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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Coaching Moves

Grading Florida’s Coaching Move

The thrill wasn’t quite gone, but the fire was. Urban Meyer could have remained Florida’s coach in perpetuity: that’s what a pair of national titles in three seasons will do for a coach’s job security. So what happened? Quite simply, Meyer couldn’t reconcile his love for the game — his burning desire to win, win, win — with the lack of energy that plagued his final season, an 8-5 finish that saw him as hands-off as he’d ever been in his sterling coaching career. Looking for the fire that drove Meyer to such early heights with the Gators, the program went for a coach with a seemingly limitless reserve of energy. There’s a reason Will Muschamp’s coaching philosophy can be summed up in a single onomatopoeia: boom.

Positives Looking for more fire out of Florida? Look no further: look for nothing less than contained insanity from this defense, which will undoubtedly take on the tenor of a coach who, as the above pictures illustrates, is as tied into an individual game’s results as any coach in recent college football history. Perhaps an apt comparison is Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, though Florida should hope that Muschamp does a better job containing his emotions than Nebraska’s successful yet temperamental third-year coach. Like Pelini, Muschamp is a defensive-first coach who will have an immediate impact on this team’s energy level.

Say what you will about Charlie Weis: everything you say might be justified, in fact, but you must acknowledge his ability to coordinate an offense. Can he run his own show on the college level? No, he can’t — we saw that at Notre Dame. He can implement a potent passing attack, however, and Muschamp’s decision to run a more pro-style offense was an inspired one. Florida has the talent to run the spread, just not at quarterback: John Brantley is a great fit in this system, and the offense should be vastly improved in 2011.

The entire staff is very strong. Muschamp planned on retaining running backs coach Stan Drayton, one of the nation’s best recruiters; unfortunately, it seems as if Drayton is headed for the same position at Ohio State. This potential loss will hurt, but Muschamp will have a number of options to choose from to fill the newly-vacant position. He hired Aubrey Hill away from Miami (Fla.) as his receivers coach; Hill did a superb job developing talents like Leonard Hankerson over the last three seasons. He added Weis, as mentioned, as well as names like Dan Quinn, late of the N.F.L., and Bryant Young, with the latter sure to make his impact felt on the recruiting trail. Muschamp also retained strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marrioti — smart move.

Muschamp’s history in the SEC can’t be overlooked. While he became more of a national figure due to his time spent at Texas, it was in this power conference that Muschamp first made his name, first as a Nick Saban disciple at L.S.U. and later as Tommy Tuberville’s defensive coordinator at Auburn. The conference is in Muschamp’s blood: he might have remained at Texas and eventually become Mack Brown’s replacement, but he would have always had one eye on the SEC.

Negatives Florida’s resurgence over the last generation has been fueled by a pair who succeeded as head coaches before moving onto to Gainesville: Steve Spurrier had won at Duke, which was as impressive then as it would be now, and Meyer had been wildly successful at two non-B.C.S. conference stops before hired as Ron Zook’s replacement. Speaking of Zook: like Muschamp, he was a defensive-minded coach hired without any previous head coaching experience. If we’re going to draw parallels between Zook and Florida’s new coach, we must begin with the fact that while each had a solid resume prior to being hired at U.F., neither had the head coaching experience one would expect from one tasked with such a momentous task. The similarities don’t go too far beyond that point, but it does bear mentioning.

Will Muschamp be able to contain his energy in this new role? It’s one thing to go full-bore when running a defense, as such a mindset often draws the best out of your group — see how Muschamp’s players reacted to his energy at Auburn and Texas, for example. It’s quite another to be foaming at the bit when serving as the face of the team along the sidelines: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. More often than not, the best head coaches are those who toe the fine line between energy and insanity, with the optimal result getting the team ready to roll yet still contained within the moment. Muschamp might need to tone down the sideline antics just a bit.

Grade A. What’s not to like? There’s the energy, which will have these Gators flying out of the tunnel, onto the field and to the ball every Saturday. There’s the top-notch staff, which combines football acumen with several of the nation’s top recruiters. There’s Muschamp himself, who will continue to have Florida rated among the country’s best in defense on a yearly basis. Florida deserves the best: winning is a birthright, with anything less than excellence unacceptable. Muschamp will be a hit.

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  1. Greg B. says:

    “Florida deserves the best: winning is a birthright, with anything less than excellence unacceptable”!?

    This is a presposterous statement. Sure they’ve always had gargantuan potential as the flagship,i.e. oldest, school in the most talent rich state in the Union. But they weren’t anything until S.O.S. arrived in 1990. Is it one of the top 1 or 2 jobs in the country (the other being Texas), sure based on the resources available. But let’s not make it out to be Bama or USC in terms of historical success.

    Paul: You’re right. Historically, as my statement suggests, it’s not fair to put Florida in the same conversation with U.S.C. and Alabama. That doesn’t change the expectations surrounding the program, however.

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