"It's a very frustrating time right now to be a Florida Gator, and I understand that," he told the Florida media following a 21-7 loss at the hands of rival Florida State. "It falls on my shoulders, and there's nobody else you need to look at. You don't need to blame the offensive coaches or the defensive coaches or the special teams coach or whoever's recruited or who was here before. It falls on one guy's shoulders, and that's mine."
But, a good portion of the media session was spent explaining the issues of this football team. It is something Muschamp was not willing to do before the end of the season in order to keep the guys he has to go to war with at their prime mental condition.
We all know there are problems with injuries, which along with other things lead to problems with depth. Those issues lead to problems with competition within the ranks, the very heart of what it takes to show up on Saturdays and line up against the best teams on the schedule.
The problems have matriculated on both sides of the ball and the biggest issues have been along the lines of scrimmage.
"When you can't convert 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1, when teams continually run the ball on you throughout the season, it is very disappointing," Muschamp said.
"At the end of the day when you are not able to run the football you are going to have a hard time to win games against good defenses. When you become a one dimensional team, you are a lateral running team, and can't run the ball inside and vertically at people, you are going to struggle. We are a soft football team."
Muschamp explained It better in terms of his team's lack of success running the ball inside this year.
"If you really go back and look in our first four games, we were a perimeter run team," he said. "We played against some teams that we had a little more speed. We were able to get the edges and gain the edges. Again, it doesn't take long in this league for people to adjust to what you do and how you do it. You can't run laterally in this league. The defenses are too good. We don't get much movement. We've tried to run the zone-read series. We've tried different things, probably did too much at times to try to create things in the run game to create things to help us vertically down the field. But we just haven't been able to do it, haven't been able to consistently against good people. And you can't get one-dimensional, and unfortunately we have. And it's very disappointing."
This was nothing the Gator coaches didn't understand before the season started. With two smaller running backs, a new system, a pretty inexperienced and not physical offensive line, trying to run inside was going to be a chore, but a necessity.
"We have known that since spring," he said. "We are doing all we can do."
Before Muschamp came to the podium Saturday he had some words with his folks in the locker room. It was something that he has been harping on them all year but again was not willing to do it publicly and during the season.
"I told my guys we aren't a physically tough team and aren't a mentally tough team," he said. "Self-evaluation is hard sometimes, but those are the facts.
"I've been called a lot of things in my life, but soft is not one of them, and we are. That is my fault."
For this current group of players, they will see a stringent few weeks leading up to their bowl game, wherever that may be.
"We are going to have a very physical bowl practice," Muschamp said. "I thought we had a physical training camp. I thought we amped up the physicality of our practices, but we need to take it to another level, obviously."
He isn't throwing in the towel with the kids on his roster. Sure the Gators lost blowouts to the top two teams in the country in LSU and Alabama, and that is where he wants to eventually get his squad to. But, the four other losses on the schedule could have gone either way and the difference in those teams and the Gators when they played was a severe case of turnovers, lack of leadership, major injuries to skill players on offense, and most likely some coaching blunders.
Still, Muschamp loves the core nucleus of his team.
"I think we've got good talent on our football team," he said. "We've got good, young talent. I remember two weeks ago looking at the two-deeps in the league. I think we had 15 freshmen and sophomores starting out of our top 22 – more than anybody else in the SEC. Over 70 percent of our roster is freshmen and sophomores, and those are the guys who are playing. And those guys primarily are making most of the plays in situations."
With only 69 scholarship players on roster, all the injuries, and really quite a few holes in terms of proper fits on both offense and defense, this team had to rely on some young guys to come though at different spots without the option of going to a backup at times. That hasn't been good at times.
"Some young players are more mature than others and don't make those mistakes," he said. "Some have a harder time growing up. Some have a harder time listening. Some are in situations when you don't have a back-up at their position, you don't really have anybody else to go to. There are a lot of things. You can't just put your finger on one thing and say, ‘This is it.' It's a lot of things. We're working through that. We've made improvements in areas, obviously not enough."
The Vision for the Future
Most fans the follow the team knew that this would be a tough year. The schedule was rather brutal and the current roster showed a lack of promise from the previous year. That isn't to say some things shouldn't have been better. The offense in particular was particularly woeful and for a lot of the reasons above, but there was certainly enough football talent wand what seems to be coaching expertise to do better.
"We didn't improve our football team from last year's record and I felt like we should have," Muschamp agreed and still believes good days are ahead.
"We've got a long way to go, and we're going to get there. I have a clear vision for what we want to do and how we want to do it, and I'm more excited today than the day I was hired about where we're headed because I know where we're headed. And I've told our football team that. We're going to be fine."
His vision started in the offseason. Muschamp fought like the dickens and recruited All-American cornerback Janoris Jenkins to stay on the team instead of turning professional. Jenkins was being teased by agents to take the money in run, but was sold on what he could do in his final year as a Gator.
Then, the best player on the team stepped over the line one too many times. Muschamp, against the better judgment of most coaches, made a statement to his team and cut Jenkins loose. The message was sent to the rest of the team that it doesn't matter who you are, you have to play by the rules.
The Gators certainly could have used Jenkins and he very well might have been the difference in one or two games along the way.
There were a couple of other departures that went on their way as well. Despite the knowledge that the gators would struggle with a pass rush, Muschamp decided there were enough issues with promising speed rusher Chris Martin. He too was let go. Despite the lack of play making threats at receiver, five-star receiver Chris Dunkley was shown the door as well.
Muschamp's vision does not include lack of discipline, or a lack of respect for their own teammates and coaches. That respect comes in terms of your play on the practice field and your actions off the field.
"I know everybody wants to put their hand on one thing and say, ‘This is it. Eureka! We've got the solution.'" Muschamp said about the team's woes. "That's not the way it works. There are a lot of things, there's a lot of moving parts. We've got to do a better job coaching, and that starts with me. We've got to develop more discipline and toughness with what we're trying to do, which I think we've made strides."
Muschamp had a lot to deal with when he arrived including an atmosphere of players in charge, a lack of discipline, and other deviant behavior that came with a squad a year ago that was in flux because of a retiring and un-retiring coach and a staff that was just trying to hold it all together.
It was a team that had players randomly skip practice out of spite that still played on Saturdays. The senior offensive linemen decided they wouldn't wear pads at bowl practices because they were ‘worked too hard'. It was a myriad of things that weren't conducive to a disciplined and structured squad.
Muschamp in a bit of vocal lashing out at the situation he inherited, pointed out that it just isn't the way things are going to be run under his watch. "We ain't got nobody missing practice (anymore)," he said with his southern voice of displeasure.
Recruiting For the Future
Now Muschamp has to turn to recruiting and getting more of his guys on campus. On offense the Gators need big , strong, and powerful running backs to go along with physical linemen that can play with the better teams in the SEC. He's got to find more guys on offense that fit the pro-style attack they want to run.
There are a good bit of nice parts to work with on the current squad, but they just have to add more and some that can come in and have immediate and long term impacts on the roster.
"We are going to stay the course," he said. "I told the team we need to build depth on this team and get better on both lines of scrimmage. Until you do that, it's going to be very difficult to beat the teams in our league."
The Gators have commitments from 6-3, 230 pound running back Matt Jones and 5-11, 200 pound back Mike Davis. These are big upgrades size wise from the two seniors they relied on this year. They would like to add another.
They have commitments from the top two tight ends in the country. The Gators don't have a tight end on the roster that played the position before this season. They would like to add another.
The Gators have commitments from two of the best offensive linemen in the country. They need to add at least three more along the offensive front and they need to be big, strong, physical types that can get after it in the trenches.
They have three defensive linemen committed and probably need to add five more. The gators need more pure pass rush from the outside and some legitimate size all along the front.
Size at linebacker would be another nice addition. The Gators currently have two linebackers in the 240 – 250 range on campus and need about six.
The secondary had its injuries and that showed at times. Depth at cornerback is a necessity and a true free safety as well.
"We've got to gain depth," Muschamp said. "You've got to have more people involved. You're going to have injuries. You've got to be able to go. You've got to create competition at practice. We're too thin on the line of scrimmage to win in this league. We've said it from the beginning. We said it's a line-of-scrimmage league for a reason, because it is. I've been in this league and I know what it takes to be successful in this league, and we're not good enough up front right now quite frankly. Just not.
And while the team will be working out and practicing harder for their bowl game, Muschamp will have to get workout reports from the road. When asked how he would handle the next two weeks with his team, Muschamp didn't hesitate to answer.
"I'm recruiting," he said. "For the next two weeks, I will not be in Gainesville, Florida."