Hindsight is 20-20, especially when you look back at what went wrong with a coaching staff. For Will Muschamp and the University of Florida football program much of his lack of success stems from recruiting and hiring mistakes.
Muschamp is a young coach who is old-school. He wanted to win in Gainesville with a stout defense and a powerful running game. That’s all well and good but in today’s era of football you have to have the ability to throw the football effectively, especially downfield.
In the end Muschamp lacked firepower on offense. To this point he’s 27-20 as the Gators head coach and only 17-15 in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Here’s a look back at some critical decisions that just didn’t go his way and some recruiting errors that have come back to haunt this Gator program.
• There were many in Gainesville excited when the Gators hired Charlie Weis to become Mushcamp’s offensive coordinator right out of the gate. But looking back, this was arguably his worst decision. The roster had the personnel for a spread attack from the previous Urban Meyer regime. The Gators finished 7-6 and Weis left following the season to take the head job at Kansas.
The next offensive coordinator hire was Brent Pease. That first season was a huge success on the field, as Florida finished 11-2. The Gators won playing really good defense, winning the turnover battle and running the football. It masked their offensive deficiencies in the passing game and lack of big play talent at wide receiver.
Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong in 2013 for the Gators. Injuries plagued the team and Florida only won four games. It was the low of lows for this proud program.
The scapegoat was Pease, who was replaced by Duke’s Kurt Roper to run the Florida offense. Roper had less than a year to help try and turn around a stagnant Florida offense. This season was more like the ’12 campaign for Florida on this side of the ball, where they were pretty good at times in the running game. It was Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor who dominated Georgia a few weeks ago in Muschamp’s biggest win in two years. However, the passing game really struggled under quarterback Jeff Driskel and he was eventually replaced by true freshman Treon Harris.
Speaking of quarterbacks, this position didn’t help Muschamp either, as he failed to develop anyone. He hitched his wagon to Driskel and let quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy both transfer.
Over the course of four seasons Muschamp went through three offensive coordinators, three offensive line coaches and four wide receiver coaches.
Aubrey Hill resigned as the Florida wide receiver coach before the 2012 season amid allegations that he was one of the coaches involved in the Miami Hurricanes athletic scandal when he coached in Coral Gables. Following the 2012 season former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips took over wide receiver coaching position Gator staff. He left the program this past June, citing personal reasons. Former Florida quarterback Chris Leak, who was a graduate assistant on this staff, was promoted to wide receivers coach to replace Phillips.
How bad were things on this side of the ball? Florida senior wide receiver Andre Debose has gone through six wide receiver coaches since he signed with the Gators in 2009.
It’s tough to develop any kind of offensive stability and identity with that much coaching turnover.
But Muschamp’s downfall started the minute he committed to and hired Weis. That move really set the unstable offensive tone of this regime from day one.
• Florida has lacked offensive firepower at wide receiver for some time now. In fact, the last true threat on the perimeter was Percy Harvin. That’s sad when you are talking about a school and football program like the Gators, especially considering the wealth of talent in their own home state of Florida. Simply, it’s inexcusable.
The blame ultimately falls all on Muschamp because of his philosophy of ground and pound and who he hired to run what he wanted to do. It effectively amounted to an offensive that struggled to find its way, especially in the passing game against some very good SEC defenses.
Muschamp also failed when it came to recruiting wide receivers and skilled players in general. The 2012 class had much promise, despite the 7-6 season on the field. The Gators were quite confident they were going to land wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs. But in the end they lost both players to USC and Maryland respectively. It was not much of a surprise to us but it was to them. They had no Plan B except to fall back to wide receiver Ralph Andrades, who was offered a scholarship by Florida almost at midnight the day before national signing day.
That class brought in wide receivers Andrades and Latroy Pittman. The prior class, Muschamp’s first full season to recruit, Florida only inked JaJuan Story. His first two classes only brought in three wide receivers.
In 2013, Florida signed wide receivers Demarcus Robinson, Alvin Bailey, Chris Thompson, Marqui Hawkins, and Ahmad Fulwood. The only player from this position group that has made any kind of impact has been Robinson, who shows real promise. Stating the obvious, the lack of a passing attack, consistent quarterback play and talent at wide receiver stymied this offense under Muschamp.
Here’s all you need to know; entering this fall, 32 of the 45 top quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers from Florida had made their commitments and only one was committed to the Florida Gators (wide receiver Kalif Jackson).
• Over the last few seasons this staff in Gainesville had trouble reading the ‘tea leaves’ so to speak. They missed on recruits late in the process where they had gone ‘all in’. Look at last season with running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Ermon Lane. Most in the recruiting game believed that those two South Florida prospects were headed to Florida State despite their pledge to Muschamp and the Gators. Still, they believed they were still going to get these two players. It didn’t happen. The same thing happened with Agholor and Diggs (mentioned above). Cornerback Tracy Howard and linebacker Jordan Jenkins were two others that come to mind. While every team loses heartbreaking recruiting battles, you also have a Plan B if things don’t go your way.
• This staff didn’t want linebacker Ryan Shazier. They didn’t believe Keith Kelsey, despite being a legacy recruit, was good enough to play in Gainesville. Florida didn’t offer running back Alex Collins a scholarship until November of his senior season, despite his sister being a student at the school and Collins being the top rated running back in the state. So with that class they were effectively saying that they preferred Adam Lane over Collins. Just this year they slow played linebacker Te’Von Coney, who tried to commit to Florida a few times. Then they jumped on him late when things didn’t fall their way at this position but he committed to Notre Dame instead.
The point here is that they misevaluated and mishandled some very big time recruits.
• It seems as though they spent too much time recruiting outside the state of Florida. Sure, you have to leave the state to spot recruit and go after good players that are showing an interest. But this staff seemed to do it more than usual and a lot more than Spurrier, Zook or Meyer did. Over the classes of 2011,'12, ’13 and ’14, Florida signed 54 in-state players and 38 out of state players. That ratio seems too close together. This is the University of Florida and there’s no reason whatsoever that they shouldn’t win their share of recruits in the Sunshine State.
Even with this most recent class of 2015, most of the key in-state prospects they either lost to other teams or they hadn’t decided yet because they wanted to see how the season would unfold for Muschamp and the Gators. At this point Florida has five in-state and five out-of-state commitments. For most of this recruiting cycle they had committed more players from outside of Florida.
• My last point is that I have never seen a staff lose and gain more committed recruits than this regime at Florida under Muschamp. They lost and flipped more recruits than anyone I can ever remember. I just don’t know how you can ever recruit consistently doing that. It’s a dangerous way to recruit and this really hurt Muschamp over the long run.Related stories: NFL Rosters Breakdown Series
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