Muschamp betting on himself

If the 2014 season goes downhill, Florida coach Will Muschamp hasn’t given himself any outs in recent weeks. Given his comments at SEC Media Days last week and on Tuesday while a part of the ESPN car wash, Muschamp is making it clear that he expects the Florida program to succeed with him at the helm.

Coaches on the hot seat could try to talk their way around the issue. Not many would be as bold with their comments as Muschamp has been in the last two weeks.

It started last week in Hoover, Ala. Muschamp opened his press conference in front of 1,000+ media members in the main ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Birmingham and didn’t waste a minute of time before bringing up the hot seat. He didn’t wait for a question to be asked about job security or try to deflect from the situation at Florida. Instead, he attacked it, pointing out that last season wasn’t good enough and the only way to change that was to win games.

“There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business,” Will Muschamp said. “That's part of it. The way you combat that is having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do.”

Two sentences later, Muschamp called this year’s Florida team the most complete one the Gators have had since he took the job in 2011. Not many would argue that the 2011 or 2013 teams were more complete than the 2014 roster sets up to be, but it’s the 2012 team that has the argument.

That group went 11-1 in the regular season, but it’s what didn’t happen on that team that should change this year. The 2012 Gators struggled to score. The offense was stagnant and focused on winning time of possession instead of scoring points.

Some of it was by design. The Gators were built to dominate with defense and special teams that season, boasting a kicker and punter that each finished as one of three finalists for the best at their position. The defense had two first round picks and multiple other All-SEC selections. Five members of that Florida defense are currently slated to be starters for their NFL team this fall.

The increase in offensive production shouldn’t be a stretch this season. The Gators will have more freedom on offense, and with the pedigree of first-year coordinator Kurt Roper, the scheme should better suit what Jeff Driskel is able to do. However, it’s still a strong statement from a coach with a BCS berth under his belt while heading into a season where he is on the hot seat.

His comments last week might be seen as bold, but what he said on Tuesday topped it.

The Southeastern Conference sends all 14 of its coaches to the ESPN studios for a two-day event known as the ESPN car wash, sending every coach through a day-long media gauntlet of podcasts, radio and television. Muschamp’s day was Tuesday, and he brought with him the same confidence he showed in Hoover.

Muschamp was on the SVP & Russillo radio show, and co-host Ryen Russillo asked the Florida coach if there was a favorite in the SEC East. Once again, there was no hesitation in his voice.

“Yeah, I think Florida,” Muschamp said.

Later during a live spot on SportsCenter, Muschamp echoed that statement.

“I feel very good about our football team going to Atlanta. I really do,” Muschamp said. “I’m very confident going into the season from the standpoint of our talent base and where we are as far as the foundation of our program. This is the most complete team I’ve had at Florida.”

It doesn’t sound like the words of a coach that many wanted fired after last season’s 4-8 record and likely will be fired if this season doesn’t go well.

But part of that is the point.

Muschamp is betting on himself this season. He hears the outside noise, mostly because it would be impossible to ignore it all. People want him fired -- many wanted it to happen last season -- and if this season goes down a similar path as last year, there’s a good chance this will be his last year at the coach at Florida.

The day he took the job at Florida, Muschamp talked about the expectation of the program. Growing up in Gainesville and following Florida programs in recent years, he understands how high the bar is for any coach in the athletic department.

He now heads into a season on the hottest seat any Florida football coach has been on since 2004, but he’s not backing down. Even with the built-in excuse of injuries last season, Muschamp mentioned it just once during his SEC Media Days press conference.

He’s leaving no room for excuses this fall. The pressure to win, and win big, is only increasing, and Muschamp is betting on himself to get it done.

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