Muschamp talks 2014 prospects on booster circuit
Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 5, 2014 at 9:56 p.m.
TAMPA — The football season has been over for more than four months. Nevertheless, the baggage of a losing record lingers, and Florida coach Will Muschamp feels the weight of expectations every time he makes a stop on the spring booster circuit.
Was 2013 an aberration or the start of a trend? It’s a matter of perception.
“You change it by winning,” Muschamp said Monday afternoon before speaking to the Tampa/Pinellas Gator Club. “That means you change it by preparing and having a great summer, having a great spring, making the appropriate changes within your program that you needed to make, and I think we’ve made those. We had a really good spring. Our players are excited about playing football. Last year, I think we lost some confidence and belief in what we were doing, offensively especially.
“I think we’ve made those strides. Now we need to have a great summer. It’s ninety days until we report (for fall practice) and those ninety days are going to be critical, but you change that perception by winning.”
Florida endured a 4-8 record last fall, its first losing season since 1979, a fact that crops up on the recruiting trail in the offseason. So far UF has just seven commitments in its 2015 class, according to Rivals.com, but Muschamp does not appear overly concerned.
“Number one it’s still the University of Florida,” he said. “It’s a great school. It’s a great place to play college football. Those relationships have been built over a great season, an 11-win season (in 2012). We’re probably in a holding pattern for a lot of kids right now. They’re waiting to see how our season goes, and that’s fine. We’re going to have a good year, and we’re in great shape in recruiting. I’m really ecstatic where we are.”
UF’s 2013 season turned sour when it lost its top two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. But Muschamp said he’s not going to coddle those under center this season, even the starting quarterback.
”There’s a fine line, and I know in my three years as a head coach that when our quarterback stays healthy we’ve got a chance,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to make sure that he’s game ready. We’re going to make sure he’s taken some shots here and there, especially with the gun-run stuff we’re going to do. He needs to protect the football. You can’t do that unless you have some contact. There will be some, but we’re not going to open it up and let it be live.”
Injuries ravaged Florida on both sides of the ball last season, which led to an offseason evaluation of Florida’s conditioning program and practice schedule.
“Of the ACLs that we had, two of them were re-tears,” Muschamp said. “That’s just football and the chance you (take). It’s no different when you have a labrum of the shoulder. When you have a tear, the chances are exponentially higher that it will happen again. It re-affirmed what we’re doing and what we’ve been doing. I’ve talked to multiple people about it and feel very good about where we are.”
Individual rehabs, Muschamp noted, have gone well.
“Matt (Jones/knee) and Alex (Anzalone/shoulder) met with the orthopedics today,” said, Muschamp, noting that Jones is expected to be cleared to run full speed in about a week. “They’ll be ready to go. Matt Jones is farther ahead of where we thought he would be at this time. (Offensive lineman) Trenton Brown had a scope on his wrist. He’s fine. Jeff (Driskel) had a couple screws removed after spring (practice). We’re as healthy as we’ve been in a long time.”
Injuries, Muschamp pointed out, led to an absence of leadership last year, but improved collective health should solve some of that issue this season, particularly with the return of Driskel, who missed most of the year with a broken leg.
“It’s his offense,” Muschamp said. “He understands that. He really did a great job of it last summer. … When you’re best players are good guys, then you’ve got a chance. That’s where we are right now.”
Muschamp’s most recent Gator club appearance came just a few days after his father, Larry, 79, passed away last Thursday. The return to a daily routine, he hopes, will help him heal.
“Just do your job,” Muschamp said. “It’s good to be back doing your thing. It’s a tough deal, but you have to move forward. It’s good to get back and get working.”