3 Reasons Muschamp is Exceeding Expectiations
The Florida Gators weren't supposed to go 11-1 (7-1 SEC) in Will Muschamp's second season as head coachWith a raw sophomore quarterback, no go-to receiver and a young defense, the Gators would have done well to win seven or eight games this season. Fortunately, Muschamp doesn't settle for good.
Florida's fiery head coach has taken a decent squad and turned it into the No. 3 team in the country in just two years' time. So how has Muschamp, a man with no previous head coaching experience, managed to overachieve in such a short period of time? Let's take a look.
Rapid Player Development
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In inheriting the fractured remnants of a once great program from Urban Meyer,Muschamp instantly took on some dead weight.
Several players, notably Janoris Jenkins, exited the program for various reasons, leaving behind a roster of underachievers, unknowns and untapped potential.
After a decent debut season, Muschamp has already overachieved because of his ability to quickly develop players.
Take Loucheiz Purifoy, for instance.
A former 4-star recruit and No. 11 overall cornerback in the nation, according to Rivals.com, Purifoy spent his freshman season on special teams, recording 27 tackles.
However, the talented 6'1" corner lacked maturity and rarely saw snaps on defense. Fast forward a year, and Purifoy is arguably one of the most valuable players on the entire team. Along with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Muschamp took a gifted athlete and transformed him into a weapon.
Purifoy finished the regular season with 51 total tackles, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks, including a game-clincher against Louisiana-Lafayette. The case of Purifoy is just a microcosm of what has become an impressive trend with Muschamp: maximizing his players' abilities.
Whether it's Purifoy, freshman offensive tackle DJ Humphries, redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed or senior linebacker Jon Bostic, Muschamp has overachieved in year two of his program because of his ability to turn good players into great ones.
Finishing In The Fourth Quarter
The 2011 Florida Gators choked in the fourth quarter time and time again. Boy, how things have changed.
In Muschamp's first season at the helm, the Gators repeatedly failed to finish games, especially against good competition.
In losses against Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina, the Gators were outscored 48-6 in the games' final quarters.
That simply won't get the job done. This season, the difference has been night and day. In 12 games, including wins against South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M, Florida surrendered a mere 20 points in the fourth quarter.
And it hasn't just been the defense that's stepped up in crunch time.
Florida's offense has turned it on in the second half, scoring 64 points in the third quarter and 61 in the fourth.
That development speaks volumes to this team's mental toughness, which radiates from Muschamp down to his staff and his players.
Players have bought into Muschamp's system and have responded in some critical moments.
Whether it was the comeback against FSU or the crunch-time win against Louisiana-Lafayette, it's clear the Gators know how to turn it on when it matters most.
Turning his team from a soft squad to a fourth-quarter finisher has been a key inMuschamp overachieving in 2012.
Owning Conference Play
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In order to earn respect, you have to beat the best. A year after going 3-5 against the SEC, including back-to-back losses to Alabama and LSU by a combined score of 79-21, the Gators reclaimed their place in the SEC picture. Although they ultimately finished short of a spot in the SEC Championship game, the Gators flipped the script in 2012, finishing 7-1 in conference play.
An eight-point loss to Georgia cost the Gators a shot at Alabama and a possible spot in the national title game. But then again, who expected Muschamp's team to go 11-1 this season? The hire of strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman put the Gators in a position to be in control for 60 minutes, as the players improved their explosion and stamina.
On a scorching day in the Swamp against LSU, right guard Jon Halapio saw how tired the Tigers were, writes Greg Luca of The Independent Florida Alligator.Getting tougher, stronger, faster and fitter made all the difference in the world against the likes of LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina, who are ranked No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10 in the BCS, respectively.
Florida's improvement in the trenches, particularly along the offensive line, played a huge role in re-establishing conference dominance.
With the No. 1 recruiting class for 2013 and a wealth of talent expected back next season, the term "overachiever" won't hold much ground for Muschamp next season.
The expectations have been set and must be exceeded.
Stephen Sheehan is a Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. Click Here to read more of his work.