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Be in the mix for SEC and national championships, fill the stadium, don’t be boring – not necessarily in that order.
Will Muschamp is going to be a massively successful head coach somewhere and in some capacity, but the problem is that his style and philosophies just didn’t translate to a football program identified by one-word legends like Spurrier, and Tebow, and Urban, and Wuerffel. Muschamp was the Next Big Thing head coach for years, got the sweet gig at Florida, and didn’t get a whole bunch of luck.
His 2012 team would’ve been deep in the discussion for a playoff spot had the four-team format existed then, going 11-1 with the lone loss coming in a 17-9 fight to Georgia. But starting with the Sugar Bowl loss to Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville, the Gators 9-13 up until this weekend’s loss to South Carolina.
Florida lost a total of ten games from 2004 to 2009, and ten from 1993 to 1998.
To be fair, Muschamp’s 2013 team was destroyed – completely and totally obliterated – by injuries across the board, losing a dizzying array of four and five-star talents that killed the momentum of hopes for the season before they could really begin. The inability to develop some of those key players turned out to be a big problem coming into this year, but again, along with the inability to win enough games came the perception problem. Muschamp’s teams were simply boring.
Kansas State, you want your successor to Bill Snyder? Here you go.
Power running, time of possession, win the turnover battle, limit the mistakes, great special teams, elite defense – sound familiar?
LSU does that to some extent, but its downfield passing game is more adaptable depending on the talent. Arkansas is trying to do all of that to be SEC Wisconsin under Bret Bielema, and it’s working well – actually, it’s building to work well – at a place that doesn’t welcome in the elite of the elite recruits. Kansas State would be the dead-on perfect fit for a guy like Muschamp, whose teams did all the same things Snyder’s teams like to preach, but what might play in Manhattan doesn’t really work in Gainesville.
It’s about the fit. Florida is Charlie dumping Rob Gordon and wanting a Marco – it needs something a bit more “glamorous.”
Dan Mullen would be too easy, and he would be acceptable to the Gator base, but is he high-end enough? Is Boston College’s Steve Addazio just more of the Muschamp same? They’re not Urban Meyer, and while their teams will take on the similar styles, does Florida want more fun and less power? And just how outside the box is the program willing to go?
Rich Rodriguez probably would’ve been terrific at Michigan if given more time, but he just didn’t mesh from the beginning – it took a while for Wolverine fans to adapt to a total and complete change in philosophy. Bob Stoops is one of the few 180-degree success stories, helping Oklahoma make the big transition from the wishbone days under Barry Switzer, through the lean times, and back on the other side with one of the best passing games in college football, but Florida has seen several different styles now and should be more adaptable. It should be able to take on the best head coaching candidate possible.
The Gators have seen the great running games, it’s seen the high-flying passing attacks, and it’s seen the power-spread at its best. Florida will always bring in the superstar talent, there won’t be any limitations in terms of facilities and support, and the place will do what it has to in order to ensure the best possible fit.
The hot assistant won’t do. Florida needs a proven superstar coach, or another Hugh Freeze/Urban, who’s ready to make the next jump up into next-level status. With that in mind, the three best options are …
3. Jim McElwain, head coach, Colorado State – The former Alabama offensive coordinator knows how to create an adaptable offense depending on the personality and style, changing his 2014 Colorado State team on the fly with a good, efficient passing attack to go along with the power ground game. He might not be the easiest sell to the Florida fan base right out of the box, but he’s on the coaching track to take on a massive program sooner than later.
2. Todd Graham, head coach, Arizona State – While he might be known as the Larry Brown of coaching, he’s also a winner with fun, exciting offenses and currently rolling through a nice stint at Arizona State. Remember, it took a long, long time for ASU to start to find some consistent success again, and Graham stepped in and took ASU to the Pac-12 title game in just his second season, and has had the team in the mix all this year despite fighting through a nasty schedule and the second-toughest division in college football outside of the SEC West. He can recruit, he’s an innovator, and he’d win right away.
1. Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama – Florida, do it now, because otherwise you’re going to have to deal with him running the Crimson Tide machine a few years from now. Florida has been able to deal with prickly coaching personalities in the past – Urban wasn’t exactly a ton of belly laughs when he had things rocking and rolling – and Kiffin certainly knows how to punch his weight in the recruiting world. Totally lost in the USC debacle was that he actually won – going 10-2 in 2011 - despite being hamstrung by the NCAA sanctions from the Reggie Bush fiasco. USC had no depth whatsoever thanks to the scholarship restrictions – it wasn’t all his fault. He’s a massive gamble, but he’s also a shot for the stars. If you can coach for Nick Saban, you can coach.
Muschamp will turn out fine. He’ll either be a killer defensive coordinator at the highest level he wants to go – while waiting for a Kansas State-like spot to open up – or he’ll be a terrific fit at a place like Illinois – okay, okay, it’s probably not going to want another ex-Florida head coach – and would be a dream for Iowa State.
Muschamp came close at Florida, he just needed some offensive punch. The Gators might have lost a really good head coach in search for an elite one.
Will Muschamp Era Over. What's Next?
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