Florida Football: 5 Things Will Muschamp Does Better Than Nick Saban
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Saban is the consensus top coach in college football. Of course, that's what happens when you win three of the past four national championships and consistently field a roster that some would argue is as talented as an NFL team.
Will Muschamp, meanwhile, is still building his reputation as a head coach. After a tumultuous 7-6 campaign, he entered 2012 with the added pressure to immediately field a winning team. He and the Gators responded by winning 11 games and reaching the Sugar Bowl.
Even though Muschamp does not have nearly as much credibility as Saban, there are a few areas in which the Gator head man has actually outshone his SEC counterpart in recent months. Eventually, there is a great chance that Muschamp can earn his spot among Saban and the all-around "heavyweights" of college coaching.
For right now, however, here are five things that Muschamp does better than Saban.
Rally His Team at Halftime
Jeff Driskel was instrumental in the Gators' second half comeback victory against the Vols.
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One of the more remarkable things about Florida's turnaround season was the number of comeback victories it contained. In 2012 alone, the Gators won six games in which they had trailed during the second half.
In fact, they were able to do something Alabama could not: rally against Johnny Manziel.
That first come-from-behind win sparked a series of second-half rebounds against Tennessee, LSU and eventually Florida State. The latter was particularly impressive, as it occurred in Tallahassee with BCS implications on the line.
You could say it is unfair to examine Saban's numbers in this category because his squad is usually ahead at halftime. Still, one has to respect Muschamp's ability to lead his team from the brink of defeat after a slow start.
Utilize Special Teams
Jelani Jenkins took a blocked punt to the house to beat Louisiana-Lafayette.
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Ever since the Urban Meyer era began at Florida, one of the Gators' biggest strengths has been their special teams play. During his short tenure as head coach, Will Muschamp has kept this tradition alive and kicking (literally in this context).
The best example of special teams paying big dividends for the Gators last season was when Jelani Jenkins returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. It preserved what little national championship hopes the Gators possessed at that point, and it was a microcosm of their entire season.
Florida's punting game is also outstanding with Kyle Christy as the anchor. His directional kicks were a major factor in the team's blowout win against South Carolina. Furthermore, he can alter field position in the blink of an eye with a single kick.
With the departure of Caleb Sturgis, Florida's field-goal attack should suffer a little bit. However, the other phases of Muschamp's special teams plan should give the Gators an advantage in every single game.
Win the Turnover Battle
The Gator defense had many chances to celebrate last season
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Many consider Alabama's defense the best in college football. A dominant performance against Notre Dame in the national title game did nothing to prove otherwise. Interestingly, however, Nick Saban's unit had a worse turnover margin that Will Muschamp's.
The Gators ended the season with 15 more takeaways than turnovers. This is one digit better than the Tide's net gain of 14 throughout the course of last season.
If Florida did not completely falter against Georgia, this difference would have been even greater. Furthermore, the only two games that the Gators failed to win were the two in which they lost the turnover battle.
Muschamp prides himself on fielding a stout defense capable of changing momentum with one play. He did this last season, and the Gators made a resurgent turnaround as a result. If Florida can once again pilfer its fair share of takeaways, another successful season should be in the works.
Use Tight Ends as Weapons
Reed led the Gators in receiving yards.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Despite having a quarterback that threw for more than 2,900 yards and tossed 30 touchdowns, Nick Saban's top tight end ended the year with only 183 receiving yards. Will Muschamp, meanwhile, found a variety of ways to get Jordan Reed involved offensively. In general, he has been able to use tight ends much more effectively than Saban.
Reed finished 2012 with 45 receptions and an average of 12.4 yards per catch. These numbers were first and second, respectively, of anyone on the team last season. Reed is about to ride this success to a selection during the NFL draft.
All told, Gator tight ends were on the receiving end of one-third of Jeff Driskel's 12 touchdowns. This is a much larger percentage than can be said for AJ McCarron and the entire Crimson Tide offense.
With Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson currently on the Gator roster, this offensive trend is likely going to continue next season and beyond.
Get More with Less
Quinton Dunbar snagged four touchdowns and is now the team's top receiving option.
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It's no secret that Nick Saban relies on his best weapons, particularly on offense. A perfect example is Amari Cooper. The rising sophomore had exactly 1,000 receiving yards last season, which was more than double the total of the Tide's second-best pass-catcher. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both eclipsed the mark of 175 rushes.
In other words, Saban does not need to look beyond his top options for offense because they are top-flight talents.
Will Muschamp, meanwhile, accomplished a lot with a team that is not at the same level as Alabama. Jeff Driskel is athletic, but his development is nowhere near that of AJ McCarron. Despite fielding a passing attack that ranked a dismal 118th in the country, Muschamp somehow found a way to win 11 games.
The Gators had no major wide receiver weapons to speak of as well. In fact, they had no first-round NFL talents aside from Sharrif Floyd. Despite this, Muschamp formulated a game plan every single week that gave the team a chance to win.
With one of the top recruiting classes in the nation coming to Gainesville, the Gators could be starting to build a roster loaded with future pros. If this is the case, look out. Based on his ability to get the most out of less talented players, Muschamp could potentially field a juggernaut down the road.