After 30 wins, two BCS bowls and coaching for a national title together, it’s safe to say Mack Brown and Will Muschamp know each other fairly well.
The two spent three years together at Texas with Muschamp serving as Brown’s defensive coordinator and head coach in waiting.
Now, the two will square off, nine years after Muschamp left to take the job at Florida, with Brown saying it’ll be one of the marquee games his team will play this year.
“Will’s a very good recruiter. They have very good players with Jake (Bentley) coming in as a high school senior to play and playing so well. Now he’s experienced and a great leader on the team,” Brown said. “They’re going to have speed, they’re going to be physical and Will always has good defenses. They’ll be one of the better teams we’ll play.”
The Gamecocks have played North Carolina recently, beating the Tar Heels 17-13 to open the 2015 season, but this will be the first meeting between the two schools with these head coaches.
The Aug. 31 matchup will actually be the first time the two coaches have coached against each other since Muschamp took the head job at Florida.
Coaching against former assistants is something Brown, who’s entering his 31st season as a head coach, has grown accustomed to and it’s something he welcomes.
“The first two games I’m coaching against assistants that were under me in (Miami’s) Manny Diaz and Will,” Brown said. “What you do is you enjoy the relationship you have, you take pride in them coaching their team. Then, once the game starts, you forget. You don’t know who’s on the other side and you worry about your team and your process more."
Brown was fired from Texas after the 2013 season and spent five years working with ESPN as a college football analyst, when he was able to follow the end of Muschamp’s tenure at Florida and now his three years at South Carolina.
The two have remained close, with Brown even calling South Carolina’s spring game Muschamp’s first season in Columbia.
What he saw was a mentee who learned his lesson at his first head coaching stop and is making the changes necessary to succeed.
“He’s embraced the entire head coaching position now. When you’re first a defensive coordinator and take a job, it’s hard to do. You jump from a group to having all three phases, all the alums, it’s an overwhelming jump especially at a place like Florida where the expectations are so high,” Brown said. “I called his spring game two years ago with ESPN and was so proud of watching him, how he handled everything and how he managed it. I think he’s grown tremendously as a head coach.”
Now the two will meet in Charlotte this year with the programs in two completely different places.
Muschamp is entering year four and says this is the deepest team he’s had in his time here, while Brown is in his first year at North Carolina and still building a program that went 2-9 last season.
That presents a challenge for Muschamp, who has to game plan for a team he doesn’t know a lot about from a scheme standpoint with a new staff taking over.
“There’s uncertainties in every first game. Everybody’s going to change a little bit schematically, whether the coaching staff is intact from the year before or not. You study the tendencies offensively, defensively and special teams in what you think and go from there. You have to be ready for the unexpected.”