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Will Muschamp has firmly placed his stamp on the Gators as he enters Year 3.

Friday August 30, 2013Gators Now Mirror Muschamp's Blue-Collar Approach

Will Muschamp has firmly placed his stamp on the Gators as he enters Year 3.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – He’s real.

That’s the first thing you come to realize about Gators coach Will Muschamp if you spend much time around him.

Muschamp is an authentic Southern boy who grew up playing football and now happens to be head coach at one of the country’s most high-profile programs.

Those who have known Muschamp the longest say he isn’t any different than the guy they knew back then. He makes a lot more money. He owns a bigger house. He drives a nicer car. He’s on TV and in the newspapers much more regularly.

He also has a lot more responsibility.

But as for the man, Muschamp remains the blue-collar son raised by parents who worked in education during his formative years. The values he learned then are the way he leads today. He’s no-nonsense. He treats his players with tough-love, unafraid to get in a player’s face on the sideline one minute, and respected enough to hug and high-five the same player the next.

He’s old-school in the way he coaches, more 1983 SEC than 2013. Muschamp has transformed the Gators into a defensive-minded, smash-mouth football team in his first two seasons.

As the Gators open Muschamp’s third season at the helm Saturday against Toledo, this is unmistakably his program.

There are still remnants from the Urban Meyer era, beginning with starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, who committed to the Gators when Meyer was still in charge. But these Gators are Muschamp’s team and play his brand of football.

“Certainly the message and what we want to be is more identifiable as we move forward,” Muschamp said of Year 3. “Our guys have bought in, have worked hard. Our staff’s all on the same page with what we want to be, what we want to accomplish and where we’re headed. I feel very comfortable with where we are at this point.”

Florida followed up a difficult 7-6 season in Muschamp’s first year to finish 11-2 last season. The five-game improvement in the regular season was the biggest one-year turnaround for the Gators in 32 years.

They did it with the country’s fourth-ranked defense and the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher in eight years, Mike Gillislee. Driskel was an efficient game manager in his first season as the starter, but as the Gators move deeper into the Muschamp era, the offense must grow for the Gators to reach their goal, an SEC East title.

Second-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease is confident the Gators are on the right path to success. After six seasons as an assistant at Boise State, Pease came to Florida a year ago to mold the offense into a unit as productive as the defense.

Pease kept it simple most of the time. He wants to add more spice to the play-calling this season but the foundation was laid in 2012.

“I think we know our identity,’’ Pease said. “We’re going to be heavier oriented on the run. You’ve got to do a good job for the kids and try to keep it as balanced as you can, 55-45, 60-40. If we’re not that, the flow is changing with what we’re doing. Sometimes you’ve got to adjust to the flow.”

Meanwhile, former linebackers/special-teams coach D.J. Durkin takes over as defensive coordinator following Dan Quinn’s departure.

Durkin and Muschamp work closely together and don’t expect to see any major overhauls with a defense that has ranked in the top 10 nationally in both of Muschamp’s seasons.

“We have guys that have played, that have good experience, that are playing for us -- whether they were starters or not -- they’ve played a lot of football,” Durkin said. “We’ve got a pretty good handle on what we want to do, who we are as a defense, who can do what, and let’s put them in the spots so they can do it.”

Since the end of last season Muschamp hired three new coaches – defensive line coach Brad Lawing, special-teams/outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate, and receivers coach Joker Phillips.

The Gators also hauled in another strong recruiting class that features several players expected to play as true freshmen, including receivers Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood.

While short-handed to open the season – running back Matt Jones, linebacker Antonio Morrison and starting offensive linemen Chaz Green and Jon Halapio won’t be available against Toledo – Muschamp doesn’t sound like a man who will lose much sleep on Friday night.

“We’re going to be fine,’’ he said. “I think we're in good shape. Would we like to be trotting Jon Halapio and Matt Jones out there in the opener? Absolutely. But it is what it is. You take the guys on the field, you coach them hard and you get them ready to play, and that's what we're doing."

That’s the Muschamp way. Keep it real and deal with the cards you’re dealt.


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