Muschamp vows end to Georgia's winning streak
Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE — Turning the ball over six times in a 17-9 loss to Georgia, some might say it was a crime the way the Gators played against the arch-rival Bulldogs six months ago.
If that is the case, Florida coach Will Muschamp returned to the scene of the crime Tuesday night. Well, sort of.
Muschamp spoke to the Gator Club of Jacksonville before a packed room at the Jacksonville Fair and Expo Center, which is about a nine-iron shot from EverBank Field, where Muschamp's Gators made a mess of things last season — and the season before — against the Bulldogs.
The result is the Bulldogs have a rare (at least in recent decades) two-game winning streak in the series against their former starting strong safety (Muschamp).
But that Georgia winning streak is going to end soon, Muschamp vowed Tuesday night.
“Well, it's not going to be a long winning streak, I can assure you,” Muschamp said before his speech. “We feel very comfortable. Obviously, last year, when you turn the ball over six times, you're not going to win many games. You turn it over six times and give up 17 points, you (still) put yourself in a situation where you can win the game.
“We fought through a lot of adversity we created for ourselves in the game. It just didn't work out. We turned the ball over two years ago twice inside our 20-yard line, which resulted in 14 points. So, that obviously doesn't help you win games either.
“There are some simple solutions. Take care of the football. As far as playing the game and winning the game, we understood what was at stake last year. Very disappointed for our football team and the Gator Nation that we didn't get the job done. Looking forward to the game this year.”
Muschamp was asked if the Georgia game would be an extra emphasis in the offseason, like it was following the Gators' crushing loss to Georgia in 2007, when the Bulldogs stormed the end zone after scoring their first touchdown. UF used that bitter defeat as motivation throughout the offseason.
“None,” Muschamp said. “Well, obviously, there's no question our guys rally around the opportunity. Two games that we let slip out of our hands, the bowl game (loss to Louisville) and the game in Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville, of course, was a big part of the theme Tuesday night.
Not only do the Gators play a critical game here every fall, it's one of UF's most important recruiting grounds in the state. This past February, Muschamp signed three top players from Jacksonville — wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood (Bishop Kenny), cornerback Nick Washington (Trinity Christian) and linebacker Daniel McMillian (First Coast), an early enrollee.
“This area is critical for us,” Muschamp said. “You go back and look at Florida through the years, Ciatrick Fason, the Gaffney family has been great for the University of Florida. When we've had good teams, there's been a lot of the flavor of Jacksonville has been there.”
“Again, the Jacksonville area was really good to us this past season. You look at Ahmad Fulwood, a guy that we're counting on next year to help us, a guy that can vertically stretch the field. Extremely intelligent. A guy that's got really good ball skills down the field.
“Nick Washington's a young man I'm going to start out at corner, that can play nickel. Again, extremely smart, intelligent guy. Those guys committed to us early, never wavered, never looked at another school, had plenty of opportunity to go wherever they wanted to go. They decided to stay at the University of Florida, build their network, build their resume for the rest of their life at Florida.”
Muschamp said McMillian will have a chance to possibly be a starter at outside linebacker in the fall.
“Daniel McMillian is a linebacker that is instinctive, tough, came in at mid-year,” he said. “I saw him in the weight room today, looks great. He's a guy I'm extremely pleased with his progress right now. He's going to play a lot. He may end up starting some games for us in the fall.
“He's a guy that's instinctively done some really nice things. He's battling for a starting job as we speak right now.”
As he has done at every stop on his spring speaking tour, Muschamp expressed confidence in his starting quarterback, junior Jeff Driskel.
“A lot of confidence,” Muschamp said. “You win 11 games your first year as a starter in the Southeastern Conference, that says an awful lot about your progress. He's going to continue to make progress. He took a lot of hits last year, so in those situations, you saw him bounce back and keep coming back and some of the situations he created for our football team. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
One fan asked Muschamp about Driskel not seeing the field well last season.
“The game will slow down for Jeff this year,” he said. “He'll be able to see things better. I saw it in spring practice. Route-running is better. Protection is better. I think all of that has improved around him.
“I think he's in for a great year. I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.