South Carolina Gamecocks Football: Will Muschamp’s Biggest Problem at Florida Was Offensive Staff

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He got behind early and never caught up.

With Will Muschamp taking over at South Carolina, a big part of the discussion naturally is whether he’ll fare better in Columbia than he did in Gainesville. I can’t tell you whether or not he will.

What I can tell you is that Muschamp’s biggest failing at Florida wasn’t his coaching per se. His defenses were great. He didn’t have a pattern of bungling the clock or holding onto timeouts. He wasn’t half bad at calling for fake punts and fake field goals. His teams did rack up tons of penalties, but so did Steve Spurrier’s and Urban Meyer’s UF teams.

The two things that plagued him were hiring offensive staff and recruiting offensive players, and the latter was partially a symptom of the first. I’m going to take you through his staff changes to show you what happened and how it affected things. I’m not trying to make excuses for him or trying to convince you that things weren’t really that bad. I just want you to have a more complete understanding of something that majorly went wrong in Muschamp’s four years as a Gator.

2011

Muschamp retained Brian White as running backs coach from Meyer’s staff, and he hired Derek Lewis as tight ends coach. These guys were just fine, stayed with him all four years, and are coaching other jobs now. They weren’t part of the problem.

Famously, Muschamp’s first offensive coordinator was Charlie Weis. There have been rumors since the announcement that someone “told” him to hire Weis. I have no idea who that would’ve been doing the telling or if that’s true. What I can say is that it was a defensible move because Weis has been perfectly fine as an offensive coordinator in his career. He’s not head coaching material, but he’s a good coordinator.

In fact, UF’s offense improved from 50th in S&P+ offense in 2010 (70th in passing) to 33rd in 2011 (15th in passing). John Brantley’s passing efficiency improved from 116.4 in ’10 to 140.8 in ’11. Weis might have worked out as an OC for Muschamp, but we’ll never know because Kansas unexpectedly decided to throw $3 million per year at him to wreck its program as head coach.

Muschamp allowed Weis to bring in Frank Verducci as his offensive line coach. Verducci was out of coaching before the hire, working as a scout for the St. Louis Rams, and he was out of coaching afterwards in 2012. He’s since worked at a CFL team and FCS team before catching on with UConn as OC this year, but his offensive line at UF wasn’t very good. Weis didn’t bring him to Kansas, and Florida fired him not long after signing day 2012.

Muschamp hired Aubrey Hill away from Miami (FL) as his wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Hill’s reputation was more of a recruiter than a coach, and his receivers weren’t that great in 2011.

2012

After Weis left, Muschamp did what Mack Brown at Texas did the year before and tried to hire the Boise State offense. He went and got Brent Pease, whose sole year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator was Kellen Moore’s senior year. Which is to say, it was impossible to tell how much the success of that year was attributable to Pease and how much was to Moore. Pease’s only other FBS work as an OC was under Guy Morriss at Kentucky and Baylor. This was a really shaky hire, is what I’m saying.

Muschamp hired Tim Davis as offensive line coach. The two had worked together for a year with the Miami Dolphins in 2005. Davis also had previously worked with White, Lewis, and then-Florida DC Dan Quinn at various stops, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. The ’12 line wasn’t great at pass blocking, but its excellence in run blocking was a major part of that season’s 11 wins.

Shortly before the 2012 season began, Hill resigned his post as WRs coach because of the Nevin Shapiro scandal at Miami. A year later, he’d get slapped with a two-year show cause penalty. GA Bush Hamdan, a former Boise State QB who came along with Pease, served as WRs coach for the 2012 campaign.

2013

Hamdan didn’t stay on as WRs coach, and Muschamp replaced him with Joker Phillips. Phillips also became the new recruiting coordinator. Despite the offense’s struggles due to an injury plague, the wide receivers of that season probably had the best year of any individual offensive unit under Phillips’s tutelage.

One of the causes of the offensive struggles besides injuries in ’13 was the fact that Pease and Davis didn’t get along. At all. Muschamp fired both of them after the season.

2014

Muschamp hired Kurt Roper from Duke to be his new offensive coordinator. Roper’s promise was to bring some spread concepts into what had been a pretty non-spread scheme, as a Muschamp who needed to Win Now finally gave into the reality that Jeff Driskel was more suited to that than the pro-set stuff he’d been in.

Roper also had never been an offensive coordinator except under David Cutcliffe at both Ole Miss and Duke, which meant it was impossible to know how much of the Rebels’ and Blue Devils’ offensive success was Roper and how much was Cutcliffe. Roper spent 2015 as a “senior offensive assistant” with the Cleveland Browns, while Driskel, who didn’t improve and got benched in ’14, excelled this season at Louisiana Tech.

In a near repeat of what happened two years prior, Phillips resigned in June because of a possible NCAA violation. On short notice, Muschamp turned to UF legend Chris Leak to fill in as WRs coach. Leak had been in a non-coaching position on the staff and had never coached before. He now works in youth football programs for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Muschamp hired Mike Summers from Kentucky to replace Davis as line coach. He was a good hire who helped the line improve in 2014, and he is the only coach Jim McElwain retained from Muschamp’s staff.

Overall

The best offensive coordinator Muschamp had was actually Charlie Weis. It might’ve worked out for longer than a year, but then Kansas football happened. The other two OCs that Muschamp hired hadn’t truly proven themselves to be top coordinators on their own, and their offenses were either not significantly better than Weis’s in 2011 (Pease’s 2012) or were significantly worse (Pease’s 2013Roper’s 2014).

Muschamp let his OC make the first offensive line coach hire. It didn’t work. Then Muschamp hired his own line coach, but that didn’t work either because that line coach didn’t get along with the new OC. By the time he got a good OL coach, it was basically too late.

Muschamp went through four WRs coaches in four years, one of which was a GA and another which hadn’t coached before and is no longer a coach now. Incidentally, UF is on its seventh WRs coach in seven years going back to 2009, making that position either the Spinal Tap drummer or defense against the dark arts teaching position (depending on your generation/preference of reference).

The buck with recruiting ultimately stops with the head coach, but Muschamp’s OC, OL, and WRs positions being rotating doors didn’t help him with identifying and bringing in talent on that side of the ball. Because he chose his receivers coaches to be his recruiting coordinators—and because they kept resigning due to NCAA issues—he never had a recruiting coordinator for longer than about 18 months.

The Gamecock defense is a wreck now, but it will eventually be fine. Muschamp can coach up defense with the best of them, and his defensive recruiting was top notch in Gainesville.

The big question for Muschamp at South Carolina is who he’ll get for his offensive staff. Reportedly he’s going with Roper again as his offensive coordinator, which is interesting given that there were rampant rumors throughout 2014 about Muschamp holding Roper’s play calling back and given how little progress Florida’s offense made during that year. I would’ve liked to see him find an offensive coordinator who has truly proven himself on his own, something that doesn’t apply to Roper (or Pease).

But now Muschamp must also get a top notch offensive line coach—which didn’t really apply to Verducci—who will get along with his coordinator—which didn’t apply to Davis. And then he must get a wide receivers coach who won’t have to resign in the summer due to NCAA problems—something that didn’t apply to Hill or Phillips. And, of course, he’ll need good RBs and TEs coaches again too.

Most of all Muschamp will need to keep most of those guys together for a while, as continuity is one of the best things a college coaching staff can have. He never had that on the offensive side in Gainesville, and it contributed to the lack of player development that occurred alongside the lackluster offensive recruiting. Not every offensive recruiting problem can be blamed on this factor—Muschamp signed four offensive linemen, four wide receivers and three tight ends total in his first two classes combined, and all three TEs and two of the receivers transferred away—but it certainly didn’t help. It’s hard to convince blue chip recruits to come to a place when it’s a different person recruiting them every 12 months.

Maybe then we’ll see Muschamp run a fully functional college program and succeed. Maybe he’ll continue to botch his hires and get run out of town again a few years down the line. It’ll take some time before we know if those shaky hires at Florida were rookie mistakes or an inability on Muschamp’s part to do the staff building part of being a head coach.

This article was written by David Wunderlich from SB Nation Team Speed Kills and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.