- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Record: 6-6, 3-5 SEC
This wasn’t the start Will Muschamp envisioned for his head-coaching career. Picked as the man to follow the iconic Urban Meyer, Muschamp provided some excitement for the program with his Gainesville roots and his fiery attitude, but that only lasted so long. After a 4-0 start, the Gators went south after quarterback John Brantley went down with a severe ankle injury against Alabama. The embattled senior finally looked like he was turning the corner in his up-and-down career, but was never the same after that injury.
And neither were the Gators.
Even under offensive guru Charlie Weis’ guidance, Florida’s offense reverted to last year’s ineptitudes with true freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel switching in at quarterback. The Gators lost all four games in October and were officially eliminated from the SEC East race with a loss to Georgia in Brantley’s return. Mentally, it seemed as though the Gators were lost after that, losing to both South Carolina and Florida State in back-to-back years. Both games were winnable, but the Gators were once again marred in staggeringly bad offensive performances.
Muschamp’s first regular season ended with him calling his team “soft,” beating just one traditional rival (Tennessee) and earning Florida’s first losing record in SEC play since 1986. A bright spot, however, was the play of the defense. Florida was extremely aggressive and fast and would have gotten more recognition if not for the offense holding this team back.
Offensive MVP: Running back Chris Rainey: He got a little Heisman love at the beginning of the year after totaling 625 total yards of offense, four touchdowns, blocked two punts and returned a blocked punt for another score. Rainey led Florida in rushing (790), receiving (350) and punt return (75) yards.
Defensive MVP: Safety Matt Elam: He might have challenged Rainey as Florida’s top player. Elam absolutely flew around the field and became an outspoken team leader. He was second in tackles (72), but led Florida with nine for loss, had two interceptions, seven pass breakups and forced two fumbles.
Turning point: When Brantley went down against Alabama on Oct. 1, Florida was completely drained. The offense totally floundered and the attitude changed. The Gators lost three straight after and six of their last eight.
What’s next: Florida takes on Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. However, all the talk will center around Ohio State’s future coach, Urban Meyer. Yes, the same Urban Meyer who won two national titles in six years Florida before leaving last year.
FLORIDARecord: 6-6, 3-5 SECThis wasn’t the start Will Muschamp envisioned for his head-coaching career. Picked as the man to follow the iconic Urban Meyer, Muschamp provided some excitement for the program with his Gainesville roots and his fiery attitude, but that only lasted so long.