Just as many Gators ripped Jimbo Fisher before his debut season, many 'Noles are now criticizing UF's hire of Will Muschamp. But UF could not have made a more similar hire to the one FSU made in Jimbo Fisher than Will Muschamp.
Both coaches are a great fit at their respective schools. Fisher grew up a 'Nole fan and mentions to the media that he followed FSU games via TV or radio every chance he got. Muschamp
was born in (actually, in Georgia) Gainesville and lived there for much of his life.
Both coaches come from the tree of arguably the best pro and college coach ever-- Bill Belichek and Nick Saban. They were national champions as coordinators at LSU under Saban in 2003. They are good friends, who even own a beach house together. Both subscribe to Saban's insanely detail-oriented process. Every facet of an athlete's life is monitored, managed, and rewarded, all with the goal toward winning one more snap.
Both were head-coaches-in-waiting under CEO-types. And working under CEO-type coaches had to drive them nuts. CEO coaches don't have a place in today's game, because there are head coaches who actually coach. It's part of the revolution of pro coaches, no doubt drawn by the lure of the increased college dollar. Bowden provided no leadership and his staff was dysfunctional, filled with life-long friends. Ditto Mack Brown at Texas. That had to drive guys like Fisher and Muschamp crazy. Fisher and Muschamp are both guys who crave discipline, attention to detail, and intensity. Those qualities are the exact things missing from teams led by Bowden, Richt, Mack Brown, and the other CEO types who are detached from their teams.
Both are considered great recruiters.
Neither had any head coaching experience at any level.
Another thing that drove them nuts about working under complacent talent collectors (not coaches) was the lack of input they had with regard to the future of the program. Both Fisher and Muschamp asked for beneficial changes they were denied by Bowden and Brown. And they wanted input on the future staff, also denied.
As great coordinators, both suffered as the foil to an unimaginable incompetent on the opposite side of the ball. Jimbo Produced a top-10 offense while FSU's defense was in the top-90. Muschamp produced a top-20 defense while Texas' offense didn't even crack the top-100! UF's offense wasn't nearly as bad, ranking 48th.
And both must make a quality hire to shore up that side of the ball. Fisher struck solidly with Mark Stoops, improving Florida State's defense from top-90 to top-50. Can Muschamp bring in an OC to take UF's offense from 48th to, say, top-25? Considering all the talent recruited by UF over the past few years, Gator fans will expect it. Muschamp will have as much cash as he needs to get it done.
Both now must follow a legend who won two national championships.
There are a few differences, however, between the two.
Fisher had the advantage of seeing all that was wrong with Florida State's program. Fisher also had the advantage of knowing many of the top prospects in the state because he had been recruiting them for quite a while as the offensive coordinator. He already knew Tallahassee and the people in the athletic department he could trust, and who he would need to not associate with.
Muschamp doesn't have all those advantages. However, he does have some of his own. Muschamp does have the advantage of stepping into a much better situation with far fewer problems than what Fisher stepped into in Tallahasse. He won't need to haggle and beg for things. With UF's money, he can step in and demand pretty much anything he wants absent an indoor facility (at the present time there isn't room for one near the practice fields or the stadium).
And expectations are also quite different for Muschamp than they were for Fisher. Florida State let its problem fester for eight years. Florida got rid of Meyer after he was unable to produce while cutting back his hours and making some poor hires. Florida State expected Fisher to win the Atlantic Division, which he did. Florida Fans are going to expect much more from Muschamp, almost immediately. Florida has a difficult schedule next year. It's two cupcakes and then Tennessee, at Kentucky, Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn, Open Date, Georgia, Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, Furman, and Florida State. Granted UF does a great job scheduling and has an open date before Georgia and a bad 1-AA school before the 'Noles come to town.
Vegas will peg UF to go 8-4 next year, like it did FSU this year. And like Fisher, if Muschamp can go 9-3, it should be considered an enormous success. But will it?
Next: thoughts on Miami's Al Golden.