Florida players settling in to new coaching situation


Will Muschamp, left, and Urban Meyer (Photos by The Associated Press and Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 at 12:24 a.m.

During Will Muschamp's introductory press conference Tuesday night, Florida junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard had to continuously look at the TV screens to make sure he wasn't dreaming.

Facts

Outback Bowl

Who: Florida vs. Penn State
When: Jan. 1, 1 p.m.
Gainesville-area TV: ABC
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

The man sporting an orange-and-blue tie, standing in front of a crowd of media and cameras talking about his future with Florida football wasn't the familiar face he was used to. Not seeing Urban Meyer up there was uncomfortable for a player that grew so close to his former coach.

“It's kind of tough for me,” Howard said about saying goodbye to Meyer while welcoming in Muschamp. “I don't know about other people. I really built up a good relationship with Coach Meyer. He became like a second father for me. During tough times, he was there for me.”

The transition might be a bit awkward for Howard, but he admits he sort of saw this coming. Howard said he had a “gut feeling” that Meyer would resign after the season because he lost some fire.

“He wasn't the same coach,” Howard said. “He used to be yelling at everybody, and all that.”

Still, Howard isn't quite used to seeing someone new take hold of the Gators.

It's not as if Muschamp is a complete stranger to Howard. As the defensive coordinator at Auburn, Muschamp recruited Howard and built a strong relationship with the former Orlando Jones standout.

Getting used to seeing Muschamp in Meyer's place won't be an easy transition, Howard said, especially with him having to practice under Meyer for a few more weeks before he permanently hands the program over. It's weird for Howard to think Meyer will be instructing this team through its game against Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, as the future coach looms in the wings.

While Howard is finding complications adjusting to the change, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. embraces the fact that Meyer will not only be coaching Florida for a few more weeks but hopes to see even more of him after Muschamp officially takes over.

“In actuality, I would like him to still be around and have some kind of input, just to have that comfort level to know that the coach that coached me here and brought me here is still going to be there,” Hammond said.

Hammond said it shouldn't be a distraction having Muschamp attend practices and the bowl game. In fact, Hammond believes having Muschamp around at practice will motivate players even more as they begin the first step in their tryout session with Muschamp.

“Everybody gets to start fresh and give the coach their first impression,” he said. “That's a good idea for some guys who are in a hole or made some bad decisions. (They can) definitely bounce back and do the right thing.”

Freshman quarterback Trey Burton isn't sure how seeing both head coaches on the same field will feel, but he's excited for the chance to work with Muschamp.

“(Muschamp is) unbelievably smart and really has a lot of energy,” Burton said. “That's what we need here.”

Regardless, things won't feel normal at Florida for a while. Howard hopes for a smooth transition, but he's shaken by the thought of not seeing Meyer emotionally patrolling Florida's sideline next fall.

“It's going to be different looking up at the sideline and not seeing Coach Meyer yelling at the referee or something,” he said. “It's going to take some time to get adjusted to.”

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