by Jeff Barlis
There was a funny exchange in Will Muschamp’s weekly press conference with the media on Monday (for the full effect, be sure to imagine Muschamp’s responses with his thick southern drawl and a look of utter confusion and bemusement) …
“Excuse the Star Wars reference,” a young journalist said from the back row, “but you guys kind of have a master versus padawan thing going on with you and Nick (Saban). What’s the sentiment in that?”
“What’s a padawan?”
“You’ve never seen Star Wars?”
“Huh? I watched Star Wars One and after that I watched Empire Strikes Back, and that’s it. I didn’t see nuthin’ after that. … And I don’t know what a padawan is. You didn’t call me a bad name, did ya? … I don’t speak French, either.”
“You guys have kind of a master versus student thing kind of going on. Is there any sentiment in that? I’m sure you learned a lot from Nick Saban.”
Gator fans are probably happy to learn that Muschamp knows far more about X’s and O’s than wookies and stormtroopers. You can watch the exchange on high-quality video here on ESPN.com or below from the Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George (who did not ask the question by the way).
But the truth is, there is quite a subplot brewing for Saturday’s huge game in The Swamp. Saban is the master recruiter. Muschamp is patterning his program after Alabama.
“Philosophically, (we are) on the same page about what we want to be defensively, from an identity standpoint,” Muschamp said. “The guy does a great job of managing his program top to bottom from recruiting philosophically, offense, defense, special teams and I’ve got a great respect.
“When you turn the film on, you see a physically tough football team that plays with fundamentals. And that’s what he is and that’s what he preaches every day. It certainly carries over on film as far as who they are and what they are.
“Ask if there’s an advantage? There is no advantage. He knows me as well as I know him. So there is no advantage in this game, and thank goodness for the 90,000 people in The Swamp. And for the millions watching, he or I will not take a snap Saturday night.”
Make no mistake, however, this game is pivotal for recruits. There will be a large contingent of elite 2012 and 2013 athletes in the south end zone bleachers (I’ll blog a running visitors list later today).
Muschamp insists this game will not be a deciding factor for most players.
“It’s one game,” Muschamp said. “To me, (when) a young man that makes his decision to go to a college, it’s not based on one game. It’s going to be based on a body of work, academically, athletically, socially, support system.”
But how his Gators look, their competitiveness in their first big test of the Muschamp era will be at stake.
As usual, there is one factor that can be counted on. One that almost always has a large influence on a recruit’s decision — the atmosphere.
“I’m sure it’s going to be loud,” Muschamp said at the thought of a big, nationally televised night game against a top opponent in The Swamp. “We’ve got the best fans in the country, so I’m sure they’re going to be excited.”
For updates on Alabama-Florida, follow me at Twitter.com/JeffBarlis. And don’t forget to post your questions for the weekly recruiting mailbag (every Wednesday) in the comments section below.