Like all opposing head coaches who enter the field at the start of the game, the one from South Carolina will be booed today. Heck, the guy they named this field after was even booed when he came out of the visiting locker room.
The boos may be a little louder today for Will Muschamp for all of the wrong reasons. There certainly are Florida fans who point to him as the beginning of this offensive malaise that is nearing a decade at UF.
They think of Muschamp and all they can see is Georgia Southern, one of the most embarrassing losses in school history. They see the end of the bowl streak, a 4-8 season they didn’t think was possible. Even in his best year, they see the numbing loss in the Sugar Bowl to Charlie Strong that spoiled it.
And so some will boo a little louder.
Forget that he grew up in Gainesville and played high school ball at Oak Hall. There were (and are) even conspiracy theorists who believe he was a Georgia mole sent to UF to bring the program down.
Ironically, he brings a team to Gainesville today that has it going on offensively. That should make you want to boo even louder.
In its last six quarters, South Carolina has scored 66 points in two wins. You remember those days.
“Early in the year, we were very inconsistent as a football team and we missed some opportunities down the field,” Muschamp said. “And for whatever reason we didn’t hit those.
“Last two games we have. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s always effective when you win.”
And Muschamp is winning at South Carolina, not big like his predecessor Steve Spurrier, but enough. I’ve said it before that he is in a perfect place.
The big story in Columbia, South Carolina is that a win in The Swamp on Saturday would make the Gamecocks bowl eligible for the third straight year, something only Spurrier has done at the school.
And a victory over the Gators would mean a second straight winning season in the SEC, something that has happened only a couple of times there.
See what I mean about a perfect fit?
Here’s the thing — I always thought he was a perfect fit here. It’s just that Florida is different and you don’t get a long leash. The disaster of 2013 had the wolves at the door a year after he was SEC coach of the year. It pained Jeremy Foley to fire Muschamp when the recruiting environment got too toxic.
As we know, Muschamp’s downfall was offense — more specifically hiring offensive coordinators. And he didn’t help things by putting a governor on each one.
At SEC Media Days in July, Muschamp said he finally understands that he is a good defensive coach and special teams coach and needs to leave the offense alone. At Florida, he too often protected his defense with conservative offensive calls (Florida’s average national offensive rank under Muschamp was 105th).
But let me get back to something I said earlier. Muschamp is not to blame for Florida’s quarterback drought. He signed Jeff Driskel, who is in the NFL. Jacoby Brissett, NFL. Will Grier, who will be in the NFL, and legend has it that if he had not been fired in 2014 he would have brought Lamar Jackson to Florida.
Just this week, Muschamp said that if Grier had not suffered a weightlifting injury as a freshman, he’d still be coaching at Florida.
(Asked about Florida’s quarterback issues, Muschamp responded, “I’m the head coach at South Carolina. Ask Dan. Next question. I got asked that question a lot. I hit my quota.”)
I guess the point of this is that the Muschamp who will be booed onto the field has grown as a head coach and might have done the same thing if he had been given more time at Florida.
But you can go crazy thinking about the what ifs.
Instead, today you get to experience the what is — Florida needing to slow down a potent Will Muschamp quarterback.
Who saw that coming?
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.