Muschamp addresses boosters in Tampa

Florida football head coach Will Muschamp spoke at a Gator Gathering of just over 200 at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday.

Ernst Peters/The Lakeland Ledger/File
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.

TAMPA — Will Muschamp has addressed the issue over and over since being named head coach at Florida. Rest assured, with booster club stops in Jacksonville, Daytona, Tallahassee, Atlanta and Gainesville still to come on his 10-stop spring tour, it'll come up again. And again.

“I've said it before,” Muschamp told a Gator Gathering of just over 200 at Raymond James Stadium, "it's not a right to play at Florida, it's a privilege.”

He said so during his brief meeting with the local Bay area media and repeated the mantra again in response to a question from an audience member.

The arrests of all those football players — 34 since December 2004 — have become something of a sore spot for the UF fan base and Muschamp can't duck the issue. Nor is he trying to. That much became clear last month when Muschamp kicked Janoris Jenkins off the team after the All-SEC corner was busted on misdemeanor marijuana possession for the second time in three months. It was Jenkins' third arrest in less than two years.

“I think you're always in the business of education, and when you're educating young people, you're constantly having a mental conditioning stage for making good choices and decisions,” Muschamp said. “Regardless of what you do — and sometimes the types of people they're around — they'll make poor decisions. That's part of the education process. That's the job that we're in. We wear a lot of hats as football coaches; not just the job we do on Saturday afternoon.”

Of course, it was that Saturday afternoon gig that dominated Thursday's conversation.

“He was amazing,” Tampa Gator Club president Gigi Pelosi said. “He's so personable and funny and has a lot of spirit. And because he's new, we want to hear what he's thinking, what he's planning and how everything is going.”

Here are a few other topics Muschamp touched on during his speech in Tampa on Thursday:

-Running back Jeff Demps, who doubles as a national-champion sprinter for the UF track team, has been meeting with football coaches on his own time and plans to play this fall rather than focus exclusively on making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. “He's having a great outdoor season ... and [running back Chris] Rainey still can't beat him.”

-Junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan, limited to just four games the last two years because of injuries, has been cleared to lift weights and has full range of motion in his shoulder. Muschamp ran into Patchan, who starred at nearby Seffner Armwood, in the weight room Thursday morning. “I'm really excited about getting him back on the field,” adding Patchan figures to compete with redshirt freshman Chaz Green at right tackle.

-On freshman tailback Mike Blakely's decision this week to transfer after enrolling at UF in January. “Anytime you have change, you have people who wonder where they're going to fit within the organization. I want guys who want to be Florida Gators, who want to work hard and understand they're not going to be given anything.” Muschamp said he knew of no other players intent on leaving, "But I can't predict the future."

-Regarding social media, something Muschamp apparently has embraced, having announced the dismissal of Jenkins via Twitter: “I'd rather our players not [Tweet], as far as football business is concerned. But that's where we are right now in our society.”

-On if the Gators will win the SEC East: “Yes, sir, we're gonna win the East," Muschamp told a fan.

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