Florida Football: Will Muschamp's Biggest Challenges for the Gators in 2014
After a brutal 4-8 season last year, the Florida Gators and head coach Will Muschamp face a lot of challenges this season.
There’s an offense that can’t seem to get out of its own way. There are constant mistakes on the field that seem to get worse by the quarter. Oh, and there’s a Florida fanbase that isn’t used to losing and is rapidly losing its patience.
It goes without saying that this is a big season for Florida and a lot of these challenges need to be faced head on.
Here are the biggest obstacles Muschamp has to deal with.
Avoiding the Dumb Stuff
One complaint many can have with Will Muschamp is that his teams aren’t very disciplined. In his three years as head coach, Florida has ranked dead last in the SEC in penalties each season and turned the ball over 51 times.
Forget the offensive issues—it’s almost impossible to be successful in college football’s toughest conference when you’re constantly shooting yourself in the foot. And frankly, Florida isn’t talented enough to overcome the constant mistakes made over the course of these games.
Some of these boneheaded plays should fall on the players. After all, they’re the ones on the field losing their minds. But discipline is a trait that’s taught throughout the offseason, and it starts and ends with the head coach.
Muschamp must figure out how to get himself and his team on the same page this season.
Getting the Offense to Finish Drives
Muschamp counts stalling drives and punts in his sleep. Not only were the Gators ranked last in the SEC in total offense, but they also ranked last in red-zone conversions, scoring less than 70 percent of the time when getting the ball inside the 20-yard line. To make matters worse, touchdowns were scored less than 45 percent of the time.
While offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was paid the big bucks to change those numbers, it’s no secret that much of the blame will fall on Muschamp if the offense doesn’t improve. It’s simply how the coaching business works. Coaches get little praise when things go well but a good portion of the blame when things go terribly wrong.
The head coach has to make sure his offense is running smoothly heading into the season.
Getting Team Motivated for Hot Start
In the SEC, the first couple of games on the schedule are usually cupcake matchups against programs you probably never knew existed. While this has been the case for the Gators the last few seasons, they haven’t exactly jumped out to a fast start the way a contending team needs to do.
Last year, Florida beat Toledo 24-6 in unconvincing fashion before doing everything in its power to lose to Miami. The year before, the Gators beat Bowling Green by only 13 points and struggled with Texas A&M before Johnny Manziel became the superstar quarterback. This year, the Gators begin the year with Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky before running into Alabama.
While those three games should result in effortless victories, Muschamp must inspire his players to take those matchups seriously, as the Gators need to be firing on all cylinders in order to have any shot against Saban and Co.
Getting kids excited to beat up on some of the lousiest teams in the land can be difficult, but it’s a must if the brutal conference schedule is going to be a success.
Keeping the Hot Seat Cold
Hate it or love it, Muschamp enters this season on the hot seat. He’s won less than 60 percent of his games his first three seasons and is fresh off arguably the worst season in program history. Sure, 2012 was a great success, but it also ended with an embarrassing loss to a basketball school in a BCS bowl.
There’s also the fact that Florida is 1-5 against Florida State and Georgia under Muschamp’s watch.
Again, Florida isn’t a program that’s going to hang around very long if the results aren’t up to par. Although Florida has been lucky in that it hasn’t had to fire many coaches over the last few decades, the university didn’t hesitate to pull the plug on Ron Zook when expectations weren’t being met. To be fair, Zook at least reached a bowl game in each of his three seasons.
The bottom line is that Muschamp is feeling the pressure and will be coaching for his job this season. Florida doesn’t need to win the SEC, but it had better have a winning record and participate in a decent bowl game.
There’s really no bigger challenge than this.