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'14 for 14: Who is Will Muschamp?

Do we even know yet?

Streeter Lecka

Here's what we do know about Will Muschamp: he can really coach defense.

In the past seven seasons, five of his defenses have finished in the top 15 of defensive S&P+. That does include the 2013 season, by the way. Despite an injury plague and, to put it charitably, getting no help from the offense, the defense still wound up finishing No. 15. There will be some years where the unit ends up young and struggling some like what happened to him at Texas in 2010, but even then, his D only fell to No. 31. By comparison, in the middle of his brilliant run as Florida DC, Charlie Strong guided a young defense in 2007 to No. 38.

For this reason, Muschamp has the potential to bring a sustained run of success to the program in the same way that Steve Spurrier did in the 1990s. I am not joking, and I know exactly what I am saying when I say that. Spurrier's presence made sure the offense was elite in most years. Muschamp's presence means the defense will be elite in most years. The SEC is better now than it was in the '90s, so right now no one will do something like win four straight conference titles as the Head Ball Coach did from 1993-96, but getting to the point of winning 10+ games a year consistently is not hard to envision for Muschamp.

I believe that is largely why Jeremy Foley said last November that he was "a thousand percent convinced that Will Muschamp is the guy to lead this football program". What fills out the rest is the fact that off field incidents under Muschamp have plunged versus what they were under Urban Meyer and Ron Zook. With Muschamp at the helm, you can bank on one side of the ball being among the best in the country. When you have that, you try to hold onto it.

Here's what we don't know about Will Muschamp: can he be a complete head coach?

With this being his first head coaching job, he has made a lot of rookie mistakes. The parade of offensive coordinators is the most visible example. Bringing in Charlie Weis was questionable, though to this day there are stories of it being executive meddling, and Brent Pease didn't work out. You may have heard about the Spinal Tap drummer-like progression of wide receivers coaches, with Muschamp being on his fourth in four years. Perhaps as worse is the shuffle at offensive line coach. Muschamp let Weis pick Frank Verducci, who had been out of coaching for two years, and Muschamp fired him after Weis left. Then, Muschamp's hand-picked successor Tim Davis couldn't get along with Pease.

In hiring Kurt Roper, Muschamp finally showed some flexibility in philosophy on offense. He says all he's ever demanded is balance—something he defines as being able to run when you need to run and pass when you need to pass—but he also proudly announced that his program would run a pro-style offense in his introductory press conference.

Even his old mentor Nick Saban has kept up with offensive trends more than people give him credit for, with Mark Ingram running plenty of Wildcat en route to his 2009 Heisman and noticeable amounts of Pistol formation in the time since. Hiring Roper is Muschamp meeting modernity in the middle, bringing in some spread concepts and uptempo attitude while not going full-on Baylor.

If Roper works out, then there is considerable cause for optimism in Muschamp's future. His last two recruiting classes have addressed the big offensive issues that his first two had, showing that his roster management is getting better. Should Roper and new OL coach Mike Summers work well together and spark real improvement, then it will show his staff management skills improving as well.

Muschamp's defensive acumen makes his ceiling as a head coach sky high. If he can just get everything else in order, his program will be a formidable force on the national scene for a long time. He's still only 43-years-old, after all. In all likelihood, he has almost three decades of coaching ahead of him.

But the fact that we're still talking about potential three years in tells us all we need to know about what has transpired so far in his years in Gainesville. Potential is why he is getting a fourth year when Zook did not, but unfulfilled potential won't cut it any longer.