Sitting in the cramped interview room beneath Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, listening to Florida coach Will Muschamp lament a painful loss to LSU, I could not help but think back to Urban Meyer sitting in that same spot six years earlier and being reduced to tears.
Meyer’s emotions after that 2005 game were brought on by a number of factors. A disappointing 21-17 loss. The frustration of having to compete with an offense hamstrung by injuries. The fact that some of his players didn’t play hard and weren’t buying into his system.
There were no tears in Muschamp’s eyes Saturday. But there was plenty of anger, and a hint of frustration. In words similar to Meyer’s six years earlier, Muschamp said that any players unwilling to do the things they’re coached to do will no longer be a part of the program. He reiterated that Monday — basically either get on board or get off the train.
This is nothing new. First-year coaches at all levels experience something similar to this when they inherit a bunch of players they didn’t recruit (and who might not fit into what you want to do and how you want to do it).
Meyer’s tough stance after the LSU game in 2005 helped turn the season around for the Gators. In the weeks that followed, he found out which players were willing to be coached and put it on the line every day in practice and in games.
And a team that seemed stuck in muck in the loss to LSU went on to win five of its last six games and finish with a 9-3 record in Meyer’s first season. The momentum carried over to 2006 and helped the Gators win the national title.
I’m not saying Muschamp is going to do the same thing with his first Florida team. The schedule is tougher, the problems maybe a little more complex (like being manhandled on the line of scrimmage the past two weeks).
I’m just saying the situation is similar — and Muschamp is right where Meyer was in terms of making demands of his players, and challenging them to buy in or else.
Some starting jobs will change this week in practice. The competition is on.
It will be compelling stuff to see where this team goes from here.