The Gators’ Will Muschamp: The next Urban or another Zook?

"The next game I win as head coach will be my first." (AP photo)

"The next game I win as head coach will be my first." (AP photo)

Hoover, Ala. — Let’s stipulate that Florida is pretty good at hiring football coaches. Two of the past three tapped by the Gators went on to win a national championship. The third was Ron Zook.

The  Zooker had never been a head coach. At Florida, he didn’t last three full seasons. (Still beat Georgia twice, though.) We mention this because Florida again has a head coach who has never been a head coach. He’s Will Muschamp, and he’s no Ron Zook. He’s probably not a Steve Spurrier or an Urban Meyer, either.

If you get past the obvious disadvantage of having played under Ray Goff, Muschamp has a solid background. He’s the son of a coach. He played in the SEC. He has worked at Auburn and at LSU. He apprenticed under Nick Saban, who’s the best in the business. He was the coach-in-waiting at Texas, which takes the sport seriously. That said …

He hasn’t coached a game. As Spurrier himself has said: “If you want to know whether a guy can win, look at his record.”

Muschamp’s record: 0-0.

Everyone knew Spurrier would win big at Florida. How? He’d won an ACC title at Duke. Most folks figured Meyer’s spread option would, given time, function in the SEC. Why? He’d gone undefeated at Utah.

Spurrier won his first SEC championship in Year 2 at Florida and would have done it in Year 1 had the Gators been eligible. Meyer won the BCS title in Years 2 and 4. Muschamp’s first Florida team won’t be favored to win its division and might not be picked to run second.

To reiterate: Zook won 20 of his first 33 games … and got fired in 2004 the week Florida played Georgia.

Greeting the assembled SEC media Wednesday, Muschamp appeared antsy — his opening statement lasted more than five minutes, a filibuster by industry standards — but composed. (Zook, by way of comparison, gave the impression of a man in the throes of hyperventilation.) The new Gator sounded the right notes. He made you think, “This guy’s got a chance.”

Then you remembered: He’s 0-0.

Muschamp has assembled an intriguing staff: Charlie Weis, the offensive coordinator, used to be the head coach at Notre Dame; Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator, had been in the NFL since 2001; Mickey Marotti, the strength and conditioning coach, is a Meyer holdover. (And, according to Muschamp, the strength coach “is the most important guy on the staff.”)

Weis’ offense, Muschamp said, should suit quarterback John Brantley, the underwhelming incumbent, “a little bit better from the skill-standpoint” than did Meyer’s option. On the status of running back Jeff Demps, who’s running track in Italy: “I deal with people eyeball to eyeball, and I ain’t never been to Italy.”

He has, however, been around football his whole life. “When I was playing in the backyard with my brothers,” Muschamp said, “I wanted to beat them as bad as anything.”

Speaking of ties, familial and otherwise, how does a Georgia native and a UGA grad feel about coaching Florida? “I’m a Florida guy,” Muschamp said.

How does a career assistant make the transition to winning head coach? “You don’t try to be something you’re not,” Muschamp said. He won’t call plays for Weis, and he won’t to draw up defenses for Quinn. (Though Muschamp was a pretty fair defensive coordinator himself.) He’ll oversee.

To date, Muschamp’s closest counselor has been his predecessor. “My e-mail is full of suggestions from Gator Nation, but I listen to Urban a little bit more … We’ve talked about [the competition] in the SEC, and he said, ‘You’re kind of like, “Wow, it’s [this way] every week.” ‘ ”

Well, yes. That’s why the SEC has yielded five consecutive BCS titlists. That’s why Florida’s aim isn’t just to contend in the Eastern Division but to win in Atlanta and play for the big crystal football. Meaning: The Muschamp honeymoon ends with Loss No. 1.

In his first meeting with his new players, Muschamp said he told them: “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” That’s a pithy phrase, and nobody ever used the word “pithy” in the same sentence as “Ron Zook.” But the Zooker isn’t the gold standard in Gatorland — he’s the lead balloon.

Will Muschamp will be better than Ron Zook. But being better than Ron Zook will make him only the third-best Head Ball Coach the Gators have had since 1990.

By Mark Bradley

249 comments Add your comment

Brandon from Warner Robins

July 20th, 2011
5:38 pm

Unless Tim Tebow has any eligibility left, Muschamp will end up like Ron Zook.

Jacket Fan

July 20th, 2011
5:42 pm

Holy Cow! First?

RedGuy

July 20th, 2011
5:42 pm

I do not think he will be successful at Florida.

I will not say why until after the GA-Fl game because I don’t want him to get a chance to correct it.

Buzz Star

July 20th, 2011
5:44 pm

Zook–one of the worst coaches in fla history, but his record against Georgia: 2-0! Ga’s only loss in 2002: to zook! Congrats to the dogs.

rufus

July 20th, 2011
5:45 pm

Mark
If laying out a cogent position was a crime, you’d have no chance of being convicted.

dawg4u

July 20th, 2011
5:51 pm

I think he will be somewhere in between Urban and Zook. The question is whether or not he can handle the pressure of the job given the expectations of the alumni and fans. I think he can but that he won’t be as successful as Spurrier or Urban who both set the bar pretty high.

MagnaCarterGT

July 20th, 2011
5:51 pm

Have to start somewhere, Mark….

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2011
5:52 pm

Kudos, Brandon.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

July 20th, 2011
5:55 pm

Muschamp will not be outworked. He is a excellent recruiter as if Florida really needed much help. He hired Weiss to run the Offense. Make jokes all you like but the Kansas City offense was pretty dang strong. Cassell looked like a legitimate QB in the NFL under Weiss and his coaching. Muschamp had the pedigree all he needs now is the seasoning. I hate to admit it, but Foley made another good hire. Florida will only have this one season that is a down year then it will be back off to the races.

Just Me

July 20th, 2011
6:01 pm

The Brain trust at Florida is better than 8 other teams in the SEC.

UGAKev

July 20th, 2011
6:02 pm

I give him three years and thats no knock on Florida. I just know Florida fans will not be happy with 9-3 seasons

Just Me

July 20th, 2011
6:04 pm

Weiss vs Grantham? adv UF
Muschamp vs Bobo? adv UF

scdawg

July 20th, 2011
6:05 pm

The day of old are coming back where playing Florida is like playing Vandy, a give me.
South Carolina and the ole ball coach are to be taken serious as the domanate contender along ax the new surprise coming out this year Georgia.

Delbert D.

July 20th, 2011
6:08 pm

An urban zook, which would be a scary creature.

Paddy

July 20th, 2011
6:09 pm

Lowcountry Bulldawg…..Muschamp will just join the long list of college coaches that will not be outworked. When you get that far up the food chain all coaches work at maximum. Not a big deal!

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2011
6:12 pm

Actually, a rural zook would be pretty terrifying, too.

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2011
6:14 pm

Dan Mullen of Mississippi State is speaking now. A writer from Baton Rouge just noted that, driving up yesterday, he crossed the state border and saw a billboard with Mullen’s face on it bearing the legend, “Welcome to Our State.”

Said Mullen: “Did you enjoy your time there?”

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:14 pm

“Most folks figured Meyer’s spread option would, given time, function in the SEC. Why? He’d gone undefeated at Utah.”

….seems to my recollection, Mark, when Urban took the Florida job everyone was saying how the spread would never work in the SEC….a gimmick offense, etc. I think you forgot your history. Foley hiring Meyer took everyone by surprise at the time…..everyone thought it would be Stoops or the current Redskins coach. I know, as a huge Gator fan….I was shocked and a little disappointed in the hire at the time. I wanted Stoops. But Meyer came in and did exactly when Muschamp is doing….but I think Muschamp is right now doing it better by hiring better assistant coaches and being an outstanding recruiter and motivator. Not much negative coming out of Gainesville right now.

….so., I think Muschamp will be very successful at Florida and be the coach for a long time. I guess you haven’t been paying much attention to how Muschamp is running the ship down in Gainesville….very buttoned up and very professional He is demanding a lot out of his players….and his coaches….and so far….they are providing it to him (other than Janoris Jenkins and Chris Martin….who were politely asked to leave the ship because they like party with illegal resources too much).

If Weis can work a miracle with Brantley (and that might be too much to ask, frankily), then the Gators will easily win the East. If not, the Gators might stuggle a bit this year….and Gator fans will understand it……but I think he and his group will surprise big time this year….and they will be a force for several years to come with the talent there and the talent that is coming to Gainesville. Muschamp can coach, he can motivate, he organizes well, he hires well…..and he expects a lot from his players and himself. No worries here….from this Gator fan.

Great hire as far as I am concerned.

RedandBlackDAWG

July 20th, 2011
6:15 pm

Mushchamp goes as far as Weis carries him. He is pretty thin in the offensive coaching dept. but a bear on defense. Weis is a good coordinator but a coach with communication problems. If Weis can put together a decent offense, Florida will do OK. Florida like UGA has a lot of unanswered questions and motivation and coaching are going to be extremely important for both teams.

alaska Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:16 pm

Interesting article Mark. Muschamp appears to have the it factor. He looks much more like an SEC guy than Zook ever did. I am a lifetime Dawg fan so I think this is the year for UGA to take the Gator, but I have made that statement at least a dozen times over the last 20 years. Still stinging from the 2002 loss to Zook that you so astutely brought up. Keep pounding the keys Mark. I don’t always agree with you, but I always read your stuff first and have a great deal of respect for your journalism. By the way, it was 68 and sunny today in Anchorage!!

Mark Bradley

July 20th, 2011
6:18 pm

Thanks, alaska Dawg.

Scott B from Montgomery

July 20th, 2011
6:19 pm

The Gators, as usual, are loaded with talent. It will probably take a year or two for this new staff to make it’s mark in the SEC. A sure beatdown is coming, for sure, from his longtime mentor Nick Saban. October 1st, Bama @ Florida. Prediction: Tide 27–Florida 3. Roll Tide!

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:20 pm

I was dreaming at the time when I typed that “easily win the East” comment.. SC is too strong this year in the East. And Florida and Georgia just have too many question marks.

1970 Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:21 pm

@Just Me,, I just wanted to point that you compared UF’s OC to our DC and UF’s HC to our OC. I.m not sure what that indicates. I think it would be better to compare our HC to theirs. Our guy has a .723 winning % and theirs has NO EXPERIENCE— Adv UGA

Beast from the East

July 20th, 2011
6:23 pm

“The day of old are coming back where playing Florida is like playing Vandy, a give me.”

scdawg,
Keep dreaming. Those days are history and will not return in our lifetime.

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:24 pm

Scott B from Montgomery…….

Bama plays the Gators in THE SWAMP……and seldom if ever does anyone “beat down” the hungry Gators down there. Better watch out for a snip in the pants as you walk through it.

My prediction: Florida 35, Alabama 21.

Just Me

July 20th, 2011
6:24 pm

1970 dawg
Muschamp will be in charge of the D and therefore will match wits with Bozo. Weiss will match with with Grantham. Richt doesn’t do the play calling remember. Richt has become a Figurehead and CEO. He doesn’t or has not done the real work in a few years now. Does that explain it better for you. Bozo will be the down fall of Richt.

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:27 pm

1970 Dawg……

We are tallking winning championships dude….not 73% winning percentages. If winning 7 or 8 games a year satifies you…..welcome to it. SEC titles and NC titles are what we expect from Gator coaches….and they have been giving it to us on a regular basis. How about Richt?

Beast from the East

July 20th, 2011
6:28 pm

Mark,
I think Muschamp will not be like Spurrier, Zook or Urban. He has his own way of doing things and seems to be very focused on the task at hand. Year one could be a tough one but I expect we will be back in Atlanta in 2012. This Gator is excited about the future because of this hire. I trust Jeremy Foley totally and he said when he interviewed Muschamp the firt time he knew he was the right man for the job. Foley has forgetten more about hiring championship coaches than we will ever know. Don’t believe me? Take a look at UF’s trophy cases from the last 15-20 years.

1953Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:29 pm

to tampagator, Florida lost the best coach they have ever had in Meyer. This clown is nothing more than a TrooperTaylor at Auburn. He is a big cheerleader,a good recruiter, but a terrible D.C. If i remember Richt&BOOBOO lite his defenses up like a Xmas tree when he was at LSU&Auburn. Saban’s last year at LSU, UGA put up over 40, and his last 2 years at Auburn BOOBOO put up over 35 on his defenses. For you to say he can coach is funny, he can coach what? Wasn’t that successful as a D.C., and he hasn’t coached a game as a head coach. Florida will win the East easily if Brantley rebounds, yea right. S.C is more talented, and UGA while being terrible last year just like florida, is just as talented. I pointed that out earlier with your pathetic postion evaluation of florida vs UGA. Bottomline is this guy is nothing but a big talker, he is blowing a lot of smoke up gator fans asses, and he hasn’t done anything. The last thing for you to say he ran off Jenkins, and Martin is a joke. He wasn’t going to run off Jenkins after his second arrest, he only ran him off after he got so much heat from gator fans, but it was only after his third arrest, and his second while he was coach. Keep dreaming about your unproven cheerleader of a head coach. Trooper Taylor was lucky enough to have boosters pay for a championship, don’t think your cheerleader will have the same luck

1970 Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:31 pm

@Just Me, Show some respect, man. BTW, Weiss didn’t do so well at Notre Dame did he? And Muschamp as HC in waiting didn’t fare so well last year either. How many games did Texas win last year. Their defense was miserable.

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:32 pm

Just me……

I am truly looking forward to the Graham vs. Weis matchup….heavy weight (no pun intended) vs. light weight. Super Bowl winning coach vs. “choke hold” classy man….Wow!

But Muschamp will not be matching up vs. Bobo. That honor will go to the DC-Quinn. And I certainly like that skill set match up as well. NFL playoff winning experience vs. Bobo. Wow!

Beast from the East

July 20th, 2011
6:33 pm

By the way, Zook was Foley’s only bad hire. It was done in a bit of a panic as I don’t think he expected Stoops to turn him down after SOS left. Haven’t seen Foley make the same mistake twice. Foley is the best AD in the country and if you can’t trust his decision making abilities, then who can you trust?

1970 Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:35 pm

@Tampa Gator, If you do the math CMR has averaged 9.6 wins a year over his 10 myr career. Your Gators have enjoyed just slightly better record under CUM. Meyer lost my respect when he re-instated your RB last year just in time for our game. That kid should have not have been allowed back. A non-athlete would have done time for such a threat.

Red Stick (formerly Jumbeauxtiger)

July 20th, 2011
6:35 pm

Tampa Gator,

The Gators could be the best team in the East but may not win the division because of their very tough SEC schedule, including playing Auburn, Alabama and LSU from the West. This puts them at a huge disadvantage compared to UGA and SC.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

Beast from the East

July 20th, 2011
6:36 pm

1970 Dawg,
Texas was #6 in the country in total defense last year. Try another lie, but check your facts before you post it.
http://www.cfbstats.com/2010/leader/national/team/defense/split01/category10/sort01.html

Red Stick (formerly Jumbeauxtiger)

July 20th, 2011
6:36 pm

Enter your comments here

1953Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:37 pm

to tampagator, this guy is nothing more than a Trooper Taylor clone. A big cheerleader that is a good recruiter, but he was a terrible D.C. while he was at LSU&Auburn. If i remember Richt&BooBoo put up over 40 on Saban’s last year at LSU, and BooBoo put up over 35 on his defenses his last 2 years in Auburn. So if it comes down to this clown against BooBoo, that is probably the only matchup BooBoo will have where is is the favorite. To say this guy can coach, what are you talking about. This guy wasn’t that good of a coordinator, and he has never coached a game in the SEC. The only difference between this clown and trooper taylor is the fact that taylor had alumni buy him and his team a title, don’t think that will happen for your boy. This guy will never win an SEC title as long as Saban and Myles are at Bama&LSU. Hell he might beat UGA his first year, but that isn’t saying a lot now, everybody beats Richt. But he will be in big trouble as soon as Richt is gone and UGA hire a competent head coach. Then this guy want even win the east, that is if he can beat Spurrier, which i doubt he can

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:38 pm

Red Stick…..

Yep….I think you are right on that one. One of Florida’s loses will be to the Tigers this year, I believe…unless your coach loses his mind at the end of the game.

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:40 pm

1953 Dawg…..trooper Taylor?

Sorry dude…..Muschamp is univerallly recognized by about every major head coach in the country and a brilliant defensive mind. I am not sure what you are drinking while you are watching those classic TV channels.

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:43 pm

….and Texas had that one horrible game against UCLA last year….but other than that….they played very well on defense. The problem with Texas last year….was on offense, not defense. They had no running back or QB….which makes it difficult on the defense.

1970 Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:45 pm

Beast, how many games did they win under their HC in waiting last year? I didn’t post anything about Yards per game. Read my post before you accuse someone of lying, dude. Muschamp is not the DC anymore. He is HC now with NO EXPERIENCE.

Red Stick (formerly Jumbeauxtiger)

July 20th, 2011
6:45 pm

Tampa Gator,

Miles catches alot of slack for the meltdown at the end of the Ole Miss game in 2009 and he should. Yet Crowton was in the press box and easily could have called time-out as well when they allowed 17 seconds to elapse off the clock. In fact none of the coaches apparently bothered to notice the time slipping away. You would think one of them would have said something to Miles. That said, I’m not making excuses for the Mad Hatter.

We haven’t beaten the Gators yet. That’s why they play them.

I do think that Florida will be underdogs to Alabama and LSU and perhaps to Auburn since it’s a road game. I think it will be tough to win two of those. Thus if you have 2 losses you would pretty much have to beat the rest of the East as I don’t think you can count on winning the division with 3 losses. That doesn’t occur very often.

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:45 pm

1970 Dawg…..

You were the one that stated the 73% winning percentage not me….but I think you missed the point anyway.

Stinger2

July 20th, 2011
6:45 pm

Mark: When did you decide Saban is the best coach is the business? I could not believe you said this. If its just your opinion, you obviously have a right to say so. This is a real surprise that you picked Saban as the best. CMR along with Spurrier, CPJ, Les Miles,etc. are also good.
Hard to say who is “best” if there actually is one.

Red Stick (formerly Jumbeauxtiger)

July 20th, 2011
6:46 pm

flack that is

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:48 pm

Red Stick….

I have only faint hopes for the Gators winning the East this year…..mainly because Brantley is the Gator QB. I just hope he just shocks me this year and grows some down under. He has been a girly boy on the field so far…and you can’t win in the SEC East with a girly boy QB.

Herschel Talker

July 20th, 2011
6:49 pm

MB:

To hell with this traitor! I hope he crashes and burns!

HT

Tampa Gator

July 20th, 2011
6:50 pm

Well….time to go out for dinner. It sure is nice to be talking college football again. My fever is rising. Go Gators. Go SEC. Go college football. Now…time to go eat.

1970 Dawg

July 20th, 2011
6:55 pm

Tampa Gator, I didn’t miss the point. You said UGA wins 7 or 8 times a year. I simply corrected you.