Tears always flow on Senior Day at The Swamp. There will be more than usual this Saturday as Florida takes on Eastern Kentucky and the entire Florida football team will be playing their last home game for Will Muschamp. Muschamp knows it is coming and knows that it will be a day filled with stress and relief all at the same time.
“It is always emotional on Senior Day and knowing you had a positive impact on their lives and made a difference,” Muschamp told the national media Wednesday as the head coach of three previous Senior Day send offs. “That is important to me. Regardless of me being here or not, it is always an emotional day. Couple that with knowing it will be my last day in The Swamp. It will certainly be emotional for me as far as those things are concerned. I am looking forward to it in a lot of ways and when it is over it will (also) be disappointing.”
Monday was very telling about what Muschamp meant to the program with his time on campus. Hindered by losses in three of his four years on campus, the Gators outgoing coach was gracious for the opportunity he had as the head man and his athletic director and school president were very thankful for the things he did accomplish.
Muschamp says the relationships and the time spent with the young people he mentored is the thing he will take away the most from the time he has been here.
“There are a lot of things that are great about this job,” he said. “You work with players… working with the players is what I enjoy. I enjoy being with the team and the players and coaching and developing the guys. Some of the progress they have made on and off the field… that is what I enjoy.”
He was asked about his seniors and which guys that he thought have made strides on the field for the four years he has been here.
“Quinton Dunbar is a guy that made tremendous improvement,” Muschamp said. “He had some frustrations this year but has continued to practice hard and prepare himself. Chaz Green is a guy that has continued to come on. Trenton Brown when he first got here to where he is now continues to come on and do some really nice things. Mike Taylor didn’t play a lot for us early on, and continues to improve. Jabari Gorman, this is the most he has played as far as having a starting role and a guy that has been productive for us. Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook have done a nice job as far as their involvement. Kyle Christy has had a great career punting the football. Andre Debose has had a great year returning kicks, he has been fabulous.”Tuesday, junior Dante Fowler finally told the world that he will be making the jump to the NFL next season. Muschamp had high praise for the young man and said he will be a first round pick in April.
“He’s a very good player with a tremendous upside,” Muschamp said of Fowler. “The number one thing he has going for him is how hard he plays. Football is very important to Dante. When you step on the field, your tape is your resume as a player. His resume is very good because of the effort he gives. The physical attributes he has as far as quickness and power. He can handle multiple stuff as far as changing the game plan with him week to week.
“There aren’t many folks that I see that possess the qualities he gives you as far as rushing the passer. That is paramount in that league. He can win one-on-one’s. There is no question in my mind (he’s a first round pick).”
There is a game to be played and even though Eastern Kentucky is in a lower division of football, the Colonels are a pretty good squad according to Muschamp.
“They have a good football team and are 9-2 and setting records on offense,” Muschamp said of EKU. “They have blocked seven kicks and forced 30 turnovers on defense. We need to take care of the ball, block somebody, and have protection on punt and field goals.”
As for preparing for the game, the distractions this week could be dreadful for the game preparation. Muschamp says once they get into game prep mode everything gets back to normal.
“In the season, it is game planning and getting ready for the next game,” Muschamp said about all of the other stuff and the effects. “With what we dealt with on Sunday and Monday in the news conference, you just keep moving on. We had a good practice last night. Guys were bouncing around and understand the importance of senior day in The Swamp. We have 24 guys that have done a lot for our program. It’s kind of business as usual as far as the game planning side of it. It’s not a distraction.”
His focus on his future will come after he coaches his last two games at Florida and trying to get this team bowl eligible.
“I will obviously be working (next year), but after the FSU game Carol and I will take a little time and sit down and see what our next step is,” Muschamp said. “What that will be I have no idea, I haven’t put any thought into that. Certainly my focus is all on this team and getting us ready for the next two games.”
Update on Jake McGee
Senior tight end Jake McGee is a graduate transfer from Virginia that saw action in the Eastern Michigan game to start the season. McGee had a season ending injury in the game and was supposed to be a huge target for the Gator quarterbacks this season. Being his fifth season, he is technically out of time with regards to his eligibility., But just like senior receiver Andre Debose, there is always a chance for appeal to see if he can get a 6th year of eligibility.
Muschamp says he isn’t sure if McGee is even ready to approach that thought right now.
“Jake and I had some conversations 2-3 weeks ago,” Muschamp said. “That is totally up to the NCAA as far as him applying for a 6th season. He has not notified me 100% of what he is deciding to do. He sat down with me and asked me as far as moving forward and seeing what the best was for him. I told him I was going to contact some general managers and guys that make decisions in the NFL and give him some guidance. Does he need more tape? Is the tape from Virginia enough? Is the tape from fall practice from here enough to help him? Right now we haven’t answered those questions and I hope to get those answers in a couple of weeks.”
Life in the SEC
Muschamp has been in and out of the SEC during his coaching career. He has spent most of his time in the conference at schools like Auburn, LSU, and Florida. He of course played at Georgia. He also spent a few years at Texas and Muschamp says things are just tougher in this conference.
“It’s different,” he said. “The week to week grind throughout the season… there are a bunch of good coaches in this league, not just head coaches but coordinators that give you issues. There are a bunch of good players in this league that give you issues more than anything.
“The recruiting trail is totally different from other places I have been. It’s much more intense… cut-throat may be a good word. If you’ve never been in this league and recruited, especially in this area, if it’s something you aren’t accustomed to, it’s very difficult and you have to be able to build your roster that way.”