Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a 20-minute-long press conference on Wednesday to officially announce his hiring of Brent Pease as the team’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Throughout the course of the interview, Muschamp answered a number of questions fans undoubtedly have expressed about Pease, new strength and condition coach Jeff Dillman and the team heading into the 2012 season. Aside from his opening statement, OGGOA has rearranged and grouped Muschamp’s responses together in different categories for clarity.
On Pease: “Really excited to have Brent Pease join our staff as offensive coordinator. When you go out and talk to numerous people, many [of whom were] very qualified for this job, he really is the right fit for us. And really I go back to that word ‘fit.’ We have an outstanding offensive staff – Frank Verducci, Brian White, Aubrey Hill and Derek Lewis – and really it was about bringing a guy in that was going to be a good fit for the room, bring some new ideas, bring some new energy to what we’re trying to do but understand we’re not changing philosophically about where we’re headed with this thing. Understand what we need to do to continue to move forward, bring some new ideas as far as personnel groupings, formations and all that is great but understand we’re not changing who we are and what we are. Brent understands that.
“He’s got a great experience in a lot of different places. [Him] having coached in this league and called offenses in this league and in this stadium was important to me. He understands this stage and what you’ve got to do to be successful, and really offensively he’s been the backbone at what they’ve done at Boise for the last seven years. They’ve had tremendous success. Obviously coaching quarterbacks is his expertise and playing in the NFL as a quarterback [is a plus]. You also look at the success he had coaching wide receivers at Boise. He did an outstanding job with that group there.
“At the end of the day, [he can provide] the balance we want to remain on offense and [was] the right fit for we’re looking for. It’s really exciting. He watched our practice at the Gator Bowl practices, came back and he and his wife Paula, who’s wonderful, this past weekend came and spent the weekend in Gainesville and they wanted to be Gators. [They are] really excited.
“When you have an opportunity and you have an opening, you need to make sure you make yourself better. And I think we did with Brent, and I’m really excited about him being a part of our staff. He’s an outstanding recruiter. I ran across Brent about 12-14 years ago. I was at Valdosta State and he was at Northern Arizona. We were recruiting a young man out of Lowndes County – Vincent ‘Sweet Pea’ Burns. He got [him] to leave Lowndes County to go to Northern Arizona, so right then I knew he could recruit. He’s a guy that has been on my radar for a long time as a football coach. I faced him when we were at LSU and he was at Kentucky. Again, really liked what he did what he did with that team offensively, creating ways to get his playmakers the ball, creative in the play calling and the tempos and the different stuff. As he’s progressed, he and I have kept in pretty good contact through that time. A lot of respect for this guy as a football coach. When you meet him and get to know him, you’re going to see a very intelligent guy that is going to add a lot of the University of Florida. Really excited about this hire.”
On Dillman: “Also, after the bowl game, we named Jeff Dillman our head strength and conditioning coach. He will oversee all of our programs and was hired by the athletic department. Really excited about Jeff. Jeff and I were together at LSU – won a national championship together. He left and when to Appalachian State for three years where he won two national championships in ’06-’07. Jerry Moore, a guy who I have tremendous respect for at Appalachian State, I called and asked him about Jeff and he just had nothing but great things to say. Of course most recently he’s been working at IMG, preparing a lot of guys for the NFL Draft and then NFL players are coming back and training under him. He brings a lot of passion and energy and expertise in the weight room. We’re going to go to more of an Olympic-style lifting, what I was exposed to at LSU. Very excited about what he brings to the table.”
OTHER CANDIDATES WHO WERE PASSED OVER
Muschamp inferred that he interviewed approximately a dozen candidates for the position either over the phone or in person. Two of those in particular – Jacksonville head coach Kerwin Bell and White (Florida’s current running backs coach) – he complimented and said were equally qualified for the job.
On Bell (and if he felt any pressure to interview/hire him): “Absolutely not. Kerwin is an outstanding football coach. He’s done an outstanding job at Jacksonville. We had a great meeting. He’s a Gator and he’s a guy that I’ve got a lot of respect for in this profession and is certainly qualified for this job.”
On White (and how he handled not getting the job): “Total professional. The guy’s a heck of a football coach. Like I said, there’s a lot of people I talked to starting with Brian that were very qualified for this position. This was a good fit to be able to bring a play caller, a quarterback coach into our situation.”
PEASE AS A COORDINATOR, FITTING IN WITH STAFF
How does Pease fit with the Florida program, which already has a full staff and wants to continue running a pro-style offense?
MUSCHAMP: “Exposure to our system, which he’s been different places. He’s been exposed to an awful lot. He’s been in this league. He’s called offensives in this league. It’s different. It’s different. He’s been on his stage before. He’s been on the national stage at Boise and in some big ball games and some big bowl games and called them and done a phenomenal job and has had great results. He met with our staff. Our staff signed off and said, ‘This guy fits in our room.’ This guy is a staff guy. All of the people I know that have worked with Brent [say] he’s been a staff guy. He’s been a very positive member of the staff. Again, I don’t hire ‘yes’ guys; I hire guys that give their opinion, and he’s going to do that. He’s certainly going to do a great job with our offense, but he’s a guy that just fits. He’s a guy you want on your staff. I know people personally who have worked with him, and personally I feel like I’ve known the guy for a long time having to recruit against him, recruited with him, having the same areas and seen him a lot. He’s a guy in our profession who is very well-respected.”
Pease is known to be aggressive when creating game plans and calling plays. Will he continue to maintain that characteristic while doing so for the Gators? How will he adapt that to Florida’s current system?
MUSCHAMP: “There’s no question we want to be aggressive in all phases. He’s certainly a guy that’s very unconventional in the way he thinks offensively at times, which is because he keeps the defense off balance. A lot of motion shifts, tempos that he wants to instill with what we already do. I already told Brent and he understands this, we’re going to take our scheme and what we do and tweak what we do with our players. We’re not taking a whole new playbook and throwing it on our players. One guy is going to learn rather than 40, and that’s really how I look at things in a pretty simplistic manner.”
Will Pease be making adjustments to the playbook? How much of it will remain as-is from Charlie Weis’s tenure?
MUSCHAMP: “That’s what we wanted to limit as much as possible – limit coming in and calling a formation something different that we’re not used to. Let him learn what we call the formation. Will there be some changes? Certainly. It’s not all going to be the same. They’ll be some changes defensively, and I plan on our staff being intact and our players. We’ve got everybody back. There’s always tweaks and changes in what you do to fit your personnel, and there certainly will be.
“I’ve done what he’s done twice, what he’s about to do, at Texas and Auburn. I told him, ‘You’re going to look at some things that conceptually make total sense in what we call it and how we call it and then there’s going to be some things that may not make as much sense and we’ve got to make sense out of that for our players so it’s not a total change for our players.’ As we work through that, after we get off the road recruiting, that’s what we’ll be doing, meeting and going through all those situations. I’ve done exactly what he’s doing. At the end of the day, he doesn’t need to get marbles in his mouth on third-and-eight. He needs to be able to get a call out. He needs to be familiar enough with the terminology to be able to call it and also [have] our players understand it.”
Note: Muschamp said Pease will call plays from the booth.
PEASE AS A QUARTERBACKS COACH
Was it important to bring in an offensive coordinator who was also a quarterbacks coach? How well does Pease fit what you were looking for?
MUSCHAMP: “We’ve got two young guys that need a lot of fundamental work as they continue to progress as a player. That was critical to me to bring a guy in that’s his expertise. But again, you also look at his production at coaching wideouts. Really good coaches, they can coach a lot of stuff. Good coaches can coach a lot of different places and he’s done that. It just shows you his track record of relating with people and doing a great job of conveying the message.”
Is it critical for an offensive coordinator to also be the quarterbacks coach or at least have a lot of experience in that area like Pease does?
MUSCHAMP: “It’s got to be somebody that sees the big picture and certainly I think, not all the time because it’s not all the time so don’t take what I’m about ot say as an all-the-time thing. It’s important for the play caller to see it from that standpoint, in my opinion. It doesn’t mean it works all the time.”
PEASE AS A RECRUITER
What is Pease’s reputation in recruiting circles and how do you see him helping the rest of the staff in that area?
MUSCHAMP: “He does a great job developing relationships with people and that’s all recruiting is. He does a good job at evaluating, which he did at Boise. At Boise State he signed two wideouts [who] this last year that we’re selected in the first three rounds. Obviously he’s a good evaluator. He’s done a nice job developing players when they get on campus. Recruiting is all about developing relationships with people. That’s really all it is.”
Does Pease have experience recruiting in the state of Florida?
MUSCHAMP: “He’s recruited throughout the state of Florida, mostly in the panhandle and north central Florida region but he’s also recruited in the Orlando area and Jacksonville. He’s very versed in this state. We’ll sit down as a staff and he will target all quarterbacks obviously because that position as far evaluation and building that relationship is different than any other position.”
Was an offensive coordinator having experience calling plays in the SEC a major factor in making this decision? Is it really that different than other conferences?
MUSCHAMP: “Against these defense in this league? Yes. Did you watch the other night? There’s more people to account for. I’ve said this before: The SEC is different because of the defensive lines in this league. Generally when you turn the tape on, week-to-week – and it’s not one week and it’s not one team always very good up front, it’s top-to-bottom in our league – everybody’s got good front people, everybody’s got people you’ve got to account for. You got to understand that it’s about mismatches. How are we going to block this guy, because we’re going to have a hard time blocking this guy today. Creating mismatches and understanding where your issues are. He’s been through that, when you’ve got to line up against some of the defenses in this league and figure out how you’re going to block those guys. You’re not seeing it one or two teams in your league. You’re seeing in top-to-bottom, week-in and week-out, understanding the issues you’re going to face with some of the matchups you’re going to have up front.”
Is Pease’s personality similar to yours?
MUSCHAMP: “[Smiling] I don’t know. Brent to me is down to earth, very analytical, smart, very intelligent guy. I’ve never coached with him on the field obviously, so I couldn’t answer the question about his mannerisms there. Just as far as day-to-day meeting with the guy, he’s just a pretty normal fella, I guess.”
What did you think of Alabama’s play[Monday night?
MUSCHAMP: “They’ve played well all season. They’ve played consistently well through the year. I said this when we played them back in October. About six of those guys playing were playing in Pasadena two years ago, too. They’ve done a nice job of recruiting and developing their players.”
Did Pease interview with Alabama?
MUSCHAMP: “I don’t know.”
What should everyone think about this hire?
MUSCHAMP: “Any recruit and any player at the University of Florida out to be excited about who we hired and where we’re headed with this thing. This offers also to me, even though there’s been a change, a lot of continuity of what we’re doing.”