Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and Why I’ll Be Renewing My Season Tickets Regardless

Somewhere along the line, Will Muschamp lost his way. The man that was hired to be the head coach of the Florida Gators nearly four years ago could no longer cut it as the leader of the orange and blue footballers.

Jim McElwain

It was sad at times to see our once great program fall to the depths of a 4-8 season and follow that up with a team that couldn’t finish close games. Along the way, we seemed to know one thing—that Muschamp’s tenure at the University of Florida was quickly coming to a close and there was little chance there would be a year five.

I’m not disappointed that Muschamp won’t return. We have to be honest with ourselves in saying that the Gators weren’t cutting it over the last two calendar years. Many only had good things to say about Muschamp the person once his firing (oh, sorry, he “resigned”) was announced. That’s all good and well, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that he wasn’t winning football games. Even Ron Zook went 16-8 in the SEC. Muschamp served up a paltry 17-15 conference record. That’s right; in eight more SEC games, Muschamp only managed one more conference win than Zook.

But let’s not harp on the latest former head coach—Muschamp will get paid handsomely to coordinate a defense and will eventually be asked to be a head coach again. I wish him well, but at the same time I am excited to see what the next era in Florida Gators football brings.

That era began on December 4, 2014 with the announcement that former Alabama offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain would lead the Gators into the future. Many of you immediately yelled (or, more accurately, tweeted) “COLORADO STATE?!?” I’m forced to remind you where we found Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.

We had forgotten McElwain, he of Bama lore. He had gone to the Rams and turned around a team while we had turned our focus back to the SEC. His three-year progression from 4-8 to 8-6 to 10-2 is impressive. Even more so when you consider Zook and Muschamp HAD NEVER BEEN HEAD COACHES!!!

He’s not the sexy name, but who is these days? Nick Saban? Yeah, never going to happen. Chip Kelly? Really not a possibility. Bringing Spurrier back? The guy is now 69 years old. McElwain, for the record is 52, or 17 years younger than the man at South Carolina. (Side note: McElwain is 17 years old than I am. That’s some weird Bermuda triangle right there.)

He’s an offensive coach. Check. He’s a good recruiter. Check (although so many of them are these days). High school coaches like him. Check. Former and current players rave about him. Check. A lot of people a whole lot smarter and more connected than I am like the hire. Check. He’s not Lane Kiffin. Check.

We have a little bit of a project on our hands, but we also did on December 31, 1989 when Spurrier was announced as the next head coach of the Gators. Spurrier was given a pass from the critics because 1) Twitter didn’t exist, and 2) if his Wikipedia page is correct, he won a Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at the University of Florida. But here was Spurrier’s record in three years at Duke: 20-13-1. He’s McElwain’s in three years at CSU: 22-16. Spurrier won 59% of his college-coached games before coming to Florida; McElwain won 58% of his.

I’m not saying McElwain will be Florida’s savior. How could I possibly know that? How could anyone? But on paper (and the Internet), he looks like a good candidate and one that we—myself included—shouldn’t have overlooked. He could be great, he could fall flat on his face, but both of those are true of anyone that would have been named the next head coach. (REMINDER THAT SABAN AND KELLY WEREN’T COMING!)

It’s about two months until I’ll receive my notice for season ticket renewal. I’ll be honest again (I’m never not) and say that I would have renewed regardless. Muschamp, McElwain, whoever—I would still be a season ticket holder in 2015. I enjoy it despite the fact that there haven’t been a whole lot of wins I’ve seen in person since becoming one, but having season tickets to Florida Gators football pleases me. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I’ll have them for a long time. I’d like more wins, of course, but I’ll go through the painful times as well. Call me what you want for having that philosophy, but it’s my choice and will be for many years to come.

So here we are Florida fans. We have a bowl game and 60 minutes of D.J. Durkin the head coach. Then we have months and months and months of watching McElwain build his Gators. The 2015 season can’t get here soon enough.

Florida Gators 78 – Alabama Crimson Tide 69: Gators Need Second Half to Pull Away

When Florida jumped out to an early 12-2 lead over Alabama on Saturday, it looked like the Gators were on their way to a blowout. That lead evaporated almost as fast as it grew and Florida would head into the locker room at halftime tied with the Crimson Tide.

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida Gators

The second half saw Bama give Florida much of the same as the Gators’ defense didn’t play up to it’s usual standards.

“If you play defense the way we did tonight, you’re not going to win. Thank God we had some offense today that helped us,” said Florida head coach Billy Donovan.

That offense came in the form of 62 percent shooting from the field and a second-half surge that saw the No. 3 Gators improve to 21-2 (10-0 SEC) on the season. The loss dropped the Anthony Grant-led Tide to 9-14 (3-7 SEC).

For the first time in over two months, all five Florida starters scored in double digits. The Gators were led senior guard Scottie Wilbekin’s 16. Senior center Patric Young added 11 and a highlight-reel block.

The Gators set a season high with 22 assists, but according to one Florida player, you aren’t going to hear Donovan praise them for that.

“Coach D is not going to tell us about that. As a coach, he wants us to see what we did wrong and get better from that. I think this game can help us learn. It better. Other teams are going to watch this film and see how we broke down and they’re going to run the same stuff,” said senior forward Will Yeguete.

The Gators have Sunday and Monday off before traveling to Knoxville, TN on Tuesday to take on 15-8 (6-4 SEC) Tennessee.

Florida Gators 68 – Missouri Tigers 58: Gators Victorious in Chris Walker’s Debut

A strong second half powered Florida to it’s 14th-straight win. The Gators defeated Missouri 68-58 in freshman forward Chris Walker’s orange and blue debut.

Chris Walker, Florida Gators

As expected, Walker was brought along slowly. The freshman was on the court for just seven minutes, but played well enough that he will be sure to be seeing more time soon. Walker finished with four points on two dunks that brought the crowd in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to its feet. Walker also added two defensive rebounds, two blocks, and two personal fouls.

“Just happy he can finally get on the floor and contribute a little bit,” head coach Billy Donovan said.

While all eyes were on Walker, Florida’s best performances of the night came from guards Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II. Wilbekin played 36 of 40 minutes and finished with 19 points after going 13-of-16 from the free-throw line. Frazier II added four three-pointers and finished with 14 points.

While freshman guard Kasey Hill has yet to find his scoring touch since returning from injury in December, he showed marked improvement in distributing the ball. Hill finished with six assists to only one turnover in 21 minutes on the court.

In addition to its 14th-consecutive win, the Gators won their 28th in a row at home. That’s a school record Florida hopes to keep building on.

At 20-2 (9-0 SEC), the No. 3 Gators are two games ahead of 17-5 (7-2 SEC) Kentucky. With Walker added to the mix, Florida has a strong chance of holding on to that lead over the No. 18 Wildcats. The two teams face each other for the first time on February 15, but first up for the Gators is 9-12 (3-5 SEC) Alabama on Saturday, February 8.

Florida Gators 61 – Alabama Crimson Tide 51: Gators Advance to SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced to the SEC Tournament finals after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 61-51 on Saturday. The Gators needed a second-half comeback sparked by senior guard Kenny Boynton to pull past the Tide, but were able to do so in fine fashion. Florida will face either the Ole Miss Rebels or Vanderbilt Commodores for the conference championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

Boynton scored all 16 of his points in a six-minute span in the second half. His sudden burst of offense turned the tide on the (sorry about this) Tide. Suddenly, a 10-point Bama lead became a 10-point Florida win. Struggling mightily in recent weeks, Boynton saw his fortunes change. He finished the day shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-6 from behind the arc. Despite only finding the basket during those six minutes, Boynton was the Gators leading scorer.

Senior guard Mike Rosario and junior center Patric Young joined Boynton with double-digit scoring. The Gators, as a team, didn’t shoot nearly as well as they did just one day earlier in the win over LSU, but it was enough to advance. While the Tide put enough pressure on the Gators to hold on to a solid lead for a good portion of the game, they just couldn’t keep it going. During the final 15 minutes of the game, Florida showed just how good they can be. The Gators outscored the Tide 34-14 over that span, which included a 15-0 run at one point.

Head coach Billy Donovan now finds his squad playing for the SEC championship. Already having taken home the regular season title, the Gators want the tournament trophy. If Florida can continue their run and put together a third-straight impressive victory, the NCAA Tournament selection committee will take notice and reward the Gators. There’s just one more game to make an impression. Only Ole Miss or Vandy stand in the way.

Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: One More Win Puts Gators in SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced the SEC Tournament semifinals with ease thanks to an 80-58 win over the LSU Tigers on Friday. The Gators will face the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1:00 PM on Saturday thanks to the Tide’s 58-48 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were running on all cylinders against the Tigers and showed little desire to take their foot off the pedal. Senior forward Erik Murphy had a career game and Florida shot well from the field. Add to that a defensive performance to hang your hat on and it was an easy victory for the orange and blue.

There was one Gator that would have wanted to contribute more to the team’s cause though. Senior guard Kenny Boynton has been caught in the middle of a shooting slump of epic proportions. Boynton has shot 37.6% from the field and 29.4% from behind the arc during his senior season–both career lows. The senior hasn’t reached 20 points in a game since January 2 and hasn’t shot better than 45.5% since January 26. To make matters worse, Boynton has only shot better than 37.5% once in his last seven games.

Kenny Boynton is a phenomenal player and will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Gators uniform, but we’re all sure this isn’t how he wants it to end. If the wins keep coming, the statistics don’t matter, but he surely wants to contribute on the offensive end. While his last performance against the Tide wasn’t a stellar one, it was solid enough to warrant a desire to repeat it. Boynton went 3-for-8 from the floor, 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, scored 13 total points, and had three assists to zero turnovers. If Boynton can do that again on Saturday, he’ll erase his 1-for-7 performance against LSU.

Head coach Billy Donovan has turned up the intensity on his team. Practices have been harder and Donovan has pushed his team to play to the talent he knows it possesses. It worked on Friday and should again on Saturday. With each SEC Tournament win, the Gators gain momentum for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Another big game is needed against Bama.

Florida Gators 64 – Alabama Crimson Tide 52: Strong Finish Leads To Gators Win

There was a fast start, an almost dramatic slowdown, an impressive comeback and a convincing finish. All of those described the Florida Gators 64-52 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide at one point or another during the game. Florida improved to 23-5 (13-3 SEC) on the season, while Alabama fell to 19-10 (11-5 SEC). With the Gators eyeing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the loss will make it harder for the Tide to even get in.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were down by three at the break and by as much as eight in the second half. It looked like it was gearing up to be quite the let down when Florida kicked it into the next gear and went on a 15-0 run to but Bama away. That run put the Gators up by nine and they would go on to win by 12. It was another double-digit SEC win, but was also a game that easily could have gone the other way. There were definitely times when you could almost feel the game slipping away, but–as opposed to recent losses–the Gators composed themselves, fought back and came away with the victory.

Junior forward Will Yeguete and freshman guard Michael Frazier II returned, but they were limited. The pair gave Florida 17 minutes, no points and just one lone rebound, but their appearances were enough to spark the rest of the team. Senior forward Erik Murphy led the way with 15 points, senior guard Kenny Boynton had 13, junior guard Scottie Wilbekin had 11 and junior forward Casey Prather added 10 off the bench.

One of the more telling stats of the day was the number of times the Gators allowed the Tide to go to the charity stripe. Alabama attempted just 10 free throws during the game as Florida only fouled the Tide nine times. The fact that the Tide could only connect on four of those 10 attempts hurt their chances even more. On the other end, the Gators hit 22 of their 26 attempts. It was an impressive display from Florida and made up for the fact that the Gators were only 2-of-13 from three-point land.

The win pushes Florida into the final week of the season on a high note. The Gators only have two games remaining–March 6 against the Vanderbilt Commodores and March 9 at the Kentucky Wildcats–and will look for big victories in both. Florida hasn’t faced Vandy yet this season, but defeated Kentucky by 17 in the first matchup between the two. With two more convincing wins, the Gators could be looking at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed come tourney selection time.

Florida Gators Vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Gators In Need Of A Big Win

On February 2, the Florida Gators defeated the Ole Miss Rebels to improve to 18-2 (8-0 SEC) on the season. The orange and blue would rise to No. 2 in the polls and hold that position for, well, not very long at all. Three days after beating Ole Miss, Florida fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks in an 11-point loss that felt much worse than even that double-digit margin. Three big wins followed, putting the Gators in the driver’s seat for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. A 1-2 record over the last three with losses to two unranked opponents puts that in danger.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

On Saturday, Florida has a chance to prove itself once again. One of the nation’s better teams when healthy and playing up to their talents and abilities, the Gators host an Alabama Crimson Tide team that is eyeing a tournament appearance as well. Florida is in, but Bama may not be. A win over the Gators will go a long way for the Tide, but a big win for Florida is just as important.

Junior forward Will Yeguete and freshman guard Michael Frazier II return for the Gators, giving Florida a full lineup. It’s not clear exactly how much either Yeguete or Frazier can or will contribute, but having them available is a plus for a team that was extremely limited in the recent loss to the Tennessee Volunteers. If Yeguete is healthy enough to earn quality minutes, he brings an intensity the Gators need down low. And Frazier has been used substantially more than his freshmen classmates, providing a spark off of the bench. With the two healthy, Florida gets back more than 40 minutes, 12.4 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game.

The latest of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology (updated on March 1) has 22-5 (12-3 SEC) Florida as a No. 3 seed in the East Region. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it appears to be a very winnable region. But we know that’s not how it will shake up in the end and the Gators want and feel they deserve a higher seed. 19-9 (11-4 SEC) Alabama is on the outside looking in and not many are convinced they have the resume to be selected. A win over the No. 8/6 Gators will go a long way for the Tide. Closing out the regular season with three strong wins will go a long way for Florida. Both teams need victories and because of an increased level of intensity the Tide will surely bring, the Gators must play a full 40 minutes.

Florida won the 2006 NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed, but the Gators would like to go into this year’s tourney higher up the ladder. It’s very possible, Florida just needs to prove it over the next couple of weeks.

2013 Football Recruiting: Florida Gators NSD Ends With Two Commits

If you watched any portion of National Signing Day, you saw coverage dominated by late-risers in the recruiting rankings, as the likes of Alabama, Ole Miss, Ohio State, and others dominated the late NSD decisions.

You didn’t see as much from the Florida Gators (The number 1 recruiting class on ESPN at the beginning of the broadcast) as you thought you would have. And, despite the fact that many of you would categorize that as “Boring,” it doesn’t necessarily suggest anything to make the Gators’ recruiting class anything less than great.

Let’s look at the Gators’ commitments on National Signing Day. Will Muschamp’s day started well with defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick from Port Saint Lucie, Florida near Miami. The Gators won this battle against mainly Miami and Alabama.

Below is Bostwick’s commitment. Listen to the interview after if you don’t think that playing in the SEC impacts some of these recruits.

In Bostwick, Florida gets a somewhat raw defensive tackle who has only been playing football for a few years. At 280 pounds, Bostwick already has some of the size needed to be a DT in the NFL, and the next few years will be spent building more muscle (Jeff Dillman), while adding technique (Bryant Young).

And here are some highlights from Bostwick’s junior year:

While many of Florida’s commitments were sending in their LOIs, there was a rumor that Tashawn Bower, an Auburn commit had sent his LOI to the Gators. He was widely thought by many to be headed to either Auburn or Florida, but in the end, none of those rumors proved to be true. And, well, Bower chose LSU.

The next news for the Gators came in the afternoon when another DT, this time a JUCO from East Mississippi Community College, Jarran Reed picked the Gators over Ole Miss and Alabama. EMCC continues to be very good to the Gators, where Florida gets DTs Reed and Darious Cummings this year, and where they got immediate-impact Damien Jacobs from last year.

After National Signing Day, the Florida Gators signed the No. 2 punter in the nation Ryan Townsend, who had been previously committed to Ohio State. And not long before that, OL/TE Trevon Young determined that he wished to be a Gator when he decided against a scholarship offer to play basketball, his true passion, at Eckerd College. Young is VERY raw, so we’ll see how his development at Florida goes.

The Florida Gators’ 2013 recruiting class, should end up at a final number of 30, the most in school history. But the Gators didn’t just add depth for no reason. With recruits at nearly ever position on the team, the Gators filled their needs well with talent that could serve as a building block for future Will Muschamp teams. Though time will tell, this years recruiting class looks like it could end up being one of the bests in school history.

Week 8 College Football BlogPoll: Where The Florida Gators Get One Spot Closer To No. 1

Week 8 of the college football season has come and gone, while my entry in the SB Nation College Football BlogPoll Top 25 has remained much the same. The players in the top 10 are the same names you saw one week ago, but there has been some movement. Even if that movement is minimal.

A few points:

• While some have moved our mighty Florida Gators to No. 1, I haven’t gone that far just yet. However, I do move the Gators to No. 2 with an eye on the top spot. Both Florida and the Alabama Crimson Tide have looked impressive, but the Tide’s balance at the moment gives them the edge for me. The Gators scored 44 against the South Carolina Gamecocks with minimal offensive production. Imagine what they could have done if firing on all cylinders. Until that happens though, Florida is just off of that top spot.

• The Oregon Ducks take the hit for Florida’s success and the continued rise of the Kansas State Wildcats. Oregon has done nothing to hurt itself, but Florida and Kansas State have been that much more impressive against better competition. The Ducks are a great team that could play for a national championship, but not if that game were played today.

• No. 5 and No. 6 continue to be held by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Oklahoma Sooners. That won’t be the case much longer as the two face off this coming Saturday. One will drop (if only slightly), while the other may find itself ranked even higher. Most have the LSU Tigers as their top one-loss team, but if the two faced off today on a neutral field, I think the Sooners would take it…easily. That’s a Fantasyland game that isn’t on the schedule, but I’d still imagine most would take Oklahoma.

• The West Virginia Mountaineers are in serious danger of falling right out of the top 25. Two weeks ago I had them at No. 4. After the blowout loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders, they fell to No. 17. After another convincing defeat–this time to Kansas State–they have fallen to No. 24. Not only can’t the defense stop anyone, the offense is starting to struggle to score points as well. We have to all believe that those two losses won’t be the only ones the Mountaineers experience this season.

• Finally, the No. 19 Ohio Bobcats rose three spots this week. At 7-0, the Bobcats deserve the ranking, but even if they manage to get through the regular season undefeated, this isn’t a top-10 team.

The Full Week 7 College Football BlogPoll: Where The Florida Gators Go Up, But There First-Place Votes Go Down

Monday, my ballot. Today, the full Week 7 SB Nation College Football BlogPoll.

College Football Rankings 2011

Results for Week 7

# School Points/blog SD Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide (62) 24.64 0.84
2 Oregon Ducks (3) 23.32 2.15
3 Florida Gators (5) 22.51 1.40 Arrow_up 2
4 Kansas St. Wildcats (1) 21.99 1.36 Arrow_up 2
5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4) 21.30 1.81 Arrow_up 2
6 LSU Tigers 18.41 2.62 Arrow_up 3
7 South Carolina Gamecocks 17.05 2.44 Arrow_down -4
8 Oregon St. Beavers 16.89 3.84 Arrow_up 2
9 Oklahoma Sooners 16.18 3.44 Arrow_up 5
10 Ohio St. Buckeyes (1) 16.05 5.49 Arrow_down -2
11 Florida St. Seminoles 13.70 3.69
12 USC Trojans 13.09 4.69
13 Georgia Bulldogs 11.82 3.12
14 Mississippi St. Bulldogs 10.21 3.80 Arrow_up 5
15 Louisville Cardinals 9.88 3.84 Arrow_up 3
16 Clemson Tigers 9.49 4.56
17 West Virginia Mountaineers 9.29 3.46 Arrow_down -13
18 Texas Tech Red Raiders 8.32 4.52 Arrow_up 13
19 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 7.33 3.61 Arrow_up 1
20 Texas A&M Aggies 6.36 3.70 Arrow_up 4
21 Cincinnati Bearcats 6.24 3.87
22 Stanford Cardinal 4.83 4.42 Arrow_down -5
23 Ohio Bobcats 3.96 4.92
24 TCU Horned Frogs 2.11 2.61 Arrow_up 4
25 Michigan Wolverines 1.76 2.58 Arrow_up 4
Others Receiving Votes: Boise St. Broncos | Arizona St. Sun Devils | Iowa St. Cyclones | Louisiana Tech Bulldogs | Northwestern Wildcats | Nevada Wolf Pack | Texas Longhorns | Tulsa Golden Hurricane | Northern Illinois Huskies | Toledo Rockets | North Carolina Tar Heels | UCLA Bruins | Wisconsin Badgers | Virginia Tech Hokies | Western Kentucky Hilltoppers | Penn St. Nittany Lions | Nebraska Cornhuskers | Ball St. Cardinals | Utah State Aggies | Kent St. Golden Flashes
Updated: Oct 16, 2012 9:30 AM EDT

A few points:

• The Florida Gators lost four first-place votes, but moved up two spots. Basically, less believe the Gators are the nation’s top team, but more believe they should be near that No. 1 spot. It really came down to South Carolina and West Virginia losing. The two dropped and the Gators started their climb.

• Alabama is the overwhelming No. 1, as expected. Both Oregon and Florida received first-place votes, along with Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. I’m assuming the Buckeyes ranking didn’t take their defense into account.

• LSU is the top one-loss team, but I disagree. The Tigers’ win over the Gamecocks’ was impressive and a check in the positives column. Their three outings before that showed that they may not be as good as many want to believe. I put them back in my top 10, but I’m not thinking this is an elite LSU team. I could see them losing again before all is said and done.

• Texas Tech one spot below West Virginia? Nope. That’s wrong. That wasn’t an upset, it was a destructive blowout. Plus, the Red Raiders one loss is to Oklahoma, who has one loss to Kansas State. Texas Tech deserves to be the higher team.

• Stanford belongs, but two losses already hurts. Especially when one of those losses isn’t to USC.