Will Muschamp on what it's like working for Nick Saban
For Alabama and South Carolina, SEC play begins this Saturday when the Crimson Tide visits Williams-Brice Stadium for a date with the Gamecocks.
It will be the first time the two teams have met since South Carolina pulled off the upset of No. 1 Alabama in 2010, 35-21 with Stephen Garcia at quarterback. Nick Saban is still Alabama’s coach, but instead of Steve Spurrier, he will be facing an old assistant in Will Muschamp. Muschamp was a defensive assistant under Saban at LSU from 2001 through 2004.
It will be the third time the two face off as head coaches. Muschamp’s Florida team lost to Alabama 38-10 at home in 2011, and 42-21 in Tuscaloosa in 2014. In Muschamp’s teleconference on Sunday afternoon, he discussed working under the six-time national champion head coach.
“Nick Saban is demanding,” said Muschamp Sunday night, “and that’s what makes him successful. He never asked me to do anything that he wasn’t doing from a work standpoint.
“He wants to play at a high level. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Muschamp spoke specifically about working as a defensive coach under Saban, as Pete Golding continues his first season as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.
“From a learning standpoint, I think the big thing is, obviously you’ve got to philosophically be on the same page as what Coach Saban wants,” continued Muschamp. “That was easy for me because I believe in the same things, philosophically.
“I’ve never met Pete (Golding) before, but I’m sure philosophically they’re aligned in how they want it.”
Another point of conversation was how the defensive-minded coach interacts with his defensive coordinator in-game.
“Nick is great on gamedays from the standpoint of the communication of what he sees. He always gives good ideas on gameday of different ways to look at it from a guy who is very experienced in calling the game.
“It was an awesome experience for me, and I learned a lot of football under Nick.”
Muschamp was Saban’s defensive coordinator during LSU’s 2003 National Championship season, when the Tiger defense allowed just 11 points per game.
South Carolina is off to a 1-1 start, but optimism is rolling through Columbia since freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski’s breakout performance against Charleston Southern after replacing the injured Jake Bentley. They host a 2-0 Alabama team that has looked the part, but not quite been challenged yet with wins over Duke and New Mexico State.
Nick Saban’s success against former assistants from his coaching tree is well-documented, with a perfect 16-0 record. Two of those have come against Muschamp and Florida, but the two have not faced off since Muschamp took over South Carolina’s program in 2016.
Can the Gamecocks bring back memories of that 2010 upset on Saturday night? If it does happen, Will Muschamp will get that signature win, and there is likely nobody he would rather do it over than his old boss.