Muschamp: Future bright for the Gators

UF’s coach begins his post-spring speaking tour in Jacksonville.


Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 9:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 9:38 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE — Will Muschamp is sending a message to Florida fans on his post-spring speaking tour that is part apology for last season, part promise that things will be much better for the Gators in 2014.

“Well, I think the future is bright,” Muschamp said before speaking to the Gator Club of Jacksonville on Thursday night. “The responsibility of my and our expectations at the University of Florida is winning championships on and off the field. Four-and-eight is unacceptable. It's my responsibility to get it turned (around) and that's what's going to happen.

“We're going to have a good football team next year. That's not just a false sense of being positive. It's real. I feel really good about this team, where we are, where we're headed. We had some things that I probably could have managed better last fall that were difficult to overcome, but it happened and it's my responsibility.”

Much of Muschamp's optimism stems from the fact the Gators had a positive spring in which the players quickly picked up new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's spread, uptempo attack and showed signs that a big offensive turnaround might be in store for the Gators in the fall.

“I'm really very pleased with where we are offensively in 15 days,” Muschamp said. “A lot of credit to Kurt Roper and our offensive staff. Our players have been very receptive of what we need to do to be successful.

“We got a lot in and the execution I thought was at a high level. Very, very pleased with that. But I think a lot of that goes to our players. You look up front, we've got some experienced offensive linemen in that first five, six, seven guys.

“We've got experience at the quarterback position with Jeff Driskel. We're as deep and as talented at running back, and that's without Matt Jones going through spring and a young man named Brandon Powell that we're all going to know about in the fall. And as deep and talented of a receiving corps that we've had since I've been at Florida.”

Now that the spring is over, Muschamp has begun the process of meeting with each player individually to evaluate where they are and how they fit into the program moving forward.

At this early stage, Muschamp said no players have told him they plan to transfer. There has been speculation that former wide receiver Marqui Hawkins may be looking to leave after getting moved to safety late in the spring and not playing in the spring game.

“I'm in the midst of meeting everybody on the team,” Muschamp said. “Right now, at this time, nobody that I think will be leaving our program at this time. But I still have a bunch of guys to talk to and we'll kind of go from there. Once we know something, I'll let you know.”

One player who was switched to another position late in the spring — Antonio Riles, from defensive tackle to offensive guard — is happy about the move, Muschamp said.

Muschamp said Riles will remain at offensive guard.

“I'm very pleased with that move,” Muschamp said. “A guy named Ben Grubbs at Auburn was our fourth of fifth defensive tackle. We moved him to guard, and he ended up being a really good guard and played for a long time.

“I'm not trying to say Antonio is Ben Grubbs, I'm just saying I think his skill set is (better) at guard. I think he's got a good anchor in his lower body. He's an extremely intelligent young man.

“In fact, I had an exit interview with him today. He's excited about where he is and what he's doing. He will be much more involved at the guard position than he would at defensive tackle. He can help our team and I think it's going to help his future playing that position.”

Muschamp said another positive move this spring was opening practices for the fans.

“Nobody asked me to do that. That was something I felt we needed to do,” he said. “You talk to people in the community, Gator fans that are friends of mine. They kind of said, 'Hey, I think it would help you out a little bit. People would understand a little bit more about you and about the program and where things are headed, give people a little more excitement about what you're doing.'

“There's no question, it was very well received, and I enjoyed it. I think it was good for our players to have the fans out there.”

Muschamp said the Gators came out of the Orange and Blue Debut without any major injuries.

Defensive tackle Caleb Brantley sprained his shoulder, but is expected to begin working out in a day or two, and center Cameron Dillard missed the spring game with a concussion. “But he's fine. He's working out,” Muschamp said.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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