Will Muschamp has Florida winning again and he’s doing it with Urban Meyer’s players
A popular narrative among a few sportswriters in the last year has been one that places Urban Meyer as the scapegoat for Florida’s struggles. Will Muschamp presumably inherited a broken program that had been left in shambles by Urban who got out while he still could since he knew that he hadn’t recruited the kind of talent necessary for Florida to keep winning. Based on this line of thinking it would take Muschamp at least three years to get Florida into a spot where they could be competitive again, as that would give him three recruiting classes to get his own guys into the program as Urban’s weak classes graduated, transferred, or left early to clear the way for the Muschamp guys. Urban apparently “left the cupboard bare” for Muschamp who was doing the best he could with the few scraps he had. This was, in some eyes, the best way to explain Florida’s uncharacteristic 7-6 season in Muschamp’s first year at Florida.
How is that narrative holding up now? After Muschamp’s first signature win as Florida’s head coach this weekend against LSU, it’s safe to say that Meyer didn’t leave the cupboard as bare as some wanted us to believe. As first pointed out by Jason Lieser, out of 22 players on Florida’s starting roster on Saturday, 19 were signed by Urban Meyer, and that does not count Jeff Driskel who was recruited by Meyer but signed by Muschamp. Muschamp has Florida back to it’s winning ways and he’s doing it with players Urban Meyer brought in to the program.
Muschamp famously called the team soft last year following the struggles of a winless October and some losses that made the Gators look vastly overmatched at almost every position. When Strength and Conditioning Director Micky Marotti left to join Meyer’s new staff at Ohio State, Muschamp brought in Jeff Dillman who had worked with him on Nick Saban’s staff at LSU. Dillman came on board and has successfully whipped the team into incredible shape as evidenced most clearly by Florida’s offensive line play on Saturday as they battered LSU on 25 consecutive run plays in the second half. After the game, Gillislee said he never felt tired even towards the end of the game after carrying the ball 34 times for 146 yards against an LSU defense that hasn’t given up 100 yards to one rusher since 2010. This team is as far from soft as you can get, and yet the players spending the most time on the field are Urban Meyer signees who spent the most time on the field last year as well.
It’s time for Florida fans to let go of any grudge they have against Urban. He didn’t leave Florida with nothing to work with, even if there certainly were some growing pains in the process. When there is a head coaching change at any program at any level, there are always some struggles in the transition just like there has been at Florida. Muschamp has spent the last 20 months filling out his staff, implementing his own systems, and molding the players Meyer recruited to fit into a program that is now uniquely his own. These are his players now.