GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp cracked wise. He told stories. He talked about doing things the “Florida Way.” He fired off a warning shot to any player even thinking about acting up.
He spent a dizzying 45 minutes talking during his introductory news conference as the new Florida Gators coach Tuesday night, barely pausing for breath. He spoke so fast and so energetically that he had the Gators players, supporters and boosters at the back of the room just staring at him, listening to every word.
That is exactly what he needed to do Tuesday. Muschamp got the attention of the base and made people believe, something he desperately needed to do because of concerns about his inexperience.
Already his detractors worried he could be the next Ron Zook, who also came to Florida with no head-coaching experience. Zook failed to win any loyalty from day one. His failure to win championships seemed to be an inevitability.
Muschamp is no Zook. He is no Urban Meyer, either, and that should be something to go on for those fans who clamored for change after a 7-5 season.
Meyer and Muschamp certainly share the same type of intensity, but they have two different approaches. Meyer never seemed comfortable in front of cameras, and never spent 45 minutes answering questions.
Muschamp, on the other hand, relished his opportunity. His opening remarks lasted 20 minutes. He addressed his plan, those critical of his inexperience, being the right fit at Florida, his offensive and defensive philosophies, his desire to help players with leadership and character, recruiting, his days as a child in Gainesville and his desire to have Meyer involved with the program.
Players described him afterward as “high energy.” Not exactly the first words that come to mind when describing Meyer, who appeared aloof at times during his six years at the Gators' helm.
Of course, high energy is not going to translate into wins. Neither is his star-studded background -- he learned from Mack Brown and Nick Saban. Muschamp is aware of all of this. And though he felt it was the right time to become a head coach, he acknowledged that Brown and Meyer told him that even they were not ready to tackle the mammoth jobs at Texas and Florida.
Muschamp is going to have to learn on the job, but he will not be allowed to make many mistakes. A fan base and athletic department used to championships will be applying constant pressure for him to win.
“I know the Gator Nation is going to have high expectations and I am too,” he said. “We’re not on a five-year plan here.”
He has no plans to change his demeanor on the sideline, which has affectionately earned him the nickname “Coach Boom.” He has some plans to change the offense, describing his philosophy as having more pro-style elements.
Even that might not be enough to keep quarterback John Brantley, who reiterated he would discuss his future with his family after the Outback Bowl and was noncommittal about his return to Gainesville.
Muschamp has definite plans to change the perception of the program, one that has taken a hit with 30 player arrests under Meyer. He listed plans to help players with leadership and character development, along with mental conditioning. Players who want to graduate are a must.
As for his plans on a coaching staff, Muschamp emphatically said he had not offered a job to anybody, and would wait until after the bowl game to make any decisions about his future assistants.
Football talk aside, perhaps what may have endeared people to him most of all was his candor about who he is. Meyer rarely gave a glimpse into his past. He restricted interviews of his father and sisters, and rarely talked about growing up as a child.
But sitting right in the front row Tuesday night were Muschamp’s parents, Larry and Sally. It was Larry who had season tickets to Gators games in the north end zone in the 1980s when the family lived here. Muschamp adored Wilber Marshall. Sally always wanted a picture taken with Cris Collinsworth.
Even after his family moved back to Georgia, he had Florida on his mind. He came on an unofficial visit to Gainesville but never got a chance to meet the ol’ ball coach. Steve Spurrier was on a golf course somewhere. “He was 2 under at the turn, I guess we didn’t get a chance to see him,” he said.
Muschamp ended up going to Georgia, and spent part of his career coaching in the SEC at Auburn and LSU. When he attended Gators games as a child, he never envisioned he would be standing on the sideline as the leader of this team.
Perhaps nobody did, considering he had been tabbed to succeed Brown. Muschamp was surprised when Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley called him up, but he was not surprised he wanted the job after he heard the pitch.
This is where he wants to be. He is different from Meyer. But now the waiting game begins to see if he is the same in the only area that counts: winning championships.