They are Austin’s brave, courageous, and fearless men of the city.
No, I’m not talking about the Austin Fire Department—I’m referring to the Longhorn defense.
They are a group of talented young men that wear Texas across their chests and douse fires created by opposing offenses.
"We tell the guys we're the firemen," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said, "and we have to go put out the fire."
Muschamp, in his second year as the fire chief of the burnt orange defensive unit, has been embraced by both players and fans alike. His intense passion and preparation to bring out the potential in his players has made him the highest paid defense coordinator in the country. He’ll make $375,000 this year alone to be exact, according to collegiatetimes.com.
With head coaching offers pouring into his office last year from universities such as Clemson, Tennessee, and Washington, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds made a decision last year to lock up Muschamp for as long as he likes. Muschamp, who is only 38, will take the reins of Longhorn football whenever current head coach Mack Brown decides to retire.
“In the past few years, I’ve seen universities hire from the outside, and there’s a bunch of trauma with that generally. You usually lose your recruiting class, you replace your whole coaching staff, you have athletes leave, and that causes graduation issues. Sometimes there are lawsuits with buyouts, so it’s not a pretty picture in a lot of cases,” Dodds said.
“In a program that’s in great shape, why go through the trauma of bringing an outsider in?”
Dodds, who is known to flash the money around the Texas athletic department, knows what he’s doing.
“I had opportunities to become a head coach, and this is the best one,” said Muschamp.
Muschamp’s devotion for the game originated in Athens, Georgia, where he played safety for the Bulldogs. He walked on in 1991 and was even elected a defensive co-captain in his senior season.
Muschamp worked as a defensive backs coach at some small colleges before landing his first defensive coordinator position at Valdosta State.
He then was hired by Louisiana State to join then head coach Nick Saban as a linebackers coach. Muschamp was then promoted to defensive coordinator within a year and won the national title in 2004 with the Tigers. He coached a LSU defense that led the conference in every major defensive category.
Later, Muschamp served one year in the NFL as an assistant head coach for Miami until landing a defensive coordinator position at Auburn. Again, Muschamp finished in the top 10 in four defensive categories: passing efficiency, total defense, passing defense, and scoring defense.
But Muschamp is not a big fan of statistical analysis.
“Stats are for losers. I like winning games,” said Muschamp.
The last time Texas brought in a defensive coordinator from Auburn, Gene Chizik, Texas won the national championship. Now Chizik is the head coach at Auburn.
Muschamp might have to wait another decade until he’ll become the head coach of Texas. However, he’s had time to learn from one of the best head coaches in all of sports.
Muschamp’s sideline passionate antics make a drunken and belligerent Longhorn fan look frigid and apathetic. Often yelling, chest bumping, and sweating, he has created a defensive force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Muschamp boasts one of the top defenses in the nation this season. Texas is only allowing 231.9 yards per contest and 56.4 yards per game, which is the best among all of college football.
He’s taken a young secondary and made them look like fifth-year starters, made defensive end Sergio Kindle look like he’s been playing the position since he was five, and has covered the Longhorn offense's turnover problem by forcing some turnovers of their own on defense.
Muschamp has taken an above-average defense, if that, and turned it into an opposing offensive coordinator’s nightmare. Muschamp has yet to coach his own incoming recruits and players he feels that will fit into his defense.
However, many of Muschamp’s critics that I have yet to meet feel he’s only a game-time coach who has not proven to be a head coach and face of a university. Brown spends a lot of time bringing in elite talent to wear the burnt orange, but can Muschamp possess the same recruiting skills?
I would love to see Muschamp at the dinner table with a potential recruit getting fired up about his steak dinner. It’ll probably come out a little undercooked, and he would just go bonkers at the table. The waiter would bring him back something to his liking, and Muschamp would congratulate him with a slap on the bottom.
Not only does Muschamp perform his duties successfully on the field, but Brown also feels Muschamp will develop into a gubernatorial figure for the University of Texas.
“That’s why I think we’ve got time,” Brown said. “The most important part of my job is working with people, from the boosters to the statewide media to the national media to high school coaches. Will has to be the individual that he is, and then over time there will be things he will ask me about the job.”
The program will be in the good hands of a diligent and proven winner.