of context.

“We grind at recruiting all day every day,” Mullen said. “We’re always recruiting and working the best to get great players that fit the Gator standard and bring them here to our program.”

Back in June, Mullen received a three-year contract extension that raised his annual salary to $7.6 million per year. The Gators lost to Alabama a year ago in the SEC championship game.

Grantham was in the final year of a contract that was paying him $1.8 million annually. He received a raise after turning down the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator job and remaining at Florida heading into the 2019 season. Hevesy, also in the final year of his contract, was making $620,000 per year.

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