October 3, 2008

Let's go inside the football mind of Will Muschamp

It was revealed this week that Lamarr Houston and Brian Orakpo took up boxing over the summer to work on their hand punches and jabs used in pass rush. That's nice.

Let's not get distracted. The reason Orakpo, Houston and the student managers are having the years of their career so far on defense is William Larry Muschamp, born Aug. 3, 1971 in Rome, Georgia.

Last week we took you inside the mind of WLM to explain how he has taken a seldom-used linebacker from last season - Sergio Kindle - and turned him into a DeMarcus Ware starter kit.

This week in Muschamp 101, we hit on several areas because we think it's important you know all you can know about the heart and soul of your football team. (We also wait to spring this on you until Friday because it's close enough to game time that you can afix your neck roll.)

We all know how Will Muschamp makes adjustments during a game that would put David Blaine out of business. But do we really know HOW he does it. Consider us the disgruntled, masked magician on Fox who gives away all the magician's secrets.

When Muschamp is on the sideline yelling, "Boom !$#!%" loud enough for ESPN's parabolic microphones to pick up, he's got other eyes on the offense, picking up every move.

1. D-line coach Mike Tolleson watches the pass protections from the sideline.

2. Defensive ends coach Oscar Giles watches the run game from the press box.

3. Secondary coach Duane Akina watches the passing game (routes being run, tendencies) on UT's sideline.

4. Graduate assistant Neale Tweedie watches the passing game on the far sideline from the press box.

When a series is over, they all get together and discuss. They correct mistakes and talk about what they might want to run on the next third-and-long based on what the offense has shown so far.

"I handle the front seven and Duane handles the back end," WLM said. "Duane has a lot of passion in how he approaches his job every day. He comes with his lunch pail and we go work. That's refreshing to be around in this day and age."

WLM said he talks the most with Akina because they have to tie the fronts and back of the defense together. He described his relationship with Akina.

"The kids have the utmost respect for him and how he approaches it," WLM said. "He understands leverage and the issues that come on the back end. I liken a lot of defensive back play to offensive line play. Unless you've played there or coached it, you really don't understand.

"So he has a great understanding of what our players can handle, and he and I do a great job of collaborating about what we can and can't do throughout the week and then adjusting during the game."


If WLM wasn't a football coach, he'd be a tornado hunter. When everyone else is fleeing underground, or ducking under an overpass or flying through air with the cows, he'd be the guy racing toward the destruction just to study it and overcome it and, ultimately, use it to his advantage.

The point was proven when he was asked if he's ready for a close game and some adversity.

"We need to have some adversity," Muschamp said. "I'm looking forward to it. Our guys will respond well."


"Control what you can control," he said. "We're going to play there, so let's go play."


"We've been real pleased," Muschamp said of freshmen Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon. "The guys take positive steps forward every day. Have a great work ethic.

"It doesn't really matter my comfort level. Those two guys have a great comfort level playing with each other. That's what I've seen. It doesn't matter what I think. It matters how they feel playing with each other and their communication level on the field."


"I think these last two games (Chykie Brown) has played really well," WLM said. "God has blessed him with long arms and good feet and change of direction. Playing our style is a little more bump and run, and that fits him to get his hands on receivers, disrupt timing on the line of scrimmage and win early in the down.

This is the key line in this answer - coming up - right here …

"The attention to detail is much better, and his consistency level in practice is getting better. You're either getting better or worse - you never stay the same."


"I think there's a double-edged sword there," WLM said. "Regardless of what you do, they've got to block it, whether they've seen it or not. Being the first year, I think it's important to rep some things in a game situation.

"We've got some things on the shelf we've continued to rep that are staples that may not have been on film yet. But I've always been under the belief you do what you do and add some changeup things. I would say there are some things on film that we didn't need to do at the time but we needed to rep it for our players' sake."


"If you can touch the receiver, you want to play in-phase and turn and look for the ball," WLM said. "If you can't touch the receiver you have to play out-of-phase, and play through the eyes and hands of the receiver.

"It's real easy for you and me to sit here and talk about it. It's real difficult when the ball is in the air and there's 100,000 people in the stands on a deep ball. Poise with your back to the ball. Those are things Duane (Akina) works on every day."


"Brian is a great kid," WLM said. "He's very intelligent. He works hard at football. Football is important to him. He works extremely hard in the weight room - has amazing numbers in the weight room. I watched his work ethic over the summer and it was very impressive.

"And he's been very open about what we're trying to do here. We've changed things from a terminology standpoint and stood him up and done some things, and he's understood that will help him. We talk about our youth, but from a scheme standpoint, we're all young."


"Everybody is happy now," WLM said smiling. "Sacks are a lot like turnovers. They're going to come. You just have to play hard. If you keep working hard to be in the right place, they'll come. I've said all along I was pleased with our rush and felt like it was a matter of time.

"The mobile quarterbacks are able to evade the rush and are harder to sack. Cody Hawkins fits that mold. They move the pocket with him an awful lot, boots and nakeds and get him on the edge. He's got effective arm strength, and he's got three receivers who can stretch the field vertically. Lot of play-action."

(Note how he said "effective" arm strength about Hawkins. Wonder if that's how he described Tom Brady during WLM's days in the AFC East in 2005? Just kidding WLM. Not trying to start something.)


When WLM opened his meeting with the defense last Sunday, he asked 14 times - I'm not kidding - 14 times: "Who are we playing this week?"

Fourteen times his players responded, "Colorado." Each time WLM got louder. Each time the players got louder. Something tells me the Longhorns will not be thinking about Oklahoma when they walk onto Folsom Field.

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