Demps confident of UF offense turnaround under Muschamp


Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps (2) tries to run past Florida State Seminoles safety Nick Moody (10) during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.

Coming into the 2010 season, Florida running back Jeff Demps had his sights set on becoming the school's first 1,000-yard rusher under coach Urban Meyer.

Unfortunately, the injury bug turned those dreams into dust. Demps suffered a foot injury in the third game of the season against Tennessee and was never 100 percent the rest of the year. He did play in 10 games and rushed for a team-high 531 yards, but that total, as well as his three touchdowns, were the lowest single-season marks of his three-year career.

As a true freshman in 2008, Demps, a two-sport star who also is the defending NCAA 60-meter (indoor) and 100-meter (outdoor) dash champion, played in all 14 games (five starts), rushing for 605 yards and seven touchdowns. He followed that up by playing in all 14 games (12 starts) in 2009, running for 745 yards and seven TDs.

After spending more time in a rehabilitative boot than on the practice field this season, Demps is hoping to be ready when the Gators return to practice Monday in Tampa for their New Year's Day Outback Bowl game against Penn State.

“I'm fine. I'm out of the boot,” he said following new UF coach Will Muschamp's introductory news conference last week. “I haven't really started practicing yet. I'm just doing some jogging and getting ready. I'm not 100 percent yet, but I hope to start practicing again at the bowl site.”

Demps, who is very close to Meyer, is sad to see him leave, but feels positive about his replacement. While he wants to do all he can to send Meyer out on a winning note, he is aware the opportunity presenting itself now is to become the first 1,000-yard rusher at UF under Muschamp.

“It was a little of a concern because we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off – we didn't really know what was going on,” said Demps. “But after sitting down and talking to him (Muschamp ), he's a great coach, and he told us he's going to bring in the best possible person to help turn this offense around, so we're not really worried anymore.

“I think the reaction was pretty good for the most part. Really, everybody was just excited to see what kind of guy he was and kind of feel him out and see what he brought to the table. I think most of the guys are doing pretty well now that we have a coach and we know what he expects and what he has in mind.”

Demps was very impressed with Muschamp's initial media address.

“I would give him an A-plus,” he said. “It was great to just sit back and hear what he had to say, just about the whole situation and knowing what he plans on doing with the program.

“When we came in for the team meeting, he did that as well. I think a lot of the guys were looking for that, to see what he brought to the table and what he expected out of us. I'm definitely excited. He's a high-energy guy.”

Like most of the older players, Demps, who will be a senior in 2011, is happy Meyer will still be accessible.

“Yes, it's very important,” he said. “Coach Meyer, he wasn't just a coach; he was like a father figure to all the players. He recruited us and he was always there. I think it's very important that he's going to still be around if we're having problems on the field or off the field. We can always go to coach Meyer if we need anything.”

Demps sees an important similarity in UF's outgoing and incoming mentors.

“When I first got here, coach Meyer, he was a real high-energy guy,” he said. “Coach Muschamp is the same way. You want to be around people like that because the team feeds off the coaches, so I think that'll be great.”

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