High-energy and ready to get to work, Will Muschamp was introduced Tuesday evening as the Florida Gators‘ 23rd head football coach. He began his press conference with an obvious clear understanding of the job he has to do and a promise to perform his responsibilities to the best of his ability.
“I am certainly honored and proud to be the head football coach of the University of Florida. It’s a great day certainly for my family and Florida. The expectations at Florida are winning championships. And believe me, I understand that, and I understand what you’ve got to do to be successful in that situation.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING “THE RIGHT FIT”
Athletic director Jeremy Foley explained after head coach Urban Meyer resigned that the man he would hire to replace him would have to be the right fit – not necessarily the most experienced candidate. He expanded on those comments Tuesday.
“The more and more you researched [Muschamp], it was obvious he was the guy we wanted to go after. And we went after him,” Foley said. “It was very, very clear early on that this was the guy that we wanted to bring to Gainesville to lead our football program and build on the wonderful foundation that’s been left here by Urban Meyer.”
Muschamp understands some might be concerned about his lack of head coaching experiences but promises it will not be an issue. “I know there will be criticism about maybe not hiring a guy with head coaching experience. I certainly understand that,” he said. “But I do think, if you look at it, you can really look at all the examples across the board of guys who had no head coaching experience and did an outstanding job because they were the right fit for the right job at the right time.
“I feel like I’m the right fit for Jeremy. [Looks at Foley] I can certainly tell you, you’re not going to regret [hiring me].”
BECOME A BETTER PERSON, THEN BECOME A BETTER FOOTBALL PLAYER
Like Meyer before him, Muschamp plans to put a special emphasis on his players being successful off the field before they step foot on it. This effort begins in the classroom, translates to programs he will create and eventually comes to fruition on the gridiron.
“I want all of our student-athletes to come into our program to be a better person for having been at Florida. And I’m not just talking about from a football standpoint, from a strength standpoint. I’m talking about the off-the-field things,” he said. “Academically is obviously very important to me. We’re going to have programs set for our players that are going to help with leadership development, character development and the mental conditioning it takes to be successful. It’s all about making good choices and good decisions nowadays.
“There’s a lot of distractions out there. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong when you make a poor choice or decision. There’s nothing more frustrating to me then to see a young man make a poor choice and somebody said, ‘He must be a bad kid.’ He’s not a bad kid. He made a poor choice and decision. So we need to do a great job of conditioning our players to make good choices and decisions.
“You got to get a degree. I’m going to emphasize it. If our kids don’t want to get their degree, they don’t need to be here. If they’re not going to go to class and act the right way, they don’t need to be here. There’s a certain thing that I’m going to refer to as ‘The Florida Way,’ and that’s the way they need to act and that’s the way they need to represent our university.”
STAFF RETENTION AND HIRING COACHES
Muschamp made a concerted effort Wednesday to explain that he was the sole decision-maker and source when it comes to coaching hires and indicated quite clearly that nothing of the sort had been worked out yet – and may not be for quite some time. “The thing you need to trust – a little blind faith on my part – I’m going to make the best decisions for Florida. I’ve got zero timetable on hiring a staff,” he said. “It’s not about doing the easiest thing, it’s not about doing the quickest thing, it’s about making the best decision – and that’s what we need to do for the University of Florida right now. There has been no one offered a job in the coaching right now by the University of Florida to work on our football staff, regardless of what you read. There’s one source in this football program, and that’s me. And there’s one guy hiring coaches, and that’s me. So nobody’s been offered a job. Let me make sure everybody understands that before we walk out of here tonight.”
That being said, Muschamp did announce the retention of one staff member – strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti. “We’ve got to do a great job in our weight room. I’m really excited that Mickey is going to stay on and be a Gator. He’s outstanding; he’s as good a strength coach as there is in the country,” he said. “My first visit was to our weight room to visit with him and make sure he understood that he and I are on the same page with what we want for our athletes. I think he’s phenomenal.”
As for everyone else? They have to wait. “Nothing’s going to be done, in my opinion, right now before the bowl game as far as coaches that are going to be hired, retained, whatever. Right now, I’ve got absolutely no timetable with that,” Muschamp repeated.
“We’re going to work through the bowl game. Urban Meyer is the head football coach through the Outback Bowl. I’m strictly a spectator. I’m going to evaluate the players and make the best decisions for Florida as far as our staff is concerned. There’s some outstanding coaches on this staff and I’m just getting some input from people who are around the country and in talking to Urban.”
“…URBAN MEYER IS GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS PROGRAM”
After Meyer stepped down exactly one week ago, Foley mentioned that he could very well remain a part of the Gators as long as the head coach they hired to replace him was amenable to that concept. Muschamp recounted a conversation he had with Meyer on Saturday – just before he decided to come to Florida – and how it affected him.
“Urban Meyer – what a phenomenal job he’s done. When Jeremy sat with me in my living room on Saturday and we talked about the job at Florida, we continued to talk [and] were having great discussions about everything as far as philosophically, what we believed in the program, what we believed was important,” Muschamp recounted. “As we kept talking, I felt like I needed to talk to Urban Meyer. And I said, ‘Do you mind if I call him?’ He threw the phone at me and said, ‘Here he is right here.’
“The more I talked to him, the more I liked him. And I can tell you this right now: As long as Will Muschamp is the head coach of the University of Florida, Urban Meyer is going to be involved in this program. And I’ve invited him to the weight room, I’ve invited him to the practice field, I’ve invited him to the meetings and whatever he wants to do. He will be a great sounding board for me, number one. And he needs to be involved in this program for our players – because he’s the one that recruited them all, and he’s still helping us in the recruiting class we’ve got going this year. And he’s a great sounding board for me and a part of this great tradition of Florida football. “
Admitting that allowing Meyer so much access to the team may be viewed as either weak or dangerous, Muschamp dismissed anyone else’s opinions of the situation bothering him even the least bit. “The perception can be whatever it is out there. I deal in real world; I deal in reality. I’ve got no ego. My agenda is the players and the University of Florida. And it’s about winning. That’s where the fun is. It’s about winning football games and doing it the right way,” he said.
“We’re going to be a pro-style attack offensively and defensively,” Muschamp made clear from the start. “As far as special teams is concerned, I feel like our players will be exposed to cutting-edge schemes to make sure that they show their abilities. If they want to play on the next level, they certainly can have those opportunities.”
That being said, Muschamp realizes that defense is his specialty and plans on hiring a knowledgeable offensive coordinator to support him. “I want to hire an experienced play caller. I would like for him to have a background in both college and pro football. I think it’s important that we have some pro-style systems to what we want to do,” he said. “But I think the best coaches out there, they look at their roster and they evaluate who they are at this time. And then they recruit to who they want to be. […] Will there be more pro-style ideas in our offense? There certainly will be. We want to be balanced in what we do, regardless of who we hire. [That] will obviously be a big hire for me, me being a defensive coach. […] Hiring an offensive coordinator is a critical hire for me.”
Defensively, Muschamp has not decided whether or not he will hire a coordinator to call the plays or help him out in the role of an assistant. “There will be components of the 3-4, the 4-3. We like to be a man-pressure team,” he said of the defense. “But the big thing you got to do defensively nowadays, you got to be multiple in what you do. You got to be able to change week-to-week. […] Defense is my strength. I have not decided yet whether or not I will call the defenses or not. That will be decided based on who we hire and who we’re able to bring in.”
Regardless of how the offense and defense are formulated, the team as a whole will have some standard philosophies instilled in it from the get-go. “Our program is going to be based in a family atmosphere with three basic things: trust, respect and communication. Those are all two-way streets; it takes two to do it,” Muschamp said. “As a football team, I want to be known as a blue-collar, overachieving unit. We’re going to recruit good players here, but they need to take the talent they have – what God’s blessed them with – and stretch it to the potential that they’ve got. […] We will be a physically tough football team. And it’s not something you talk about; it’s something you live your life with.”
QUOTES (After the break…)
On recruiting thus far: “We got a great reception.”
On his basic goal with Florida: “The most important thing – when you talk about football – it’s a great team game. The University of Florida is about winning championships. That’s what I understand the expectation is, and that’s what I’m here to do. We need to understand the process it takes in order to do that. The hard work, the dedication, the common purpose attitude and the all-in attitude it’s going to take in order to do that.”
On helping players after they graduate: “Once our young men graduate, once they finish playing, we need the Gator Nation to come together and help them launch their careers – by the NCAA rules. We need to make sure that we help these young men that came to Florida, graduated, did it the right way finish their playing days and we help them launch their careers. The University of Florida is a powerful place; it’s the flagship university in this state.”
On how to win in the SEC: “The SEC is a line-of-scrimmage league. The difference between the SEC and all of the other leagues is simply this: the defensive line. Top-to-bottom, you’ve got to keep them off balanced. You’re not facing just one or two good defensive lines through the season; you’re facing a bunch of good ones.”
On players participating on special teams: “If you’re not a quarterback or you’re not an offensive lineman, and you don’t play on special teams, you’re a selfish football player. […] Our best players will play on special teams. You’ve got to control the vertical field position in the game, and special teams is certainly a way to do that.”
On statistics: “I’m not a big stat guy. There’s one stat and it’s winning football games. There is no ugly win. You either win or you lose.”
On playing at Georgia and sharing a beach house with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher: “I suffered some temporary insanity there for a while.”
On who his starting quarterback will be: “I haven’t even looked at our roster to be honest with you. I’ve had a cell phone growing out of my ear the last three days working on recruits.”
On if he ever expected Foley to call him about the job: “First of all, I was worried about his health. That was the first thing that popped into my mind. Certainly didn’t feel like Jeremy Foley would call me, but I was certainly relieved and pleased that he did.”
On being wired and animated on the field: “I’m going to be me. I think the worst thing you can do in a leadership position is try and be something you’re not. I’m going to be me, I’m going to be Will Muschamp, and I’m going to be involved with the players. I think the players are a reflection of their coach and I hope they feed off the intensity that we try to bring to the game.”
On winning in the Outback Bowl: “We need to send Urban Meyer out the right way with a win over Penn State. This guy’s going to be a hall of fame football coach.”
On winning at UF: “I expect to win. We’re not on a five-year plan here.”
On players earning a spot: “First impression is so critical. “You guys got a chance for a first impression right now, and that’s in bowl practice.’”
On being a trustworthy person: “I’m a stand-up guy. You may not like what I have to tell you, but I’m going to be honest with you.”
Muschamp added that former Gators QB Tim Tebow called him on Saturday after he accepted the job. He said he spoke with former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier on Tuesday and plans to speak with UF’s other Heisman Trophy winner, QB Danny Wuerffel, soon.
Photo Credit: Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun