Outback Bowl: Can Will Muschamp Save The Florida Gators in 2011?
Even with the many college bowl games going on the past couple weeks, one story that emerged was Florida's replacement for Urban Meyer, who resigned to spend more time with his family. While many possibilities emerged as to who may take over the head coaching job, the man chosen seemed to come out of nowhere, Texas's defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
The "coach-in-waiting" at Texas, brought in as Florida's new head coach, is a defensive specialist who has coached in the SEC before, serving as the defensive coordinator at Auburn. He is fired up for the job and seems ready to lead the Gators to victory. The question is, however, are the Gators ready to lead themselves to victory in 2011, and can Muschamp save them?
Pro 5: Coordinator Experience
For a man who's not yet 40, Muschamp has a pretty impressive resume extending to both the NFL and college football. After serving as defensive coordinator at Valdosta State in 2000, he served as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at LSU and Texas, defensive coordinator at Auburn, and assistant head coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2005.
The only knock on his myriad of defense experience is that his four year tenure at LSU is the longest time he's stayed anywhere.
Con 5: No Head Coaching Experience
You can be the best coordinator out there, but being a head coach is a different game. He can run a defense, yes, but can he run an entire team, on top of handling recruiting and being able to bring in the right talent? It's possible, but we don't know if he has that ability just yet.
Pro 4: Gators History
The Florida Gators have been a very storied franchise over the past 20 years. Under Steve Spurrier, Meyer, and others, the Florida Gators won three national championships and multiple SEC championships. Muschamp should have no problem getting motivated and feeding off this tradition. He won a champsionship with LSU in 2003, and he'll want one for himself with Florida.
Con 4: SEC
One could argue that this is a pro, since Muschamp has worked for two SEC teams and certainly knows what the conference is about. Nonetheless, top to bottom, it's the toughest conference to win. Can he be expected to beat Auburn, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas in his first year, among others? That's hard for any coach to pull off, much less a new one.
Pro 3: Attitude
There's no question that Muschamp has the right attitude coming into this job. He's excited, optimistic, and he definitely wants to bring a National Championship back to Florida. By extension, he seems to have made Gator fans exctted as well. Getting a fan base excited about a coaching hire is half the battle, and now he's looking to fulfill that other half.
Con 3: Recruiting
With the departure of Urban Meyer, Florida took a tumble on the collegiate recruiting end, which was naturally going to happen. Among those moving to other teams are cornerback Nick Waisome, who dropped his commitment to Florida and instead chose Florida State, and linebacker Ryan Shazier, who instead chose to attend Ohio State.
Muschamp tried to convince both to stay, but was unsuccessful. This could just be a couple people who really wanted to play for Meyer, and there's always the chance that Florida returns to elite recruiter status soon. They're 18th in the nation currently, which certainly isn't bad, though it's lower than they would like.
Pro 2: Defense
One good thing that can be said about the current Gators is their defense. While Auburn and other teams light up the scoreboard, Florida has made its living keeping points off. They allowed just over 300 yards per game, and look to be good again next year, though they will likely lose Janoris Jenkins to the draft.
Under Will Muschamp, Texas's defense was even better than Florida's, allowing two fewer yards per game and under 2000 total passing yards. Combine these two forces, and Florida's not going to have to worry about the team's defense.
Con 2: Offense
Florida's offense, on the other hand, may be a bit concerning. Quarterback John Brantley did not have a very good junior year, throwing an equal number of touchdowns and picks, and running back Jeffery Demps remains unproven, having not been able to pass the 100 carry mark in a season yet.
Most of the offense is comprised of juniors, who I would expect to keep their jobs next year unless Muschamp and the new offensive coordinator clean house. In other words, the offense will likely struggle again next year.
Pro 1: The Florida Way
The Florida Way could very well be the key to Florida's success in upcoming years. What is the Florida Way, exactly? It is a code of conduct for Florida players to follow. Muschamp said this of what the purpose of it is:
“When you walk into a home and you talk about being a student-athlete at the University of Florida, I talk in terms of I want all of our student-athletes to come into our program to be a better person for having been at Florida. And I’m not just talking from a football standpoint. I’m talking about the off-the-field things."”
With 30 arrests over the past six years at Florida, Muschamp is hoping to put an end to those kind of situations.
Con 1: Urban Meyer Couldn't Save This Team
Urban Meyer seemed to have success everywhere he went, yet in 2010, he could only bring the team to a 7-5 record, his worst as a coach. If Meyer could barely keep this team above a winning record, what could we expect from a new coach with a chunk of the same players?
Muschamp has said himself that he'll bring a championship back on his own timeline, so it's at best unrealistic to expect a title in 2011, or perhaps even an SEC championship.
The Florida Gators went 7-5 last season. This year, a similar record, either 7-5 or 8-4, sounds quite realistic once all factors are added in. The Gators have all the tools necessary to build a national title contender, but that is going to take a couple years; it won't happen overnight, and it won't happen in 2011.
Florida will continue to win against non-conference teams, as they've been doing; it's how they do against the SEC that will be the measure of their success over hopefully the next many years that Muschamp serves as head coach.