“Jake Bentley,” he said. “It’s that simple. He’s our leader. We go as he goes.”
Muschamp beamed when I told him the story.
“And that’s coming from a guy who is almost 24 years old,” Muschamp said about Hurst. “About a guy as young as Jake.”
Muschamp is beaming a lot these days, in large part because in his sixth season as a head coach, he finally might have the offensive side of the ball figured out. Most believe his team’s offensive struggles are why he lost his job at Florida. Even in his second season, when the Gators went 11-1 in the regular season, the offense was weak (334.0 yards game, 104th nationally). That team won with toughness, defense, special teams and a break or two.
In his final season at Florida, Muschamp brought in former Duke assistant Kurt Roper as his offensive coordinator. The offense improved, but it was too little too late. Muschamp has since said if he had hired Roper earlier, he would still be at Florida.
Regardless, he has him now. And the Roper/Bentley combination seems to have the Gamecocks’ offense in good hands.
But if South Carolina is going to have a resurgence, it’s about more than that. It’s about the coach who once was considered the hottest coaching prospect in the country finally coming of age. And every indication is that is happening.
Logic tells us there is a reason so many felt that way about him. His defenses always were good. He always was the assistant who brought in key recruits. He learned under Saban, maybe the best football coach of all time. And he had the look, the personality, the drive, the talent to be the next great one.
The man that hired him at Florida, Jeremy Foley, is as good as there ever has been at spotting young coaches who will be great before they become great. Billy Donovan, Urban Meyer, baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan, softball coach Tim Walton – Foley gave each of those four coaches their first big gigs. That quartet combined to win seven national titles at Florida and counting.
Foley clearly saw something special in Muschamp, even if it didn’t end the way both had hoped.
Muschamp always has been an all-world recruiter. The enormous amount of NFL talent that Florida has produced in the past four NFL drafts were his recruits. His ability to identify talent — particularly defensive talent — and then develop it is high-level. He also understands the importance of recruiting, of hiring good recruiters.
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