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23 For 2023 - #11 Will Muschamp

Graham Coffey

23 For 2023 - The 23 People Who Will Have the Biggest Impact on UGA Football’s Success as it Pursues a Three-Peat

“Who would you rank as the coaches most important to UGA’s success?” 

That question was recently posed to me by a DawgsCentral subscriber in response to a piece of intel that I posted on our forum. I started to type out a response, but a couple sentences in I realized that the answer to the question is quite complex. To make such a list, one must make broad value judgments on what assets are most important to a modern college football program. 

When thinking about the answer I also found myself thinking about an old football cliche… "It's not the X's and the O's but the Jimmys and the Joes." That got me considering the players who will suit up on gamedays for Georgia next fall. Good gameplans and great play calls are key to any team’s success, but they are usually only as good as the personnel executing them. 

With that in mind, I decided to broaden the scope of these rankings beyond just members of the coaching staff. As I go through this list I will touch on every position room and virtually every facet of the Georgia Football program. In that way, it will serve as both my version of a spring practice preview and a look at the state of the program. 

So without further adieu, here are the 23 people most crucial to UGA’s success in the year 2023. Whether or not Georgia is able to win a third straight championship, and how they go about trying to do it, will be largely influenced by the roles these individuals play…

Previous Entries

#23 - Jamaal Jarrett

#22 - Fran Brown 

#21 - Daylen Everette

#20 - David Hill 

#19 - Tykee Smith

#18 - Mykel Williams

#17 - Dominic Lovett

#16 - Jalon Walker

#15 - Chidera Uzo-Diribe

#14 - Stacy Searels

#13 - Smael Mondon

#12 - Earnest Greene

#11 - Will Muschamp

Countless articles have been written on Georgia’s defensive brain trust over the last 2 years as the Bulldogs have risen to the top of the sport. Many of them have focused on Kirby Smart’s scheme in conjunction with his reluctance to concede that a defense must give up bunches of points in the modern era of college football. Many other articles have focused on UGA co-DC Glenn Schumann, one of the coaching industry’s biggest young stars. 

Not nearly enough people have given Will Muschamp the credit he deserves for helping design the Georgia defenses that have helped win back-to-back national titles… 

The national attention given to the UGA defense over the last two years has been rightfully earned.

The 2021 unit might be the best college defense we’ve seen since modern Spread and Zone-Read offenses have been adopted by nearly every team in the sport. UGA suffocated some of the best offenses in college football that season and held Alabama to 18 points in the national championship game in Indianapolis. 

The 2022 team came into the season with question marks across the board. 8 starters had departed for the NFL. Not just the talent of those players was gone. Perhaps more concerning was the leadership vacuum that could be created by losing all of those veteran defenders. Guys like Nakobe Dean and Lewis Cine knew UGA’s scheme so well that they functioned like coaches on the field. 

How would the Bulldogs replace all that? Just fine. UGA’s 2022 unit was the best scoring defense in the FBS during the regular season, allowing just 12.4 points per game. 



Back-to-back seasons like that is the type of thing that turns young coaches into rising stars. That is why there is a certain irony to the fact that Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann are currently Georgia’s co-defensive coordinators.

20 years ago, Muschamp was a 32 year-old national championship winning coordinator at LSU for Nick Saban, a guy who many considered the greatest defensive coach in college football at the time.

Right now, Glenn Schumann is the 33 year-old national championship winning coordinator at UGA for Kirby Smart, a guy who many consider the greatest defensive coach in college football today.

Muschamp followed Saban to the NFL and spent a year as the assistant head coach of the Dolphins before coming back to college football as the Auburn DC in 2006. There he coordinated two straight defenses that ranked in the top ten nationally. 

In January of 2008, Muschamp became the highest paid assistant in the Big 12 when he was hired at Texas. Just 10 months later the Longhorns announced that Texas would be Mack Brown’s successor as head coach whenever he retired. Prior to that announcement, Muschamp had been connected to job openings at Tennessee, Auburn and Clemson. He had planned to interview with the Tigers during an upcoming bye week. Muschamp was one of the coaching industry’s rising stars and Texas doubled his salary and named him the head coach in waiting to keep him in Austin.

In 2023, UGA gave Glenn Schumann a raise to $2 million a year to keep him in Athens. His star is rising in much the same way that Muschamp’s once did.  

I want to be clear before we move forward… Schumann’s excellence has never been over exaggerated. The national media became fully aware of his gifts as UGA went on a historic two-year run and that praise is warranted. People close to the program have known for 5 years that Schumann would eventually find his way into this type of spotlight. There is a reason that the Eagles wanted to hire a 33 year-old who has never played or coached in the NFL as their defensive coordinator the offseason after they went to the Super Bowl. Spend 5 minutes talking with Schumann face-to-face and you will immediately realize that he is a brilliant guy. 

But here’s the thing… So is Will Muschamp. If you look back on the articles that were published about Muschamp in the 2000’s you will read effusive praise for the man who had built dominant units at LSU, Auburn and Texas over the prior years. You will see him labeled as a “defensive guru” quite often. 

Muschamp became a head coach for the first time at Florida (2011-2014) and then for a second time at South Carolina (2016-2020). Neither tenure ended with the type of sustained success that many once thought they would. He did lead a Gators team that went 11-2 in 2012. That is the best record that a UF team has had since the Urban Meyer era. He also went 9-4 in 2017 at South Carolina, a place where, historically speaking, it is really damn hard to go 9-4.

The media found new rising assistants to laud in the decade between Muschamp’s hiring at Florida and the end of his tenure at South Carolina. During that time, Muschamp became a punching bag for some. There is a box that defensive coaches sometimes get put in. While offensive coaches get portrayed as savvy tacticians, defensive coaches are often made out to be somehow less sophisticated. Perhaps his fiery persona on the sidelines contributed to it, but somewhere along the way many began to paint Muschamp as a loud, clumsy man who lacked intelligence.

Talk to anyone who has worked with or for Will Muschamp and they will tell you that portrayal of Muschamp is way off-base. When he was fired at South Carolina there were people in the football offices who cried as if they had lost a family member. Secretaries and equipment staff spoke about the kind and thoughtful man who they would miss seeing at work everyday. Muschamp the person is the farthest thing from the labels that have been assigned to him. 

The coaching profession isn’t as simple as many make it out to be. Margins are thin. A play or two costs a team a game. That loss demoralizes the team and causes a season to spiral away. A penalty at one crucial juncture or a missed block at another can sometimes be the thing that a whole season turns on. That isn’t to say that there aren’t things Muschamp could have done differently or better. 

It is an acknowledgement of the fact that a career is filled with a great deal of minutiae and the difference between 4-8 and 8-4 at a place like South Carolina isn’t nearly as big as it seems. A coach’s tenure almost always ends poorly. Suddenly, that tenure must be eulogized in 280 characters on Twitter and 600 words on a dozen different websites. Somewhere in that process things get distilled to a type of black-and-white thinking where coaches become either smart/successful or dumb/unsuccessful. 

Despite all that has been said or written about him, Will Muschamp still has a brilliant football mind. It is the same one that he had when he was the 37 year-old defensive coordinator of the Texas Longhorns. It is the mind that had him labeled a “defensive guru” by the media members who sometimes serves as the sport’s kingmakers. 

Flashback to where Georgia was when Smart hired Muschamp after the 2020 season. The program was seen as one that couldn’t quite get over the hump. The media painted Kirby Smart as a guy who could recruit talent but not win with it. Many felt he was hindering his offenses. 

To make matters worse, UGA had just suffered a bad loss to Dan Mullen’s best Florida team in Jacksonville. UGA recruited blue-chip players all over its defense but had been carved up by Mullen’s offense. There was a large segment of the media who believed Smart wasn’t the best coach in his own division. 

Smart had taken UGA to within a play of the national title in 2017. He had been minutes from beating Alabama in 2018 but his defense faltered down the stretch when Jalen Hurts was inserted for an injured Tua Tagovailoa. Smart called a fake punt that ended in disaster and moments later Alabama took the lead. Smart’s 2019 team possessed the nation’s best defense and an anemic offense. That campaign was sunk by a loss at home to Muschamp’s South Carolina team when the Bulldogs were 21.5-point favorites. 

On the heels of that, Smart hired Muschamp as a defensive analyst in January of 2021. Remember what I said earlier? The margins are thin in this sport. Will Muschamp arrived in Athens armed with the experience of playing Smart’s football teams and coaching for nearly a decade in the SEC East. 

Smart coached the secondary under Muschamp at Valdosta State in 2000 when Will was the defensive coordinator. The two had the same job titles again at LSU in 2004. That past experience has given Smart and Muschamp a tight bond. They shared information for years while both were at different coaching stops and Muschamp described the two as “alike thinkers where football is concerned,” back in 2016 during Smart’s first SEC Media Days as the UGA head coach.

When Muschamp came aboard he immediately had Smart’s trust. Analysts are often charged with self scouting the team they work for. When Muschamp arrived he told Smart that Georgia needed to simplify its scheme. 

Will looked across the roster and saw blue-chip talent at every position. He recognized that Smart’s machine had recruited superior talent across the board, but felt like those athletes weren’t always being put into positions where they could just go play. 

Sources have mentioned that moment a few times over the last couple of years because it represented a philosophical shift in how Kirby Smart teams played defense.

Smart’s defense was built around pre-snap checks and matchups based on where a receiver, tight-end or running back might line up. Those checks confused UGA at times and could leave players scrambling as the offense snapped the ball. Exploiting those pre-snap switches and checks was part of the way that Florida was able to put up 38 first-half points in their 2020 win in Jacksonville. 

Georgia’s defense is now based on having the athleticism to match up without having to move around on defense. Athletes are good in space and the modern offense is all about putting the ball into space. Smart didn’t throw out all of UGA’s complicated pre-snap checks but it does run the simple stuff more often now. 

Since that moment, UGA is 29-1 and has won two straight national titles. In each of those years their defenses have played at elite levels. 

That simplification was how a UGA team that replaced 8 starters opened its 2022 season giving up just 7 points against an Oregon offense that was one of the best in college football last season. 

Smart and the entire defensive staff worked together to perfect those schemes, but many believe Muschamp’s addition to the program was crucial to that shift in philosophy. With that context, Smart’s quotes after the 2021 Florida game where UGA shellacked the Gators and ended Dan Mullen’s tenure in Gainesville is all the more interesting.

"There’s no coach out there that you can out-coach recruiting. No coaching is going to out-coach players. Anybody will tell you our defense is good because we have good players."

Georgia always had good players. The Smart/Schumann/Muschamp brain trust has found new ways to maximize the talent of those players over the last 2 seasons. 

With Muschamp and Schumann in charge, Georgia has two “gurus” at the helm of its defense. After 2023 there is a good chance that Schumann will move on. Muschamp’s presence in the program will provide UGA with important continuity if and when that happens.

At 51 years old, Muschamp is still young but he has been blessed with the wisdom of experience in college football’s toughest league. Muschamp’s years in the SEC blessed him with wisdom that helped Smart take UGA to new heights. 

Smart’s last two defensive coordinators are in P5 jobs and Schumann will likely be in one soon. Maybe Muschamp could find himself in demand as a head coach again someday. Either way, there is something poetic about the fact that Smart hired his former boss and Muschamp then assisted Kirby in taking their alma mater to the pinnacle of the sport. 

Whatever the future holds, Muschamp seems content to be in Athens. He told reporters last August that he thinks he has the best job in America.

“I love my role. I told my wife the other day that I think I have the best job in America. At the end of the day, the room that I have I am honored to coach. To be in that room, to be at the University of Georgia, to see our future as we continue to unfold and move forward - I am really excited about it.”

For UGA to win a third consecutive title in 2023 then its talented defense must play at a high level. The sharp football mind of Will Muschamp will be ready to help it get there.

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