"I am the utmost optimist," he said when speaking to a group of Gator fans recently. "I enjoy being the head coach at Florida and I feel good going into every Saturday. I feel good about our football team. I think we have the right kind of leadership and enough play makers on both sides of the ball to have an outstanding year. "
Florida has finished with two top-10 recruiting classes in the last two years and some glaring holes in the roster were mended rather quickly. Development for most still has to happen, but the head coach likes what he is seeing.
"I am excited about our staff, especially the last two recruiting years when you have a full swing of 365 days recruiting top notch student athletes that can win on and off the field," he said. "The amount of young talent we have developing on campus. Then you take the young talent we inherited and what we did with those young men in developing the young men they are now."
Florida lost two defensive line coaches after the season. Defensive coordinator and ends coach Dan Quinn got a huge appointment as an NFL coordinator with the Seahawks. His assistant, Bryant Young stepped aside for personal reasons.
Muschamp was somehow able to convince 12 year South Carolina assistant Brad Lawing to come aboard. What seemed to be a lifer for the Gamecocks, Lawing has been producing top talent from guys you have never heard of, but maybe more important he has taken top caliber players that have signed with South Carolina and getting them to live up to their expectations.
When talking to Lawing you get a no nonsense feel from a guy that is rough and gruff on the outside, but cerebral enough to be able to create a game plan up front of the highest caliber and one that uses the strengths of his players to the utmost. He also will be coaching the entire defensive line.
"Brad Lawing is our defensive line coach," Muschamp said. "I have always had respect for South Carolina's defensive line since he's been there. Year in and year out fundamentally they play extremely well and he has recruited extremely well. I sat and watched him and always thought if I have the opportunity to hire a defensive line coach and he is the one I was going after."
With the loss of Quinn, Muschamp promoted D.J. Durkin to defensive coordinator and dropped his responsibilities as Special Teams Coordinator. In his place, Muschamp brought in veteran assistant Jeff Choate to handle special teams and assist Durkin with the linebackers.
One session with Choate and you understand why his players might want to run through a wall for him. He is a do or die kind of guy and he asks his players for it all ad usually gets it. These players want to play for him. Muschamp actually had Choate come in last year and show off some of his expertise in special teams to the current staff. Muschamp joked it up that it was actually a job interview.
"Last spring I brought Jeff in to meet with our staff to talk about special teams and some things he has been exposed to on the west coast… We are very excited about Jeff, our new special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Any time you have an opening on our staff you better get better. We've improved ourselves from a recruiting standpoint, an evaluation standpoint, and an on the field coaching standpoint.
There was an opening at the receiver coach as well. Not many can argue that Muschamp made a huge hire bringing in Joker Phillips as the receiver's coach and recruiting coordinator. The former Kentucky head coach wants his guys to understand why they do things, not just do them. He believes the broader concepts of any play or route and understanding of those concepts will help the players get better. Phillips should be huge for the Gators.
"Joker Phillips is a really good addition for our wide receivers," Muschamp said. "We needed to hire a more mature, experienced coach in the role. To bring him in was huge for the program."
One other assistant we don't hear much about but deserves mentioning is Tim Davis. Davis was hired before last season, but his first year on the job already showed a great turnaround up front for this team. The things the gators were able to do when healthy like against LSU are what Davis is all about.
One of his favorite mottoes for his hulking offensive line is "mass kicks ass". If you could picture a 6-4, 260 pound man pumping two fists in the air and screaming that motto that is what you get with Tim Davis. His guys love him and seems to get the most out of them.
In all, Muschamp has replaced a few assistants that needed to be replaced with much better assistants and a few that will be missed but seemed to have been replaced with high quality assistants that may have better recruiting tools. His ability to find this group and bring them aboard bodes well for the future.