Muschamp Feeling the Support

The Florida Gators lost more games in 2011 than they have in 22 years and it is quite understandable that the fan base would be put off from the lack of success of the team from its first year coach. Instead, Florida's leader has seen the support gain speed as he moves ahead with the program and at the same time he wants Gator fans to understand seasons like 2011 aren't to be accepted.

Will Muschamp spoke to a few hundred fans in Jacksonville on Tuesday and beforehand spoke with the media. At both sessions he talked about expectations and believing and even knowing that things will get better. He has learned an appreciation of Gator fans during the time of change.

"After a tough season it has been very positive," Muschamp said prior to speaking to the large crowd at the Jacksonville Fair grounds. "Obviously 7-6 at Florida is not acceptable… you come to these things and wonder what kind of questions you are going to get. Honestly it has been quite positive, it has been positive in Gainesville, in the community, and people understand where we are right now and where we are headed. I think it is an exciting time. "

Muschamp can't talk in specifics about the future, but looking at the team a year ago and the one he has today, he feels things will get better and quickly.

"We are where we are… 15-11 in the last two years," he said. "I think we are on the upswing and have recruited well. I think our upcoming junior class has some good players in it. I think our senior class has some mature guys that are ready to have a good year. I think our junior class, most of them played for the first time last season a considerable amount of snaps. I think we recruited well and I am excited about how things are headed at this point."

Muschamp has continued to be a "line of scrimmage guy". Often times citing that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league and that is where the games are won. He also made it a point to change as little as possible for an offense that has its fourth coordinator in five years. He believes his 2012 troops will be much more equipped to handle the season than the 2011 group was.

"I feel like the cohesiveness offensively and being more physical and running the ball, we are better than at any point last year because of experience, we kept some continuity terminology wise," he said.

"There are some things we are much better at. We are much better at running the football than at any point last season. Are we as refined as we need to be? No. Not after 15 practices. I told them don't let us come here after day one of Fall camp and have (offensive coordinator Brent Pease) tell me our timing is off, that is what the next three months are for."

A good running game is crucial in the SEC and there were times last season and before that Florida just could not line up and get tough yards when it needed to. Muschamp believes those times are changing.

"It isn't about being hard headed about running the ball, because I am not that," he said. "But, there are certain times in the game when you get in the red zone and the pass zones condense and you have to be able to run it. If you are trying to kill the clock at half time or end of game you have to be able to run it. If you are trying to get the ball off your goal line, sometimes you have to be effective in short yardage and goal line, I am just talking about being effective in running the ball."

Muschamp says a better communication with the players born from learning about each other has made this winter and spring better than a year ago.

"More than anything I know the players better and they know me better," he said. "They know what is expected. Anytime you get (past) that first year it is a little more comfortable feeling of what is expected in the program and how you know how they will respond to situations… that makes you feel better as a coach."

He also knows he needs to change some of the way things were run around the program from a year ago. His first stint as a head coach meant long tedious days in the film room and study rooms and playing fields. He feels they can get better production by utilizing their time more wisely.

"Anytime you do something for the second time, you see things that worked and what didn't," he said. "I see some things as far as scheduling things for the players in the fall… I am looking at scheduling for game week as far as when we do certain things.

"Some things as far as my work hours at the office I am going to change… I think doing things earlier in the day as opposed to later at night and spending all night at the office.

"Late in the season you get bogged down with ideas and things and you have to make good choices in the things you do. I think from my standpoint we ran the staff out of gas a little bit at times… we worked hard. We will work hard, just smarter."

Individual player notes…

Muschamp touched on a few players and some of the issues they have faced in his short stint as a head coach.

Senior offensive tackle Xavier Nixon has done well in the off season after struggling a year ago. Muschamp his struggles started with an illness that caused him to lose a lot of weight. He played through it because they had to have him, but Muschamp says Nixon has transformed now an is supposedly weighing in at 310 pounds on his 6-6 frame.

"In my time in being in Florida, I would say he was playing his best football this last spring," Muschamp said. "He was a guy that got sick last winter and was down to about 245 pounds. I thought about moving him to tight end at one point. He just didn't look like an offensive tackle in the SEC. As we progressed through the summer, he put on some weight, but put it on too fast. He had a hard time carrying it and had some injuries. He got his confidence down a little bit. I do think at certain times, from a maturity standpoint, some later than others, some players see the light and I think he understands what he has at stake in his senior year."

Junior BUCK Ronald Powell tore his ACL in the spring game and is out for several months. There are differing opinions on when he will be back, but Muschamp is very encouraged by the effort Powell is putting in to get ready as soon as possible. Muschamp says it is the end of the rehabilitation process that will determine just how fast he comes back.

"The guy is in there every day in rehab and I saw him this morning," he said of Powell. "He will go back to the doctor on Friday. He will make leaps in bounds with progress early, but in my history it will be that last 30% and how quickly that happens… when he starts cutting, change of direction, and putting weight on it."

Muschamp told the crowd in attendance that sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson has now been cleared for contact. Roberson, ppracticed the entire spring but was not allowed in during contact drills while recuperating from a shoulder injury.

A domestic dispute leading to an arrest and no contest plea from sophomore tight end A.C. Leonard left the talented pass catcher suspended from the team for a while. He is back with the program now, but Muschamp says there is still some penalty to pay and a period of time that Leonard has to show he can do the right things.

"He will face some sort of suspension in the fall," Muschamp said in terms of missing playing time. "He is still working through a lot of things for me, day to day, week to week, month to month, as far as his status with the football team. He is still a part of the team, but I didn't let him work in the spring game. He is working out with the team and still a part. But, how he conducts himself until August will depend on how much he is a part of our team."

Muschamp made it a point talking to the hundreds of Gators in attendance that bad behavior off the field will not be tolerated. To the media he was short and succinct.

"Make good choices and decisions if you want to be a part of this team," he said.

Out with the old???

Muschamp said there may be a few players thinking about moving out of the program via transfer or something else, but at this point in time there are no definites.

"We still have a couple of guys here and there that I have talked to that have a couple of things," he said when talking about possible transfers. "Nobody is concrete right now. At the end of the days I want people that want to be at the University of Florida and if they don't want to be there we want them to be somewhere else."

In with the new…

Florida added 23 signees in the 2012 recruiting class and while six are already on campus after enrolling early, 17 are expected in June and the head coach believes they are all on track to do that. "At this time everything looks good," he said.

Fightin Gators Top Stories