Joker Phillips: Monday was Will Muschamp’s first time meeting with the media since Joker Phillips resigned on June 11. That didn’t mean he was going to give an answer or explanation for what happened. Amidst rumors of recruiting violations, Muschamp didn’t provide any clarity.
“Right now, I’m more than anything focused on our team and our program moving forward,” Muschamp said. “I appreciate Joker and his contributions to Florida.”
It also presents an opportunity for former Florida quarterback Chris Leak to step into the role of the receivers’ coach. He has been a graduate assistant at Florida and knows how Muschamp and the rest of the staff evaluate and coach players. They expect it to be a natural transition.
“I’m really excited about Chris Leak,” Muschamp said. “What a great opportunity for him. He was a graduate assistant for us for a year, a guy that has leadership qualities after being the ’06 national championship quarterback.
“He’s very familiar with the players in our system, but Kurt Roper runs the passing game. That has been very evident since day one.”
A LAST CHANCE: Most of the talk on Monday centered on Jeff Driskel fitting into the new offense, but when asked about position players that could step up and succeed, the first player mentioned by Muschamp was sixth-year receiver Andre Debose.
“We’ll get him in some situations,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to get the ball in his hands in space. That’s key for us.”
HARGREAVES MATURING: This offseason has shown Muschamp that Vernon Hargreaves III is ready to be a leader. The sophomore cornerback was on the list of SEC Media Days attendees, only the second time the Gators have brought a sophomore to the event. It wouldn’t happen if the coaches didn’t trust him with the role.
“I don't mind bringing him here because he's a guy that's going to handle it the right way,” Muschamp said. “All this is going to do is motivate him and make him hungrier for the next success he's going to have in his life.”
Muschamp credited Hargreaves growing up as the son of a coach but admitted that doesn’t always turn into success. It has helped him continue to improve after a strong freshman year where he led the team with three interceptions.
“He's a guy that's got a burning desire to be really, really good,” Muschamp said. “He's in the film room constantly. He's correcting himself. He's coachable. All the intangible things you want a player to be he possesses. That's why he's a successful person. God blessed him with a lot of ability. We'd like the coaches to take a lot of credit for him. At the end of the day he has some natural instincts that others of us don't have.”
PERSONAL STRUGGLES: Even with last year’s eight losses, Muschamp admitted on Monday that there weren’t many people he could reach out to outside of the Florida program. Most of his friends are currently coaches and on the Florida schedule.
“Unfortunately, all the guys I know real well will lie to me now so I can't really talk to them,” Muschamp said.
It forced him to spend even more time with his contacts and friends in Gainesville, but even with that, the Florida coach admitted that he usually keeps to himself.
“I really draw from within,” Muschamp said. “I think we have a very strong staff at the University of Florida for the things we need to do to be successful moving forward. In most situations, even when I was a defensive coordinator, making difficult decisions, go with my gut and do what we need to do to be successful.”
LOW POINT: Muschamp usually doesn’t point to specific instances from last season that hurt him the most, but when he was asked for a low point from last season, he knew right where to go.
It came near 10 p.m. one night during the week of preparation to play Georgia. Muschamp was still in his office, preparing for the following day’s third down work in practice. Florida trainer Paul Silverstri knocked on the door, and Muschamp knew immediately something was wrong.
“He's usually not there at 10 o'clock at night,” Muschamp said.
That’s when the coach was informed of Tyler Moore’s scooter wreck, which resulted in a broken elbow.
“I can't tell you exactly what I said, but it wasn't good,” Muschamp said. “That was at a point where I asked him, ‘You got to be kidding?’ It was just very frustrating.”