Will Muschamp got his coaching start at Auburn as a graduate assistant during the 1995-96 seasons after his playing career as a safety at Georgia. He spent one season apiece at West Georgia and Eastern Kentucky before being hired as defensive coordinator at Valdosta State for the 2000 season.
However, it was at Auburn where he established key connections in the coaching ranks in Jimbo Fisher and Pete Jenkins, who were on Terry Bowden's staff and later hired by Nick Saban at LSU. In 2001 Saban needed someone to run his defense, and Fisher and Jenkins, who is currently with the Philadelphia Eagles, had a recommendation.
"Jimbo is the reason why I got hired," Muschamp says. "He and Pete Jenkins are guys I worked on with this staff and they were on the staff with Nick. Nick wanted a young guy from the South who had recruited in the South and been in the conference with conference experience and coordinator experience, which I had. Their recommendation is really the reason why I got hired."
Not only is Muschamp one of the best young defensive minds in the college game, he's also as intense and animated as it comes.
Muschamp and Fisher were the coordinators at LSU from 2001-2004 when the Tigers won a pair of SEC titles and a National Championship in 2003.
Muschamp followed Saban to the Miami Dolphins last season while Fisher stayed in Baton Rouge and was hired on by Les Miles prior to the 2005 season.
Now, the two coordinators will face each other in arguably the most important game of the year for both teams.
"It's a little different, but there is no one who will want to win more than he or I on Saturday," Muschamp says.
"It's the next game so it's the most important from their side and our side," he adds. "It certainly helps you out in the west race, but it certainly doesn't mean it's over if you're not successful. It's an important game, it's a national TV game and two outstanding teams. Really since 2000 these two teams have dominated the west."
The winner of the contest has played for the SEC Championship in five of the last six seasons.
With Fisher and Muschamp so familiar with the other's attacking schemes having been on staff together for a total of six season, it will be an interesting matchup to see the adjustments and chess match that the two have install for the game.
"I think the more familiar you are with an opponent there is no question it helps," Muschamp says. "I don't think there is any question about that. Certainly being around him and knowing situationally the things he likes will help. He's also been around me a lot, too. Thank goodness that for every paid ticket guy he and I won't play Saturday. The players will make the plays on Saturday to determine the game.
"It will come down to game day and they'll have some new wrinkles for us and we'll have some new ones for them," he adds. "It'll be a matter of adjusting on game day."
One advantage Muschamp will have over Fisher is in game preparation. Muschamp knows the talent of the upperclassmen on the LSU squad having coached in Baton Rouge when they were younger in their careers.
"It'll be the best receiving corps we'll see all season," Muschamp says. "Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet are all guys who have played an awful lot. Brandon La Fell, a freshman, has come in and done a good job and Trindon Holliday is a good change-up guy for them. JaMarcus (Russell) is an outstanding quarterback. He's only lost one game as a starter, I believe. He's a guy that's very talented and he's coming into his own now into his redshirt junior season. Really, for a quarterback, that timetable is right for him to the type of player he is supposed to be.
"They're tough and hard-nosed up front and they've got an outstanding running game in Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent," Muschamp continues. "All of those guys do a good job of running the football. They're very balanced and they can hurt you in a lot of different ways. They're a very talented group and they're well coached."