When my boss suggested I write a blurb on Will Muschamp visiting high school wrestling matches and basketball games to recruit, I was priming the jokes. (Can’t you just picture Boom greasing up two guys, putting them in neutral position, and having them get after it?) But then I read the complete GatorSports article on Thomas Holley’s recruitment and all the funnies went away. The coach’s logic makes a lot of sense.
Here’s Muschamp’s initial quote on the unorthodox evaluation process.
“I love to go see a kid either wrestle or play basketball. That’s one of my best evaluations.”
Wrestling is fairly easy to understand. Two guys square off, pushing and twisting and driving their legs to gain an advantage. It’s like watching a speed rusher use his bag of tricks to get past the offensive line.
Basketball, though, is a different animal. How much can a finesse sport tell the coach about a bruising defensive lineman? Here’s what Holley had to say on it.
“When he came to my basketball game, and he was really happy to see the way I moved on the court,” Holley said. “He told me he saw quickness, strength and speed. I also moved laterally, which is one thing a lot of big guys can’t do. I had the ability to jump, too. He said all that will translate to the football field.”
Ahh, footwork. A coach can see what kind of instincts a player possesses. How the kid moves, if he’s easily pushed off his feet, what his first step is like. It shows the natural abilities.
Muschamp even elaborated more on what basketball players exhibit.
“I think basketball a lot of times is your best evaluation, to see a guy run up‑and‑down the court, change direction, sync his hips, explode off,” Muschamp said. “You see him come quick off the floor, have a lot of hand‑eye coordination to be able to use their hands in the pass rush and things.
A coach can judge how coordinated the athlete is before having ever played football. How much the coaches will have to focus on mechanics and fundamentals; the muscle memory of a player.
When discussing Holley, Muschamp also talked about his love for coaching raw players.
“I like guys like him because, again, he’s just going to continue to get better and better,” Muschamp said. “The more times he sees blocking schemes, he reacts to those. He’s going to continue to improve, continue to get better as opposed to maybe some players that have been playing their whole life, they’ve been in a weight program since the seventh grade and now you’re going to get him to college, how much better is that guy going to get?
“They’ve kind of plateaued. They’re not going to get a whole lot better, and some players you have to be careful about where they are. Their genetic ceiling is kind of maxed right now. (Holley) is nowhere near his.”
Essentially, if a kid has the athletic ability, Will Muschamp can teach him the necessary skills to be a star. With fresh talent, he can mold the player in his desired likeness. There are no bad habits to break, only the potential to be great.
It’s outside the box thinking like this that makes Muschamp one of the top recruiters in football. The ability to step away from the gridiron; the recognition that talent transcends sport.