Muschamp says young offense will grow up
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:18 p.m.
TAMPA — The offseason is typically a time of optimism, but after enduring consecutive subpar seasons, Will Muschamp knows Florida football fans want more. But will the second-year coach be able to deliver? It's a question that been asked often as Muschamp makes his way through the spring booster club circuit.
“I'm not asking anyone to be patient, (but) let's be realistic where we are,” Muschamp said Tuesday prior to speaking to the Tampa Gator Club. “Obviously 15-11 at Florida over the last two years is unacceptable. I do think (the program) is headed in the right direction. I believe that emphatically. I know it is. I feel really good about this football team as we work through spring. We were a young football team. ... If it could go wrong at times, it seemed like it did. That's part of it. That's part of playing in our league.”
A young team, Muschamp believes, is starting to mature.
“The majority of our playmakers were in the sophomore class,” Muschamp said. “We can go through and list them all, but those guys were playing for their first year. … I think last year with the offensive line, we went into the season with 20 starts. Next year we'll have over 80 going into the season. We've logged some time. We've got some experience behind us. Regardless of the classification, you were looking at a very young football team. Generally a lot of inconsistencies show up when you're a young player. We certainly were that.”
Florida's progress likely will hinge upon its ability to run the ball. The Gators averaged just 131.6 yards on the ground in Southeastern Conference play, as Muschamp tried to adapt players more suited for former coach Urban Meyer's spread option to Muschamp's traditional pro-style attack, an issue that continues to be addressed in recruiting.
“I don't know if you get exactly what you want,” Muschamp said. “You're always striving for it. I feel comfortable with our backs. I really do. I feel comfortable with what we're going to be able to do.
“Again a lot of it goes back to what we can do up front. We've made tremendous strides in my opinion. We'll see September 1st how far. That will be the difference in how well our backs carry the ball this year, to be able to create play actions and the vertical passing game and those sort of things off of it.”
Quarterback depth hurt Florida last year when starter John Brantley went down with an ankle injury early on in SEC play, which forced the Gators to turn to two true freshmen, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett.
To prevent such a scenario, Muschamp generally tries to sign a quarterback per recruiting class, which creates depth, but can cause other problems.
“Guys that worry about depth charts, we don't want them,” Muschamp said. “You hit them with it one time who you recruit, and they ask the second time. You go through (the depth chart) again. They ask a third time, and you move on to the next guy. Guys that ask me about the depth chart, I don't recruit very long.
“It's a situation where you've always got to have a quarterback. I always look at the NFL and who goes to the playoffs every year, generally the teams that have a quarterback. When you lose your quarterback and you don't have a quarterback, it's hard to overcome that unless you're so good at other positions that it doesn't matter.”
Injuries always loom as a possibility under center, but sheer unpredictability can shuffle a depth chart as well.
“My opinion is it's the hardest position to evaluate,” Muschamp said. “Recruiting is getting so early now. You can watch a young man on tape. You can watch him throw individually, but you're so limited in your evaluations of seeing a guy, seeing him in camp and how he thinks. It goes so much further than just throwing. You've got to have the mental makeup to play in our league, the toughness, the mental toughness to play in our league and also be physically gifted enough to be successful. It's a very difficult position to evaluate and take the right guy, because there are so many. … Go look at the NFL in the first round. How many busts at quarterback do you see? And they have unlimited evaluations.”
Traditionally May has been a month for college head coaches to recruit and evaluate prospects, but the NCAA altered its recruiting calendar a few years ago, which essentially means college coaches can't evaluate high school spring football practice.
“I would love to see it changed,” Muschamp said. “You're asking me to be responsible for 85 players, plus walk-ons, yet I can't go evaluate them in the spring? I think it's a ridiculous rule. It is what it is. I don't think it will ever change to be honest with you. … Seven on seven is not football. It's not. It's great. It's fun. We all have a good time playing. It's not football.”
Muschamp congratulated the UF women's tennis team on its second consecutive national championship. … Muschamp said the football team's spring GPA was “around a 2.8 — better than I ever did.” Muschamp rated the team's offseason conditioning as “outstanding” under new strength coach Jeff Dillman. “The numbers speak for themselves as far as the things I'm seeing. Our players are excited, excited about being in the weight room again.” As far as future schedules, Muschamp said he prefers the eight-game SEC slate and would like LSU to remain as the Gators' permanent Western division foe.