Will Muschamp may be gone at Florida, but he’s certainly not been forgotten.
Shortly after his firing last November, Muschamp was very emphatic in stating that the Gators possess “a deep and talented roster, so don’t let that new guy tell you he ain’t got any players.”
The new guy in this case is Jim McElwain, hired away from Colorado State in December and charged with cleaning up the mess in Gainesville. And, apparently, he didn’t get Muschamp’s memo.
“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,” McElwain told reporters in Gainesville. “It’s probably the reason we’re here. That’s all right, man, I’m excited to be here and we’re going to get it taken care of.”
“They’re trying their tails off,” McElwain said. “For the lack of numbers there, and 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. And yet at the same time that’s what you have, so we’re going to make the best of it. Those guys are battling in there. To try to even create kind of two groups is hard, so these guys, we’re giving them spells. Just kind of the way we practice, we had to kind of totally change how we will normally practice here in the future.”
It’s not uncommon for the new cook on campus to lament the lack of ingredients left in the cupboard. One of the things that lamenting does, though, is undercut those who remain on the roster.
Perhaps mindful of that, McElwain also tossed around words like “foundation” and “toughness” and “fight” in an attempt to soften what he sees as a lack of depth at best and, at worst, an overall lack of talent.
“The thing about this group of guys is they care about each other and care about the team,” the first-year coach said. “They fight their way through tough times, and that’s how you build the foundation of a football team. It’s really exciting to watch because at some point in the season, this toughness foundation is going to be what carries us, and we’re learning all about that right now.”
While they’re far from the gospel, recent recruiting rankings would suggest that McElwain at least has some talent with which to work — he and his staff just needs to coach them up better than their predecessors.
Muschamp was hired as UF’s head coach on Dec. 10, 2010. In his four recruiting classes, none finished lower than 12th nationally according to Rivals.com. That was Muschamp’s first class, one that he had roughly three months to put/hold together.
The first full class of the Muschamp era was in 2012, and that class finished No. 3 overall and No. 2 in the SEC. That was followed up by the fourth-ranked class in 2013 that was again second in the conference.
Even when rumors were swirling that he was a dead man coaching, Muschamp was able to pull in the No. 8 class in 2014, although that was only good for sixth in the conference.
Again, recruiting rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to wins and losses, but they are a good indicator of potential. And potentially, McElwain, whose first class ranked 23rd nationally and 10th in the conference — they get a pass on that — has a lot more talent with which to work than he’s allowing.
Tempering expectations of an anxious and dissatisfied fan base? Perhaps. Or he’s realized that the most important ingredient in the kitchen, the quarterback, may not necessarily be in his cupboard at the moment.