Changing the Perception

As much as Florida head coach Will Muschamp had to battle the coaching staffs of the Gators' opponents a year ago, he is still fighting demons that come from a 4-8 regular season and no bowl game for the first time in 23 years. The Florida program is looked at in another light by many that follow college football and the issue leads to recruiting as well. Muschamp knows what has to happen.

"I think you change it by winning," said the fourth year head coach of the Gators told the media in attendance at the Tampa area Gator gathering. "That means you change it by preparing, having a great summer, having a great spring, making the appropriate changes within your program. I think we have made those. I think our players are excited about playing football. Last year we lost some confidence and belief in what we were doing, offensively specially. I think we have made those strides. Now we need to have a great summer. We have 90 days to report. Those 90 days will be critical. You change that perception by winning."

Will Muschamp says he sees a bit of the "show me" attitude in recruiting during this cycle as well.

"It is still the University of Florida," he said. "Those relationships have been built through a great season, an 11 win season. We are probably in a holding pattern for a lot of kids right now, they are waiting to see how our season goes. That is fine, we will have a great year. We are really ecstatic in where we are right now (with recruiting).

One of the things that Muschamp believes will be a big boost in 2014 is the leadership of the team. We should see a big jump in leadership from both sides of the ball according to the head man.

"I am really confident in this football team and where we are headed," he said. "Clearly Jeff Driskel on offense (is a leader), then up front Chaz Green, Max Garcia, those two guys have been cornerstones on the front. Jeff as far as taking over the offense… it is his offense and he understands that.

"On defense I feel comfortable with our core of linebackers. Michael Taylor. Neiron Ball, Antonio Morrison, they are all guys that have played quality football. Vernon Hargreaves is an outstanding leader because of the way he handles himself in the things he does. Jabari Gorman has played a lot of football for us… Darious Cummings and Leon Orr up front. Dante Fowler has stepped into that role and understands what it takes to be that guy. Jon Bullard is another guy that had a great spring. There are enough good people and when your best players are good guys then you have a chance, and that's where we're at right now."

The addition of quality new coaches has seemed to spark some enthusiasm among the players and certainly with Muschamp. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper came to Florida via Duke and has really won over the offense with his coaching style. Offensive line coach Mike Summers came to Florida via USC and brings a straight forward, yet understanding approach to the game. Linebacker coach and special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler came to Florida via New Mexico and the relatively inexperienced assistant already seems more in tune with things than his predecessor.

"I think Kurt has done a great job of implementing the offense," Muschamp said. "He is a very good teacher, very fundamental, simplistic in his approach in everything he does. His positive energy is what has impressed me with the players. Our players have taken to him. You can see our offensive players having fun again.

Roper has installed a new shotgun spread offense at Florida, something that will be quite different than what we have seen for the first three years of his time at Florida. The ease of learning the offense under Roper is apparent.

"One thing with Kurt in the passing game, we tried to simplify some things and not change up from week to week which put a lot of onus on our receivers and quarterbacks," Muschamp said. "We feel like we have three or four guys that can take the top off of the coverage (get open deep). We certainly need to be able to stretch the field to create other things for us.

"Also in the shotgun the quarterback's ball handling is quicker than under center and he can get the ball out quicker. That will help us in protection."

"Mike Summers is a very good fundamental football coach. Over 30 years of experience and has coached in the National Football League. He has done a really nice job.

"Coleman Hutzler has done a really nice job with getting back on some special teams things that fell off last year. He has done a great job with our specialists. Austin Hardin had a very good spring and then in the spring game he was 4-4. Frankie Velez has kicked well and both punters have punted well at times."

Muschamp also seems happy with his player personnel assistant Drew Hughes that was brought into replace the last guy that wasn't getting the guy done.

"Drew is a really hard worker, very bright, very intelligent, he understands our system and how we do things." Muschamp said. "I am really pleased with his operation and what we have been able to accomplish."

It's our school policy. Three to four years ago the SEC came up with the rule to only sign 25 initials. They were trying to eliminate over-signing. If you have 85 scholarships and on signing day we sign to 85 scholarships. We don't sign to 90 and create attrition in the spring of five guys for the five you over-signed on signing day. Ethically and morally is that right? Probably not, but that is what everybody else does. . It is what it is, we've won a bunch of games and been doing it that way for a long time.

Numbers in Return Game

Muschamp rattled off a handful of players that are at the top of the list to return kicks and punts. The head Gator said that the punt return game will be manned by Vernon Hargreaves, Demarcus Robinson, and Brian Poole. Kickoff return leaders at this time are Andre Debose, Chris Thompson, and Quinton Dunbar.

"The good thing is we have multiple guys that can do all of that, Muschamp said. "I am pleased with where we are there. I am concerned about Vernon taking a bunch of snaps and then being back there and returning kicks. There are some folks in our league that might try to take a shot. Not that I wouldn't trust everybody in our league (tongue in cheek).

Working through tough times

Muschamp lost his father on Thursday when he passed away. He was back to work Monday and speaking to the hundreds of Tampa Gators who gave him a standing ovation upon arrival for the meeting. It wasn't easy for the head coach, but he kept his tour date with the fans, something his father, as a coach, would appreciate.

"Just do your job," Muschamp said about the situation. "It is good to get back. It is a tough deal, but you have to move forward. It is good to get back and working. Good to be in Tampa and see a bunch of great Gators tonight."

Fightin Gators Top Stories