Thursday, December 8, 2011
Gators look for Weis' replacement
By Michael DiRocco GatorNation
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida might end up feeling the loss of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis more in the next three weeks than in the next three years.
With Weis suddenly resigning to become the head coach at Kansas on Thursday, the Gators are being forced to adjust on the fly in preparation for the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Ohio State on Jan. 2. UF coach Will Muschamp said running backs coach Brian White will handle the game plan and call plays against the Buckeyes.
Charlie Weis' offense at Florida struggled with injuries, a lack of talent and a lack of depth.
Despite the fanfare that accompanied Weis' arrival in Gainesville, losing a coach with four Super Bowl rings might not have much of an effect on the program. Not because Weis has lost his touch, but because the talent level is so depleted at receiver and along the offensive line -- and possibly at quarterback, too -- that it's going to take several seasons before the Gators are going to complete the transition from a spread-option offense to the pro-style attack that Muschamp wants.
"We need to improve offensively," Muschamp said Thursday night. "Pretty obvious. We look forward to taking those steps forward, but we're happy for Charlie."
Weis' offense did not exactly light things up this season because of the lack of talent and depth along the line, the most unimpressive group of receivers since the 1980s, and injuries to starting quarterback John Brantley that cost the redshirt senior a combined three games. The Gators averaged the second-fewest points (30.7) and passing yards (190.2) per game since 2003, the fewest rushing yards per game since 2002 (144.0), and the fewest yards per game (334.2) since 1988.
Weis himself said in November that he was unhappy with the job he did and wouldn't use the injuries to Brantley and several offensive linemen as an excuse. Muschamp said the same thing numerous times this season as well, but he said Thursday he was satisfied with the job Weis did this season despite the limitations.
"I think Charlie did a good job," Muschamp said. "I think obviously we had an awful lot of confidence offensively going into the fifth ballgame of the year [Alabama]. We lost our starting quarterback, and we play with two freshmen quarterbacks who are going to be outstanding -- who are very good players, and I'm very excited about their future -- but at the end of the day, we had the injury, we lost some confidence offensively, we got out of kilter, we started searching for answers and things we could do against good people. When you lose that confidence, it's tough to regain that confidence.
"But again, considering the situations and the circumstances, again, I was very pleased with the job he did."
Muschamp said he will take his time with the hire and said White and current Jacksonville University head coach Kerwin Bell, a former Florida quarterback, are among the candidates. White was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 1999-2006. In his first season leading the Badgers' offense, Wisconsin set a school record and finished 10th nationally in scoring.
Bell has been JU's coach for five seasons and has rewritten the school's offensive record books since his arrival. Quarterback Josh McGregor wrapped up his career with 11,230 career passing yards -- second all-time among collegiate quarterbacks in state of Florida history -- and 116 career touchdown passes.
Another potential candidate is Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who just finished his first season in that role. The Longhorns, who also had quarterback issues, averaged 404.0 yards and 28.7 points per game this season. Applewhite has been on Texas' staff since 2008 and spent three seasons coaching with Muschamp.
"We're going to be fine. We're going to improve and we're going to get better from it, and that's the way you've got to look at it," Muschamp said. "We're going to go out and hire an outstanding coach. Hey, we're at the University of Florida. We're going to be able to go hire an outstanding football coach that's going to fit what I want done within our offense and within our system, and that's what we're going to do, and I'm going to take my time on it and make sure we hire the right guy and get the right fit, because that's really what it's about.
"It's kind of like recruiting. You're going out and finding the right fit for what you want as you move forward and, again, philosophically, doing the things that I want to do. We've just got to have more production."
Muschamp said it isn't necessary for him to have a prior relationship with a coach or for someone to have coached in the SEC. All he wants is someone who matches his offensive philosophy: A pro-style attack, between-the-tackles running game and play-action passing game.
"I'm going to tell them that is what we want to be," Muschamp said. "They won't step foot in Gainesville if they're not [on the same page]."
Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.