Muschamp building it methodically

Spending the first days, weeks, or even years at a new position of authority is going to be a little "rough around the edges." That may go double or triple when you are talking about a head football coach at a major program and the money, pressure, and scrutiny involved with that position. So it was with Will Muschamp in year one plus, but the man seems like he has an answer for everything now.

In all honesty, Will Muschamp had a lot to do when he arrived on campus at the University of Florida as the head coach in December of 2010. A program fresh off of three 13 win seasons in four years suddenly fell fast in 2010. An offense that scared everyone it went against… wasn't scaring anyone that year.

That was just the beginning of it really. The locker room and the players in it were a mess. Kids were fighting among themselves, they were getting arrested, there were some huge underlying issues that hadn't been dealt with and needed to be.

This really isn't a shot at those that preceded Muschamp, they won and won a lot, things Gator fans wouldn't trade for anything. But, the program wasn't ready to maintain the course it was on and was in plummet mode. 2010 saw the Gators drop from 13-1 the previous two seasons to 8-5, it was a 7-6 season in 2011.

When Muschamp took over for that 2011 season he was faced with a lot of heat from Gator fans. But, he came in believing he had to do some things in order to get the program back on track.

It first meant trimming the fat from the roster. More than getting rid of non-talent, Muschamp had to make some decisions to get rid of some players that were not good for his locker room and overall personnel. The result was a pretty big exodus of players in the first year and a half.

"Florida isn't for everybody, Muschamp told a crowd of Gator fans gathered to hear him speak when asked about attrition. "We are going to coach our guys hard, we will be demanding. You are going to act the right way. If you don't act the right way you won't be in the program. Sometimes transfer is a funny word." Indeed it has slowed down has the man has continued to keep good people around the program and get those out of the program that might help it fail. Since February, only one player has left the squad and thet was due to an off the field incident.

Of course recruiting isn't an exact science and sometimes mistakes are made. Muschamp won't force anyone to leave before their four years is up if they are progressing in school and doing the right things both on and off the field. Even if it means they aren't going to see a lot of playing time. Of course, those that aren't going to play much because of a difference in playing philosophy or talent, will understand their role on the team and most would likely find somewhere else to play.

Year one wasn't easy for the Gator head coach who wears his heart on his sleeve.

When you sign at a place like Florida everyone has tremendous expectations of you as a player," he said. "Sometimes their expectations and perception of the situation may be different than yours as a coach. So, they want to go somewhere where they have the opportunity to play. Florida is a hard place to play… very difficult. We have good players."

The talent level looks to be on the rise since he took control of the program and a spike in freshmen and sophomores playing a year ago helped bolster a 11-2 season and 11-1 in the regular season. A four game jump in the hardest conference in America is huge and Muschamp understands it.

Muschamp was asked how he was doing in his fairly new role.

"When we have better players, I'm a better coach," he said with laughs from the audience. "Every job is different and the culture of the job is different. You have to evaluate from a staff standpoint, from a locker room standpoint, and a support staff standpoint of where you are."

With a ‘healthy' locker room, Muschamp really feels like things are on the upswing.

"I think we are really good as a staff right now," he said. "We certainly know where our locker room is and where it is headed as far as the type of young men we have in our locker room and the character they have. That says something about the type of kid you have in there."

He feels he is getting better with time as well. As mentioned, the learning curve for a coach is a steep one and there is often not time to sit and think about what you have to do. Muschamp has been on a crash course with this given that he had never been a head coach anywhere before. He completely understands the situation now.

"Sometimes you talk in terms of freshmen and how the game slows down a little bit (for them)," he said relating it to a coach in a new place. "My anticipation of things is probably a little bit better. I am not even talking about X's and O's or football, just all the other stuff that goes with being the head coach."

Decisions to remove a football player because of transgressions are often times not easy. Sometimes the situation dictates itself in how to handle it, other times, despite the perceived severity, Muschamp and any head coach has to look beyond just being a football coach.

"There are a lot of hats to wear in that role, sitting behind that desk," he said. "Everyone offers advice after you make a decision as to what you should have done or could have done.

"I just try to (deal with any) situation as a father and how I would handle it with my kids."

Despite a rough first season and there are some questions for 2013, Muschamp has always been about the total program and the future. No staff I can remember played as many true freshmen as he and his staff did a year ago. Coaches, by nature, are afraid to play inexperienced players. That decision will pay off this year.

Cleaning out the locker room of the riff-raff has taken the heat off the arrest totals that were plaguing the roster. The number of arrests and public displays of nonsense by his roster has started to decline dramatically. There is little doubt that it is because he has decided to put the program ahead of a win or loss in any given year.

Then, there are the little things that you hear from him and think, "now that is intelligent". One little nugget he game in his talk was about a star player that he will keep away from the offense in the first half of practice because he wants the new freshmen coming in to really have a chance to show what they can do and figure out who is going to be able to help this year.

"Loucheiz Purifoy will play some offense," he said of the star cornerback who may be the most talented overall player on the team and will see ample time on offense this year. "I am probably going to give him 12 days before he goes on offense. I want to find out what those young receivers can do. If I start him on offense, (offensive coordinator) Brent Pease may not want to play those younger guys. I'm going to make him play defense those first 12-14 days."

If you attend any of the Gator club events Muschamp speaks at I am convinced you will come away impressed because of things mentioned just above. Muschamp gets the big picture. To this writer, it really looks like the program is in good hands.

Muschamp seems a man in control now.

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