Coming off a disastrous 4-8 season in 2013, Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp sits on perhaps the hottest coaching seat in the SEC if not the NCAA. Nearly everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in a season featuring home losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern. The injury to QB Jeff Driskel against Tennessee certainly was a setback, as well as season ending injuries to nine other starters by the end of the campaign, but most fans and observers felt that the overall talent on the Gators squad should have been enough to beat the Commodores and the Eagles.
When hired by AD Jeremy Foley, Muschamp appeared to be a good fit, given his stellar background as an assistant with Nick Saban and Mack Brown. The Gators 11-2 record in 2012 reinforced Foley’s wisdom; however, the wheels fell off the Muschamp bus in 2013. No one disputes Muschamp’s coaching acumen on the defensive side. The Gators coach can scheme with the best. His Achilles heel is on offense. The Gators were dysfunctional on offense in 2013 after Driskel succumbed to a broken ankle. Even though Muschamp’s tirades over the course of the season did little to engender confidence among Gators fans, Foley understood that a proper evaluation of Muschamp required observation in a season with less of an injury riddled lineup.
To give himself a fighting chance to get off the hot seat and continue coaching the Florida Gators beyond 2014, Will Muschamp dumped former offensive coordinator Brent Pease and replaced him with Kurt Roper from Duke. The “pound it down their throats” schemes employed by Pease often left too much congestion at the point of attack for the offense to thrive, particularly when Driskel’s injury left the Gators without much of a viable passing threat. Defenses could stuff enough men in the box to consistently thwart the Florida run game. By all accounts, Roper will not forego a strong running attack, but his use of the spread offense will hopefully give the backs more room to operate.
In the event that Driskel is not able to remain on the field throughout the 2014 season, the Gators could still have concerns on offense. Muschamp has stated that none of the backups, including Skyler Mornhinweg who started three games last year, have separated themselves from the others. Muschamp hopes that Mornhinweg, or one of the two freshmen, Treon Harris or Will Grier, can step up to become a reliable second quarterback option. The sooner the better in order that the preferred backup can receive more repetitions in practice. Muschamp also hopes to allow the second string QB to receive some significant playing time in the Gators opener against Idaho on August 30.
In order to extract himself from the hottest of hot seats this season, Will Muschamp and his Florida Gators must show significant improvement this season. Going with a strong offensive coach from Duke worked for the Gators when they chose Steve Spurrier to guide the program. Muschamp hopes that history will repeat itself and the Gators find themselves as SEC contenders again. With the Florida State program riding high coming off a national championship, Gators fans will have little patience with another win challenged team.
Commentary by William Costolo