Muschamp masters art of the flip

Muschamp is now notorious for flipping recruits. (Photo by The Gainesville Sun)

Will Muschamp only spent one year coaching at Miami in 2005, but his time as a Dolphin has had a lasting effect.

Nowadays he’s a ‘flipper’ on the recruiting trail.

Muschamp has flipped a dozen prospects since he arrived at Florida in December of 2011.

After just six weeks on the job, Muschamp stole linebacker Graham Stewart from Boston College and signed cornerback Marcus Roberson two days after he committed to Auburn.

In the 2012 recruiting class, Muschamp convinced quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg (Penn State), defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (Tennessee), defensive end Dante Folwer Jr. (Florida State) and cornerback Willie Bailey (Miami) to switch schools.

Fowler (far right) switches to Florida on National Signing Day. (Photo by Tampa Bay Times)

His biggest get was Fowler, a five-star recruit who had been pledged to the Seminoles for over a year before flipping to Florida on National Signing Day.

Fowler was a lifelong FSU fan like his father, Dante Sr., who said it wasn’t easy for Muschamp to turn his son around.

“They talked on the phone at least once or twice a week,” the elder Fowler said. “I didn’t even know that until the end. They built a good relationship, and he trusted coach Muschamp more than any other coach.”

Fowler said it was hard to see his son ditch FSU, but he didn’t want to force him to stick with the Seminoles. He eventually embraced Dante Jr. going to UF because of how Muschamp recruited him.

“Not one time did he say anything bad about Florida State to me or my son, not one time,” he said. “And that was kind of a shock because we got that from other schools. But Will never talked about them. He and his staff just made us feel comfortable.

“Coach Muschamp was honest and passionate about what he did, and so was his coaching staff. Basically, they never lied to us. Other schools did. Every time we visited Florida, they made us feel like family. I knew I was leaving my son in good hands with good people.”

This year, Muschamp has continued the trend. Half of his eight early enrollees in January were recruits he flipped from other schools.

Anzalone felt comfortable at Florida. (Photo courtesy of Sal Anzalone)

The last recruit to report to campus was linebacker Alex Anzalone, who grew up rooting for the Gators but spurned them twice when he committed to Ohio State in April and then Notre Dame over the summer.

Despite picking two different schools over Florida, the UF coaches never held a grudge against Anzalone.

“They don’t criticize kids for their decisions, they’re not judgmental and they don’t take it personal,” said Anzalone’s father, Sal. “A lot of schools get frustrated and quit recruiting kids. But they understand that circumstances and feelings can change.”

They changed for Anzalone just days before he was scheduled to report to South Bend, as reports surfaced that Irish coach Brian Kelly was interviewing for the Philadelphia Eagles job.

When the news broke, Anzalone didn’t have to search long for a new place to call home.

“Florida was the only school that recruited him throughout the process,” his father said. “Muschamp always kept the door open for him, and (new defensive coordinator) D.J. Durkin was tremendous. He came up and saw Alex after he had committed to Notre Dame just because he was in the area and wanted to see him. They didn’t even talk recruiting.

“Most kids can distinguish between perception and reality. Coaches will promise and say many different things. But Alex saw the sincerity of Muschamp and his staff. He recognized their honesty and care for him, which ultimately won us over.”

Rolin flipped to Florida shortly after his official visit in November. (Photo courtesy of Mike Rolin)

The same compassion was shown to linebacker Matt Rolin, who flipped from South Carolina to Florida after being committed to the Gamecocks for seven months.

“In the end, I had to do what was best for me,” Rolin said. “South Carolina stopped calling me. During the season I didn’t hear from them that much. So I decided to take a visit to Florida and coach Muschamp gave me some good advice.”

Muschamp told Rolin he had to make a selfish decision, which really hit home for him. He knew spurning South Carolina for UF wouldn’t sit well with his family members.

“Carolina was the easy choice,” said Rolin’s father, Mike. “There was a lot of family pressure. I went there, my wife went there, my brother graduated from there, my father played for Carolina and most of our relatives live in the state of South Carolina. That would have been a great fit.”

But when Rolin suffered a torn ACL in November, his father said college coaches backed away. Muschamp and Durkin did the opposite.

“Schools stopped recruiting Matt after his injury, but I must say Will and D.J. really cared about Matt,” Rolin said. “They were concerned about getting his knee rehabbed and it wasn’t a problem for them. They had a close bond with Matt and our family felt their staff would support him the right way.”

Robinson and Campbell at the Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5. (Photo by Peach County High School)

The decision to come to UF was also difficult for receiver Demarcus Robinson. His high school coach, Chad Campbell, admittedly wanted him at Clemson, the school he was committed to for five months.

But Robinson said Florida’s coaches recruited him harder than any other staff in the fall, and their efforts paid off.

“I expected him to go to Clemson and honor his commitment, I encouraged it,” Campbell said. “But coach Muschamp and his staff just wouldn’t let up. I think the relationship they built with Demarcus was real strong, and he knew they were going to take care of him like we did. But I still can’t believe they changed his mind to be honest with you.”

Although Cummings could potentially start for UF next year, he said Muschamp never promised him playing time. (Photo by The Gainesville Sun)

JUCO defensive tackle Darious Cummings is the fourth early enrollee who flipped to the Gators. He switched his commitment from Ole Miss to Florida immediately after visiting UF.

Cummings went through the recruiting process twice and called Muschamp the ‘realest coach’ he dealt with.

“He doesn’t tell you that you’re going to come in and start right away like everyone else,” Cummings said. “All he says is you’ll get a fair shot. You got some coaches that promise a starting job from day one, but coach Muschamp only promises you an opportunity to play and prove yourself. That’s what kids like about him, and it sold me.”

Linebacker Jarrad Davis and JUCO offensive tackle Trenton Brown are the other class members who Muschamp nabbed from other schools. Davis dropped his Auburn commitment during his UF visit and Brown silently committed to the Gators while pledged to Georgia.

With one week to go until National Signing Day, Muschamp is still trying to steal cornerback Jalen Ramsey (USC), defensive end Tashawn Bower (Auburn) and JUCO defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Ole Miss). And he already has his sights set on 2014 prospects such as running back Bo Scarbrough, who is committed to Alabama and hails from Tucaloosa.

Flipping Scarbrough sounds like a tall task for Muschamp, but there isn’t a body of water that he’s afraid to dive in.

“Not many coaches can walk into the home of a committed recruit and convince him and his family to come to their school,” Anzalone said. “But if they’re willing to listen to Muschamp and what he has to offer, I wouldn’t count him out with anyone.”


  1. Wow! Great work Zack. Had to read it twice because the quotes from the family members were so enlightening. Nice to know our coach isn’t out there selling a bunch lies to these kids and bad mouthing other schools. Thanks.

  2. Zach we’ve really appreciate the information that you provide its entertaining. What we would really like to hear is how you feel about this year’s recruiting class. You seem to know a lot of people. That’s a good thing. My father said wants you lied to somebody you can never be trusted. I’m sure there’s fathered on there that would tell their children the same thing. Keep up the good work

  3. Really good article. I think Muschamp is a class act and a great coach. Why the hell any of these kids would want to play outside of the SEC is beyond me. I am going to say no confidence or ambition. Anyway Go Gators!!!

  4. Love your articles and the web casts you guys are doing. Suggestion…for the videos you guys shoot. Get a table or desk for you two to sit at. Both of you should wear dark colored (slimming) shirts with no patterns (pick a solid color). I think it will really help you guys to be sitting and not worried about body position, plus it would allow you to have papers in front of you. Just some tips from someone in the entertainment business. Your reports keep me up to speed on the gators even though I am LA and NYC based. Keep up the great work.

  5. Two things in this article really impress me. First, that the entire Gator coaching staff recruits by selling the opportunities and advantages of UF, and not by bashing other schools or coaches. The second is the comment that they never criticize a kid or his family for choosing to go elsewhere. That is a clear sign of a class program with integrity, and comes from the leadership at the very top. It reinforces my pride in being a Gator for the last 40 years! Thanks Zach.

  6. Wow!! What a great article. Nice to know the UF coaching staff prides itself on integrity and class, unlike some of the other unscrupulous & shady universities out there. That’s what sells to recruits as well as parents. Just be honest & don’t promise immediate playing time-earn it through practice & hard work. Great job, Zach!! Go Gators!!!

  7. Zach: That was arguably one of the most informative and best researched pieces I have read from anyone in your line of business in some time. Bravo! It is also outstanding to learn that our coach has that most precious of enduring qualities, integrity, that is lacking from too many of his peers. It is a lot like another of our coaches who is the “dean” of the men’s SEC hardwood and a future HOFer in his own right. UF is blessed with character coaches who make all of us proud and know how to win the right way. Any parent should feel good about sending their kid to have these coaches give their kids a shot to maximize their opportunities.

  8. Being a head coach in waiting for so long has enriched Muschamp. You can see that he is well prepared in what he wants to do and how he wants to go about doing it…even when we don’t all agree. He has a real fire for recruiting and selling his vision for the program. Hope his recruiting success continues because it’s CRITICAL to getting where we want to be.

  9. Thanks, really appreciated the article, and the fact that you reached out to these families…very insightful work Zach! The best part about this article is that hopefully, other kids who are considering a school will read it as well, and make a good, informed decision… Good, legal secondary recruting…smart play…

  10. Great Article! Coach Muschamp is doing it the right way, which makes the success all the more impressive. Takes a lot of confidence to sell a program by building a relationship of trust. Teaches these kids a valuable lesson along the way. The world works through relationships and trust in all aspects of life.

  11. There is somebody here that nobody has mentioned. When you talk about the high integrity of coaches like Muschamp and Donovan, and probably all of the other coaches at UF, you have to look at the guy who runs the athletic department, who recruits and hires the coaches, Jeremy Foley. Foley maintains a fairly low profile, but he has a definite vision for UF athletics, and hires coaches who fit that vision, and then he sits back and lets them coach. UF is very fortunate to have Foley, who may be the nation’s best AD, and it’s a wonderful story that many years ago he started with an ordinary job in UF’s ticket department and worked his way up.

  12. Zach Attack. Great article! Who wouldn’t want to go to school at a place like UF? Have you seen how beautiful it is outside? Dominant athletics aside, the campus of UF and the whole north central florida area is the place to be.

  13. Zach, There are so many complimentary write-ups about this article that there is nothing else that I can come up with to express to you the job that you did on this article, I will only say”MY LIPS ARE PUCKERED and pressing on your behind” that’s not easy for me to say, but you knocked it out of the park!! This shows what kind of staff our program has and the hard work they are putting in and it’s GREAT to know! Thanks, GO GATORS!!!!

  14. Demarcus Robinson’s coach still rubs me the wrong way: “They recruited him with a lot of effort, treated him with respect, built a strong relationship based on trust. . .but I still can’t believe he flipped”

    Excellent article Zach. Well written and insightful. Boom!

  15. Glad that Muschamp has the class not to bash other schools, he’s the antithesis of Lane Kiffin. Remember when Kiffin told Alshon Jeffrey’s that if he chose USCe, he’ll be pumping gas the rest of his life.

  16. Just reading: “Forward focus: A look at Florida’s defensive line.” I’d cross train R. Powell at one of the Inside Linebacker positions in order to have him on the field at crucial times/games and also train D. Fowler at DT. The writer has R. Powel as a BACK-UP at DE (to Fowler and Bullard). This past season Fowler was out of shape, weak, carried too much body fat and consequently wore down quickly game after game…I love his skill set but he’s got to learn to be professional. Being on campus in Dillman’s workshop should cut down his LOAFs and increase his production – he should be a 6-10 sack guy…but we can’t have R. Powell on the sideline in critical situations, IMO.

  17. Big Cat, it is just a projection, and coming back from an ACL x 2, it is best to be conservative, cause some kids never make it fully back from that…about Fowler, for an 18 yo kid, he played his azz off when he was out there, now I would agree he needs strength, and size, and to be in better shape, but trust me, if he wasn’t doing everything they asked of him in practice and the gym, he would not see the field. Powell is not a Mike LB, his skills are at OLB/DE/Buck. I cannot speak for the writer, but my guess is he was giving a conservative estimate until we know if the kid will even make it back on the field. IMO Fowler more than lived up to his 5-star billing, and I don’t even follow that crap…Trust me, if Powell makes it fully back, he will be on the field at DE/OLB/Buck…Go Gators!

  18. Wow, this article is tremendous! So enjoyable to read something that is so far from generic and has info that not only connects us to our staff, but also info that we would have no way of finding out outside of an article like this, especially because it comes from outside, unbiased opinions! Great job. For every comment posted, there are at least 10-20 people more who feel the same way and just didn’t comment!

  19. With all of the former GATOR linebackers and defensive ends in the Pros that come back periodically to talk with these guys and explain to them haow important it is to have and USE a HIGH MOTOR approach to the game, I don’t think loafing will be an option on the field next year regardless of what year you are in. The competition itself will eliminate the loaf factor if you think you are going to see the field with ANY significant playing time. This spring and summer the weight room will be full and they will push each other, there are too many (potentially) great athletes on this defense to have loafers next year! GO GATORS!!!!

  20. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Fowler was a loafer, I didn’t see that. I was only making an observation as to how that should not be a factor next year with anyone who truly wants to get some playing time. GO GATORS!!!!

  21. Swampman, Creek Gator: I agree with you both. I hope Powell is at full strength. Both Fowler and Bullard played at a very high level and should only be better. Can’t wait to get the pads back on em. Go Gators!

  22. Call me optimistic, but I think Powell makes it back fully. He was pretty much willing himself back early before his set back. Before the injury, he looked like the defensive MVP above Floyd and Elam. He’ll be a force if he’s even 90% and if he is, he’ll be the buck linebacker and fowler will be moved (nothing against fowler)

  23. Part of our Head Coach’s “secret” IS the honesty–that, and his positive passion for his team, and the kind of young men he wants to be a part of it–to MAKE it what he envisions it to be. He knows who and what he wants, and CHARACTER is as much a part of that “list of prerequisites” as any physical skills. More and more this will pay off in the months and years ahead: We’re recruiting good players who will be good GATORS–the total greater than the sum of its parts!

  24. Love this article. Thank You! I am so proud to be a Gator. I have to say it makes me like Coach Boom even more. I always believed that UF is a unique, elite place in all respects and this article confirms it. I hope we are champions for a long time and never again have to rebuild. I also hope we do it with class and integrity because there is more to life than football and the Gator staff is demonstrating this as attested by the families of these young men.
    Thank You again!