More on Muschamp
The offensive struggles started early and never went away over the four-year span. Will Muschamp didn’t take over a loaded group on the offensive side of the football, but he wasn’t able to recruit offensive players well enough to change that.
Coordinators weren’t able to change it either. Charlie Weis seemed like a home run hire to start the Muschamp era, but his offense went through three quarterbacks and never showed much progress throughout the season. After John Brantley got hurt, Florida jumped between freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel without either playing well to take the job.
When Weis left to be the head coach at Kansas, Muschamp hired Brent Pease away from Boise State to run the Florida offense. A scheme based on confusing the defense with pre-snap shifts and motions turned into more procedural issues for the Gators. Florida purposely played conservative in 2012, trusting its defense and special teams advantage to win games. It worked, but the offense didn’t make progress.
Kurt Roper left his offensive coordinator position at Duke to take over the Florida offense this year, as Muschamp was given his third chance to hire an offensive coordinator. The Gators are averaging 373 yards of offense this season, the highest of the Muschamp era, but it still wasn’t enough progress to save his job.
The Gators struggled to recruit difference makers at the receiver position. Demarcus Robinson was the biggest receiver recruit Florida signed under Muschamp, but they’ve struggled to get the ball to him at times this year and there haven’t been enough playmakers around him. Robinson has 566 receiving yards and five touchdowns this season, but no other receiver had more than 220 yards or two touchdowns.
Then there’s the fit. Muschamp has always been a strange fit at Florida, a program with a long history of offensive success. His cautious tendencies frustrated the fan base. His offense leaned heavily on the run, and at times, it completely ignored the passing game. In games against Georgia and South Carolina this season, Florida combined to throw the ball 17 times.
It’s that type of conservative nature that frustrated, and ultimately lost the fan base’s faith in him. Saturday’s game against South Carolina showed it again. After Florida took the lead with 1:56 left in the third quarter, Treon Harris threw one pass the rest of the way in regulation.
The defense was never a problem in Gainesville under Muschamp. This season’s defense ranks 20th in the country in total defense, allowing 330.3 yards per game. It’s the first season under Muschamp that the Florida defense hasn’t been in the top eight of total defense.
His defensive expertise was easy to see from the first season in Gainesville, but his success on that side of the ball bled into the way he viewed offense. The Gators became conservative with the ball, leaning on the defense to make a play to change field position.
This season, the problems have spread to special teams. Florida gave up a punt and kick return for a touchdown in an embarrassing homecoming loss to Missouri. On Saturday against the Gamecocks, Florida had a punt and kick blocked in the final 3:31 of play to hand the game to South Carolina.
More than anything, the Gators found ways to lose games under Muschamp, especially in the last two seasons. The offense’s struggles and conservative nature kept games close, keeping Florida’s opponent in the game and allowing them to have a chance for a comeback.
That was no more obvious than on Saturday, Muschamp’s final SEC game in The Swamp.