Stan Drayton's Move Fuels Tennessee-Florida Rivalry

Tim PollockSenior Writer IJanuary 24, 2008

Typically if an assistant coach is not productive for a team he leaves quietly, says kind words about his former employer, and exits with a nice public image of moving on for "family reasons," "a great opportunity," or the ever popular "looking for a new challenge."

Apparently Stan Drayton wanted to do things differently.

Drayton is the former running back coach at Florida who recently took the same job at the University of Tennessee. On his way out of Gainesville, Drayton took a low blow at the Gators—and most likely Urban Meyer himself, since the two were always rumored to be on bad terms.

After telling the Nashville Tennessean that Florida is not a place a good running back would want to go, he followed with: "If you’re going to be a running backs coach, you want to be part of a system that involves the running back."

How quickly Drayton forgets.

In his three years at Florida, Tennessee rushed for 92 yards combined in their three meetings. Meanwhile, Florida rolled up 444 yards in those three games.

For each entire season Drayton was at Florida, Tennessee had fewer rushing yards than the Gators. In 2005 the Gators ran for 350 more yards; in ’06, Florida had 836 more yards; this season the Vols had 656 fewer rushing yards.

Never mind that Stan Drayton probably wasn’t the best hire for Urban Meyer three years ago. More comfortable in a traditional style offense, Drayton’s running backs never consistently excelled like a top tier team, so Meyer found other ways to get rushing yards.

Two seasons ago, the running back production was so poor that Meyer labeled the running backs "trash"—surely not a confidence booster for Drayton. It probably didn’t help that Drayton was the lowest paid coach on the team during his tenure.

All that considered, a move was inevitable; Drayton was clearly not a good fit. But moving on is not the problem.

The issue comes with Drayton moving to an SEC East rival and then trashing the school that boosted his resume.

Drayton was largely unknown before he arrived at Florida, previously serving for one year at Mississippi State, and before that as "Offensive Quality Control/Asst. Special Teams" for the Green Bay Packers. Drayton also had brief stints at Villanova and Bowling Green State.

Drayton left Florida with a National Championship, the distinction of being a top recruiter, and having sent two members of his backfield to the NFL. Not bad. You would think he would have a few thank yous on his way out.

Drayton’s new situation at Tennessee is much better suited for his talents, as he will mix with new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson—the former head man at Richmond—who will run an offense similar to what Tennessee has used in the past. Time will tell if this new regime will spark the Volunteers’ run game back to what it once was—a punishing, downfield rush attack.

As for Urban Meyer, he is a great coach, but he’s also stubborn to the bone. You have to think he is privately fuming over Drayton’s comments—and is eagerly awaiting the next matchup in Knoxville where Meyer has yet to lose.

Look for Meyer to try to devise a way to let the Gators run wild against the Vols. I suspect Southern Cal transfer, Emmanuel Moody—the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2006—will be reminded of Drayton’s comments a good number of times.

On the other side of the ball, Arian Foster is sure to get a ton of carries.

The bright side of Drayton’s move is that it brings back a spark to a rivalry that has been one-sided recently. September should bring a classic early SEC East battle.


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