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UCF Hires Travis Williams to Replace Randy Shannon as Defensive Coordinator

Williams coached under Gus Malzahn at Auburn prior to Miami

Travis Williams at Auburn
Travis Williams
Image Courtesy: Auburn University

The UCF Knights have hired Miami Hurricanes LB coach Travis Williams as their new defensive coordinator

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting his contract is worth $600,000 over two years.

The move is a surprising one, particularly from Miami’s perspective. Williams was hired just two weeks ago to great fanfare, but has instead chosen to reunite with his old boss, Gus Malzahn, for whom he coached the linebackers from 2016-2020.

Williams played at Auburn from 2001-2005, and made All-SEC in 2004 and 2005. He was the leading tackler on Auburn’s undefeated 2004 team that nearly won a National Championship, having been frozen out of the BCS Championship Game.

Williams also played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006 and 2007 before embarking on his coaching career. After working as a grad assistant and analyst at Auburn during their 2010 national title (where Malzahn was the offensive coordinator), he coached at Northern Iowa and Creekside High School in Atlanta before returning to Auburn in 2015.

With Williams coaching the linebackers, Auburn never finished any lower than 17th in the nation in scoring defense and 28th in total defense, excepting 2020, when they were 38th and 63rd, respectively.

What about Randy Shannon?

UCF v South Florida
Randy Shannon (R)
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Assuming Williams takes over the defense, that would make it the end of the line for Randy Shannon at UCF, who still has one year remaining on his contract. Shannon, who served as the interim head coach from Josh Heupel’s departure until Malzahn’s hiring, is due to make a million dollars in 2020, and the contract is set to expire on January 31, 2022. He also was due to receive a $300,000 retention bonus on Monday for remaining on staff as of February 5th.

According to language in his employment agreement obtained by Brandon Helwig of UCFSports.com, should Shannon be let go, he is due 100% of his remaining salary. However, he does have an offset clause, meaning that UCF’s payments to him would be offset by whatever amount of money he would get at his next job, should he get one.

Shannon’s defense struggled last year, finishing 92nd in scoring defense and 123rd in total defense after a number of opt-outs and an off-field incident. This is in contrast to 2019, when Shannon’s unit finished 32nd in total and tied for 41st in scoring despite being on the field more than every defense in the nation except for seven. That year, UCF was third in the nation in pass efficiency defense.

Gus Malzahn’s emphasis on defense in his introductory press conference was a clear indication that he planned to overhaul UCF’s defense. That overhaul is now fully underway.