December 11, 2010
As it turns out, Florida is getting a young, coveted coach whose name has been repeatedly linked to major SEC job openings since his key role as a coordinator on a national championship team, and whose current employer always had a slim chance of keeping him when the right offer came along. It's just not the one everyone expected.
The Florida-Times Union in Jacksonville is reporting via two anonymous sources tonight that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is the Gators' new head coach, barely 72 hours after Urban Meyer vacated the throne. They're backed up by a pair of reliable sources: Texas site Orangebloods.com and a certain former Gator quarterback who's probably in a position to know.
Muschamp, 39, is an energetic, entertaining sideline presence, perfectly willing to wallow in blood and booming expletives. But his defenses have always backed him up with sound and fury of their own. As part of Nick Saban's staff at LSU, Muschamp oversaw three straight top-10 seasons in both total and scoring defense from 2002-04, including a No. 1 finish in both categories en route to a BCS championship in 2003. His defenses at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville were also top-10 efforts, helping the Tigers win 20 games in 2006-07 – including back-to-back wins over Florida – despite rolling out one of the SEC's limpest offenses both years.
At Texas, he unleashed a fast, aggressive D that led the nation in sacks in 2008 and then finished No. 1 against the run in 2009, on teams that combined to go 26-2 with top-five landings in the final polls. Even this year, amid the Longhorns' stunning collapse to 5-7, Muschamp's defense led the Big 12 in yards allowed. When the attention in Austin turned to the inevitable staff shakeup, his seat as Mack Brown's eventual successor was never in question – if anything, it accelerated the hypothetical timeline for the transfer of power.
That timeline no longer exists. Florida doesn't get a proven head coach, but it does get a guy who was being groomed to ascend to one of the three or four other jobs nationally that can match UF for resources, infrastructure and year-in, year-out recruiting mojo. Muschamp has been bound for this gig for a long time – if not at Florida or Texas, then at Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee or some other power looking to snap up the country's hottest up-and-comer. If Texas hadn't promised him Brown's chair, he would have been gone two years ago. With the walls beginning to shake around him in Austin, though, there was no way a promise could keep him from the destination job that can be his now.
[UPDATE, 8:51 p.m. ET] The school makes it official: Muschamp is the man.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.