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MILLER REPORT:
This too will pass

Written by Mark Miller, December 15, 2014, 9 Comments,
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It has been a tough month or so for the Gator Nation. Florida fans were forced to watch the death throes of the Muschamp Era. The basketball season has gotten off to an inauspicious start. Soccer and volleyball both fell short in their respective tournaments. The Gator football recruiting class is by far the worst I have seen at this point in the process since I have followed recruiting. The euphoria over new head coach Jim McElwain’s first press conference has faded away to the realization that Will Muschamp has left behind a bit of a rebuilding project which may take some time if this signing class cannot be turned around in a massive way. Usually when your football team is coming off of a mediocre season there is at least the upside that there probably weren’t enough outstanding performances to lead to many early departures to the NFL, but Gator fans have already heard the news of a few departures and are still awaiting word on at least one more. It is difficult right now to find many things to feel positive about for the Florida faithful.

Amid news that Muschamp has taken a defensive coordinator’s job within the conference at Auburn and is currently raiding the Gators coaching staff and chasing Florida’s few remaining big hopes on the recruiting trail, the fan base has all but forgotten about the less than awe inspiring bowl opportunity in Birmingham AL. Turnout for that game promises to be minimal at best. There is little mirth in Gatorland this holiday season. It might be time to lace that eggnog with something that packs a little punch. Many Gator fans seemed to think that getting rid of Muschamp would solve all of their problems. Those of us who argued in favor of giving Will every possible chance to salvage his job did so knowing that firing him would just make the hole deeper before the possibly long process of climbing out of it could begin.

I was suitably impressed with McElwain’s presser. He appeared to be comfortable, confident and ready for the task at hand. Now, he must start making things happen. As important as it is to hire the best possible coaches for his staff, the simple truth is that time is rapidly running out on filling out this recruiting class. A recruiting class as lacking as the Gator class is currently will be hard to overcome. If the roster was fairly loaded with talent across the board already, one disastrous class could be absorbed but that just isn’t the case. There are some glaring holes in the current roster. There is no depth at linebacker of offensive line. There seems to be a dearth of playmakers at wide receiver and next to nothing at tight end. Prospects are disappearing off of the board with each passing week and it will be difficult to convince kids to commit to a team when they have no idea who will even be their position coach.

Most of the top prospects have already committed elsewhere. Several more will announce at the All-Star games. With the dead period, there will be very little opportunity for McElwain to make his case with these players before those games take place. Yes, it is possible to flip prospects after they commit but it will be hard to fill out an entire class with such signees. Florida currently sits with a mere seven commitments and none of those are blue chip prospects. The class is ranked at an embarrassing 97 by Rivals as I write this. To make matters worse, some of the top talent that was rumored to be leaning toward the Gators has begun to look questionable for the good guys. While there is still a chance that the staff can put together a solid signing class in February it is also quite possible that this could be a class that would disappoint even Vandy fans. I don’t think it will end up that bad but Gator fans must steal themselves for that possibility.

Now, that I’ve rained heavily on your Christmas Parade, let me point out some things Gator fans NEED to keep in mind. The Florida football team IS still an elite program. It is nestled nicely in the middle of one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country. Unlike Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain does appear to actually understand and be capable of the process of being a head coach. If he assembles a solid staff around him, future success is all but assured. The real question is how much time the turn-around will require. If the staff could somehow salvage a top 15 recruiting class, the climb out of the hole could be as early as 2015-2016. A class ranked 20-30 would probably mean 2016-2017 before the corner is really turned. If the unthinkable happens and the Gators are forced to sign a bunch of Plan B or C guys just to get warm bodies on the roster this could be a long process with short term signs of success knowing that a down year or two are likely ahead when this hole in recruiting comes home to roost. Only a top three type class in 2016 could lessen the blow if that happens.

So there you have it Gator Nation. There was a reason why some of us clung so desperately to hope against all evidence that Muschamp and his staff could pull this thing out. We were quite aware of the probably side effects of a coaching change. I cautioned repeatedly about what such a change could do to this recruiting class, but eventually keeping the staff was going to be just as damaging to recruiting as keeping them and Foley did what could not be avoided. If McElwain is the right hire, and I think he is, there is certainly reason for optimism down the road. But, depending on how recruiting goes from here, this thing could get worse before it gets better. Patience may be needed while the new coach assembles the necessary tools and implements for the climb back into the light.

Mark Miller

About Mark Miller

Mark Miller's bravery knows no limits. He's a Gator living deep in the heart of Georgia. Mark's weekly columns appear in the Coosa Valley News in Rome, Georgia, where Gators are few and Bulldogs are many. His updates about football and life among the heathens will appear in Gator Country on a weekly basis.

  1. oleg8rDecember 15, 2014, 8:15 pm

    I liked the McElwaine hire, and still do.

    However, unlike the rest of the world I was just a little worried about his press conference. I am a bit leery of people who end every sentence with “ok?”; and have a glib way of speaking over all. My Dad was in the car business and I grew up around a lot of used car salesmen; and snake oil salesmen. That little affectation raises mild alarms. I hope it doesn’t mean anything.

    As for Muschamp. I have said often; and will beat the drum once more, even though I vowed not to. When you hire a coach with no HC experience, and throw him into the middle of a train wreck like Meyer left, then you need to be patient. One of the those situations might be shrugged off, but not both. If you are the AD you need to have the guts to give him 5 years at least. Well, the fans have no patience; and the AD has to be suspect.

    I see Will Muschamp as a sacrificial lamb, just as Ron Zook was. They were given a short leash, and nothing more. Now that the lamb(s) have been led to slaughter, maybe Gator football can get down to business.

    • melnykDecember 16, 2014, 7:52 pm

      Youvre hit the nail on the head. Will had cleaned up the dumpster fire left from the previous regime, changed the culture of the locker room, and brought in the right kids with great character. This is not an overnight process. As one SEC AD told me recently…………… I would never have fired him for the reasons that our AD did. Speaks volumes.

      At season’s end, there are 67 freshman and sophomores who formed a solid foundation w Treon and Grier in the wings. WM hitched his wagon to Driskell, and sadly it didn’t pay off. But it was Noah Brindise who captured it best……….. “sometimes players have to make plays”. Coaches can’t block, throw and catch.

      We were blessed to have Will as our coach…….. however short. What we are not blessed with is an administration who did not have the courage of their convictions.

  2. snowprintDecember 15, 2014, 9:54 pm

    We just need to be patient. We have no idea yet if McElwain is a good hire. A recruit said he had never heard of him, so it’s mistaken to think that a bunch of recruits are going to suddenly come flocking to UF. That said, it’s to be expected that UF was going to struggle this year. You don’t fire a coach because everything is great. UF can overcome a down year in recruiting. One of the teams in the playoff, Oregon, is never ranked highly in the recruiting rankings. Missouri has won the East the last two years. I’m pointing this out to show that you don’t have to have highly ranked classes to win. I also believe that lower ranked players from Florida are better than many of the highly ranked players from other areas of the country like the Midwest. If UF shows improvement next year, McElwain will have something to sell besides hope. Maybe the record won’t be great, but you can tell when a team is getting better. Arkansas is an example of that. They had a mediocre record, but their coach can sell his team getting better from the evidence on the field. I expect UF to do very well recruiting next year. As seen in Tallahassee, true freshmen can have a great impact on a great team, so a down year in recruiting is nothing to worry about, it can be overcome. It won’t be easy, but McElwain knew that when he took the job. I think he’ll need someone better than his dog to play quarterback, but that’s where it starts. I don’t know if UF has a good one on campus yet, but if you’ve got a good quarterback, you’ve got a chance to be good team. It only takes one guy. McElwain’s priority is the same as when Spurrier took over the job, find a quarterback.

    • DeBigLeezardDecember 16, 2014, 9:04 am

      Snowprint….
      Thank you for your comments. Factual, direct and yes, thought provoking.
      Yet… sad. Sad because you are sadly correct.
      But if there is one program that has the best odds to turn things around, it is the University of Florida.
      Even more so, than say, Ohio State, Michigan or even Notre Dame.
      Why? Because of our talent base here in the State of Florida. We have the best selection in the entire nation.
      As for so many of us, we gave Muschamp all the opportunity we could. Soooo many of us WANTED him to do well… to succeed. Gosh, we wanted that!
      But the poster above said it so well… so many offensive recruits that were so highly sought after in high school were so dramatically under used once they got here.
      Valdez Showers… Alvin Bailey and on and on. It’s like we were turning gold into copper….while we were sitting in the middle of the biggest gold vein in the country.
      Time to move on… looking forward to seeing what Mac can do.

  3. malscottDecember 15, 2014, 10:23 pm

    Gee Mark, thanks. Snowprint, one of the better posts I’ve seen penned by you. Yeah, the deal is, good coaches can get results from guys that are good, but not great. They inspire them to play great. I’m hoping a few decent folks fill out this class. I also hope this staff gets figured out asap. We’ve been irrelevant for some time now, I guess if we have to suffer through more of it, so be it. Eventually, we’ll crawl our way back to the top. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if we could get that handled sooner than later. I also think Muschamp had plenty of time..miserable head coach. Now he’s a poacher and the enemy. He’s probably turning his incompetence into it being the Gator nations fault. Maybe not. Go Gators.

  4. wci347December 15, 2014, 11:54 pm

    All we have to do is look at Damian Lillard who is one of the top 3 guards in the NBA to realize that it is not how highly recruited you are out of high school, but what you do with the talent you have. The truth is, Florida has not maximized the talent it has had for several seasons. There is no use complaining about the dire situation sub 40 ranking in recruiting so far when we did not utilize or develop the 5 stars that we had effectively in recent years.

    There have been exceptions to that in Easley, Floyd, Hargreaves – to name of few, but on offense it has been dismal. We have not had a 1st round pick in a skill position on offense since Teobw’s departure. It’s pitiful. Much of this is directly attributable to Muschamp’s inability to relinquish authority for running the offense to people who knew what they were doing.

    Now with an offensive minded coach, we have to hope that we don’t go from one extreme to another – great offense and a crummy defense. I believe that there is just too much talent in Florida to keep a program like ours down. Athletes that were jilted by programs that are currently successful will look at Florida as a springboard to prove their worth to the world.

    We always wondered why guys we never recruited seriously would have all world games against us. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Recruiting will be a win win for us this year because our commits will have a unique opportunity to rebuild the brand that was so dismantled under Muschamp’s era.

  5. drewrichmondDecember 16, 2014, 9:16 am

    Will is still killing us, now at Auburn. I have a hard time understanding how he can continue to recruit the same kids to AU now that he was recruiting to UF, even if they were already considering AU, he should not be allowed to have contact with that recruit or be involved.
    Kids have to sit out a year, yet this cat is taking 6.5M, probably most of our D staff and already calling some of our recruits saying, “lets be tigers!”
    This is the “classy” man everyone hated to get rid of, btw.
    Just from listening to recruits respond to WM’s firing and the hiring of Mac, you really get the sense that WM did not have great relationships across the state. Obviously, he recruited the heck of the defensive side of the ball, but for a man who wanted to run smash mouth football, he never recruited a decent TE in four years and wanted Derrick Henry to play D. So before everyone says, he was not given time or whatever other BS, the man had to go.
    If we go 6-6 next year with Mac and start building back an offense, then so be it. WM was going to lose another 5 or 6 next year again. Atleast this way, we’re moving forward and away from such nonsense football.

  6. scooterpDecember 16, 2014, 5:33 pm

    Totally agree with giving him this year, but I can’t believe what I’m reading….he should get a 5th? You can’t have losses like LSU, USC and FSU and keep your job after 4 years. Sorry, those were games lost by the coaching staff. Muschamp has created a culture within the team that finds a way to lose. This is not something u fix because you had a 5th year. Some blame the QBs but maybe we just don’t know how to develop talent. We had the 1st, 7th and 4th best QBs out of HS… They can’t all suck. Our best offensive weapon only made it on the field to shag punts….the reason, because he didn’t understand the play book? Saban and Meyer would have found a way to get him on the field. 4 years is long enough. If we have a down year or 2 then so be it. The culture needs to be blown up and rebuilt again anyways.

    • digatorDecember 16, 2014, 10:23 pm

      i agree. The offense under Muschamp was pathetic, even during the 11/2 season. His 3 attempts at hiring an effective OC failed miserably proving his incompetence as a HC. It would not matter who he hired as his OC his offensive incompetence would override it. On the other hand Mac brings proven offensive ability and success as a HC turning around a program

      We will certainly struggle with this class but Mac is also a proven recruiter and he will get a sufficient class. But more importantly he will change the offensive culture for the Gators, where the focus is on scoring not setting up for the punt.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Ben_Hill_Griffin_Stadium_the_Swamp-150x150.jpg Mark Miller FeatureFootball ,,
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It has been a tough month or so for the Gator Nation. Florida fans were forced to watch the death throes of the Muschamp Era. The basketball season has gotten off to an inauspicious start. Soccer and volleyball both fell short in their respective tournaments. The Gator football recruiting class is by far the worst I have seen at this point in the process since I have followed recruiting. The euphoria over new head coach Jim McElwain’s first press conference has faded away to the realization that Will Muschamp has left behind a bit of a rebuilding project which may take some time if this signing class cannot be turned around in a massive way. Usually when your football team is coming off of a mediocre season there is at least the upside that there probably weren’t enough outstanding performances to lead to many early departures to the NFL, but Gator fans have already heard the news of a few departures and are still awaiting word on at least one more. It is difficult right now to find many things to feel positive about for the Florida faithful.

Amid news that Muschamp has taken a defensive coordinator’s job within the conference at Auburn and is currently raiding the Gators coaching staff and chasing Florida’s few remaining big hopes on the recruiting trail, the fan base has all but forgotten about the less than awe inspiring bowl opportunity in Birmingham AL. Turnout for that game promises to be minimal at best. There is little mirth in Gatorland this holiday season. It might be time to lace that eggnog with something that packs a little punch. Many Gator fans seemed to think that getting rid of Muschamp would solve all of their problems. Those of us who argued in favor of giving Will every possible chance to salvage his job did so knowing that firing him would just make the hole deeper before the possibly long process of climbing out of it could begin.

I was suitably impressed with McElwain’s presser. He appeared to be comfortable, confident and ready for the task at hand. Now, he must start making things happen. As important as it is to hire the best possible coaches for his staff, the simple truth is that time is rapidly running out on filling out this recruiting class. A recruiting class as lacking as the Gator class is currently will be hard to overcome. If the roster was fairly loaded with talent across the board already, one disastrous class could be absorbed but that just isn’t the case. There are some glaring holes in the current roster. There is no depth at linebacker of offensive line. There seems to be a dearth of playmakers at wide receiver and next to nothing at tight end. Prospects are disappearing off of the board with each passing week and it will be difficult to convince kids to commit to a team when they have no idea who will even be their position coach.

Most of the top prospects have already committed elsewhere. Several more will announce at the All-Star games. With the dead period, there will be very little opportunity for McElwain to make his case with these players before those games take place. Yes, it is possible to flip prospects after they commit but it will be hard to fill out an entire class with such signees. Florida currently sits with a mere seven commitments and none of those are blue chip prospects. The class is ranked at an embarrassing 97 by Rivals as I write this. To make matters worse, some of the top talent that was rumored to be leaning toward the Gators has begun to look questionable for the good guys. While there is still a chance that the staff can put together a solid signing class in February it is also quite possible that this could be a class that would disappoint even Vandy fans. I don’t think it will end up that bad but Gator fans must steal themselves for that possibility.

Now, that I’ve rained heavily on your Christmas Parade, let me point out some things Gator fans NEED to keep in mind. The Florida football team IS still an elite program. It is nestled nicely in the middle of one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country. Unlike Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain does appear to actually understand and be capable of the process of being a head coach. If he assembles a solid staff around him, future success is all but assured. The real question is how much time the turn-around will require. If the staff could somehow salvage a top 15 recruiting class, the climb out of the hole could be as early as 2015-2016. A class ranked 20-30 would probably mean 2016-2017 before the corner is really turned. If the unthinkable happens and the Gators are forced to sign a bunch of Plan B or C guys just to get warm bodies on the roster this could be a long process with short term signs of success knowing that a down year or two are likely ahead when this hole in recruiting comes home to roost. Only a top three type class in 2016 could lessen the blow if that happens.

So there you have it Gator Nation. There was a reason why some of us clung so desperately to hope against all evidence that Muschamp and his staff could pull this thing out. We were quite aware of the probably side effects of a coaching change. I cautioned repeatedly about what such a change could do to this recruiting class, but eventually keeping the staff was going to be just as damaging to recruiting as keeping them and Foley did what could not be avoided. If McElwain is the right hire, and I think he is, there is certainly reason for optimism down the road. But, depending on how recruiting goes from here, this thing could get worse before it gets better. Patience may be needed while the new coach assembles the necessary tools and implements for the climb back into the light.

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