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.