HOOVER, Ala. - It isn’t like Will Muschamp was summoned to Florida to rebuild a broken program left in tatters by Urban Meyer. What isn’t broken at Florida, Muschamp has no plans to fix.
His email is full of “suggestions” from well-meaning fans, but Muschamp says there’s really only one member of the Gator Nation whose council he keeps: That’s Meyer himself.
“I’ve chosen to listen to him more,” Muschamp said Wednesday during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days.
But don’t misunderstand: Muschamp will be his own man and do things his own way now that the former LSU defensive coordinator is running the show at one of the nation’s most potent football powers.
“Obviously from a scheme standpoint we feel differently defensively, do things a little different offensively,” Muschamp said.
There should definitely be a different feel on the Florida sidelines. Meyer was the intense, stoic, brooding type, with nary a follicle out of place. The only time his hairdo got dislodged was when he got doused after a big win (in Gatorade, of course).
Muschamp is the chest-bumping, vocal, heart-on-his short sleeve sort, a shock of brown hair hanging down over his forehead making it hard to believe he will turn 40 on Aug. 3. And while we’ll see if head coach Muschamp finds chestbumping players unseemly, there’s no doubt he’s already injected a shot of adrenalin into Meyer’s sometimes staid program.
“Great intensity,” quarterback John Brantley said. “We needed that, that giddy up.”
There’s something in Muschamp that says he can’t sit still for long. Maybe that’s why the former coach-in-waiting at Texas (where he ran the defense the last three seasons) could wait no longer once he got the call from Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, beckoning him back to Gainesville where he grew up.
“When Jeremy Foley calls from the University of Florida,” Muschamp said, “you listen.”
Funny thing: as a player, Muschamp wasn’t good enough for Florida. He wanted to walk on, but the Gators didn’t offer. Georgia did (Muschamp was born in Rome, Ga.) so he became a Bulldog.
But that was then.
“I’m a Florida guy,” he said.
Florida was once the team Georgia and other SEC rivals toyed with, though the last 20 years no SEC program has been stronger. But the Gators went 8-5 last season, an on-field manifestation of Meyer’s worrisome health issues, the kind of season Florida fans haven’t accepted for a long time.
“Yeah, they’ve told me,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp is an unproven commodity as a head coach despite his pedigree. Clearly, Foley was betting that Muschamp could channel his years working for Nick Saban and Mack Brown into similar success.
Will Muschamp be able to blend emotion and experience and win like the Gators have become used to winning? He’ll have to prove it. His way.