The Silver Lining: Can Will Muschamp fix all of the Florida Gators’ problems?

By Adam Silverstein
November 4, 2013

“It’s not one thing, I don’t think. I don’t think you can put your finger on it and say, ‘This is it.’”

That’s Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday responding to a question about what his team needs to do to get over the hump and become a legitimate contender in the Southeastern Conference in the near future.

And that answer is precisely his problem.

There is not only one thing wrong with Florida.

It’s not just the fact that the Gators have suffered arguably the worst string of injuries in the nation.

It’s not only that Florida is ineffective offensively and on its way to being one of the nation’s worst offenses for the third-straight season.

It’s not solely that the Gators continue to commit an obscene number of penalties each week, miscues that often play a deciding factor in whether UF wins the game.

And it’s not even the fact that Florida has been failing in areas that Muschamp claimed would be pillars of his program – winning at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, running the football with great success, getting off the field on defensive third downs and ending games by maintaining possession and playing keep away.

The problem, in fact, is that there is so much wrong with the Gators three years into Muschamp’s tenure that no one could legitimately expect him to go so far as to point out a singular issue.

There are simply too many of them.


That being said, not every trouble Florida is currently facing falls squarely on Muschamp’s shoulders.

Most of the Gators injuries, apparently, are of the non-contact variety. Torn anterior cruciate ligaments and labrums can be freak occurrences.

Florida was not left with a full cupboard of offensive playmakers when Urban Meyer departed, and only three of the nine offensive commitments from the 2011 recruiting class – junior quarterback Jeff Driskel being the lone playmaker – are currently on the roster. The Gators did not do well offensively from a recruiting standpoint in 2012 either, but Muschamp’s 2013 and 2014 classes look to be supremely talented on the offensive side of the ball, which is a refreshing occurrence.

Also, if Muschamp’s research staff is to be trusted, UF’s penalty problems are not a three-year issue but rather more than a two decade-long concern.

“In the last 24 years, the University of Florida, we’ve led the SEC in penalties 20 out of 24 – either first or second. That’s long before I got here, so it’s interesting, but it is what it is,” he said after Saturday’s loss.

But while those facts undoubtedly put some of Florida’s struggles in necessary perspective, it remains the responsibility of a head coach to find the correct medicine for each headache he encounters over the course of a season.

The Gators offense struggled in a similar manner in 2010, but then-head coach Urban Meyer used the bye week before the annual showdown with the Bulldogs to employ a three-quarterback offense that beat Georgia 34-31 in overtime and scored 55 points the following week at Vanderbilt.

UF was suddenly one win away from a third-straight trip to the SEC Championship, but a meeting with South Carolina squashed the complete turnaround.

While Muschamp’s Gators made in-game adjustments a hallmark of their success in 2012, Florida has not made any noticeable changes during its three-game losing streak. UF started the UGA game playing as bad – if not worse – as it had been over the last few weeks and closed the contest in the same manner.

Muschamp is not an idiot. He has a great football mind and is incredibly passionate about the game that has enveloped his life. He’s also one of the best defensive coaches in the nation, gets along with his players and appears to be one hell of a recruiter.

But coaching is more than Xs and Os and both building and maintaining relationships. It’s about rolling with the punches, putting together the best possible staff, and ensuring your fan base is both entertained and enthusiastic.

It’s also about eliminating problematic areas one-by-one and making drastic changes, when necessary, to put your team in the best possible position to win games.

And right now, Muschamp is failing mightily in that charge.

26 Comments

  1. sjkoepp says:

    Hit the nail right on the head on all points. Good highlight on the transfers- for some reason a ton of offensive players bolted the last few classes. Taking a look at past recruiting classes I was shocked at how many players on there weren’t on the team now.

  2. Gators22 says:

    The offense needs to be turned over to a coordinator that is more capable of putting the ball into the playmakers we have, in space, and in a position to succeed. And, as much as we don’t want to lose our quarterback, he has to be uncuffed to run when needed.

    I understand it begins with a more proficient offensive line, but other schools have found a way to mitigate that weakness better than we have.

  3. Michael Jones says:

    It’s hard to think of an expression that adds less to a conversation or an analysis than: “It is what it is.” A totally meaningless waste of words and breath. Yeah, we already know that it is what it is, but thank you for pointing that out.

    However, that being said, I don’t have to be a statistician to remember that Muschamp is correct in regards to our long history of being a highly penalized team. It’s been a thorn in our side forever, and that includes the personal fouls of the undisciplined, late hit, unnecessary roughness, and cheap shot variety.

    I don’t know if our Florida high school footballers that we primarily recruit come in with discipline issues or not, but whatever the cause, it needs to come to an end and it needs to end now. I will say this: Regardless of the origin of the problem, the solution lies with imposing harsh playing time sanctions for every kid who commits a personal foul. Let him sit a game–regardless of how good a player he is–and watch how quickly he gets his temper and/or dirty play under control.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Go back and look at the last 10 National Championship winning teams and check out where they rank with personal fouls and other penalties. You’d be surprised. Or not, I don’t know. The point is, a lot of very successful and winning football teams are also highly penalized.

      • Michael Jones says:

        So are you suggesting it’s mandatory? As in you need a strong running game, a great defense, and a lot of personal fouls to win a championship? I didn’t think so. I don’t care if we or other teams have been able to overcome it. It’s still unacceptable and it sure as heck isn’t required.

        I can’t stand bad sportsmanship and that incessant trash talking, chest beating, hotdogging, “look at me” BS. Never will. Love to see a player and a team show some class.

        • Alex says:

          COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS SERIOUS AND NO FUN WHATSOEVER SHALL BE TOLERATED. IF IT WAS UP TO ME, ALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL WOULD JUST BE NOTRE DAME, MICHIGAN AND THE SERVICE ACADEMIES PLAYING A ROUND-ROBIN SCHEDULE WITH DIGNITY AND A LACK OF EMOTION

          • Michael Jones says:

            Yeah, because “dignity” and “emotion” could never co-exist. You either have to be cold and dignified or emotional and classless. Bahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!! See, you’re making college football more fun already, Alex!

        • gatorboi352 says:

          Trust me I’m on your side. But what I’m saying is, the amount of penalties are essentially coincidental, or not exacted related to a lack of success most of the time.

          • Michael Jones says:

            How about on Saturday? Was there any connection on that day?

            I wonder where all the highly penalized teams that don’t win national championships finish their seasons?

  4. SWFL Joe says:

    If Muschamp is such a recruiting guru why hasn’t he pulled one single kid out of Texas in 3 years? It’s not like he doesn’t have relationships with HS coaches in that state. Complete mystery to me. And let’s face facts, Durkin< Quinn. Quinn was the absolute master of the halftime adjustment. I appreciate that Muschamp likes to work with guys he knows, but he needs to quit hiring his buddies and get the best assistants available that will work for Foley's chicken feed.
    Asst coaches that need to go this offseason
    Pease – Definitely
    Davis – Probably
    Lewis – Mostly
    Choate – Maybe
    Lawing – I'm on the fence.
    The one caveat is, if we don't make a bowl, then everybody from Muschamp on down goes.

  5. Rich says:

    I also found it interesting he used that penalty stat from the past 20 years. It was like, we always suck on penalties, always have. Sure, well guess what, if you’re winning SEC titles and National Titles then I don’t give a damn. But if you are last on offense for the 3rd year in a row and you are 4-4 with strong teams left to play, you bet your ASS I’m concerned about the penalties. Among other things.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      actually, even when winning SEC champs and BCS champs, it was still a source of frustration. I have shaken my head for years at how consistently poor team discipline has been and never understood why it couldn’t be fixed. Yes a lot of these studs are primadonnas, and maybe it is just the culture, but other schools don’t seem to have the same consistent discipline issues we have, and it doesn’t seem to matter who is the coach.

      • Michael Jones says:

        I’m with you, Ken. Just because it’s happened for a long time, or just because we’ve sometimes been able to overcome it and win a championship, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Drives me crazy.

  6. WP says:

    All I see if the Gators will throw the ball down the field it would help the D fence. A lot of these calls on the d is cause their trying to save the team when were down. Open the game with more plays down the field and that might help some.

  7. gatorboi352 says:

    The only thing that matters is the product on the field every Saturday. Almost 3 years in, and this is the product we have on the field every Saturday. What else is there to discuss?

    Boom’s time is up, because lord knows he ain’t making any changes any time soon. Hasn’t changed in almost 3 years, didn’t change over the bye week following 2 losses. Bye, bye. Take your millions of buyout dollars with you too.

  8. Mike says:

    Muschamp: “It’s not one thing.”

    Average Gator Fan: “Duh!”

    Me: “It may not be just one thing but lets start with ONE THING. Your offense is 109th in FBS and trending downward. Numbers don’t lie Coach Muschamp. Your offense SUCKS. And I think by saying they SUCK I am being rather kind. I would like to use much more colorful terms to describe it but children might read this and I don’t want to scar anyone for life.”

  9. ziggy says:

    I don’t think enough emphasis is put on the fact that we have ZERO juniors contributing on offense right now. On top of that, Meyer’s 2010 class (this years seniors) wasn’t known for it’s offensive haul. This was the all defense class of Floyd, Powell, and Easly. And on top of that, the 2012 class sucked because of the mishire of Charley front butt FUPA. This worried me when it was all going on, but I listened to everybody saying “oh it’ll be OK. We’re the University of Florida. We’re too big, too good, too powerful. Our tradition will win our games for us. All we have to do is put someone out there wearing Orange & Blue and we’ll win”.

    I said all that to make the point that coaching changes hurt and they hurt badly. We have been devestated on the offensive side of the recruiting trail because of the turn over of our offensive coaching staff going all the way back to when Dan Mullen left. Meyer did a poor job of replacing him, the recruits took notice, and it’s been a downhill slide ever since. I think Muschamp hs turned the tide on the offensive recruiting, but he will have to fire Pease in order to save his job. I just hope it doesn’t end up killing the 2014 recruiting class or it will be even longer before we see nationl prominance.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I don’t believe that firing Pease is the answer. I think if Muschamp will change his philosophy, that Pease can do a great job for us. I say that we’ve all vented enough. Let’s give the guy another year or two to figure this thing out. I think he’s taken enough of a beating and is ready to make some adjustments.

      I say play on, Coach. You and your staff make it happen. Make all of us experts (including myself) look stupid.

      GO GATORS!!!!

  10. TST says:

    great site !
    To highlight how out of it Boom is . Just look at Auburn . Last year they where simply awful . This year they are a good club with a OL i enjoy watching . They have their fair share of banged up players but they keep playing . Boom !!
    He can’t do it or refuses to do it . Either way Florida loses , he wins ..
    Some body in the locker room is running our club and it ain’t ‘Boom’.
    Has JF ever made a great football hire ? NO .
    SOS – Hired by board of regents
    UM – bought in by new president from last school .
    My Gators who i have loved since 1959 are just terrible !
    Where is ‘Charlie Pell’ when you need him ! He’ld get that team playing ball . TY GBA
    Have we not been used enough as fans ? I certainly think so .

  11. Rob Thomson says:

    Muschamp needs to figure out how to win the 1st quarter. Every game the Gators give up an opening drive score. Why can they adjust but can’t anticipate?

    As for the penalties, past results have no bearing on current events.

  12. Gator boys says:

    I wonder aloud if older fans are more impatient… I hope we don’t fire muschamp

    • TST says:

      no. not impatient . just wiser . By now we have seen and heard it all . I want solid Gator football back again . How long does this nightmare continue ? UM last 2 yrs now Boom . Been a long time

  13. Chris Hendrix says:

    It’s funny how times have changed! One head coach started his career with a 1-13, 5-9, and 6-8 record- people called for his job and were going crazy. Thankfully for the Steelers- they kept Chuck Noll!!!!!!!!

  14. Justin says:

    Florida has been one of the most penalized teams in the SEC since Spurrier took over. Between 1990 and 2010, Florida was also the most successful team in the country. The difference is that Spurrier, Meyer, and even Zook to some extent, had offenses that could overcome that penalty yardage. I don’t know why Florida is always one of the most heavily penalized teams in the SEC (if it’s the players we recruit, if it’s the aggressive style of play needed to win, or if the refs just have a bias against Florida), but if Muschamp can’t either correct the issue, or put together an offense that can overcome the penalties, then he’s not the guy for Florida.

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