Muschamp, a 16-year coaching veteran, has 12 years of experience in the Southeastern Conference, eight as a coach and four as a player. Muschamp served as defensive coordinator at Auburn University (2006-07) and LSU (2002-04; he was LSU’s linebackers coach in 2001). He was a four-year letterman as a safety at the University of Georgia from 1991-94.
While Meyer’s two BCS titles will be hard to top, Muschamp’s biggest challenge ahead this season is to improve from a 4-4 record in the SEC East and a second-place finish behind South Carolina with only seven returning starters.
Senior quarterback John Brantley continues to play in the shadow of Tim Tebow, but a good season will help him build his own Gator legacy. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense is the last chance for Bradley to become more successful after he threw for just 2,061 yards (158.5 per game) to go along with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2010.
Chris Rainey (1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career) and speedster Jeff Demps bring excitement to the running game and should take some pressure off Brantley.
The offensive line is led by redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio and by junior right tackle Xavier Nixon. Redshirt sophomore center Nick Alajajian, sophomore left guard Ian Silberman and redshirt junior left tackle Matt Patchan round out the unit.
Tight end Jordan Reed (6-3, 240) joins receivers Frankie Hammond (26 career receptions) and Omarius Hines (34 career receptions) as targets for Brantley.
The Gator defense will be led by Jaye Howard and William Green along with Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd.
The linebackers will be led by redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins and junior Jon Bostic.
Moses Jenkins, Jeremy Brown, Matt Elam and Josh Evans will lead the secondary.
The Gators open the season with three straight home games against Florida Atlantic (4-8), Alabama Birmingham (4-8) and SEC East rival Tennessee (6-7).
After visiting Kentucky (6-7), the Gators entertain Alabama (10-3) before road trips to LSU (11-2) and BCS champion Auburn (14-0).
The annual showdown with Georgia (6-7) could determine who can upend South Carolina as the SEC East champions before the Gators host Vanderbilt (2-10).
The Gators visit South Carolina (9-5) before returning home to host Furman (5-6) and hated rival Florida State (10-4).
The chance for another 8-5 finish in 2011 is very possible for the Gators, especially with tough SEC road games at Auburn, LSU and South Carolina.
UF is 0-2 in its last two trips to Auburn (2001 and 2006); LSU is a national title contender; and South Carolina is the favorite to win the East Division.
The Auburn and LSU games are part of a four-game, five-week stretch that also includes Alabama in Gainesville and Georgia in Jacksonville - so four or five losses could be very possible.