Will Muschamp was not always the favorite at Florida. For whatever he built on defense with one of the most dominant defensive teams in recent memory, he never could get over the hump offensively with the Gators.
He will always be remembered as the coach that let the Gators slip out of the bowl picture for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Many Florida fans seemed happy to see the visibly emotional coach with the hard-driving defense go. The buck stopped with him to produce though and the Gators failed to do so, even if offense was not his expertise.
Muschamp was not the marquee hire South Carolina fans probably expected after Steve Spurrier stepped down. But as Muschamp says he told athletic director Ray Tanner, “Let’s not win the press conference, let’s win football games.”
The question for the Gamecocks is what will be different this time around for Muschamp than what he did at Florida.
In a first-person essay he wrote for Sports Illustrated’s Campus Rush, Muschamp says the year back as a coordinator gave him a new perspective. Working with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn as defensive coordinator gave Muschamp a new perspective, adding it to the treasure trove of coaching experiences and influences he already has.
It was informative and should allow Muschamp to bring something different to Columbia than he did to Gainesville:
“I can reflect on my experiences working in the past for Nick Saban, Mack Brown and Tommy Tuberville,” Muschamp wrote. “You learn what to do and what not to do. I spent last season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator under Gus Malzahn. He’s a heck of an offensive coach, and to see the tempo of his scheme was an important experience. To sit behind the head coach’s desk for four years and then be back on the other side—that was impactful in a lot of ways. One thing I was reminded of at Auburn was how much I enjoy being on the field, sitting in the meeting room and developing players. … As a head coach you miss some of those things, which is why I make a point of still teaching a position group at South Carolina, the safeties. In practice, I now try to spend as much time with the offense as I can, but I still believe you should play to your strengths, and coaching defense is one of mine.”
Going from head coach to assistant again and being ingrained with an offense that is different than anything he had run before certainly should be illuminating. Just how much Muschamp’s new offense with offensive coordinators Bryan McClendon and Kurt Roper take away from that experience is yet to be seen.
Muschamp’s offenses in Florida were always viewed to be a little too conservative and run-focused in a conference and college football environment that has gotten increasingly more open and pass-happy.
Muschamp, as he writes in his letter, is always good at picking himself up and getting back on. That was a big message from his letter as he has faced injury questions and then professional setbacks and always found a way to improve and get better each time.
South Carolina is certainly hoping so.