Now that the 800-pound gorilla is off his back, it will be interesting to see how Will Muschamp approaches Saturday’s game with Eastern Kentucky and then Thanksgiving weekend with Florida State. Will he stick with the same conservative approach that had a lot to do with why he will be trying to squeeze by on a $6.3 million buyout the next three years or will he figure there is nothing to lose, no pressure on him at all, and tell Kurt Roper to cut loose the offense and let the imagination rule the day? .
I’m hoping that Muschamp tells Roper “you take the offense and do with it whatever you want; I’m taking the defense and we’re going to choke the life out of Eastern Kentucky and FSU.” I know that goes against Muschamp’s grain but he’s not coaching to keep from getting fired anymore. He’s coaching for himself, for his assistant coaches and for the kids who are still playing very hard for him and feel that they let him down by not playing better. So, why not make the last two weeks a thrill ride? .
If he made such a radical change and the Gators beat EKU to become bowl eligible and then at least scared the bejabbers out of the Seminoles, it would be a coaching image boost that Muschamp could use right now and it would give Roper a chance to salvage something from what turned into a not so great decision to leave Duke for the offensive coordinator’s job at UF. .
He’s actually a fun loving kind of guy too. He needs to cut the conservative umbilical cord these next two weeks, let the fur fly and have some fun. It could be most entertaining and who knows? Maybe the Gators could go 2-0 and Muschamp could go out in a blaze of glory.
1. Bob Stoops: They say you always remember your first time best of all. Since Steve Spurrier isn’t going to be Florida’s head coach again, then bring back Bob Stoops, whose defense combined with Spurrier’s offense put the Gators on top of the college football world for the first time. He has won a national championship at Oklahoma and he’s the winningest coach in school history, no small feat when you consider Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer were among his predecessors.
What I like: He’s a defensive coach who hires coordinators who spread the field, make liberal use of the passing game and still incorporate a power running game. He has proven to be the excellent CEO coach who lets his coordinators and assistants do what they have to do without his heavy-handed interaction.
2. MIKE GUNDY: Every offensive coordinator who works under Gundy is proclaimed a genius and lands a nice Division I job. It’s Gundy’s offense they run and it’s been perfected over the years. He is a terrific talent evaluator which is why Okie State keeps turning 3-star kids coming out of high school into 5-star talent at the collegiate level (see Justin Blackmon, who was considered a “sleeper” by ESPN back in 2008).
What I like: Gundy’s offenses remind me a lot of Steve Spurrier’s during the Fun N Gun days. The Cowboys make a living off slants and crossing patterns and they use the passing game to open up the running game. I like the way Gundy probes a defense until he finds a weak spot then attacks relentlessly. There is real balance in his offenses, which have produced two 4,000-plus passers, five 1,200-plus rushers and a whole slew of big time receivers in the last eight years.
3. Josh McDaniels: I like that he had the guts to take a chance with Tim Tebow when he was head coach of the Denver Broncos and I thought he got the shaft from John Elway, when Elway took over as president of the team, largely because Elway didn’t like (and might have been a bit envious of) Tebow. He is a very bright offensive mind and he’s only 38 years old, which makes him the youngest of the perceived Florida candidates at this time.
What I like: The Patriots traded away or let go some of their best offensive weapons (see Wes Welker; see OL Logan Makins) but even without top tier offensive talent to surround Tom Brady, the Patriots keep blowing up scoreboards. He likes tempo, likes to spread the field and is absolutely phenomenal at picking a weakness in an opponent and then exploiting it. I think his offensive background and philosophy plus his background of coaching for Bill Bellichick would have the state’s best skill people flocking to Gainesville.
4. LARRY FEDORA: Yeah, I know they aren’t playing any defense at North Carolina but a lot of that has to do with personnel deficiencies because of the scholarship sanctions that Fedora has had to slog through from the Butch Davis days. Fedora runs a tight and very clean ship at Carolina and has been hailed for doing an exemplary job of getting the Tar Heels out of the NCAA jail house. They’re going back in it soon for more things that happened before Fedora arrived. He’s available.
What I like: Chris Leak was the best freshman QB in the country in 2003 with Fedora running Florida’s offense and had a terrific sophomore season in 2004. At Oklahoma State, Fedora melded his offense in with Mike Gundy’s and the Cowboys were lethal. He understands explosiveness and knows how to get big plays in both the running and passing games. His offenses are usually quite balanced. Even though he had been gone from Florida a full year, Fedora was instrumental in the Gators landing Tim Tebow. Without Fedora’s influence, Tebow would have gone to Alabama.
5. Brian Kelly: Kelly has been the consistent winner at Notre Dame that Charlie Weis wasn’t. The Domers are 44-18 in his five years on the job and they played for the national title in 2012 when they had an unbeaten regular season. He’s an outstanding disciplinarian who isn’t afraid to suspend players or send them packing for rules violations. He was a college head coach at the age of 30.
What I like: I like it that Kelly has worked his way up the ranks, starting in Division II at Grand Valley State where he won two national titles, to Central Michigan, where he turned that program into a winner and at Cincinnati, where he coached the Bearcats to an unbeaten regular season (12-0) in 2009 before he took the Notre Dame job. His last four offenses at Notre Dame have averaged more than 400 yards per game with nice balance.
1. Chip Kelly: I love his offensive schemes and the way he plays tempo. I love what he did at Oregon and the Eagles are one of two teams in the NFL whose offense I really enjoy watching. So what’s the problem? There was that teensy little matter with the NCAA that got him a show cause for 18 months. Yeah, I know lots of guys cheat and some guys aren’t trying to cheat but they push the envelope just a tad too far. I remember the probation years and the doom and gloom that descended upon the program and how Florida was called an outlaw school. I like it that those same people that called UF an outlaw school have seen their own schools go on probation for one sport or the other, one by one, while Florida hasn’t had a single major violation in any sport since 1990. I want to keep it that way and the best way would be to stay clear of anyone who has a history with the NCAA.
2. DAN MULLEN: I like Dan Mullen. I like what he’s done at Mississippi State and how he’s made the Bulldogs not only relevant but championship contenders. I like the spread option offense and believe it would work like a charm at UF. I like the almost perfect balance between the run and the pass he’s achieved. So what’s not to like? Some coaches coach best when they have a chip on their shoulder and I think Mullen is one of them. I think he’s at his best with the overachiever type, which is all you’re going to get at Mississippi State. At MSU he’s gone to four straight bowl games and could get the Bulldogs into the national championship playoff this season. They’ll name streets and babies after him if he wins the SEC or makes the playoff. At MSU he can go 7-5 or 8-4 next year and they’ll love him. At Florida those kind of seasons get you canned. I’m not sold on the fact that he would be as comfortable coaching Florida as he is coaching Mississippi State because (a) there is less pressure to win in Starkville and (b) he views himself as an overachiever and that’s the kind of athletes he’s going to get there. Sometimes those kind of coaches don’t do well when they have to satisfy a roster full of studs, which is what he would get at UF.
3. DABO SWINNEY, Clemson: I think Dabo is a brilliant recruiter but I’ve yet to be convinced he’s a great game day coach. I think he loses one or two games every year that personnel says he should win but coaching blunders or breakdowns on the field turn them into losses. I don’t see a lot of adjustments at the half or while the game is going on. Maybe those are things he will outgrow, but until I see them he’s not a coach on my must have list.
4. Mark Helfrich: I think he’s a brilliant offensive coordinator and he’s off to a 20-3 start as a head coach but until I see him winning big with talent that he recruited, I’m not sure I would take a chance on bringing him to Florida if I were the one making the decision. His roster is still loaded up with players that Chip Kelly recruited so we haven’t seen what he can do when the whole team is made up of guys he brought to the fold. There are a lot of things to like about Helfrich but until I see him winning big with guys that he brought to Eugene, I’ll reserve judgment.
5. David Shaw: First off, I don’t think he will leave the west coast and doubt he would want to leave Stanford, where his father was once an assistant coach and where he played his college football under Dennis Green and Bill Walsh. Stanford had a fine run from 2011-13 but I think that might have had everything to do with the fact Jim Harbaugh left the cupboard overflowing with enough talent to win at a high level. This year, Stanford is 5-5 and I doubt the Cardinal will be that much better next year.
College: Quarterback at Delta State (1987-91) Assistant coach under: Steve Campbell (Delta State); Charlie Weatherbie (Navy); Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) Head coach at: North Alabama (66-21); Louisiana Lafayette (34-15)
Louisiana Lafayette salary: $950,000
Contract runs through: 2019
Why he would stay at ULL: The obvious reason is he wouldn’t be asked to interview at Florida. He wouldn’t jump at just any SEC job because he’s not going to lock himself into a can’t win situation, but there is no way he would turn down Florida if offered.
Why he would leave ULL: Hudspeth is the best coach in the Sun Belt Conference and he’s adored by the folks in Lafayette. They’re spending $115 million to upgrade all the athletic facilities with the bulk of it going to football (stadium will increase to 50,000, which will make it the largest stadium in the Sun Belt Conference; indoor practice facilities) but how long can they expect him to stay at a school whose best post season possibilities are the nearby New Orleans Bowl or the GMAC Bowl in Mobile? If Dan Mullen leaves Starkville, he’s at the top of AD Scott Sticklin’s speed dial list. Could he be near the top of Jeremy Foley’s list at Florida? Foley remembers all too well 2012.
The stats tell the story: The Rajin Cajuns have won nine games in each of Hudspeth’s first three years on the job and they’re 7-3 this year, a shoo-in for a school record fourth straight 9-win season. Hudspeth likes to spread the field but he lets the personnel dictate. In his first two years (2011-12), the Cajuns were pass-heavy (3,503 pass/1,627 run in 2011; 3,399 pass/2,515 run in 2012) but they’ve been very balanced the last two seasons. Last season (2013), the Cajuns threw for 2,759 yards and ran for 2,672. This season they have run for 2,310 and passed for 1,960 through 10 games. In 2013 the Cajuns had a 900-yard rusher and an 800-yard rusher. In 2011 they had three receivers with more than 50 catches and in 2012 they had seven with more than 15 catches including one with 64, one with 40 and one with 34. In 2012, it took a blocked punt on the last play of the game for the Gators to avoid overtime with the Cajuns at The Swamp.
From 1975-83 the Little River Band was at the height of its popularity. The band put together eight albums, all of them with one or two songs that played well on the radio. The songs that played well were always good ones that made you sing along, but the rest of the songs on the album were always average at best. Their “First Under the Wire” album in 1979 was the only one that cracked the top 10 on the American charts, largely because of the two very good songs – “Lonesome Loser” and today’s music, “Cool Change.”