Muschamp: "We're about winning championships here" (story by Brian Hand)
Tanner: 'We got our man' (story by Brian Hand)
Former players excited about Muschamp hire (story by Kyle Heck)
Gamecock Club Board of Directors enthusiastic about Muschamp hire (story by Brian Hand)
Hiring of Muschamp very intriguing for Gamecock fans(story by Kyle Heck)
South Carolina coaching family welcomes Muschamp(story by Brian Hand)
Coaches from around country have confidence in Muschamp (story by Kyle Heck)
Muschamp intangibles should excite Gamecock fans (column by Brian Hand)
Muschamp hired to lead Carolina football (story by South Carolina Athletics Media Relations)
Just like with some Gamecock fans, there were a lot of mixed emotions from the national media about South Carolina's hiring of Will Muschamp as its next head coach.
However, the best perspective on a coach always comes from the people who actually worked with him on a daily basis and there were a lot of good things said about Muschamp around the Auburn program, where Muschamp spent a year as the defensive coordinator last season.
Before the hiring of Muschamp became official at South Carolina, media around the Auburn program talked about how detrimental it would be if Muschamp left the school.
"Practically, Muschamp leaving now would take away the best coach on the staff, whose defense improved throughout the season and gave the Tigers a chance to win in five of the six SEC games they dropped," wrote Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com. "LSU was the only SEC opponent to score 30 points or more on Auburn in regulation."
Some people look solely at the fact that the Tigers were statistically worse on defense in 2015 than they were a year before. However, that doesn't tell the whole story. Auburn didn't have its best defensive player in Carl Lawson for seven games and Muschamp was forced to play quite a few freshmen. As talented as they were they still had to adjust to the rigors of college football. Once Lawson returned and the players received more experience, the defense started to improve, as Scarbinsky noted.
Jay G. Tate, Publisher for Auburn's Rivals website, pointed out another reason as to why it took the Auburn defense a while to adjust and it had to do with Muschamp having to change the entire culture.
According to Tate, Muschamp was surprised by the lack of toughness he saw in the Auburn defense upon arrival. That meant that the new coach had to change the way the Tigers practiced to get them more physical. While the stats didn't show it, Tate said the mission was accomplished.
"Auburn's defense was below average (again) this season from a statistical perspective," Tate wrote. "Points allowed per game and yards allowed per game were higher in 2015 than they were in 2014 while takeaways dropped from 27 to 18. By nearly any objective measure, the Tigers didn't improve under Muschamp. Yet there was a critical difference on the field. Auburn's defense went after people and made an effort to impose their will on the opponent. Pads always were popping. Crowds ooh'd and aah'd as the Tigers lined up graphic hits in space. Teams that played Auburn, by and large, needed a day off after playing Muschamp's defense. Does that have value? A mathematician would say no; a football coach could argue a better approach is worth more than statistics."
National media were wary of Muschamp because of his fiery demeanor on the sideline and it had a lot to do with the memory of the Iron Bowl fresh in their minds. During Auburn's rivalry game against Alabama, Muschamp was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing a late hit out of bounds. In his introductory press conference at South Carolina on Monday, Dec. 7, Muschamp said he knows he can't get out of control like that as head coach of the Gamecocks.
There were positive things said about Muschamp on a national level, however. ESPN analyst and former Gator great Jesse Palmer said Muschamp could succeed at South Carolina because of his familiarity with the SEC as well as his recruiting and defensive prowess.
"I don't know if anybody really denies that Will Muschamp still is one of the better defensive minds in all of college football," Palmer said. "He's multiple with the schemes he uses and he's always been able to recruit NFL talent to that side of the ball."
Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi covered Muschamp extensively at Florida and he loves South Carolina's hire.
"Will Muschamp being hired by South Carolina is actually a good move by the Gamecocks ... I still believe he is a sharp invididual, a good football coach and a top-notch recruiter who will learn from the mistakes he made at Florida," Bianchi said before later noting, "don’t ever forget, the greatest football coach of our era – Bill Belichick – failed in his first head-coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns."
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**