Football took center court briefly as the 19th head coach at Florida received a warm ovation and mini-standing ovation at the O’Connell center, saying quickly and to the point that football was “only 238 days away.”
Will Muschamp met briefly with the media and said hello to part of The Gator Nation Saturday night during the first time out, reminding everybody that football was just around the corner.
Then he got out of the way so Billy Donovan’s team could get back to the business at hand of trying to win its first SEC encounter of the season, which it did by beating Ole Miss, 77-71.
Muschamp has come out smokin’ since the Outback Bowl, working hard to make the transition smoother so as not to have a break in recruiting momentum. He’s had his Gator pom-poms out and has been checking in on the talk radio circuit with interviews in Orlando, Miami and the Dan Patrick Show on Fox radio.
In the short meeting with the media Saturday night, he talked about filling the last coaching spot and the process of hiring: “When I hire somebody, I really just describe what I want at the position, the critical factors—a lot like recruiting a player. You decide what you want, what you’re looking for, then go get it. We’ve been very fortunate. The support of our administration’s been outstanding. (I am) real pleased with where we are.”
Although he didn’t say who it was or what the spot would be, Muschamp said he did have someone in mind. He also explained that Charlie Weis fit all the criteria he had in mind for an offensive coordinator, with both pro and college, and that he was not surprised that he could hire Weis because “It’s Florida. It’s a great place. A lot of people want to coach here.”
Of course he’s working hard to catch up on recruiting, but doesn’t feel that having his two coordinators away in the NFL playoffs have hurt the process at all.
“I think it’s great,” Muschamp said. “We’re watching the Gator coaches coach tonight and tomorrow. I think that’s exciting. If I’m a high school football player and I have aspirations of playing on the next level, which most kids do, they’re going to come to a great institution at the University of Florida, they’re going to get a great education and they’re watching their future coaches coach and coordinate in the National Football League in the playoffs.”
He bragged on his new defensive line coach, Dan Quinn, and called him one of the best he’s ever seen.
“He and I were together at the Miami Dolphins,” he said of Quinn. “Jason Taylor texted me the night before we announced him, realized we’d hired Dan, and was shocked that we were able to get Dan here. That’s how much he thought of Dan as a coach, how he helped him further his career. He was NFL Defensive Player of the Year under Dan’s tutelage. That tells you what kind of coach he thinks he is.”
His biggest challenge as a head coach, he said, was having to deal more with the media and balancing time constraints.
“To me it’s all time management, balancing the entire team instead of just one side of the ball—obviously a lot more obligations in what you’ve got to do, but it’s been fine.”
So our first official meeting with the 19th head coach of the Gators since he was announced was the impromptu, on-the-fly chat outside Gate One. I would characterize it as pleasant, business-like and pretty much to the point.
Little by little, Will Muschamp’s portrait is emerging with each interview.
Because he is so animated on the sideline and therefore nicknamed “Coach Boom” prompted by his spontaneous chest and hip bumps, some people tend to think of him as somewhat playful — almost cartoonish. He admits he gets carried away and said in an interview that his wife Carol tends to chide him about it a bit.
He told Dan Patrick that Carol wonders “who I am” on game day sometimes and wants to know if he’s having an
“out-of-body experience” on sidelines.
Some of the other things we learned on his talk show tour:
—He’s glad to have Urban Meyer around and that he (Muschamp) says he’s secure, doesn’t have a big ego and “I know what he (Meyer) has accomplished here.”
—UF academics and the setting of The Swamp are big recruiting advantages. He says of Florida Field, where he grew up watching the Gators play and later coached: “I’ve been on the wrong sideline of it too many times and it’s not an easy stadium to walk into.”
—As for the “Coach Boom” moniker, he owns up to it, but don’t expect him to walk around acting out his John Madden routine. Mike Bianchi tried to coach a “Boom” out of him on the radio and Will declined with “No, not on the radio.” He did say, “I’m excited the direction we are headed and I want our guys to play physical.”
—He will pull for Auburn against Oregon, naturally, because he coached here and the Tigers have “about nine defensive players I recruited or coached.” One of those was star defensive lineman Nick Fairly.
—He told Patrick he’s had “a lot of contact with Urban — Urban’s been great. I talked to Urban an hour the day I took the job. I also attended about 4-5 practices and I was able to evaluate the team and the players.”
—As for the report that he almost got the Auburn head coaching job before Gene Chizik, he said that was a case of mistaken identity. “I was never contacted,” he said. “I think there’s a little confusion. They got confused when it was said ‘a former defensive coordinator’ at Auburn would get the job.” Wrong defensive coordinator.
—And, finally, as far as how much longer Mack Brown will coach: “The only once person who can answer that is Mack. When we started the coach in waiting, I felt real good about it – and still I still did. But there was no timetable for Mack – we had a great relationship. It was going to be up to him.”
So Muschamp is on the loose, sprinkling a little orange blue into the lives of Floridians and maybe even writing a little imaginary graffiti on the walls. Contrary to what you may hear, however, he did not paint this real live alligator orange in Venice:
It could be an omen, though.