Florida Gators

Looking for offensive spark Shannon goes to QB Malik Zaire

Photo by Icon Sportswire


Randy Shannon is already putting his stamp on Florida’s program.

After announcing that he planned to open the competition at quarterback on Monday, Shannon has made his decision and the Gators have a new starter.

The interim coach announced Thursday afternoon that the team plans to open the Missouri game with Malik Zaire as the starting quarterback.

“Malik is the starting quarterback for this upcoming game at Missouri,” Shannon said in a statement. “This is his opportunity to get this team where it needs to be and not to be satisfied just because he’s the starter.

The Notre Dame transfer is 12 of 23 on the season for 142 yards, but Saturday will mark his first start for the Gators. His most notable playing time was playing much of the second half of Florida’s opening loss to Michigan at AT & T Stadium in Arlington (above).

“Today is an opportunity for him to run the offense and understand the expectations that we have for him. This is not a time for him to feel comfortable and feel like he’s made it. We want him to keep grinding and understand that competition is very good.”

It’s clear that Shannon wants to make changes right away. In addition to renewing competition, he’s switching up some things in practice. For example, Monday’s practice was held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium rather than at the team’s practice facility, and he’s opening practice to the media.

The tweaks don’t end there. Shannon has also made a slew of changes to the coaching staff.

Shannon said Monday that Chris Rumph has been promoted to defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season and defensive quality control coach Robb Akey will coach the defensive line.

“For me, being a defensive coordinator and me just hanging around with the defense, when you take over a team, it’s not the right thing to do,” Shannon said. “I got be a part of the whole defense and offense and special teams.”

Shannon said special teams will be a focal point as UF prepares to visit Missouri (3-5, 0-4). UF ranks 71st of 129 teams nationally in kickoff returns and 114th in punt returns.

“Nothing matters but this game coming up against Missouri,” he said during Monday’s press conference. “You have a chance to play in another SEC stadium, another chance on the road, another chance to improve what we’re trying to get done.”

Shannon realizes the program needs to be revamped, not reinvented.

The Gators, who are coming off three consecutive losses, need to make changes, but Shannon recognized the entire program can’t be overhauled in one week.

“You can’t wholesale everything,” he said. “Coach Mac left a great foundation for us. Now we’ve just got to build on it. Like anything when you have change, you have to change certain things.

“You have to change something or it becomes stagnant. We won’t be stagnant.”

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