Even when the regular season is over, it ain’t over. So what did we learn, and what do we still want to know?:
1. Are the Gators rolling the dice with Muschamp? Urban Meyer announced his “retirement” last Wednesday after six years as the head coach at Florida. In the next 48 hours everybody from Bob Stoops, to Jon Gruden (there is that name again), to Chris Peterson, to Dan Mullen to Chip Kelly was considered to be the front runner for one of the top five jobs in college football. Then suddenly, at 8:28 p.m. on Saturday (note the time) Florida announces that it had hired Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as its next head coach. The press conference will be Tuesday. Some consider it a risk by athletics director Jeremy Foley, who got burned the last time he hired an assistant (Ron Zook). But those who know Muschamp know that he’s been groomed for this since he was a player at Georgia for Ray Goff. Muschamp has worked at LSU (for Nick Saban), at Auburn (for Tommy Tuberville), and Texas (for Mack Brown). He is ready.
2. Florida will win the SEC East in 2011: How ready is Muschamp? Well, here’s the first prediction for the 2011 season: Florida will win the SEC East championship. The problem at Florida last season was not talent. It was a lack of focus and a lack of leadership. The team was not focused because too many leaders had left and there was never a coherent offensive strategy. Muschamp can fix the leadership issue and if he hires a top-flight offensive coordinator the other problem can be fixed as well. Media reports say Muschamp is looking at Major Applewhite, an offensive assistant at Texas. My choice would be Dana Holgerson of Oklahoma State (who is in the running for the head coaching job at Pitt.)
3. I’m disappointed in the timing of Florida’s announcement: This is strictly an opinion, but I wish Florida had waited until after the Heisman Trophy presentation to announce its new coach. The official press release came just minutes before Auburn’s Cameron Newton was handed the hardware in New York. The announcement opens Florida up to charges that it was trying to step on the moment of a player from another SEC school. And with Newton’s background at Florida, which includes concerns that academic information about his time at the school was leaked to the media, it is something that simply should have been avoided. I was informed this morning by Florida officials that they had every intention of waiting until after the Heisman Trophy presentation but that once the news leaked out through the social media the school felt it had no choice but to release the information.
4. What does the hiring of Al Golden tell us about the Miami job? First of all, I think Golden is a great hire. Remember that it wasn’t long ago that Temple considered dropping football. The school basically got booted out of the Big East. Golden took over and he took the Owls to a bowl in 2009 and this season went 8-4 (which included a win over Fiesta Bowl bound UConn). But it also tells you that Miami’s job is not one where the school can go out and command the services of a Tier One proven head coach. Jon Gruden wasn’t coming. Neither was a successful head coach at the BCS level. Miami is a tough job because if you don’t win and win big, the people just don’t come. Again, I think Golden is a super coach. He has been named as a possible replacement for Joe Paterno at Penn State. He will win at Miami. I just think Mike Leach would have been a more inspired hire.
5. If he goes to Vandy, how will Gus Malzahn handle the BCS championship? It looks like Vanderbilt is Gus Malzhan’s job to turn down. So what does the Auburn offensive coordinator do if he accepts, which could happen as early as today (Monday)? I certainly believe he would coach Cameron Newton one last time in the BCS championship game with Oregon on Jan. 10. But I’ve seen other coordinators try to get ready for a BCS title game while attempting to build a staff and organize a program at another place. Mark Richt did it at Florida State after he took the Georgia job in 2000. Richt admits now that it was very difficult. The only person I have seen pull it off really well was Bo Pelini, who was the LSU defensive coordinator for the 2007 BCS championship game while organizing his new program at Nebraska.
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“Barnhart and Durham:” We will break down all of the coaching news on today’s “Barnhart and Durham Show” on 790 The Zone. Among our guests will be UConn coach (and former Georgia Tech assistant) Randy Edsall, who is headed to the Fiesta Bowl. Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun will bring us the latest on Will Muschamp at Florida. Craig Barnes, a former reporter for the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, will bring us reaction to the hiring of Al Golden at Miami. Please join the fun which starts at 10 a.m. www.790thezone.com.