Saturday, December 11, 2010
Muschamp's move leaves Texas in bind
By David Ubben
Will Muschamp was done being a coordinator anywhere but Texas. That was obvious.
But as a "coach-in-waiting" for one of the most plum college coaching jobs in America, there weren't many places that could convince him to leave Texas.
Florida was one of them.
Muschamp has a reputation as arguably the best defensive coordinator in college football and one of its best recruiters. He could have taken a head coaching job at any number of schools before Florida, but his wait and consistent excellence on the field and the recruiting trail have landed him a job just as prestigious as Texas.
And it comes without a wait. More than anything, that's what prompted Muschamp to make the move. Despite Texas' struggles, a renewed and invigorated Mack Brown was reigning over the Longhorns in 2010.
Will Muschamp, who had been the head-coach-in-waiting at Texas, will replace Urban Meyer as the coach of Florida.
Brown had knee surgery in 2006 and told reporters at Big 12 media days in July that he felt "better than I’ve felt in years." Muschamp was still a handful of seasons or more from removing the "in-waiting" from his title.
Muschamp's contract didn't have a buyout, and the "coach-in-waiting" title was more to keep him in Austin than to keep others from taking him. The promise to hand over the reins was enough to keep him from hopping to jobs at schools like Pitt, Louisville, Miami or a number of other openings in the SEC.
There was little that would have kept him from saying yes to the Gators.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley clearly feels strongly about Muschamp.
"Coach Muschamp is someone we targeted from the beginning and he is the guy we wanted. He is the only person we met with and the only person we offered the job to," he said.
Florida will be getting everything it wanted in a coach. As a recruiter, look no further than Texas' 2011 class, which ranks No. 1 nationally and has four defensive members of the ESPNU150 currently committed. The recruiting pool will be just as deep in Florida.
It wanted a high-energy guy whom fans could get behind and be excited about.
It takes only a short YouTube search to figure out the origin of Muschamp's nickname, "Coach Boom." And the Georgia alum fits Florida's final criteria: a coach who knows the SEC.
Muschamp gained his reputation while coordinating defenses at LSU and Auburn earlier this decade, sandwiched around a short stint with the Miami Dolphins.
Florida took a leap of faith by hiring the 39-year-old first-time head coach, but there may not be a coordinator in the country more ready for his first stint, even if it's at Florida. Remember, Oklahoma took a chance once, too. In 1999, it took a leap of faith on some 39-year-old guy named Bob Stoops who was coordinating the defense at Florida and had never been a head coach, either.
For Texas, a program already in relative unrest will find even more turbulence. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis resigned earlier this week, and the Longhorns lost a pair of position coaches and their special teams coordinator to retirement.
That leaves Brown without anyone to run his offense or defense, and Muschamp could take any number of coaches with him to Gainesville, including running backs coach Major Applewhite, who was on Texas' short list to succeed Davis as offensive coordinator.
"Our commitment remains that we will build the best coaching staff in the country and we will begin a nationwide search immediately for a new defensive coordinator," Brown said.
The Longhorns could go in any number of directions, but don't expect Brown to settle for promoting from within. The amount of talent on defense at Muschamp's disposal will go to the next guy, and there are plenty of coordinators who would jump at the chance to coach players like Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, both set to be seniors in 2011.
Brown said after his first round of coaches left that he has no plans to name replacements until after bowl season. If there was ever a year in which Texas is lucky not to be preparing for a bowl game, it's this one. Brown can focus now on his somewhat daunting coaching search(es) without worrying about a bowl flop.
As for losing some of those 23 commitments, Brown won't have much to worry about. Only two of those don't hail from Texas. The vast majority of high school players in Texas don't grow up dreaming of playing for Will Muschamp, Greg Davis or even Mack Brown. They dream of wearing the burnt orange.
The Longhorns might lose a few -- maybe even one or two to Florida -- but don't look for a mass exodus.
Texas will probably emerge out of this offseason in good shape. Top-notch facilities, talent, location and a winning tradition offer at least some assurance of that.
The next few weeks are crucial for Texas. There aren't many Will Muschamps left out there to be a coordinator. Brown, ideally, would like to find the next one.
But with so many other coaches leaving vacancies on Brown's staff, the only thing we know for sure is we'll see a different-looking Longhorns team when spring football opens in a few months.