Muschamp: Florida football 'an ascending program'


Florida coach Will Muschamp believes running back Matt Jones is poised for a breakout year in the Southeastern Conference.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/File
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.
Florida coach Will Muschamp launched his spring/summer speaking tour at the Titletown Gator Club on Wednesday night, and he delivered a clear and promising message to the hundreds of fans who filled a ballroom at the Hilton just across from campus: The Gators are on the rise coming off an 11-2 season. “We're an ascending program,” Muschamp said. “Getting back from New York and seeing eight guys drafted, six guys go free agent. This is a four-prong process. It's evaluation, it's recruiting, it's development, and it's coaching. “Gator Nation has seen that our staff recruits extremely well and evaluates extremely well. We inherited a talented, young team when we got here, and we've done a really good job of developing and coaching those players.” Muschamp said a testament to that is the NFL draft this past weekend. The Gators had two players go in the first round, two in the second and eight overall.


“You look at the feedback you get from the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings and the Miami Dolphins and countless team in the NFL that say, ‘We want your guys on our football team. We want the Florida kids because of the development on both sides of the ball, on and off the field, in the weightroom,' ” Muschamp said. “So, we're an ascending program.” Muschamp said he's feeling good about the offensive line and the overall improved play of quarterback Jeff Driskel and the wide receivers. “Very pleased with Jeff Driskel's progress,” he said. “I think we've improved in some areas there. I think we're better at the receiver position. Concerned about tight end. We're not where we need to be (there). “And I think (sophomore tailback) Matt Jones is on the verge of being a big-time back in the Southeastern Conference.” Defensively, Muschamp said he's concerned about the depth at linebacker and replacing the two safeties (Matt Elam and Josh Evans) who were drafted over the weekend, one in the first round (Elam). “I feel very comfortable with (linebackers) Darrin (Kitchens) and Antonio Morrison and Mike (Taylor),” Muschamp said. “They're three guys that have played in situations in our league before and the venues we're going to walk into. “I think we have three outstanding corners. That's a good play to start, but you've got to be strong up the middle. I'm pleased with the guys inside and up front. “You're talking about a mixture of nine guys right now we feel comfortable with up front playing.” Some concerns, but overall a positive picture painted by Muschamp on Wednesday night. Muschamp, however, speaking to the media before addressing the fans, did caution that the Gators still have some considerable climbing to do to reach where they want to go. “I really worry about the things I can control,” he said. “I understand the mountain we were climbing our first year and we're still climbing that mountain. We've certainly gotten to some better footing as far as climbing the mountain right now. “We still have a lot of treacherous steps in front of us. I'm going to control the things I can control, that's our football team.” Muschamp said that everything is basically positive as the Gators head into the summer, where the players can have very little contact with Muschamp and his staff. Muschamp said his one-on-one interviews with the players went well and there are there no roster changes (other than the decision last week by troubled redshirt freshman offensive guard Jessamen Dunker to transfer to another school). He said the spring went well and most of the injured players will be full-go when preseason camp opens in August. Muschamp said the only players who may not be ready for the first day of camp are true freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman (torn labrum). “Based on my last talk with our trainer, Alex may be a week into camp before he's totally cleared for contact, which should be on time,” Muschamp said. “With the first two days in helmets, the next three are in shells. You're not in full pads until your fifth day. We're talking about he may miss a little contact time. “I was told on (true freshman linebacker) Matt Rolin that he should be full go. Everybody should be full go hitting fall camp with the exception of Trip Thurman and Alex. They're on the same time frame. I'm thinking maybe a week, maybe 10 days.” Muschamp said another positive is the chance he has to interact with the UF fans during his 10-event speaking schedule, which continues today with a Gator Gathering in Tampa. “I do, I do (like the fan interaction),” he said. “I think it's fair. “You're always got to reach out to your fan base, and as I've said, we've got the best fans in the country. You look at the environment when you walk in to play at The Swamp. “Two of the best environments I've ever been a part of were LSU and South Carolina (at Florida Field) this past year. That place was a difference in those games.” Muschamp was asked if he gets a lot of advice from the fans about what he should be doing. “Yeah, that's fair,” he said. “Most of them will do it in an email with a fake name. ‘Gator Dave'. That's fine.” Muschamp said there is an emphasis on reaching out to the fans during this tough economic time. “It's a very difficult time economically, not just in the state of Florida but throughout the country,” he said. “Trying to show our appreciation we have for our fans, this is part of that. It is very important to what we're doing.”

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