This one definitely qualifies as a major surprise, Florida has hired Texas defensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting to succeed Urban Meyer. This rumor has blown up the past few minutes, and now Florida Times-Union beat writer Michael DiRocco confirms on Twitter:
Will Muschamp will be named UF's new coach, sources have told the Times-Union.
It's Muschamp. Wow. Pretty bold hire. No head coaching experience.
Bold indeed. Give Jeremy Foley credit for having the requisite stones to hire a 38-year old defensive coordinator with no previous head coaching experience, but time will tell if that's a smart move or not. Without doubt Florida could have gotten many other coaches with longer track records of success with other head coaching jobs, so Foley is taking a pretty big risk here. Maybe it pays off, maybe it doesn't. Either way, I'll give Foley credit for not succumbing to pressure and making a more conventional choice that would have covered his own hide. Many athletic directors would have chosen the safe route, but he's putting himself on the line to get a guy who thinks is the best hire, so give him credit for that.
Meanwhile, you have to wonder what this means for Texas? Mack Brown is coming off his worst year in Austin, and now the ol' head coach-in-waiting heads east to Gainesville. With continued struggles, it makes you wonder where Texas would go next now that their succession plan has been ruined. And, for 2011, who do the Horns get as defensive coordinator? Could they make a run at Kirby Smart?
For Florida, risk or not, I suppose the upshot for the Gators is that even if Muschamp does flop as a head coach, you have to figure given his youth, energy, and name, he'll recruit at a very high level, so the worst-case scenario is probably a few mediocre years where he gets canned while leaving his successor a massive amount of talent to work with. In that sense, I suppose the bottom end on this hire is that he becomes Ron Zook: Part II, which really isn't all that bad of an outcome for Florida, so with that in mind I suppose Foley decided to role the dice.
Having said that, though, this one creates a lot of questions for the Gators. Exactly what will the Gators offensive identity become? Will they continue to run the spread option or go to a more conventional attack? Will Muschamp install a 3-4 on the defensive side of the ball? Will Florida change its recruiting strategy? Could Muschamp eventually listen to overtures from Georgia and the NFL if he has success in Gainesville? Does this hire change anything with 'Bama commitment Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix? This one is a bold hire and one that creates a lot of questions that will not be answered for quite some time.
Finally, add this as another branch to the Nick Saban coaching tree. Saban-ites now hold head coaching jobs at Florida, Florida State, and Tennessee. Not bad for a man very much still in his prime.
Update: Not the news we wanted to hear about Kirby Smart, but honestly you had to expect this as at least a legitimate possibility. From Tommy Deas:
New University of Florida coach Will Muschamp is expected to target Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as the top candidate for the defensive coordinator position on his staff with the Gators, sources familiar with the situation have told The Tuscaloosa News.
It is not known if Muschamp has already offered the position to Smart, who could not be reached for comment. Smart, who last year won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach, received a raise to $750,000 a year in February after Georgia made a big-money offer to him to fill its defensive coordinator vacancy.