Will Muschamp didn’t hide from the questions. Quite the contrary.
Florida’s embattled head coach dove right in before a reporter could even bring up the topic.
“There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business,” Muschamp said in his opening remarks at this week’s SEC media days in Hoover, Ala. “That’s part of it. The way you combat that is having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do.”
Muschamp knows his seat is plenty warm. After the way 2013 went, how can he avoid it?
The Gators suffered through an injury-riddled season and slipped from 11-2 in 2012 to 4-8, the program’s first losing record since 1979, capped by an embarrassing home loss to then-FCS team Georgia Southern.
It vaulted Muschamp onto one of the hottest seats in college football, although he said, “There was never any time in my mind that I didn’t think I would be retained,” according to an ASAP Sports transcript of his remarks.
There are some parallels between Muschamp and another fourth-year coach: Michigan’s Brady Hoke.
Both are entering their fourth season at football-hungry powerhouses. Both are entering it with a new offensive coordinator following an offseason move designed to kick a sputtering scheme into high gear.
Both own an 11-2 season with their respective programs, and both are facing pressure to win this fall.
However, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Hoke’s seat could be considered hotter than Muschamp’s.
Muschamp might have this fall’s hottest seat in college football.
How does he change that?
Just win, baby.
“Control the controllable is always what I've said,” he said. “Control the things you can control. I haven't always practiced it, but try and just control the things I can control. That's coaching our football team, developing our football team.”
He hopes Kurt Roper’s offensive mind will help, too. Muschamp showed offensive coordinator Brent Pease the door following the 2013 season and replaced him with Roper, whose uptempo, spread-it-out system helped Duke to an ACC Coastal Division title and a Chick-fil-A Bowl berth. The Blue Devils averaged 426.1 yards per game (47th nationally) and 32.8 points per game (41st nationally).
Florida, meanwhile, struggled mightily after quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending broken leg in the team's third game against Tennessee. The Gators lost 15 players to season-ending injuries, including Driskel and tailback Matt Jones. Florida finished No. 113 nationally in total offense (316.7 YPG), No. 113 nationally in scoring offense (18.8 PPG) and No. 107 in passing offense (170.9 YPG).
“We needed to make some changes on offense,” Muschamp said. “I felt like our kids had lost confidence in some things we were doing offensively.”
Using Roper’s shotgun-based system, he said, fits Driskel and an offense that includes talented receivers like Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose (who missed last season with a torn ACL) and sophomores Chris Thompson and DeMarcus Robinson better than Pease’s system did.
“To utilize (Driskel’s) athleticism and space, some of the things he's able to do athletically is going to benefit him and us,” Muschamp said.
In Ann Arbor, Hoke hopes former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can inject life into the Wolverines offense.
Michigan had no offensive balance in a 7-6 season that finished on a 1-5 skid: Former offensive coordinator Al Borges’ system mustered only 125.7 yards of rushing offense per game, No. 102 nationally.
Nussmeier piloted a balanced offense at Alabama that averaged 454.1 yards of total offense per game (248.5 passing and 205.6 rushing).
He knows balance and positive plays will be keys at Michigan this fall for an offense expected to be piloted by senior quarterback Devin Gardner. The Wolverines return three starters from last fall’s leaky offensive line but lose tackle Taylor Lewan, an NFL first-round pick. He told MLive.com that negative plays can’t happen.
The first thing we have to do is we have to take care of the football, and the second thing, which was a major concern last season, is that we've got to secure the line of scrimmage. We can't have loss yardage running plays, we can't have sacks.
Michigan is placed in the tougher of the Big Ten’s revamped division format, with Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State. Regardless, Muschamp’s seat appears to be hotter. Hoke has yet to have a losing season at the Wolverines’ helm, something that Muschamp can’t say.
Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde wrote that anything less than an SEC East title could call Muschamp’s job into question. That won’t be easy. The Gators face Alabama and LSU from the SEC West, although they do host LSU, South Carolina and Missouri while traveling to Tennessee and playing Georgia in the teams’ annual neutral-site showdown.
“I got a lot of confidence in this team and staff,” Muschamp said. “This is probably the most complete team we've had since I've been at the University of Florida in all three phases.”
He'd better be right, or Florida could be looking for a new coach come early December.
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