Florida Football: Is Will Muschamp Redefining Gator Football in Record Time?

Kevin King@kevin glen kingSenior Analyst IISeptember 14, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Head Coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators celebrates with his players after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-17 in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 2, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

How do you like the new look of Florida Gator football?

If you're old school, Will Muschamp should get two thumbs up from you.

Most teams don't come with the amount of talented players that Coach Muschamp inherited. Of course, just being talented isn't the end-all in creating a good football team.

You must have the correct type of talent for your schemes. Still, having great athletes all around you makes for good situations during the transition.

An example of that was Chris Rainey. The lightening fast scat back isn't the type of running back Coach Muschamp would recruit for the Gators' new schemes.

But, it was sure nice having his 233 total yards and touchdown versus Tennessee during last year's transition. That's an example of what great existing talent can do for you during the lean times of a transition.

The Gators have a lot of talent. And Coach Muschamp and his staff are excellent recruiters. As a result, Florida has nearly completed what many would consider a three-year transition even though this week is only the third game of Muschamp's second season at Florida.

However, it is clear that the team has changed from being centered on Urban Meyer's spread offensive system to Will Muschamp's more conventional pro set.

Also this week, Florida will play head coach Derek Dooley's rebuilding Tennessee Volunteers. Like the Gators, this program is transitioning as well.

Unfortunately, for its fanbase, Tennessee did not have the talent on hand—or available in-state—to have anything resembling a smooth transition. Coach Dooley is in the third game of year three in the rebuilding project there.

Last season, Coach Dooley's team ended the year with a very disappointing loss and a 5-7 record. As a result, the Tennessee coach has very little room for error as his team completes its rebuilding project.

Coach Muschamp's Gators finished the year on an upswing in 2011. After the win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, they finished the year at 7-6.

Not all the pieces are in place for the Gators' new look just yet. They just decided on sophomore Jeff Driskel as their quarterback. In addition, the offensive line isn't quite there yet.

Driskel will probably be brought along slowly in the passing game. He is still young and inexperienced. Unless it becomes necessary for them to do otherwise, the Gators will rely heavily on their run game and hard-nosed senior running back, Mike Gillislee.

Still, a lot of things are working well for the Gators this early in the process. The defense is going to wind up somewhere between great and outstanding, and the special teams really are special.

The question is how far will the defense, special teams and running game carry the Gators this year? The 20-17 win over Texas A&M was good, but no one knows how good they are.

Tennessee is much improved but until they play a team like Florida, they are an unknown as well. After the Florida-Tennessee game, folks will have a better idea about both teams.

Normally a team rebuilding like Florida is fortunate to break even in wins in year two. But expectations in Gainesville run much higher.

Still, expecting the Gators to win an SEC title in 2012 isn't reasonable. Almost everything they do offensively is different this year. But based on the torrid pace set so far, it probably is reasonable to expect them to contend by 2013.

That is redefining what a team does—and being really great at it—in record time.

This Saturday's game at UT should be interesting. The Vols are a slight favorite to get a win at home. If the game were in Gainesville, the Gators would likely be the slight favorite.

Win or lose on Saturday, the fanbase should be happy about the overall direction of this team.

Will Coach Muschamp be able to get through the transition without a portion of the fans becoming impatient? The next few games will determine that.

In every fanbase, there are always a few who expect the team to win them all. And those fans have no issue telling folks how they feel about a loss. 

Next is the group that is normally silent but feels the same way. They will join in after about three losses. Derek Dooley has had experience with those groups at Tennessee.

In the upcoming SEC schedule, Florida's team will be tested. They will play some good teams as their quarterback, receivers and offensive line gain experience.

It is during this stretch where we will come to know if Coach Muschamp gets a taste of what Dooley has seen at Tennessee.

If Florida is competing for the SEC East title in late October, this change will be seen as a great success. And Coach Muschamp will have completed the transition a full year ahead of a normal schedule.


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