Muschamp credits Tide's Saban
Published: Monday, September 26, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 26, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.
In the considerable buildup to Saturday's SEC showdown between No. 3 Alabama and No. 12 Florida, there will be one popular and obvious story line that will be told and retold this week.
Will Muschamp vs. Nick Saban.
Student vs. teacher.
Protege vs. mentor.
But Muschamp said Monday this game is not about the head coaches. It isn't about Will Muschamp going against Nick Saban, the man who launched his coaching career when he hired Muschamp to be his linebackers coach at LSU in 2001.
“He or I will not take a snap Saturday night,” Muschamp said. “My mind set is to do a great job for the University of Florida on Saturday.”
But, of course, everyone else is going to make a big deal about this much-anticipated Muschamp-Saban matchup. The two coached against each other in the 2009 BCS Championship Game, but this is the first time as head coaches.
As expected, Muschamp, the first-year Florida coach, was asked numerous questions about Saban at his weekly news conference Monday afternoon. At about the same time in Tuscaloosa, Saban was getting questions about Muschamp.
The coaches expressed mutual respect.
“I've got great respect for Nick and the job he does,” Muschamp said. “I probably wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for the opportunity he gave me at LSU to be a position coach and naming me (defensive) coordinator (a year later).
“Philosophically, we're on the same page as far as what we want to be defensively from an identity standpoint. The guy does a great job of managing his program from top to bottom from recruiting and philosophically offense, defense, special teams, and I have great respect for him.
“You turn on the film and see a physically tough (Alabama) football team that plays with fundamentals. That is what he is and what he preaches every day. It's who they are and what they are.”
Muschamp coached under Saban for five seasons at LSU (2001-04) and the Miami Dolphins (2005), and Saban's influence on Muschamp is evident in the way Muschamp has gone about establishing his style and discipline in the Florida program.
Saban said Muschamp is off to a strong start at UF.
“Will has done a really, really good job,” Saban said. “He's a great coach because he's a good teacher. He has a lot of energy and he gets along well with the players. He believes in discipline, hard work and things that are important to being successful.
“He did a great job for a long time (under Saban). He's been a really, really good coach. He has as much passion and enthusiasm as anyone you're going to be around.”
Saban was asked if he sees a lot of himself in Muschamp when he was a young coach.
“I was volatile once, too,” Saban said with a laugh.
Muschamp and Saban met in December of 2000 when Saban was the head coach at LSU and Muschamp was a first-year defensive coordinator at Valdosta State.
Saban's LSU team was preparing for the Peach Bowl and Muschamp was invited to a practice in the Georgia Dome by friend and LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, who is now the head coach at Florida State.
Fisher introduced Muschamp to Saban.
“I had a casual conversation with him about football and different things in general,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp said he did not ask Saban to keep him in mind if he was ever looking to fill an opening on his staff.
“Not really,” Muschamp said. “I just went to see Jimbo and some friends of mine and watch practice. He talked and we kind of hit it off.
“A month-and-a-half later, they had an opening and Jimbo and (fellow LSU assistant) Pete Jenkins brought up my name to Nick as a possibility. I sort of fit the description of who he wanted to hire. I went and interviewed and he offered me the job.”
After coaching the LSU linebackers for one season, Muschamp was promoted to defensive coordinator by Saban. When Saban took the Dolphins job after the 2004 season, he took Muschamp with him to the NFL, where he was the Dolphins' assistant head coach for defense in 2005.
A year later, Saban passed over Muschamp and hired Dom Capers to be his defensive coordinator in Miami. Saban said this summer he regretted not promoting Muschamp to the position.
Shorty after Capers was hired, Muschamp returned to the college game, becoming the defensive coordinator at Auburn.
Saban and Muschamp have both said they continue to have a good relationship.
When Muschamp was asked if he and Saban ever clashed, Muschamp said. “We're both intense guys.”
Muschamp said he took many things from Saban in his own development as a head coach.
“I wouldn't point at one thing and say, ‘This is it,' ” Muschamp said. “I think there are a lot of things. Program management. Philosophically knowing who you want to be on offense, defense, special teams. Identifying what kind of players you are recruiting.
“All the intangibles. Total program management.”
Like the other young head coaches who have been influenced by Saban (Fisher and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley), Muschamp has remained a loyal Saban guy.
“Nick never asked me to do anything as an assistant coach that he didn't do as a head coach from a work standpoint as far as film preparation and evaluating and going out recruiting.
“He's a guy who works extremely hard. He's got a great work ethic in what he does. Guys appreciate what he does from the head coaching position.”
Muschamp has taken a lot from Saban. Saban was asked Monday if he's taken anything from Muschamp.
“Every coach you have an association with, you take good things,” he said. “I take good things from all coaches.”
The two will try to take a win from each other Saturday.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.