Georgia defensive backs learning legend of ‘Coach Boom’ Will Muschamp

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS – When it comes to Georgia’s defensive backs, Christopher Smith is the Bulldogs’ Grand Poobah, the wise old man who has fought many battles and has the scars and trophies to show for it. But even this veteran player was unaware of the nickname that preceded his position coach’s appointment with the Bulldogs.

Until Thursday, Smith had no idea that Will Muschamp is nationally known for his well-earned nickname and alter ego -- “Coach Boom.”

“Oh, that’s his nickname, huh? I hadn’t heard about that,” said Smith, his face lighting up in laughter with the revelation. “I’m gonna tease him about that; I’m gonna tease him about that. I hadn’t heard ‘Coach Boom.’”

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The nickname came with Muschamp’s reputation for volcanic eruptions of temper on the sidelines during his various incarnations as a defensive coordinator and head coach. By the time he landed his first head coaching gig at Florida in 2011, Muschamp was well-known as “Coach Boom” for his sideline blowups. But he actually earned the nickname as a defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas.

Of such episodes, Smith said he and his teammates were well-aware, just not the nickname.

“We always see old clips of him going crazy at South Carolina, at Florida,” Smith said. “We’ll send them to him, and he always says he’s matured since then.”

There is reason to believe Muschamp probably has mellowed some. Now 51, he was fired from his last job as South Carolina’s head coach before the end of the regular season. The Gamecocks paid him $12.9 million in a negotiated settlement Dec. 31, 2020.

One month later, Muschamp was back in Athens and working for his old friend Kirby Smart as a defensive analyst for a salary of $300,000. Muschamp’s son, Jackson Muschamp, already had joined the Bulldogs as a walk-on quarterback.

By late July of last year, Muschamp was promoted into an on-field assistant’s role when special-teams coordinator Scott Cochran took a medical leave of absence. But during the season, Muschamp’s role transformed into more of a defensive backfield assistant.

When defensive coordinator Dan Lanning left to become the Oregon Ducks’ head coach in January, Muschamp was promoted to co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach. He now earns $800,000 a year while sharing the coordinator title with inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann.

While Smith and Georgia’s other safeties got to know Muschamp last season during the run to the national championship, it hasn’t been until this season that they have found themselves under his full-time supervision.

And, yes, there have been some volatile moments.

“I try to hear the message and not the tone, and that’s something that we always preach,” Smith said. “Things get a little rough out there sometimes, and there’s going to be some shouting, amongst players, amongst coaches, no matter what. So, you know, you’ve got to hear the message and not the tone. And all things said, coach Muschamp is a great guy.”

Muschamp was not asked about his Coach Boom reputation when he met with reporters for the first time two weeks ago. He did express his appreciation to Georgia and Smart for giving him an opportunity to continue to do what he loves.

“We’ve got a really good group of young men that we enjoy coaching,” Muschamp said. “It’s very simple: I love my role. I told my wife the other day that I think I have the best job in America. At the end of the day, the (group) that I have I am honored to coach. To be in that (meeting) room, to be at the University of Georgia, to see our future as we continue to unfold and move forward, I am really excited about it.”

Two weeks ahead of the season opener against No. 11 Oregon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game (Sept. 3, 3:30 p.m., ABC), safety remains a position of critical importance to the Georgia defense’s success this season. The Bulldogs are searching for a replacement for Smith’s cohort, strong safety Lewis Cine, who became a first-round NFL draft pick as a junior. Georgia also seeks to solidify its star/nickel back position, which also falls under Muschamp’s purview. First-year coach Fran Brown works primarily with cornerbacks.

Smith returns as an 11-game starter at free safety last season and a 41-game career that spans five seasons. Former walk-on Dan Jackson is back as a four-game starter and a 15-game participant in the back-third last season. The two of them are joining Muschamp and Brown in trying to get several dynamic young players to up to speed at those positions. Candidates include former 5-star prospect Malaki Starks, Javon Bullard, David Daniel-Sisvanh, as well as lettermen William Poole and Tykee Smith.

Christopher Smith reports that they’re gradually coming together as a unit.

“They’re all handling it well,” Smith said of slew of new DBs surrounding him. “Like I say, coach Muschamp, he does a lot of work with us. I’ve got to give him a lot of pats on the back because he does a great job with all those guys, myself included. He helps us every day recognize the game better, helps us with our technique, extra film time. He does a great job.”

The hope is that “Coach Boom” doesn’t reappear on the Bulldogs’ sideline this season. Then, again, some might be intrigued to find out what all the fuss is about.”