Will Muschamp had the pleasure of working under both head coaches from last year's national championship game, serving as Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU (and again with the Miami Dolphins ) and as Mack Brown's DC and coach-in-(not)-waiting-(any longer) at Texas.
But the early reports on his tenure and yesterday's introductory news conference left no doubt which of those two coaches Muschamp wants to emulate, whose methods he has the greater respect for, whose program he wants to refashion for himself in Gainesville. We'll give you a hint: it's not the guy whose staff he just abandoned.
No, it's Saban who Muschamp appears to be taking his cues from, starting with Muschamp's attempts to pluck away Saban's current Muschamp-in-training, Kirby Smart. As a Saban-trained coordinator himself, Muschamp could have looked to bring in a coach with a different philosophy and blend the two approaches; instead, he appears to be trying to hire a coach who can impart what he -- and the coordinator, if Smart or another Saban disciple is hired -- learned from the master with the minimum amount of confusion (or dissent) possible.
Even more telling is Muschamp's approach to the Gator offense :
Muschamp also said he wanted his new offensive coordinator to have NFL experience. Despite the overwhelming success of the spread in the current college game -- both of the offenses in this year's BCS title game will be helmed by spread gurus who, far from being NFL veterans, were a New Hampshire assistant and a high school coach just a few short years ago -- it may be a good time to move towards a pro-style set, as those offenses become rarer and enjoy some of the change-of-pace aspect the spread utilized in the past.
"We will be a pro-style attack offensively and defensively," said Muschamp, who has agreed to a five-year, $13.5 million contract ...
"I know there's going to be a lot of people who ask what type of style offense are we going to be," Muschamp said. "I think it's important that we have some pro-style systems to what we want to do.
" ... Will there be more pro-style ideas in our offense? There certainly will be. We want to be balanced in what we do."
That doesn't mean it'll be easy, however. The current Gators were recruited exclusively for Urban Meyer's/Dan Mullen's spread-option attack, and the offensive staff will have to be completely overhauled. But the Saban-taught philosophy Muschamp is trying to instill requires a run-heavy, clock-killing, two-tight-end-power approach to give the hypothetically-overpowering defense its opportunity win the game (not to mention appeal to NFL-hungry recruits), and so that's what the Gators will do.
These are all good ideas, of course. There's a reason Saban has been as overwhelmingly successful as he's been at every stop of his college career, and even the reasons that go beyond his X's-and-O's or administrative prowess -- his inhuman work rate, his ability to close the deal with recruits, his detail-focused willingness to control every aspect of his program -- are traits that Muschamp would seem to share. There's no reason to blame Jeremy Foley for asking Muschamp to provide a second Crimson Tide in Gator colors, especially since the odds appear so good that Muschamp's going to give it to them.
But what if he doesn't? Part of what has made Florida Florida over the past two decades has been their unorthodox thinking under two coaching mavericks in Steve Spurrier and Meyer. Both of them arrived with offenses derided as effeminate jokes that would never work in the SEC, then departed with national title rings and new Heismans in the school's trophy case. Gator fans have been accustomed not only to winning, but of winning in a uniquely identifiable, Florida-first fashion.
That's not to say they won't accept victories as a kind of SEC East edition of the current Tide; if what we might call Alabama-Gainesville winds up with a championship or two under Muschamp, you could probably sell them officially-licensed UAG t-shirts. But if Muschamp can't deliver the goods, if it turns out Foley hasn't hired the new Saban but only the Nutrasweet facsimile of the real thing, Florida fans may wonder (and wonder quickly, and vocally ) if they shouldn't have found another coach -- like Spurrier, like Meyer -- willing to build the Gators in his own image rather than someone else's.