Year in and year out, the coaching carousel seems to pick up speed, and the Southeastern Conference in 2018 is emblematic of said trend.
Florida coach Dan Mullen is one of five SEC coaches entering their first year at a new program, and the rate of turnover shows no sign of slowing down.
There are those who believe the transition to a new head coach can spark a player’s growth and development, while many on the other side of the fence are convinced consistency among coaches and coordinators is necessary for a program’s sustained development.
Greg McElroy, a former University of Alabama quarterback and now SEC Network analyst, tends to side with the former.
“I don’t think (a coaching change is) huge. The coaching roster in the league today is better than it was a year ago. I don’t think anyone can deny that. That’s a really good thing for the league,” McElroy told The Sun. “I don’t think it hurts development. As someone who experienced a coaching change, everything happens for a reason.”
McElroy said the turnover can often unleash a player’s potential, because the incoming coach strives to leave a strong impression in the first year at a program.
“If anything it helps development, because you’re trying to prove yourself to the new guy. ‘You didn’t recruit me, but I’m going to get you to like me,’ right? I’m optimistic and hopeful that’s what happens in the league,” McElroy said. “When we look three or four years down the road and we can say ‘Man, those five hires that happened before the 2018 season, those were five great hires,’ and the stability and the competition in the league has never been better. I really hope that’s the case when we look at this in 2021, 2022.”
While he can’t speak for each program’s hire, CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee believes Mullen will do what two previous Nick Saban assistants couldn’t in Gainesville: have a sustained period of success at Florida.
“He’s been in the SEC. That’s it. Will Muschamp and Dan Mullen now kind of have the same idea of what they want to do. Dan’s just been in the SEC; he’s not a first-time head coach, he’s not a young head coach. He just gets it now after what he did at Mississippi State,” Sallee said. “I think that brings a little more stability, I think it speeds up the time frame a little bit too because Florida knows ‘Hey, you’ve done this before, now do it again.’ But I think that’s all it is: I think it’s just Mullen understanding what he wants to do, how football is played these days, where it’s going. And really I think that’s the only difference between those two.”
Sallee said Muschamp has grown into one of the top coaches in the conference after struggling with adapting to the ongoing evolution of the game while at Florida. While the jury is still out on whether Jim McElwain can resurrect his head coaching career, Sallee believes Muschamp has learned from an up-and-down stint at UF.
“I think Muschamp, when he got that job, didn’t recognize what football was going to be. Maybe to a fault, he was a little stubborn. He said ‘Look, I’m going to do it my way’ and refused to have the foresight to figure out exactly what was coming,” Sallee said. “Just in general his philosophy, it really hamstrung him in terms of building that program to where Florida wanted to be. Will Muschamp was the hottest name in college football at that time, the hottest. And because of the decision he made, that star fizzled out and he couldn’t recover. He made the right decisions at Florida in year four, but he just didn’t have the personnel to run them. I think that’s the problem with him, he just made one bad decision when he got that job from a philosophical standpoint and it haunted him throughout the course of his career, and for Florida, you don’t have that much time.”
Muschamp was close enough to turning things around, Sallee says, that he believes the current South Carolina head coach would have soon turned UF back into a perennial power if awarded a longer leash.
“I think he would have won the SEC East had he stayed at Florida if he had been given the right amount of time, but it’s Florida,” Sallee said. “The pressure is there, it’s there for a good reason, so he didn’t get the job done.”
Thursday: UF football media day
Friday: First day of practice
Aug. 19: Fan Day at the Indoor Practice Facility from 2-4 p.m. Admission is free.
Sept. 1: Charleston Southern, 7:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. SEC Network will carry the season-opener.
Tickets: Visit FloridaGators.com. Fans may also call the Gator Ticket Office at 375-4683 or visit it on the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.