A healthy team is also a good thing and unlike last year when the Gators hit this stretch of the season with nearly 20 players from the two-deep missing from the playing field, these Gators have very few guys that will be on the sidelines.
Other than the few guys that have been out all season, it appears only one player that was expected to start will miss Saturday.
“Injury wise, Keanu Neal might be out, we may get him back next week,” Muschamp said of his starting safety. “Trenton Brown and Gerald Willis are both back and will play. Ahmad Fulwood will be fine. We are definitely healthy other than Keanu. Everyone else will practice today and we should be good to go.”
But this team seems to have more than its health that has added a boost. The offense has been getting things done at a pace that is greater than it has been in all but three of the last ten years on that side of the ball in Gainesville. The real upswing has come in the last two games, one in which the gators relied heavily on the running game and poured on 418 rushing yards against Georgia and then this past weekend when they used a balanced attack with more than 215 yards rushing and passing to defeat Vanderbilt.
Muschamp sees one main ingredient feeding this effectiveness on offense is just the fact that everybody is really starting to mesh in the new offense brought in by first year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
“It’s a little bit of being a first year coordinator at a new place,” Muschamp started when asked why it is just now finally coming around. “Sometimes it takes time to have a good feel for what the players can and can’t do. I have done it multiple times and when you get in a moment and see how a player will react in front of 90,000 people… I think you learn more about your players as you go through the year, who you feel comfortable with, and who can make plays. Kurt has continued to grow with that.”
Muschamp praised the staff for in-game adjustments ad that the players are just more caught up in the new system.
“Our guys do a really good job on game day of making adjustments in the run game, protections, and route wise, some things we can take shots with,” he said. “I do think the familiarization more of our players and moving through the first year has made a big difference.
And, the insertion of Treon Harris into the lineup at quarterback has been a big boost to everything surrounding the offense.
“I would attribute Treon Harris and a lot of the spark he has given our football team,” he said to the progression. There is no question of the confidence level he has given our team and I do credit him for that.
“Knoxville, when we played up there, the charge he gave us… certain people have that personality. They positively affect the people around them. He is certainly a young man that has that.”
Muschamp has always wanted to maintain an identity as a team that can run the ball, even after changing styles of play to a more spread open quick passing game. This team is averaging 206 yards per game on the ground and a healthy 4.66 yards per carry.
“We have run the ball pretty well throughout the year,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t against Alabama, they did a nice job. In the Missouri game we never had a chance. We couldn’t get anything going in how we needed to play the game.”
The last two games the Gators have gone over 400 yards and over 200 yards respectively on the ground. The more they achieve, the easier it seems to be and winning two games handily has gone a long way in making these Gators fight harder.
“We have run the ball pretty successful, not obviously as well as we did in Jacksonville that day,” Muschamp said. “Any time you win a football game against a good team, it breeds confidence. Confidence is a very important part of being a really good athlete. You have to have confidence in what you’re doing and when you have that it seems the ball starts bouncing your way more and things start happening in a positive fashion.”