Following his tenure ending 24-19 loss to Florida State, Will Muschamp proclaimed that whoever succeeded him as Florida’s head coach would have a very talented roster to work with. Or, to be exact, he said that “Florida’s got a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got any players. I can tell you that right now.”
However, according to Jim McElwain, Muschamp’s analysis of his own team was way off base. You know, again.
McElwain stated that the roster Muschamp left him with was limited both in quality and quantity, especially on the offensive side of the ball. And he didn’t mince words when saying so, either: “When you look at it, you know, the thing that has been lacking is the numbers and the size of what we’re doing on the other side of the ball” and then adding “it’s one of those things you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt and right now, quite honestly, the hand we were dealt is really insufficient at some of the areas” is pretty much dumping the blame entirely on Muschamp. Which is fine with me, because he deserves it for making Florida football a real life example of the formula of exponential decay.
Here’s what McElwain is really getting at: this spring, he has a grand total of seven offensive linemen who are on scholarship to work with. It could be as high as eight, but Trip Thurman (the only returning starter) is out with a shoulder injury. So, fine, Muschamp left McElwain with eight scholarship offensive linemen. That’s still bad; not only could Florida not put together a second team offensive line for a spring game with eight guys, but with just a little bit of bad luck on the injury front- which is what happened with Thurman- the Gators are in jeopardy of not even being able to form one competent offensive line for a spring game.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t as bad a situation as it could be. It’s true that the numbers up front for the Gators are quite thin, but help is on the way: highly touted offensive linemen Martez Ivey and Tyler Jordan will arrive for summer ball, and Thurman (10 starts as a guard last year) will be healthy by the time summer practice starts. Cap tip to McElwain and his staff for landing those first two, because without them, the Gators would really be in trouble. Now, will Florida’s offensive line be one of the SEC’s best in 2015? Probably not, but at least there’s potential that it could be in years to come.
Let’s back up a second and remember what (and who) we’re dealing with here. In many ways, Will Muschamp was the worst head coach in Gator history. His win % was worse than Ron Zook’s- way worse, actually- and Zook at least left Urban Meyer with the pieces for a national championship. It’s an insult to Zook to even compare the two, so we’ve got to go larger scale here. OK, yes, there were some coaches in the 40’s and 50’s with lower winning percentages, but they weren’t working with the sky high expectations that have come with being Head Gator since the Steve Spurrier days (and also didn’t have the leisure of all the cupcake games Muschamp got to enjoy). Florida football in the 1940’s and 50’s was like Vanderbilt or Kentucky now: no SEC or national championships, no Heisman winners, no past glory days to remember fondly, period, and thus, no expectations. Going .500 and making a bowl game was a successful season for those ancient Gator teams. So going 53-42 was OK for a guy like Bob Woodruff (1950-59), because Florida had never seen any coach be that successful over such a long period of time.
In short, McElwain has an easy (and deserving) scapegoat for any problems his team will face for at least a year or two. Conversely, that also means that Florida fans need to give McElwain some time before we start judging him. That seems kind of like a given, but then again, Florida has a notoriously impatient fan base when things don’t go well. Things will (probably) get better under McElwain, but he’s given us a warning sign that it may take some time. So let’s give him some.