Excitement builds as Muschamp era approaches


Florida redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins senses enthusiasm among the players to get a fresh start in 2011 under new head coach Will Muschamp.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:14 a.m.

TAMPA — This week, this game, is all about Urban Meyer and the seniors — and sending them out winners in the Outback Bowl.

That's the goal, the purpose, the focus for Florida.

But for those Gators who are going to be around beyond Saturday, it's OK to look ahead a little bit to the start of a new era that begins after the game.

And that's what some are doing.

“I think everybody is excited to see what's going to happen next,” redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “I sense people are looking at things positively and are excited about what's to come, excited to see how the program is going to get changed around, excited for new things.”

At this point, there is still considerable uncertainly about what lies ahead.

The players don't know who their position coaches are going to be yet, they don't know what offensive and defensive schemes they'll be playing in, they don't know what it's going to be like playing for Will Muschamp.

But this will all start coming together soon enough.

Muschamp has been working on building his coaching staff and is expected to have an offensive and defensive coordinator in place by early next week. The offseason conditioning program also begins next week, and then it's on to spring football just a few months down the road.

“The worst part of it all right now is not knowing what's going to happen,” Jenkins said. “But as soon as we find out who the coaches are, everybody is going to be excited. At least we'll have a clue where we're going from here and we can begin to build a relationship with the coaches.”

The players don't even know their new coach yet. Muschamp was an observer at a few pre-bowl practices back in Gainesville, but other than that, he's been off recruiting and trying to assemble his coaching staff.

“I haven't spent much time with him, but I hear he's a great coach, a players' coach, so I'm looking forward to getting to know him and getting to talk to him some more,” Jenkins said. “I'm excited to see what he's going to do with the defense since he's a defensive coach. I'm just excited.”

Others are, too.

“We're focused on winning this game for Coach Meyer, but we're also looking forward to seeing where we go after Jan. 1,” wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. said. “It's going to be a new start for everybody, and that's exciting. There's going to be a lot of competition at every positon, so it's a new start.”

Muschamp is inheriting a young yet fairly experienced team.

The Gators have played 18 true freshmen and 13 redshirt freshmen this season. Among the 83 players who have participated, 47 are freshmen and sophomores.

Some of the seniors whose UF careers end on Saturday say the future is bright for Florida football.

“They're bringing in some great coaches,” center Mike Pouncey said. “I think Florida is always going to be Florida. I don't see a downfall. They're just going to have to rebuild and bring in the best players like they always do.

“I like Coach Muschamp a lot. I know he's going to bring in a great offensive coordinator. Coach Muschamp is going to do a great job and these players are going to play hard for him.”

Senior punter Chas Henry also gives Muschamp a strong endorsement.

“He's one of the great young minds in college football,” Henry said. “I've heard he's like the next Coach Meyer who's going to be in coaching. I believe Florida football is in great hands at this point. Coach Muschamp brings a lot of energy and passion to the game. That's going to be a great thing to add.

“We're losing a lot of seniors, but there is a lot of young talent on this team. Coach Meyer is one of the best recruiters in college football and he's done a great job of restocking the program each year. We're going to have a very good team next season. I'm going to enjoy watching these guys play.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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