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What Went Wrong for Will Muschamp at Florida?

Ray GlierCollege Football National ColumnistOctober 21, 2014

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Will Muschamp is probably going to get fired. And if they lower the boom on the coach nicknamed Boom, the legacy of the Head Bawl Coach will not be his sideline rants. It will be the offense he neglected, the offense he didn't know how to fix, the offense where he didn't develop a quarterback.

This has been some shipwreck.     

Muschamp at Florida
YearW-LBowl
20117-6Gator Bowl
201211-2Sugar Bowl
20134-8None
20143-3TBD
Source: Sports-Reference.com

Consider one thing as athletic director Jeremy Foley pulls the University of Florida off the rocks the next few months.

Nick Saban has had four offensive coordinators at Alabama. Muschamp has had three. That's a lot of turnover in the play-calling, but Saban managed the changeover. Yeah, sure, I get that Saban is a veteran and a better head coach than his protege.

But Saban was the head coach for the entire team, not just one-third of it, the defense. He coaches the defensive backs, just like Muschamp, but whenever you see a picture of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin calling plays, who has that get-off-my-lawn stare standing in the same picture frame as Kiffin? It's Saban.

"Nick Saban is a head coach with a defensive background, but he also has had a philosophy for what he wants his offense to look like regardless of who is calling plays," said Phil Savage, the color analyst for Alabama radio and CEO of the Senior Bowl. "In eight years, he's had four coordinators, but he has never allowed one to come in like a vacuum cleaner salesman and wire up the entire house with outlets and hoses in every room, so that when they left, the whole thing has to be torn out and a new system installed."

Revolving door

Muschamp's first season was with Charlie Weis as play-caller, and the Gators were going to win with a pro-style offense. Weis left to coach Kansas. That was Muschamp's fault for hiring a guy with too much ambition and not getting an offensive coordinator he could team-build with. UF was going to pay Weis $2.6 million over three years. He was gone after one.

Dave Martin/Associated Press

Then came Brent Pease, the maestro of the Boise State offense. I remember Boise's game plan, and it was a collection of plays, it seemed like, not a rigid scheme of offense. It was very multiple, and it worked in Idaho but not in Florida. The Broncos also had a poised veteran quarterback, Kellen Moore, who completed 74 percent of his passes in 2011. The Gators had nothing like Moore.

Pease stuck for two years. In 2012, the Florida defense (fifth nationally in yards allowed) was the linchpin to an 11-2 season, while the offense was satisfactory. The best thing about it was it did not turn the ball over. The whole operation looked like Alabama. More on that in a moment.

Injuries wrecked the Gators in 2013, and they finished 4-8. Pease was gone.

In came Duke's Kurt Roper. I look at the UF offense, and it has a little of Auburn's Gus Malzahn in it. Motion, spread the defense out and then double-teams at the point of attack. But the Gators still have problems at quarterback. Jeff Driskel cannot break the habit of short, safe passes. He does not see downfield.

With all the sport's quarterback transfers, it is startling that Florida could not recruit one of those veteran QBs moving around the country. Instead, it had one of its former signal-callers, Jacoby Brissett, almost taking down Florida State in a North Carolina State uniform.

In this day and age of offensive football, Florida has been left behind. The Gators had no set philosophy. They went from pro to multiple to spread.

We all know Saban has a process. Well, he stuck with it, even as he was changing parts in the coaches' meeting room from Major Applewhite to Jim McElwain to Doug Nussmeier to Kiffin.

"Nick says, 'This is how we win around here, and we want your ideas and for you to put your flavor on things, but these are the parameters philosophy-wise,'" Savage said.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Here is a small example. Every single practice, Alabama does ball-security drills. Saban is a maniac about it. He makes sure it gets done, according to his players.

Florida committed six turnovers against Missouri in a 42-13 loss. I'm sure the Gators practice ball security, but to how much detail?

The Gators are 3-3 and turn the ball over. Florida is 112th in yards per play in FBS, which doesn't always take into account the quality of opponent, but you get the point. The unit is in disarray. 

Starts at the top

Offensive coordinators move around more than defensive coordinators. Athletic directors hire OCs more as head coaches. Head coaches in trouble steal OCs away to fix what's broken.

Look at the SEC. Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M have head coaches who tilt toward offense. That's 10 of 14.

That Mike Bobo is still the offensive coordinator at Georgia after being at the school since 2001 says as much about the decency of head coach Mark Richt as Bobo's skill at running the offense. Richt was an offensive coach at Florida State, by the way. Mostly, OCs leave, but the good head coach stays and keeps a hand on the offensive rudder, like Saban.

That Florida hired a rookie head coach in the SEC was a mistake. That is the 20-20 hindsight view, of course. Everyone said Muschamp was a great hire. He wasn't, and Foley won't make the mistake again. He will get a veteran who will be an offensive coach, and Foley will give him Muschamp's $3 million, probably more.

Dan Mullen's name keeps popping up, but there is an undercurrent at Florida. People didn't like him while he was the Gators offensive coordinator. What's more, Scott Stricklin, the athletic director at Mississippi State, is a hustler. I bet he is gathering cash from around his state to keep Mullen where he is in Starkville.

The other thing to consider is that Mississippi State has the look of a unique team. A veteran quarterback and a lot of fifth-year seniors. This kind of team rarely comes along. Can Mullen use his system of redshirting at a school like Florida, where 5-star recruits have one eye on the NFL and want to leave after just three years? I don't think so.

I would say Colorado State's McElwain would be a slam dunk for the Gators, but The Denver Post's Terry Frei reports the buyout of McElwain's freshly signed contract is $7.5 million. That's a rich separation, even for Florida.

The wheel of fortune spins quickly in college football, and it is spinning and about to spit out a decent fellow, Muschamp. He was a walk-on at Georgia, a guy who was told he would never play football again after a horrific leg injury.

Muschamp became a star for the Bulldogs. He screams on the sideline, and it's a little much. But he is going to be somebody's ace defensive coordinator. This is a good guy getting dumped on by media like me and by fans, but this is the culture of the game he bought into.

Muschamp came within one yard of coaching in the national championship game less than two years ago. Southern Cal couldn't score from the Notre Dame 1-yard line in 2012, and the Irish played Alabama for the title. Florida was right there as No. 2 ready to get in the big game. One yard away.

That about sums up the Gators. One yard has been hard to come by.

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report. He has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013). All quotations were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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