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Tuesday July 16, 2013SEC Media Days: An Interview with Coach Will Muschamp

Gainesville, Fla.

KEVIN TRAINOR:  We're first joined by the head coach of the Florida Gators, Coach Will Muschamp.  We'll ask coach to make an opening statement, then we'll take your questions.

 

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.  It's great to be here. Going into year three.  Appreciate what you all guys do for the Southeastern Conference and the University of Florida in promoting our league and the university.

               

Certainly as a player, assistant coach, and now as a head coach, have enjoyed working with all of you through the years, well actually most of you through the years, not all of you.  But it's great to be back.

               

We made some strides in our second season.  I think as you look back from year one to year two, obviously the record was better, which is good.  But more than anything to me, the roster in our locker room is much better.

               

From a discipline standpoint, from a character standpoint, from a buy‑in standpoint.  When you have eight come‑from‑behind wins in a season, that says a lot about where you are as a program and where your kids are as far as the buy‑in is concerned, which obviously excites me.

               

Two things we emphasized last year was turnover margin in 2011, we went from ‑12, to 2012 we went to +15, which is a difference in a season, difference playing in a BCS bowl game.

               

As far as scoring in the fourth quarter in SEC football games, my first season we were outscored by 50 points, 72 to 22; this past year we outscored our opponents by 41 points, 61 to 20.  You're talking about a 91‑point swing in a season.

               

You have to credit we inherited a young, talented team.  Number two, the job Jeff Dillman and our strength staff did in the weight room.  Our guys believing in winning the game in the fourth quarter, understanding the importance of playing with a certain physical style we're going to play with at the University of Florida.

               

Really pleased with our staff at this time.  Since the first time at 2010, we'll have the same offensive coordinator which our kids are relieved to have.  When I first took over at Florida, I wanted to change philosophically offensively what we were.  We want to be a run‑back dominated team that is a balanced offense and efficient in throwing the football.

               

We certainly need to be more consistent and efficient in throwing the ball.  I thought we ran the ball extremely well last year.

               

Brent and I sat down last spring and said whoever wins the quarterback job, however we look at it, we're going to have a young quarterback, new system, same philosophy of what we want to do, as we continue to evolve our offense.  We're still a little deficient as far as depth and talent in certain areas.

               

What do we need to do?  I know we can play good defense.  We can play special teams.  Let's make sure we protect the ball and play good team football.  That's what we did.  That was a good formula for 10 wins last year.

               

It's tough sometimes for coaches to do that.  Brent has been a guy that put up a lot of numbers at Boise State and different places.  Really pleased with the addition of Joker Phillips, our wide receivers coach, a guy that played the position, coached the position for over years.  He's been an offensive coordinator and a head coach, which I welcome in the room.

               

That's something that I think gives you great ideas and benefit from a guy that has sat in the chair before.  Certainly when I was defensive coordinator of having guys in the room that have called it before and they see the big picture.  Really pleased offensively staff‑wise.

               

Defensively Dan Quinn took the defensive coordinator job at Seattle Seahawks, which says a little bit about the coaches we hire at Florida.  The NFL is coming to hire coordinator from us.  Dan did a fantastic job for us.  He's an outstanding coach and a great friend.

               

We promoted D.J. Durkin, did an outstanding job at Florida.  He's an outstanding football coach.  More than anything, he understands how we want to play defense at Florida.  He does a great job of relating to our players.  As we move into fall camp, I'm excited about what he brings to the table.

               

I always felt as an assistant coach your tape was your résumé.  You can get up on of the board and draw fancy X's and O's, but at the end of the day, what you put on the field is who you are as a coach.

               

I really watched South Carolina's and the job that Brad Lawing did there, a guy that has 33 years of experience, you talk about developing players.  A guy did an outstanding job.  After 15 days of spring practice, I totally understand what he did there.  He's an outstanding football coach and really a great addition to our staff.

               

Lastly, Jeff Choate was hired to be our special teams coordinator.  Recruited in the state of Texas.  A guy that's an outstanding evaluator, recruiter.  Philosophically he's the same as we are as far as special teams are concerned.  Really excited about what he brings to the table.

               

So staff‑wise, very pleased with where we are.  Obviously extremely pleased with the job Jeff Dillman and our strength staff has done.  From year one to year two, that's where we made a tremendous step.

               

We need to be more efficient in throwing the football.  I'm not telling you anything you don't know.  We have to create more explosive plays for ourselves down the field.  I believe we will be able to do that.  I think we did that throughout spring.  It's been a point of emphasis for our staff.

               

Limit negative plays, whether it's a tackle for a loss, self‑inflicted wound for penalties.  That's something we can't afford to do in our league as good as defenses are.

               

Also scoring touchdowns in the red zone, we felt like we left a lot of points on the field in games, cost ourselves as far as moving forward in the game.

               

Again, year two in the system, Jeff Driskel, it's his football team, a guy I thought attacked the off‑season the way you're supposed to, as far as his mental preparation, watching film.  Certainly understands what we're doing offensively much better than a year ago, which is expected.  A guy I'm really excited to see play.

               

You see the leadership taking over on our team and more than anything, other than maybe the tight‑end position, I think we got a chance to be better than we were at all positions than we were last year offensively.  Really excited about him.

               

A lot said about his signing a non‑compete contract with the Boston Red Sox.  Jeff came in my office after Boston drafted him and said, Coach, this is the deal.  They want to sign me.  If I ever want to play baseball, I have to play for the Red Sox.  Haven't picked up a bat in two years and I have no intention of playing baseball, but they're willing to cut me a check.  By NCAA rules, it's legal.

               

I said, "Jeff, if you were my son, I'd tell you to sign the contract."

 

His commitment level to the University of Florida is outstanding.  But he had a great opportunity there with a great organization.  If he ever does want to pick up a bat or a glove, certainly being a part of the Red Sox organization would be outstanding.

               

We're better up front, more talented and deeper.  We have seven guys on our campus right now.  Jon Halapio is with us today, as well as Jeff Driskel.  Jon is going into his third year as a starter and an outstanding leader.  All of the tangible things you want in a football player, Jon has it, and a guy that I'm really excited for his senior season.

               

Jon Harrison, again, another guy that's a three‑year starter at the center position, a guy that has played outstanding football for us.

               

Chaz Green has started for now for two years.  D.J. Humphries is up between 285, 290, started some games for us as a true freshman.

               

Kyle Koehne has started games for us.  Ian Silberman has played a lot and Trip Thurman has played a lot.

               

So we got seven guys on campus on the offensive line that have played a lot of football at Florida.

               

You add with that Max Garcia and Tyler Moore, both guys that started at their respective universities before they came to Florida.  We have nine guys with Division I experience.  That's a far cry from where we were two years ago.

               

We were a little banged up in the spring, but coming out of the spring, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity.  We had some guys take some very valuable reps at the offensive line position.

               

I feel really good at the runningback position.  Matt Jones I think is primed for a big season, a guy that's worked extremely hard in the off‑season, spring ball.  I have tremendous confidence in Mack Brown, some of the younger backs we have on campus.

               

I think we need to improve the tight end position.  You lose Jordan Reed in the third round to the Washington Redskins, by design was our leading receiver last year, a guy that was a tough mismatch issue for defenses, and had a phenomenal season for us.

               

But we need to improve at the position.  I'm not telling you anything I haven't told them.

               

I think we've made some positive steps forward at the receiver position.  Quinton Dunbar is one of our most improved players at the receiver position, really on our entire football team.  Excited about him taking the next step as a receiver.

               

Andre Debose and Solomon Patton, heading into their senior years.  Troy Pittman and Raphael Andrades are two guys that continue to develop as young players.  And we signed five young receivers.

               

Loucheiz Purifoy will have a role on offense.  That will be really predicated on two situations, how well the five young guys and the guys we have on campus develop at the receiver position and how well we develop with some of the other defensive backs, how big a role he will have on offense.  He will have a role on offense.  He probably won't take any snaps on the first 12 to 14 practices because we need to find out what those other guys can do and how we've progressed from spring.

               

Trey Burton will play everything, wideout, runningback, quarterback, he'll have a huge part of our offense.

               

Defensively I said it upstairs, I'm young but old‑fashioned, in any sport you better be strong up the middle.  When you lose Hunter and Floyd, Jenkins and Bostic, and Elam and Evans, it ought to create some sleepless nights for you.

               

I think we've recruited well and I think we've developed players extremely well at the University of Florida.

               

Dominique Easley is with me today.  A guy that can play inside or out.  A guy that had a productive year.  Especially at the latter part of the season, once he got over some of the issues he had with his ACL from the year before, a guy that has been very productive in his time at the University of Florida.

               

He, Leon Orr, Damien Jacobs, Darious Cummings, some young guys inside defensively.  At linebacker Antonio Morrison and Mike Taylor, Darrin Kitchens are guys I certainly feel comfortable with at the linebacker position inside.  We feel like we recruited pretty well at that position as well.

               

We did not end the spring at safety where I would like to as far as the production we're going to need to have in our league to be successful.  Valdez Showers, Jabari Gorman, Marcus Maye are three young men we had on campus that I think have the ability we can win with.

               

Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs are two wild cards for us.  They can play safety, corner.  Jaylen will start camp at both positions and Cody will be a full‑time safety as we start camp right there.  Obviously we have some young guys coming there.

               

Feel very comfortable at the corner position.  Loucheiz Purifoy I talked about already, is a coverage corner.  Marcus Roberson, Jeremy Brown, Brian Poole are all guys we think are capable of playing.  Also can play in the nickel positions, and dime.  We'll probably play more combinations of six DBs, losing Jelani, who was a guy that could cover in space as a linebacker, we'll probably play more six DBs.

               

Our defensive end and our outside linebacker positions, feel comfortable with Jon Bullard, Dante Fowler, both of them started as true freshmen, two quality guys that have a huge upside as players.

               

Neiron Ball and Bryan Cox, probably the guy I'm most excited to see, is Ronald Powell.  Here is a guy who has been through a lot of adversity, he's been cleared to go after it in fall camp, a guy I'm really excited to get back on the field to see No. 7 running around in orange and blue.  A guy that's been through an awful lot.  Two surgeries.  Never complained.  Never got down about anything.  Is truly a great individual and excited that he's a leader of our football team as well.

               

Injury‑wise going into camp, we ought to be pretty healthy.  Trip Thurman and Alex Anzalone are the only guys limited going into camp.  Both of those guys have shoulder surgery in the spring.  They may be limited as far as contact till the 10th or 12th practice.  I can update you as we go there.

               

Special teams, you lose Caleb Sturgis, I've had some sleepless nights on that one.  Brad Phillips and Austin Hardin, in my opinion are talented enough.  It's a matter of them going out in game time situations and getting it done.

               

Kyle Christy, I thought, is the best punter in the country, a guy who was huge for us as far as flipping the field, controlling the vertical field position in every game.  We got good team speeds.  We have some returners that are certainly capable.

               

Schedule is always hard.  We lead off with Toledo, who won nine games last year.  Matt Campbell and his staff do a great job.  Everybody back on offense.

               

We go to Miami in week two.  Al feels like this is his best football team.  They have 20 starters back.

               

Then we start our SEC schedule, which is difficult.  We end with Georgia Southern, which will be our hardest preparation defensively because of what they do offensively since I've been at Florida, then a Florida State team at home.

               

Excited about year three, making positive strides in our program.  I'm pleased with where we are at this point.

               

I'll open it up for any questions.

 

KEVIN TRAINOR:  We'll open it up for questions for Coach Muschamp.

 

Q.  Besides the final score, what was the most disappointing thing about the Sugar Bowl?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Well, I think more than anything, in preparation, I wasn't as pleased as our practice in games was, as I was when we were in New Orleans.  I felt like we had good preparation as far as that was concerned.  I blame myself.  We got away from our formula.

               

Our formula is playing good defense.  We struggled on third down mightily.  We got away from what we should have been on offense.

               

I told Brent we needed to pick up the tempo in the game, struggling on defense, needed to make a change in the game.  Probably pressed early in the game and I shouldn't have done that.

               

I look back on it now, we needed to stick to our formula.  That was the one regret I had coming out of the game.  Felt like we lost our composure a little bit in the second half.  That was disappointing as well.  We hadn't done that all season.  We'd been behind eight times and came from behind.  That was disappointing.

 

Q.  You've indicated you want to be a runningback, physical football team.  What is your feeling on that philosophy versus the no‑huddle that you're seeing more of in the SEC?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Well, I think it's personal preference.  I think at the University of Florida we're going to be able to recruit student‑athletes that can line up and play our style.  I do think at some schools they're going to have a harder time finding that type of back and that type of offensive line.

               

We're going to be able to do that at Florida.  Mike Gillislee was our first thousand‑yard rusher since 2003.  That's not going to be the exception any more at Florida, that's going to be the norm.  I'm excited moving forward with our style.  Everybody has their own preference of what they feel like they need to do to move the football.

               

In my opinion, we will do some more tempo on offense this year and it will be in our style.  To change tempos in the game, I think is good.  When you're a tempo no‑huddle team, you're going to play 20 more snaps a game.  The more opportunity you give an offense, the more chances they have to score.  Sometimes you have to be careful in those situations.  That's just my preference.

               

Q.  Dominique Easley coming back this year, was never quite right last year with the ACL, he said he wanted to come back because of his mom.  Can you talk about that.  Maybe keeping him inside.  I'm curious your thoughts on opening your first two games with basically new games in the Florida heat?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Dominique and I had some talks, Dan Quinn was still a part of our staff who has extensive experience in the National Football League.  We felt like the input we got from the people in the National Football League, it would be in his best interest to come back.  Dominique's mother wants him to come back and finish school, which he will.

               

Again, I think he made a very mature, smart decision in coming back to school.  He looked at the positives and the negatives of his situation and what would benefit him and his family.  It was coming back to school.

               

Again, very mature decision.

               
Then as far as starting out the season, that's something we need to prepare our guys in camp for that, playing in that sort of heat.  We need to continue to recruit well and have a lot of depth on our football team.  That is something you need to be able to handle.

               

Other thing you got to be is fresh when you go into your first game.  I have to make sure they have their legs.  We need to have a hard, tough training camp, which we will have.  But we need to be fresh when we hit that first game.

 

Q.  How do you respond to the people that say Florida may have a worse record this year but field a better team?

 

COACH MUSCHAMP:  I control the things I can control.  Whatever the prognosticators want to predict, that's fine.  I worry about our football team, our preparation for camp, offense, defense, special teams, our psyche as we head into fall camp and out of it.  I don't worry about what anybody else says or thinks.

 

               

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about you've been in the Big 12, the SEC, Coach Stoops had the controversial comments a few weeks ago about the SEC, a lot of it is propaganda.  Can you respond to that?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  I never went to a Big 12 Media Day.  If I was Bob, I would say the same thing.

Again, the Big 12, when I was in there for three years, offensively were very good.  You talk about some of the quarterbacks, Sam Bradford, RG3, Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy, some guys that could really spin it.  Offensively fast‑paced tempo offenses, on the ball, constant pressure on the defense.

               

I think you're seeing a little bit more of that in our league.  Kentucky is going to that.  I know Butch is going to some tempo things at Tennessee; obviously Kevin at Texas A&M.  To me it's all about the preference of the style you want to play.

               

The thing about our league that I think is a little different, you have to prepare for the two back.  You can't do that in a week.  That's a physical style of play that you got to understand how to fit the power, the counter, the direct runs, the north and south runs, which are an issue if you haven't done it and your guys aren't used to it.

               

I think you saw us wear some people down last year because of the physical style of play.

 

Q.  You said that you were going to go to more six DB sets.  Is that a personnel‑based decision?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using that set against more up‑tempo spread offenses?

 

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Well, with the up‑tempo situations, you got to be careful to be out substitutions.  If they don't substitute, you can't.

               

What I meant is more third‑down defense.  Jelani Jenkins was a guy that could play multiple things for us.  He could play in space, cover in the slot.  He provided a lot of things for us that not many linebackers can do.  He was a very unusual athlete.  He's a guy that we certainly will miss.

               

But we feel to get the best speed on the field, the best coverage ability on the field, then you can be more multiple defensively when you have another cover guy in the game like Jelani last year.

 

Q.  Talk about Driskel's development as a quarterback.  How much better do you feel going into this season with the experience he's got?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  There's no question year two, I feel much more comfortable.  I know who our quarterback is today as opposed to last season.

               

But he's a guy, Jeff is a hard worker.  He earns the respect of his teammates because of how he handles himself.  He's a great leader.  He's a great athlete.  He's a guy that has tremendous arm talent.

               

When the game slows down a little bit, you get a little more mental quickness, of where to take the ball down the field, first progression read to the second.  Understand where the pressure may come from.

               

There's a lot of things in the off‑season where you can sit and watch tape of someone else instead of watching yourself and learning in those situations.  Jeff is extremely bright.  He'll learn from those situations.  That's part of the growing process of a young quarterback.

 

Q.  On the schedule, you have the Hurricanes back on the schedule in week two.  How important is that for the Gators to have them back on the schedule and for the state?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Our first concern is Toledo, a good football team.  That's what we need to prepare for.  Again, I think Al Golden has done an outstanding job at Miami, a team that should have played for the ACC championship last year.  They're going through a tough time as far as those things are concerned.  But during that time, he has done an outstanding job recruiting and signing good talent.  He's a really good football coach.

               

I do think it's important for the in‑state schools to play each other if possible, if it's good for everybody involved.  I know that will be good for our state.

               

There's so many good football coaches in our state, high school, and there's so many good high school football players in our state.  I always tell guys, If you don't come to Florida, go to an in‑state school.  That's where I'd rather see them play anyway.

 

               

Q.  What do you think of Jadeveon Clowney?  Where would you rank him?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Number one (smiling).

 

               

Q.  Would you like to see a defensive guy win the Heisman?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  I'd like to see him come out early before our game.  He's an outstanding player.  He's a guy you better account for every snap.  He's an explosive guy.  Got great football instincts, initial quickness.  He's got power.  He's a guy that can play finesse on the edge and power.  He's a really, really good football player.

 

               

Q.  How much is a head coach responsible for the off‑the‑field behavior of its players?  Can a head coach know everything that's going on, and control that?

               

COACH MUSCHAMP:  Well, you're 100% responsible.  When you sign a student‑athlete to come to the University of Florida, I look at his parents, guardians, whoever is important to him in his life, tell them it's my job to be an extension of what's already happened at home.  But you're a hundred percent responsible for the young man.  Everything that happens.

               

I can't possibly know everything that happens every single night with our football team.  You also can't stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is okay either.  You need to be very aware of the kind of guys your guys are hanging out with.  I encourage our assistants, our life skills coordinator, Terry Jackson, to be with our guys, help them grow and mature.

               

But you're 100% responsible for every student‑athlete on your football team.

 

               

Q.  You talked about all the come‑from‑behind wins.  What do you have to do as a program where you're not in that situation?

 

COACH MUSCHAMP: My wife wants us to give better talks before the game instead of halftime.  I don't think that's it (smiling).

               

Again, I think being a little bit more explosive offensively, being more of a threat offensively, which I think we will be.  I'm excited about our offense.  Then continuing to play well on defense.

               

In our league, there's going to be tight games.  Look at it week in, week out, doesn't matter who you play, it's a tight game.  Very similar to the NFL, it's going to come down to the last two to three minutes of the game.  You better coach and play well in those situations.

               

I'd love to have some 40‑point wins.  At the end of the day I worry about one stat, and that's winning, and it doesn't matter how you do it.

               

 

 

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