Monday December 17, 2012Quotes and Video from Head Coach Will Muschamp's Monday Press Conference
Head Coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the Gators’ Sugar Bowl matchup with Louisville and the preparation heading into the Jan. 2 matchup in New Orleans.
We’re excited about the Sugar Bowl. We’ve had a good preparation and I’m real proud of our staff and our players to get to this point. We practiced December 7th and 8th last weekend and got two good work days in. We had the banquet December 8th which is always a great night for our team and Kevin Carter, a former Gator, came and did an outstanding job as our keynote speaker. We started back up Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today was more like training camp practice, more like spring ball, just getting back to the fundamentals and the basics, not worried about our opponent as much. We will start on Louisville tomorrow and have a normal game week preparation. Tomorrow will be a Monday/Tuesday, the next day a Tuesday/Wednesday and Friday will be a Thursday. So that’s kind of where we are as far as our preparation and then we’ll start our prep in New Orleans on December 27th and get really a game week plus one as far as our prep there and get two runs in through our game plan as we move forward.
Our graduates this weekend, I’m really proud of these guys; Jon Bostic, Frankie Hammond, Omarius Hines, Omar Hunter, Lerentee McCray, Matt Patchan, Sam Robey and Caleb Sturgis got his masters. So I’m really proud of those guys and it says a lot about Keith Carodine and our academic staff and the job that they do with our players.
Willie Bailey has decided to transfer. He and I met last week and he felt like he wanted to move on and we’ll support him with that. The injury situation is Jelani Jenkins had successful surgery on his foot and we think he’s going to be fine and obviously will miss the game and Ian Silberman had successful surgery on his shoulder and will miss the bowl game. We feel like everything is moving in the right direction.
Playing Louisville, the Big EAST champs, and obviously very familiar with Charlie Strong who has done an outstanding job there, and who did a fabulous job at the University of Florida as defensive coordinator. Shawn Watson, the offensive coordinator, is a guy who I’ve known for a long time, was with Bill Callahan’s staff at Nebraska when we played them in the ’06 Cotton Bowl and he does a great job. Vance Bedford, the defensive coordinator was with Charlie here. Teddy Bridgewater makes their football team go. He’s a really good football player, very accurate with the ball, completes 70 percent of his passes and a lot of those passes are vertical throws; they’re not any intermediate or short throws. They put a lot on him at the line of scrimmage and he checks them in and out of the run game, protections, routes, and does a fabulous job. There are 34 players on their roster from the state of Florida. They’ve been in a bunch of close games and seven decided by seven points or less so they’ve kind of mirrored our season as far as making plays and making great decisions as a staff when the game was on the line. They’ve only turned the ball over 12 times and they lead the nation in red zone offense. So we’ve got our work cut out for us and really we’ll start prep on them tomorrow. Obviously our staff has been working on them since our bowl game has been announced and mixing in with some recruiting on the road and that sort of thing but I’ll open it up for any questions.
How important it was for players to get some time off after the end of the regular season
It’s an interesting balance of how much you practice and they needed to get away. I told them the first week, they shouldn’t come in the building. The next week we wanted to get them back lifting a little bit and we had exams this past week so I think it’s really important for them to get away and decompress from football. You look at bowl games and with this long of a layover; it’s a one game season. That’s really how you’ve got to approach it. You’ve got to put all your energy into and I don’t like focusing too early on a bowl game because I think the players get very stale in preparation, they get tired of watching the same game film over and over and over and over again. So you’ve got to be able to work in some good on good work, which we’ve done the last four days only. We will start on Louisville tomorrow but we will continue to sharpen our skills, working against each other as opposed to scout teams.
On the practices leading up to the bowl game
I told our football team the first day we met and talked about bowl practice the story of Loucheiz Purifoy last year. Here is a guy who was really only a special teams player who played very little, if any, on defense throughout the season. He came into bowl practice and had an outstanding bowl practice. I do not know if he started the game, but he played a bunch at cornerback in the game and played very well for us.
We have really challenged our younger players to step forward and understand this is another spring practice for them. At the end of the day, we will get five practices in New Orleans. We will end up getting 10 here. It is another 15 days of practice. They have a great opportunity to springboard themselves into the offseason program and really put a mark on our minds, the staff, as where they are as a player. That is really important.
Jeff Driskel getting more turns and reps, as a young player and young quarterback, there is no question that he is going to benefit.
On the team’s third-down defense
Number one, we have stopped the run better. We have created a lot more favorable down and distances on third down. Certainly, your percentage is going to increase when you are third down and seven plus as opposed to third down and four. I think we are winning earlier on the early downs. Our first downs efficiency has been really good. We have been right at 60 percent, which is a winning percentage to me. So you are playing for second down and seven plus, which is generally a hard play call from the offensive coach. We cover well. You have to be able to play some man. We have done a good enough job of mixing zone. We have generated a four man rush well, at times, not as well as we needed to do consistently. Dan Quinn does a fantastic job of designing pressures based on the protection and getting guys in one-on-one matchups.
On any potential transfers
We are good right now. After the bowl game, we can sit down and evaluate where a young man is. Right now, we are good to go.
On players that have submitted paperwork for the NFL
We will address that in the appropriate time and that is after the bowl game.
Looking at next year’s placekicking situation
I do not like to think about it, to be honest with you. Austin Hardin kicked well today. He pulled his hamstring about mid-season. He missed about three to four weeks, maybe. He kicked well today. We started practice with a field goal and PAT section, I thought he did a nice job. Brad Phillips will be involved in that and anybody else that we feel like can step and be a dependable guy. Hopefully, they can compare to Caleb Sturgis at some point.
On if any other players will miss the game
On his relationship with Louisville head coach Charlie Strong
In our profession, you grow a respect for what somebody does when you look at their body of work. You look at the job Charlie Strong has done not only at Florida, but South Carolina and the other stops he has made. His guys always play hard and they play fast. They play physical. They have a good style of play, in my opinion from watching this football team play; offensively, defensively, and special teams. Again, you grow a respect for someone in this profession and that is certainly a guy that I have tremendous amount of respect for.
On Matt Elam and being named an All-American
I am just really proud of his effort. Matt Elam had surgery on his groin last January and it really slowed his off-season development. He made a huge commitment in the summer. He came in in the summer as good shape as I have ever seen him be in. A guy that I have challenged to play safety, nickel, dime, and possibly be an emergency cornerback depending on an injury situation there. He answered to every call. Mentally, he is extremely intelligent. I told him, you are going to play 80+ snaps depending on the offense we face with this tempo stuff that people are doing now. You have to be able to sustain it. That is tough for a low body fat guy to do. He is probably only got four or five percent body fat. It is tougher on those guys to be able to maintain, especially in this heat early in the year.
He certainly has done that and then some. You look at the big plays and the LSU game is the one that obviously jumps out at you. It was a huge momentum swing in the game. They have now flipped the field on us on a third down. He makes as good as a play, stripping the ball off a guy in one of the most awkward positions I have seen. There have been countless plays he is setting the edge. Talking to a lot of offensive coaches that face us, they have to account for him. You do not hear that much from an offensive coach talking about a secondary player, that we have to account for him as far as where he is.
On having an older brother in the NFL
I certainly think it helps. I think it helps anytime you have a family member whether it is a brother or a father that has been involved in the game. The more you are exposed to the game, the more you see the game, the more verbiage you have with the game, it helps. You understand it, you think about it, you talk about it. It does not always carry over, but that is where coaches’ kids are a little more cerebral of the game. Not 100 percent, but a lot of times they are. Having Abe Elam, a brother who is playing in the NFL, Matt is able to see him go through the experiences he has and to be able to relate and talk about that. Not just from a coach’s standpoint but a player’s standpoint, I always feel like as we continue to evolve, our players will be the best coaches in our system. They are able to relate a little bit better than we are, as coaches, to play something and verbalize better than we do, as a staff.
On other coaching staffs contacting him about his staff
That happens all the time. We have a good staff and people want them to come and coach at their place. We are very content here and we feel like we will have our full staff as we move forward.
On if people are still contacting him about his staff
On what the process was for hiring Joker Phillips
I had a lot time with the situation. I sat and evaluated our team and what we needed. Where do we want to travel and what is the best for our staff and our future? Joker Phillips was a guy that I had a lot of respect for. As a person, first of all, and the more research I did, the more pleasing it was to hear about him as a person, not actually knowing him on a day-to-day basis or having worked with him on a day-to-day basis. The more you talk to people; you talk about the integrity, the type of person he is, and what he stands for. There has been no chink in that armor as far as I have been concerned since he has gotten here. He is a guy that also been coaching receivers for over twenty years, but he is also been a play-caller. I think it is always good and I always felt more comfortable as a defensive coordinator when I had guys in the room that sat in my chair. A lot of guys do not like that. They are insecure about having people in the room that have sat in that chair. I like that. I like having guys who have been there and understand how you have to think and see the big picture offensively. Brent Pease embraced it and our entire offensive staff. He has been a great addition.
On how and when Joker Phillips got on the short list of wide receivers coaches for Coach Muschamp
Obviously, it was unfortunate how he was let go at Kentucky. I called him and told him about what we had here. As I continued to talk and think about it, I thought he would have been a good fit if that was what he wanted to do. You never know how someone will respond to that kind of situation, whether they want to take a year off and get away for a little bit. I asked him point blank if he would be interested in coaching the Gators and he said ‘Absolutely.’ So it was pretty easy from there.
On what he thinks about Joker Phillips going from a head coaching position to an assistant position
Again, it says something about him as a person. He just wants to be a football coach and impact young people’s lives in a very positive way. That’s exactly what he told me and I’ve seen nothing but that since he’s been here. I’m really thrilled to have him as a part of our staff.
On how coaches’ make the transition between programs and if they keep up with players
A lot of times, initially when you first leave you don’t want to get in anyone’s way. Even when you leave Texas as a coordinator you don’t want to call the kids. That’s not necessarily professional in my opinion. In time, you can certainly throw a guy a text or something saying ‘Good luck this week’ or ‘Saw you played well the other night’ and that’s kind of the way I’ve done it. I can’t really speak for anyone else. I think, initially, when you leave a place, it’s hard because you want to call somebody. There may be some bitterness towards me or who’s come to replace me, I don’t know. I just kind of move on and time heals all wounds.
On the impact that Matt Jones could have in the spring
We’ve repped the seniors. I’m not going to sit there and say they haven’t done anything. There’s a bunch of them that are a little sore right now, but this is a great time for the younger players to step forward. Matt Jones has gotten a bunch of reps. I feel pretty comfortable with what Mike Gillislee has accomplished this year. I know he’s going to play well in the bowl game. But, Matt has gotten a lot of turns and reps.
On the status of Matt Patchan
We’re still trying to get him back in. We got him in individuals yesterday and worked him in a little bit with his pectoral, but he’s still trying to work that thing in.
On if he has talked with the juniors about leaving early to enter the NFL Draft
We will address that after the game.
On other Louisville players other than quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
They are very talented at the wide-out position. We’re kind of working through that right now. Obviously, the running back from northwest Georgia was hurt too early in the year, but they have very quality backs. But, they are certainly very talented in the wide-out position.
On the impact Joker Phillips can make for the Sugar Bowl
Bush Hamdan is coaching the Sugar Bowl. I told the receivers you have a month-long audition. You have 15 practices to go play real well and make a great first impression on your future position coach.
On the difference Joker Phillips can make on next year’s group
We just need to play better. I think Bush Hamdan did an outstanding job this year. You continue to evolve in the second year and you ought to take steps forward in the second year on offense, in terminology and the different things we’ve asked our guys to do. We’ll certainly be more familiar next year.
On Mike Gillislee being a Muschamp-type guy and what other player’s need to be more like Mike Gillislee
A bunch of guys. A lot of times in our society we suffer from the disease of ‘Me.’ ‘How does it affect me?’ Most people suffer from that and Mike doesn’t. He is a team guy, a consummate team guy. He’s one of my favorites of all-time. He’s a guy that is a great example. He was voted team MVP by his teammates in a landslide. You see the respect he has in the room.
On why he decided to have Bush Hamdan coach in the bowl game
I think he deserves it. He’s a guy that has been here and done an outstanding job. Him not getting hired has nothing to do with what he has or has not done. He’s done a really good job for us and a really good football coach.