- Travis Haney, ESPN Staff Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As the word "tempo" becomes part of college football vocabularies as much as tailgating does, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp reminds us there is more than one way to lift a program -- or return it, in Florida’s case -- to the SEC’s elite class.
In an era of offensive innovation, Muschamp has reconstructed the Gators to win by running the ball and playing defense. That formula might not be the sexiest in the land, but it has worked, and worked rather well, in SEC burgs such as Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa. In fact, those types of programs have showed they have staying power, at least compared to spread or air raid-centered systems.
What's interesting is that in the age of fast-paced, spread-it-out offenses in games and a reduced amount of contact in practice, Florida's physicality becomes difficult to prepare for in the same way a tempo offense is. And while style points and explosive plays have been hard to come by for QB Jeff Driskel and the Gators' offense, that physical edge and mentality on both sides of the ball gives Florida a built-in advantage over many of the opponents it faces, including the Miami Hurricanes (Florida at Miami, Saturday at noon ET on ESPN and WatchESPN).
That is by the head coach's design. Muschamp had a big-time résumé for an assistant; that’s why he got the Florida job, even though he had no previous head-coaching experience. The former Georgia safety spent time as the defensive coordinator at LSU, Auburn and Texas before landing in Gainesville. That stop at LSU, with Nick Saban, might have been the most important in terms of developing what he would one day want as his own program’s identity.