He did it rather quickly, but Will Muschamp was able to clear most of the riff-raff from the program. He did it without disgracing the players and allowing them to make a general public statement about ‘why' they were leaving. Make no mistake about it, there were quite a few that didn't want to go that said publicly otherwise. From the outset and talent be damned, if there was an ongoing issue with a player that could affect his team, Muschamp remedied the situation by removing the issue. There are a few talented receivers, pass rushers, etc. that had they been able to straighten up would have certainly been a boost for this current roster, but the light didn't seem to be coming on and so they were gone.
2. These guys are characters with character
What was left for Muschamp and this 2012 season was a bunch of guys that played for each other, loved each other, and weren't going to do things off the field or even on the field to try and mess up a good thing. Sure we aren't talking nirvana here, but Muschamp and the current staff have really made an impact in terms for the locker room setting and the guys just wanting to play for each other.
3. They never quit
Florida didn't have many lopsided wins in 2012. They had to come back after being behind than not. The gators would likely have several blowouts if you just took scores starting at halftime. But, that is what makes this team and really program so impressive. You can chalk it up to a lot of things, adjustments, will, being a stronger team…. Whatever it is, it is working. Even in their lone loss, they gave the ball away six times and had no business being in the game and yet with just over a minute left they were two yards away from possibly tying the game and sending into overtime. And as weird as it sounds, the Louisiana (Lafayette) two touchdowns in the last two minutes to win is another amazing game to remember. If there was a team with "ice in their veins" it is this one.
4. Their best attribute may be their stamina
Muschamp made the Jeff Dillman hire as a strength coach and it was met with open arms. A year ago, Florida folded in the second half and especially the fourth quarter where they were outscored 72-22 in SEC games. They almost completely flipped that in one year outscoring their SEC opponents 61-20. Dillman used techniques to ensure that Florida would actually get stronger as the game went on and that is what happened, especially compared to their opponent on any given Saturday.
5. Their strength comes in numbers
Part of that stamina came in the form of more people getting on the field and playing. With Muschamp's first real recruiting class on the roster, they were able to insert players and personnel they thought would really help them. There were true freshmen that played critical roles this season at running back, receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, and at linebacker. Other players that matured from last year also saw significant moments in games. All of this helps keep the starters fresh and also builds for the future as most of these young guys have gotten more playing time than some sophomores would get in the same situation.
Kudos go to Muschamp for playing so many young guys. This is hard for coaches to do sometimes and there were times where he had to remove one or two when things weren't going great. But when you are on the road at Tennessee, losing a close game, and have your two true freshmen receivers start the first series of the second half, you are building trust with them and the rest of the team.
6. Muschamp sets his sights and gets there
He coaches like a pro coach. He has goals in mind and he knows back and forth what the strengths are of his team. He uses those strengths till he can't use them anymore and the outcome this season has been an 11-1 record. He went away from the norm in a couple of games where he thought he could get away with it, trying to throw early in the game, something his teams weren't geared to do this year. He did this because he knows the passing game needs to grow.
The man talked early and often about what this team was and that was a hardnosed running team. They had their issues when a couple of linemen remained injured and sometimes played through the injuries, but weren't as effective as they should have been. Sure he wants to be a downhill running team and be able to do that, but he saw coming in that it is what his team had to be successful with this current roster.
7. Defense should never be an issue
Muschamp, Dan Quinn, D.J. Durkin, Travaris Robinson, and Bryant Young took a sophomore laden defense a year ago and made them a top ten defense despite an offense that couldn't control or hold the ball. This year they made the defense into probably the best defense in the country and one that he leaned on quite a bit in this 11-1 run. The advancement of players like Josh Evans, Jon Bostic, Omar Hunter, Earl Okine, Lerentee McCray and others is a true testament of the coaching ability of the staff.
The secondary may be the most improved unit in all of college football. Remember the two jump-ball, fourth down, touchdown passes against Georgia in 2011. How many times did this secondary give up a jump ball pass after giving up over a dozen long ones a year ago? It was almost miraculous improvement there.
Now they plugged in guys like Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler up front and those two gave more pass rush in their limited time than we have seen around here in a few years. Linebacker Antonio Morrison was coached up since January and filled in greatly for all-SEC candidate Jelani Jenkins and his various injuries.
The bottom line is this defensive staff is going to put out good defenses despite who shows up on the field for Florida and the longer they are in the system, the better this group is going to be.
8. This staff can coach their way out of almost any kind of trouble
I touched on this a little bit earlier, but these guys are the king of adjustments. From being down at halftime to Texas A&M and Tennessee to running the seven offensive linemen against LSU, to calming the troops after 20 unanswered points at FSU, to scoring two touchdowns in two minutes to finish the Louisiana (Lafayette) game, these guys have their heads on straight and keep their calm through it all. I am still shaking my head in amazement after Muschamp let all the time run out against Louisiana when they had the ball, only to call for a blocked punt with not much time left. A block allowed at worst his all-American field goal kicker to take a shot with time expiring and at best, like we saw, someone on his team to scoop and score a touchdown. That is forward thinking and hard to do under the pressure of a football game that means so much to so many.
9. Muschamp is not conservative
I hear it and read it all the time from the folks on our site. "He's a conservative defensive coach." Hogwash. The guy has called more fake punts than any coach I can remember outside of Les Miles. He's done it every time in a close game and he's done it deep in his own territory. He let the offense run a reverse on the first play against Tennessee inside their five yard line. This guy is actually more of a gunslinger on both sides of the ball, or he wants to be' than anyone can ever know.
I don't think you hire guys like Brent Pease and even (gulp) Charlie Weis to be conservative. That makes no sense to me. As much as he is a defensive guy, he attacks everything he does and is relentless about it. That doesn't go along with being conservative.
10. The future is bright
Before the season I predicted an 8-4 or 9-3 year for this team. I told people at clubs that I spoke at that I wasn't sure that Muschamp was THE GUY for this program. It really isn't the two or three more wins that has me convinced that Muschamp is that guy, it is really more about the methodical way he achieved it in year two and has set up his program to be successful in the future.
All of this comes from a few things I already mentioned above like cleaning out the riff-raff from the program or playing young guys early and often and in turn when it is there turn to take the stage and start, they are prepared and don't have to go through all the bumps and bruises that his team went through a year ago.
He is also a discipline first guy and that is a big change around here. In the end, this is going to pay off with the mommas and papas of big time recruits that are willing to send their kids off to school at Florida.
He has his work cut out for him in a couple of areas in recruiting like receiver and defensive tackle, but we have seen this year that he can find a way around those issues while he repairs the problem.
Miami is about to get hammered by the NCAA and the gators just gave the biggest eye opener to Florida State in terms of where their program really is and headed, Florida looks to own this state for the near future.
These look to be good times.