GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The decision not to name a new offensive coordinator until after the Gator Bowl isn’t because Gators coach Will Muschamp is lacking good candidates.
It’s more like the opposite.
“A lot of people have a tremendous interest in the job,’’ Muschamp said Monday. “I’m taking my time. I’ve talked to an awful lot of people and will continue to do so to find the best fit.’’
While several names have been tossed into the mix by various media outlets, Muschamp is taking a mum approach on discussing potential replacements for Charlie Weis.
He’ll leave the speculation to others as he makes one of two important hires in the next couple of weeks. Muschamp also is searching for a new strength and conditioning coordinator to replace Mickey Marotti, who left earlier this month.
As he works to fill the openings, Muschamp has a well-established process of making his final decisions.
In both cases, he is using a team-first approach.
“We’ve got a young football team and I think continuity is the most important thing at this point with our football team and that’s really kind of the parameters that I’m looking for right now,’’ Muschamp said. “You visit and talk to people face to face and find out if they are a fit. You exhaust all measures to make sure you find the right guy.’’
With the Jan. 2 Gator Bowl against Ohio State capping his first season as Florida’s coach, Muschamp wants to make sure his second year gets off to a smooth start. A win over Ohio State to extend UF’s streak of non-losing seasons to 32 seasons would be nice launching pad.
Still, hiring the right offensive coordinator and strength coach will have more impact on the future than win or lose against the Buckeyes in Jacksonville.
Muschamp made a splash a year ago when he hired the high-profile Weis to run the offense. The results weren’t as productive as they hoped, but until Weis left to become head coach at Kansas, they remained committed to making Weis’ pro-style offense a success at The Swamp.
Weis is gone, but Muschamp’s commitment to a pro-style attack remains.
“We’re not going to come in here and change what we’re doing,’’ Muschamp said of the offensive philosophy going forward. “I don’t think that it’s smart to hire a guy and have 40 guys learning as opposed to one guy learning.
“Obviously, will [the new coordinator] tweak some things? Certainly. Will he change some things? Yeah, maybe. But we’re not going to just take a playbook and throw it out the window and bring another one in.’’
Muschamp is calling his colleagues and friends in the coaching profession regularly to vet potential candidates. He said he has also considered coaches he had to devise a game plan to stop during his days as a defensive coordinator.
With the Gators back at practice for the Gator Bowl, Muschamp is also taking a hard look at running backs coach Brian White, who is serving as interim offensive coordinator for the bowl game.
“It’s kind of like recruiting. You go and identify kind of what you’re looking for, and then you go out and find the best fit for the University of Florida, someone that is going to go out and represent us in a first-class manner and do a great job and understand the expectations,’’ Muschamp said. “At the end of the day, we’re the University of Florida. We’re going to be fine.’’
The hiring of a strength coach is equally important in Muschamp’s eyes considering he is in charge of running the offseason program and maintains regular contact with the players in the offseason when the coaching staff is limited according to NCAA rules.
Muschamp has a good idea of what the candidate must possess.
“That’s a guy who has got to be No. 1, is very technical in what he knows, very experienced in what he knows, [he] has a system in place with what he wants to do,’’ Muschamp said. “But he also has to be a motivator and a guy who can create some chemistry within the team that can positively affect everybody.
“You’ve got to be a great motivator … [and] buy into the attitude that I want to have as an overachieving, blue-collar football team.’’
In other notable news:
--Senior quarterback John Brantley, who suffered a concussion and left the game late in the first half against Florida State, returned to practice Friday when the Gators opened preparation to play Ohio State in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2.
“He’s been fine,’’ said Muschamp.
--Muschamp said sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered in the regular-season finale against Florida State.
“That surgery went very well and he is rehabbing as we speak,’’ Muschamp said. “He will probably miss spring, but will be certainly cleared for this summer. He’ll be ready to get back.’’
With Easley out for the Gator Bowl, Muschamp said defensive end Sharrif Floyd will move back inside to his natural position at tackle.
--Muschamp said cornerback Jeremy Brown, who did not play this season due to a knee injury, is now exploring surgery to repair the knee to hopefully return next season.
“We’ve exhausted every measure as far as not having surgery,’’ Muschamp said.
--Since Muschamp took over the program in January, more than 10 players have transferred. Asked about that Monday, Muschamp replied:
“I would attribute it to a lot of different things,’’ he said. “Any time you have a [coaching] transition, there is natural attrition that occurs.”