The Mark Miller Report: Next hire is critical

Well, wasn’t that fun?  I believe I speak for just about every Gator everywhere when I say that I am glad this season is over. This was the worst Gator football season since the ‘70s and it was brutal to watch. I see absolutely nothing to gain in rehashing the reasons/excuses that have been discussed ad nauseam. 2013 is now just an ugly memory. It is time to look to the future.

As we all expected, Brent Pease and Tim Davis have been released. The rumors of their replacements have been rampant. To the disappointment of some fans, Will Muschamp was retained. As has become the norm with Gator fans, there are many who are already furious over the choice for the new offensive coordinator. It will surely get worse once they find out who it actually is. I have heard rumors that include Clay Helton, Major Applewhite, Dave Christensen and even, much to my dismay, Lane Kiffin. Thankfully, it sounds like Kiffin is no longer a candidate.

I know Kiffin has Florida ties but he has been a media joke at all three of his most recent coaching stops. He left Tennessee in a mess with the NCAA breathing down their necks. He was at USC during the stretch that the NCAA determined violations occurred. He has been fired mid-season at two of the three stops. It is possible that Kiffin wasn’t involved in any of the violations personally, but in my less than humble opinion there is no reason for Florida to bring his act to Gainesville.

Helton took over the play calling for USC after Kiffin was fired during the season and there seemed to be improvement for the most part. I cannot say that what I saw was overwhelming evidence that he is the next great OC for the Gators. The Pac-12 isn’t really known for dominant defenses other than Stanford and the Trojan offense seemed to be a roller coaster of good and then bad. What little I saw of Helton’s play calling at USC down the stretch did not really give me a clear concept of exactly what his offensive philosophy is.

Major Applewhite is the current OC at Texas where the results are much like Helton’s at USC. One week the Longhorn offense would look great and the next not so much. Applewhite has been mentioned as a candidate for OC at Florida before and has ties to Gator head coach Will Muschamp. Having worked on the same staff at Texas the two should be able to mesh together quickly which is important to Muschamp who needs immediate results. His seat couldn’t be much hotter than it will be to start the 2014 season. As offensive coordinator, Applewhite showed immediate improvement in the offense in his first season at both Rice and Alabama before heading to Texas where he was eventually co-coordinator before taking over play calling duties in 2013.

Dave Christensen spent years working with Gary Pinkel at Missouri and employs a fast-paced passing attack that Gator fans would dearly love to see in Gainesville. His five-year stint as head coach at Wyoming did not go well. Christensen may be better suited to be a coordinator than a head coach, but then many feel that Muschamp might be the same. Christensen is also a former offensive line coach which couldn’t hurt either. The Gator line has been borderline horrible for most of two seasons. Christensen would be my personal choice.

There is also the matter of replacing Davis as offensive line coach. Two names that have surfaced are Neil Callaway and Stacy Searels. Callaway’s resume is quite impressive. He is currently the offensive line coach under troubled head coach Bobby Petrino, but he has had impressive stops at Auburn, Alabama and Georgia. He knows the SEC and his stint with Georgia was during Mark Richt’s most successful stretch. If he can be lured to Gainesville, it would be quite a coup. Searels has had stints as offensive line coach at both Texas and Georgia. Personally, I was not impressed with Georgia’s line play while he was there. I would much rather have Callaway.

The bottom line is this. Muschamp has promised a change in offensive philosophy for the Florida Gators to a more up-tempo attacking offense. His OC hire needs to sell as evidence of this to recruits. Florida needs to upgrade their offensive talent and depth considerably and nobody could blame a recruit for having reservations about signing on to what they have seen out of the Gator offense recently. The good news is that there is the opportunity for playing time at Florida and a chance to play for a contender. Auburn has shown how quickly a change in offensive philosophy can turn around a struggling program. Muschamp desperately needs such a turnaround. If Muschamp is genuine in his intent to change his approach, and I believe he is, the right hire could not only save his job at Florida but give Gator fans the kind of offensive numbers they have come to expect over the last couple of decades. The real question remains whether he can coax a top-flight OC to come aboard a ship that is currently bailing vigorously. We should know soon.


  1. Dave Christensen was OC at Missouri when Chase Daniel was a Heisman finalist and earned the Wyoming job on that performance.

    You shouldn’t judge Christensen too harshly on the Wyoming outcome. There is little to no D-1 talent in the state, so to be successful, you have to convince good players from other states to come to little Laramie, Wyoming. As a Wyoming resident who grew up in the south on SEC ball, I think Wyoming should drop to FCS. That’s not going to happen, but that’s probably where this program belongs.

    Nonetheless, he put Wyoming QB Brett Smith on some of the national award watch lists this season and Smith had a game with 7 TD’s and 640 yards.

    I would endorse this selection.

  2. Mr. Miller, thank you , sir. Yes we all, in my case (impatiently), awaiting Muschamp’s selection. We all know with a decent offense our defense ratchets up it’s game considerably. The past few years we were so anemic on offense the poor defense was stuck out there all game long. Mixing it up with a more prolific strategy would have the other teams exhausted for a change. If we are going to regularly be in the top ten on defense, or in that neighborhood, just ‘having’ an offense would net us some decent results. An uptempo offense and a passing game would fill the stadium back up. It makes it more exciting. It makes fans want to be a part of it. This year all we could do was drink heavily and laugh at what we were watching, either that or get completely disgusted and aggravated. This is the first time this year I feel good about Florida football. One, it’s over for the year so we can’t lose any more. Two, we fell so damn far EVERYONE knows if we don’t get it together now…

    I can imagine motivation is high on all levels, the kids, recruiting, new hires etc. Before there was a possibility things could change. Now there is a high probability change will happen, we’re already seeing it. We need to blast teams we play out of the gate next year. Go Gators.

  3. sadly, this will be his 6th or greater asst coach hire, and we only now get to critical revue?

    Personally I’d love to see Kerwin given a shot, many seem infatuated with asst (OC) production and don’t seem to give credence to the fact that often it is the head coach or “program” that is responsible. To that end see Saban, Stoops, Miles, Richt, Carroll, Johnson, Spurrier as examples of coaches who seem to have success with multiple assistants, in spite of them leaving, and yet the assistants never seem to replicate equal success, and the mother programs march on.

    It seems statistically Kerwin has an equal or greater chance of success than “high powered” program asst coaches, see malzahn, morris as examples of guys given a chance out of high school who have out performed almost all college assistant/coordinator “locks”

    Lets also not forget the constant in all of our production or lack of. Give KB a chance

  4. Sapanna….no one is forgetting about the one “constant” with all the hires. But I remember it took the OBC about 5 years in before he even paid attention to the defensive side of the ball and finally went out and got Stoops. Saban wasn’t exactly Saban at Michigan State. It has been stated numerous times that this was a long term hire….and we knew from the beginning that there would be some learning on the job. Say what you want about last season, but going 11-1 last season with that schedule and that offense was a remarkable job. I don’t know that there is any team in this conference who could have had a winning record with their 3rd string QB, losing their top 3 OT, their #1 RB, #1 returning specialist, defensive leader and having to go 4 deep at the end of the season at ML. Maybe BAMA could have gone 7-5, but your nuts if u think anyone else would have fared any better.