Muschamp looks to team leaders for incident-free offseason
Published: Friday, May 23, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 8:34 p.m.
The Florida football team is in the early stages of the most important offseason of the Will Muschamp era.
Last summer did not go well for the Gators. Linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested twice, quarterback Jeff Driskel (appendectomy) and running back Matt Jones (viral infection) missed time in training camp, and UF had five players suspended for the season opener.
Muschamp, entering his fourth season, and his assistants can only hope their players stay healthy over the next few months, but they're exercising every resource to keep them out of trouble and doing the right things both on and off the field.
“We continue to stress it as much as we can,” Muschamp said. “But really, to me, it's reaching them through the leaders to make sure they understand.”
He identified those leaders as Driskel, offensive linemen Max Garcia and Chaz Green, defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard, Darious Cummings, Dante Fowler Jr. and Leon Orr, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
Muschamp is counting on them in a major way.
“This needs to be a player-run operation right now,” he said. “That's where you develop your leadership, and I think we have outstanding leadership on this football team. I feel very comfortable with where we are.”
Muschamp said the goal of player-run practices in the offseason is expanding the team's knowledge of systems on offense and defense. With coordinator Kurt Roper's scheme having just been installed in the spring, it's important for the players on the offensive side of the ball to gain a better grasp of the playbook and assignments.
“Timing of the passing game, more than anything,” Muschamp said. “To see us being crisp throwing the football and seeing all the effort that's being made through the summer paying off in August. I think that's huge. ... You can make a huge advance right now if you take advantage of the time you have.”
On defense, Muschamp feels confident with the starting front four and linebacker corps. He said the young defensive linemen need to develop more stamina and mental toughness in the offseason strength and conditioning program, and he wants the underclassmen in the secondary to grow and mature so they're prepared for playing time in the fall.
“Those guys,” Muschamp said, “they have to come in ready to go.”