Former Florida Gators quarterback Shane Matthews has been quite vocal about his displeasure with his college team over the last few years, so much so in fact that it even earned him a spot (at least temporarily) in head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse.
With Meyer now at Ohio State and head coach Will Muschamp at the helm in Gainesville, FL, Matthews told host Dan Hicken of Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville that he sees a bright future ahead for his Gators.
“This coaching staff at Florida is the best we’ve ever had at that school – hands down from top-to-bottom – when you go from position-to-position and see where they’ve coached, what they’ve done,” he said. “I love the staff. It’s going to take time because we just don’t have the athletes that the other big boys in the conference do.”
Matthews, who took over as head coach of Nease High School in January, said his appreciation for the coaching staff begins at the top with Muschamp.
“I love him. I love him. I’ve known him for a long time,” he said. “I played for Nick Saban. His last year  at Miami was my last year [in the NFL]. [Muschamp is] a combination of a little bit of [Steve] Spurrier and a lot of Nick Saban. I like the guy. He was dealt a bad deck of cards. I don’t think people realize how bad that situation is and was.”
Though Florida has brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes over the last few years, Matthews believes Meyer and company failed in their talent evaluations and relied on speed more than overall football talent toward the end of his tenure.
“We ain’t put anybody in the league the last couple of years, so that shows you how we were recruiting. They missed big-time,” he said. “We had a track team, which track teams don’t play on Sunday. You better run like a track player but be able to play football.”
Muschamp’s rocky first season as the man in charge of the Gators may be in the rearview mirror, but Matthews does not believe the coach is out of the woods yet. He said that Muschamp has plenty of tough decisions ahead of him starting with who he will name as Florida’s starting quarterback in September.
Read the rest of Matthews’s thoughts on the Gators…after the break!
“That’s hard and it’s hard for a coach…because you’ve got these kids that are so close in talent. To recruit two five-star blue chip guys like [Jeff] Driskel and [Jacoby] Brissett and then you got to decide which one is going to be your guy on opening day. And then what happens to the other guy? Does he lose his confidence? Does he end up transferring? That’s got to be really tough on a college coach to sign two quarterbacks in the same class,” Matthews explained.
“I came in and we had four quarterbacks in my class, which is ridiculous when you think about it now and all three of the other ones ended up transferring eventually. If I was a college coach, I think I would only sign one of those guys per year.
“It’s a very difficult situation because that’s the problem coaching quarterbacks – only one dude can play. You can sign a bunch of receivers because you can put a bunch of receivers on the field at the same time. When it comes to quarterback play, it’s hard to evaluate them and figure out who’s going to make good, quality decisions at that position in the heat of the battle.”
Asked by Hicken if he was able to put an informed opinion together on Driskel and Brissett, Matthews said he watched both practice during the spring but that the race was too close to call. He did, however, provide his opinion on the Gators potentially running a two-quarterback system throughout the season.
“I think they both will [play], but I think they’re going to have to pick one guy and say, ‘This is our guy.’ See how he does and then know that you’ve got a guy sitting in the bullpen that you can bring in. But, oh man, that is a tough decision,” he said.
Matthews added that whichever quarterback does win the job will be in much better hands than John Brantley was over his final two seasons in Gainesville now that offensive coordinator Brent Pease is in charge.
“I think we’re going to be much better in the next few years with Brent Pease calling plays because he’s creative, you’re going to see him trying to get a lot of mismatches,” he said. “Nothing against Charlie Weis, it’s just our quarterbacks in the last three-to-four years have not been coached. There’s no other way to put it – they have not been coached.”
He did not place all the blame on Florida’s coordinators, however, as Matthews also pointed out that the Gators have been lacking playmakers over the last few years, which he also attributed to mistakes in recruiting.
“We don’t have playmakers around the quarterbacks either when you look at it,” he said. “Tim had a lot of guys that played in the NFL, and he’s a phenomenal player and was a phenomenal player. When Brantley stepped in, he had nobody around him if you think about it.
“There’s no excuses there because we should have [those type of players]. There’s not a whole lot of guys that you can say, ‘OK I can rely on this guy to run a good route, get open and make a play for me.’ Until we get those kind of players, we’re going to have to rely on defense.”
With Matthews echoing many sentiments Muschamp himself has expressed over the last few months, it appears that one of Florida’s all-time greats and its current head coach are back on the same page once again.