Muschamp downplays friendship with FSU's Fisher

Florida coach Will Muschamp makes a point as he speaks to the Gator Gathering in Tallahassee on Tuesday. (Phil Sears/Tallahassee Democrat)

Phil Sears/Tallahassee Democrat
Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 11:26 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — Will Muschamp gets the storyline.

He understands the curiosity of reporters and fans.

But judging by his responses Tuesday evening, the first-year Florida coach has had just about enough of discussing his relationship with Florida State's Jimbo Fisher.

“Who?” Muschamp replied, when a fan broached the topic during Tuesday's Capital Area Gator Club Gathering.

The sarcastic response drew one of many ovations during Muschamp's nearly two-hour visit. But he quickly followed with a more sincere answer about his longtime friend and new rival.

“We won a lot of football games and competed every day,” said Muschamp, who has known Fisher for nearly 20 years and worked with him on Nick Saban's staff at LSU in the early 2000s. “Somebody said, ‘What's it gonna be like competing?' I said, ‘Well, we competed every day for about five years.'”

As he has done during booster tour stops across Florida during the past few weeks, Muschamp focused heavily on the positives.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 300 fans at the North Florida Fairgrounds, he defended the play of quarterback John Brantley in the spring game — saying the rest of the offense needs to execute better around him — and affirmed that the Gators have enough talent to compete with anyone on their schedule.

“The two biggest concerns I have is with both lines of scrimmage — just staying healthy,” Muschamp said. “I think we've got quality players. Urban (Meyer, UF's former coach) and his staff did a really nice job. We've just got to stay healthy.”

In a rapid-fire delivery, Muschamp ran through personnel at just about every position and even gave a rundown of his coaching staff. The information came so fast and furious that the fans in attendance seemed to need a few moments to digest it all before they could ask questions.

“I think that's the best talk from a college coach I've ever heard,” said former Gator great Carlos Alvarez, who was an All-American receiver at UF from 1969-71. “He went without notes and talked about every player and every coach, and you can tell he didn't have to think twice. Not only that, but when he started the X's and O's — even though it may have gone over some people's heads — that was very impressive too.”

Before he spoke, Muschamp met privately with Alvarez and former Gator receiver Gary Rolle, both of whom live in Tallahassee.

He also met with local and state media, who asked more questions about Muschamp's relationship with Fisher than anything else. The former Texas defensive coordinator heaped praise upon Fisher as a coach but said it's not as if they speak all the time.

“In our profession, we're so busy throughout the year, it's awful hard to maintain a relationship with anybody unless they're on your staff,” Muschamp said. “But I've got great respect for Jimbo. I obviously know (his wife) Candi and the Fisher family very well.

“We worked together I think about six or seven years. Any time you spend that much time with somebody, I've got great respect for him as a football coach and a person. He does a good job.”

But Muschamp didn't seem to want to go much further than that.

When asked about the beach house he and Fisher own, Muschamp clarified that it is shared by many owners. He said he didn't stop and see Fisher while he was in town. And he said he wouldn't have any reservations about going toe-to-toe with his friend in recruiting or on game days.

“It's a great story — don't get me wrong,” Muschamp said. “But for us ... it's part of the job.”

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