"(Last year), I think the youth of our football team showed, especially when we lost our senior quarterback. I said going into the year we would have a chance if we could keep our quarterback healthy, and we didn't."
The talk of spring improvement by players and coaches was focused around the offensive line. The offensive front was young and inexperienced heading into the 2011 season, and it wasn't long before that youth showed.
Whether it was John Brantley or one of the freshmen quarterbacks under center, there wasn't much time to throw. The running game was also limited because the young players couldn't hold at the point of attack or open any holes.
Muschamp echoed the same sentiment on Thursday that he spoke about during springs drills. The unit is older, which also brings in physical maturity.
"We went into last season with two offensive linemen that really have played – Jon Halapio and Xavier Nixon," Muschamp said. "I'm talking extensively in the SEC, number of snaps. All of those guys are back. I think we made tremendous progress. I think (first-year offensive line coach) Tim Davis has done a really good job with those guys gelling and coming together. That's where we're different."
The spring began and ended without a starting quarterback being named. Muschamp said throughout the spring that Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel were in a close battle, and the two proved that with almost equal performances during the spring game.
"I'm excited about both young quarterbacks," Muschamp said. "I think they are both guys we can win with in this league. Their competition's going to make our team better. It's going to make each other better. Still need to get some dependable guys making some plays for us outside."
With the young quarterbacks being inexperienced, the Gators will focus more on their running game. They did during the spring, and it produced positive results behind the improved offensive line. The new starter at running back also took advantage of his opportunity.
"I'm excited about Mike Gillislee," Muschamp said. "I thought he had a really good spring. We're getting more of the downhill running game that we want to get to, and that's a tribute to the running backs, number one, but number two, the offensive line."
Jordan Reed also showed signs this spring of becoming the impact tight end the coaches thought he had the talent to be.
"So, the tight end position, Jordan Reed's a really good athlete that I think's now starting to understand the position," Muschamp said. "He had never played much tight end before last year."
The defense is what will carry the Gators in 2012. Even with the torn ACL that kept Dominique Easley out of spring practices and the torn ACL Ronald Powell suffered in the spring game, Muschamp is optimistic about how much the unit grew.
"I'm excited about our defense from the standpoint of some of the guys we got back up front. Obviously disappointed with Ronald Powell's injury, but you look at Sharrif Floyd, you get Dominique Easley back, Omar Hunter did some nice things. Damien Jacobs did some nice things for us, shown flashes. You get Lerentee McCray back.
"(Linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins) had great springs. I think we're going to be able to cover well on the back end. Our experience on defense is a lot different than we were sitting here last year at this point."
Ronald Powell is scheduled to have surgery on Monday to correct his torn ACL.