There is a whole lot for Florida Gators football fans to like about Will Muschamp right now.
Similar to many of them, he spent countless Saturday afternoons in the stands at Florida Field watching his beloved Gators suit up in bright orange uniforms that truly were hideous in retrospect.
During those Reagan days, Charley Pell was the hard-nosed coach, the playing surface was an unforgiving artificial turf, and on a hot September afternoon with a 1 p.m. start the often-blazing sun would bounce off that synthetic grass (much like Miami's Melvin Bratton in a memorable 1986 hit delivered by UF safety Jarvis Williams) moving on-field temperatures close to 120 degrees.
Muschamp often would show up to Martha Manson Academy and (later) Oak Hall School on Monday mornings with his face red and his voice still hoarse.
So, he is living his boyhood dream—the same dream shared by an endless number of Gator fans.
In so many ways, he is one of them. And that's why they like him.
And yet, he is so much different. And that, too, is why they like him.
Muschamp has said the University of Florida is a program where you don't just go to win, but to win national championships. Steve Spurrier got himself one. Urban Meyer got two.
And there is a lot in place for Muschamp, most recently the defensive coordinator at Texas, to add a few of his own (though maybe not immediately).
* The facilities are among the best in the nation.
* Florida is ranked as one of the top 15 public universities in the country.
* The climate is appealing to recruits, as is the college town atmosphere.
* There is talent in place, though much of it is young like sophomore linebacker Ronald Powell, sophomore defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and sophomore strong safety Matt Elam.
That said, senior Janoris Jenkins is expected to be among college football's best cornerbacks in 2011 and senior running back Jeff Demps is the nation's fastest amateur athlete.
Muschamp went out of his way to hire a staff with 50 years of NFL experience.
The biggest splash was made when Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis accepted the same role at UF. Throughout his 32-year career, Weis has been credited with developing creative and high-powered offenses, primarily with the New England Patriots, where he was an integral part of a staff that won three Super Bowls (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX).
Additionally, he was an instrumental figure as Tom Brady went from low-round draft pick to the face of the league.
"It was critical for us to go out and hire a proven playcaller, and I think we've hired the best in the business, whether you are talking about pro football or college, and that's Charlie Weis," Muschamp said.
But it's not just Weis.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has spent the last decade in the NFL, most recently coaching the defensive line with the Seattle Seahawks. He and Muschamp realized they had a lot of philosophies in common when they were parts of Nick Saban's 2005 Miami Dolphins staff.
Defensive line coach Bryant Young was a four-time Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers. He just retired from playing in the NFL following the 2007 season, so many of the Gators players were familiar with him.
Offensive line coach Frank Verducci coached for eight years in the NFL, as well as at his alma mater, Notre Dame, and Iowa, where the Hawkeyes broke career, single-season and single-game rushing records with him instructing the blockers. Muschamp describes Verducci as a "great teacher."
Tight ends coach Derek Lewis earned a Super Bowl ring as a player for the St. Louis Rams (1999-2000). Secondary coach Travaris Robinson, a student and then graduate assistant in 2005 and 2006 at Auburn when Muschamp was the defensive coordinator, has been called "a shooting star in this profession" by his new boss.
Former Florida team captain Aubrey Hill, one of the more personable men one could meet, was brought in from the University of Miami to coach receivers and be the recruiting coordinator.
D.J. Durkin (linebackers/special teams), Brian White (running backs) and Mickey Marotti (strength and conditioning) were held over from Urban Meyer's staff, where Muschamp praised their work, and have helped the players transition between coaches.
Then, there is Muschamp himself. Despite an uncharacteristic 5-7 season, Muschamp's 2010 Texas defense still ranked sixth nationally, allowing 300.17 yards-a-game. The only Southeastern Conference team ranked ahead of the Longhorns was Alabama (fifth at 286.38 yards-a-game).
Muschamp and Quinn will have a nice foundation to build upon. Behind a relatively young defense that had to replace five standouts (defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive end/outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, cornerback Joe Haden and safety Major Wright) who started games as NFL rookies last year, Florida ranked ninth nationally last year, allowing 302.92 yards-a-game.
The new coach also provides a fresh voice, one full of new ideas and game plans. And Muschamp's enthusiasm and strong selling of programs attract top prospects, though he says he won't go after athletes of questionable character.
But despite this being his first head coaching job, Muschamp does not lack for confidence.
"I can't be somebody I'm not," Muschamp said. "I'm Will Muschamp, and that's who I'm going to be. I don't need to be anybody different.
"Believe me, it's going to be good enough."