Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is down to his last strike.
Gators coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday that Nussmeier will be moving from the sideline to the press box for Saturday’s showdown against visiting Tennessee.
If the move seems desperate, that’s because it is.
A coordinator being moved around is the equivalent of an athletic director giving an embattled coach a vote of confidence.
The Gators have struggled offensively in each of the previous two seasons. Year 3 began with a huge dud in a 33-17 loss to open the season against Michigan. Florida gained 192 yards of offense and generated a field goal. The Gators’ defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
McElwain isn’t concerned about losing the face-to-face communication Nussmeier would have with starting quarterback Feleipe Franks on the sideline.
“Him being able to see (the field) in a sterile environment is something that will help,” McElwain said.
Is McElwain nervous about the Gators’ faithful hurling insults at Nussmeier and damaging player confidence if things don’t go well early against Tennessee?
Franks, a redshirt freshman, will be making his second career start. He was benched in the third quarter against the Wolverines.
McElwain’s decision to move Nussmeier could be more of a sign that junior Luke Del Rio is back in play. The Gators turned to grad transfer Malik Zaire in the second half against Michigan and he struggled. Zaire enrolled in July, so if he’s the Franks alternative, it would seem to help him to have Nussmeier on the sideline.
Del Rio is an experienced veteran, but he saw no action in the opener. He started six games last season and has been at Florida since McElwain and Nussmeier arrived. Del Rio probably doesn’t need as much face-to-face communication as a younger player might. If Florida struggles with Franks in the first half, expect McElwain to go to Del Rio.
This is a crossroads game for McElwain. Starting a hyped season 0-2 will be hard to salvage with games remaining against LSU, Georgia and Florida State.
If the Volunteers dominate Florida’s offense on Saturday the way Michigan did, McElwain will need to take over play-calling.
Then the question with Nussmeier is not where he is on game day. Instead, it’s will he still even be in Gainesville?
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