Nothing is more crucial to the success of a new head coach than the staff he assembles. This is especially the case with the hiring of an assistant by a rookie head coach. With the announcement of Bryant Young as defensive line coach and the elimination of the Seattle Seahawks from the NFL playoffs, Will Muschamp’s coaching staff is fully assembled and free to fully devote its time to Florida football.
The primary difference between the coaching staffs assembled by previous Florida coaches and this one is, that Muschamp’s has a distinct NFL flavor to it.
For possibly the first time in its history, Florida will have a head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator with NFL experience.
While Muschamp’s experience was limited to one season on the staff with the Miami Dolphins, that is more NFL coaching experience than Urban Meyer had upon his arrival in Gainesville.
New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, a former offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots at their height of their Super Bowl runs and for the Kansas City Chiefs this season, also spent time as a position coach, coaching running backs and wide receivers. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has almost a decade of NFL experience coaching defensive lines in San Francisco, Miami, New York (Jets), and Seattle.
The NFL flavor is not limited to the coordinators, either.
In addition to Quinn and Weis, Muschamp has turned both interior lines over to coaches with significant experience in the NFL.
The offensive line will be coached by veteran Frank Verducci, who worked for the Bengals, Cowboys, Bills and Browns.
Young, who will coach the defensive line, spent 13 seasons in the NFL as a defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 1994, Comeback Player of the Year in 1999, was a four time Pro-Bowler, and won a Super Bowl (XXIX).
Both Verducci and Young will add considerable NFL experience to positions absolutely critical to success in the SEC where virtually everyone has elite talent in the trenches. Verducci and Young were on Weis’ last Notre Dame staff as offensive line coach and as a defensive graduate assistant, respectively, and Quinn coached Young on the defensive line for one season with San Francisco. So, there should be plenty of familiarity among the new assistant coaches as well.
Florida should benefit from the assembled NFL experience on the staff in several ways. First, their experience should give new coaches instant credibility with returning players.
There may be evidence that this is already the case, as Florida’s coaching staff lost no players to transfer. The NFL credential may have influenced John Brantley decision to return for his senior year, despite his tumultuous 2010 season.
Not coincidentally, Janoris Jenkins also decided to return for the 2011 season despite the possibility that he would be a high draft pick in the NFL Draft come April. Additionally, one would think the players will respond positively to a Pro Bowl defensive lineman coaching them, or a coach who helped Matt Cassell have one of the best statistical seasons in the NFL in 2010.
Second, the NFL-laden staff should pay dividends on the recruiting trail. While it will be tough to say how the staff will do in closing out the class 2011, their combined experience should make for an easy sell to recruits down the road.
It’s no secret that most, if not all, recruits aspire to play in the NFL one day. What better way for Florida to sell that opportunity than to point out the mass of NFL experience at the coordinator and position coach level on the staff?
Florida hasn’t exactly struggled in recruiting recently. Nevertheless, the possibility of pitching NFL coaching while in college can only help with the most elite of recruits (particularly at quarterback, running back, and the offensive line).
Finally, with their backgrounds, the preparation and game-planning of the new coaching staff figure to be highly professional.
Between the retained coaches, Muschamp himself, and the coaches brought in from the NFL, there should be nothing they haven’t seen on film before.
In a league has challenging on a weekly basis as the SEC is, the fact that Charlie Weis has game-planned for Super Bowls and Dan Quinn was just coaching in the NFL playoffs this week should give Florida fans and players alike every confidence that the coaches will be prepared no matter the opponent.
It’s important to point out that in addition to the NFL coaches on the staff, Muschamp did a fine job blending retained coaches and well-connected college football coaches to give the staff the best of all worlds.
Hiring former Gator player Aubrey Hill from Miami to coach the wide receivers was a big plus, as Hill is intimately familiar with the Gators program and is well connected in the fertile recruiting grounds of south Florida. He’ll make a fine recruiting weapon along with Stan Drayton and the other holdovers from the Meyer staff that know the targets and targets areas well.
Finally, don’t forget that Muschamp himself has been in some of the biggest stages in college football as a defensive coordinator for LSU, Auburn, and Texas. No one is more intimately familiar with the college game or with recruiting the southeast than Muschamp.
The Florida coaching staff has more of the NFL experience than it has ever has and that should be a good thing. Between their abilities to coach up the returning players, recruit in the future, and to work alongside veteran college coaches and recruiters, the Gators should have no problem competing in the SEC and continuing the momentum established over the past two decades.