TAMPA — As Will Muschamp approached the stage in the West Club at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, he looked out on a large crowd of Florida fans standing, applauding — and waving fans with Muschamp's face plastered all over the front.
Call it one of one of the more unique welcomes on Muschamp's 10-city booster tour.
The first-year Florida football coach is wrapping up his annual Gator Gatherings. Since he officially took over in January, he has dismissed star cornerback Janoris Jenkins for disciplinary reasons and three players decided to play elsewhere.
Here are some of his thoughts on his first four months:
When you dismissed Janoris Jenkins (after his second marijuana-related arrest in four months), the perception right or wrong became that you're a coach that's going to put the hammer down on players who get into trouble. You've said that every individual situation is different. But, overall, are people reading correctly that you're going to be no-nonsense?
I don't worry about perception, I deal in reality. I'm going to demand that they do things the right way, and if they don't do things the right way, they won't be at the University of Florida. I told our kids from the get-go this thing's going to be based on three things: respect, trust and communication. And as long as we're on the same level there, we're going to be fine.
When there's a coaching transition, you're going to lose players. You've lost three, does that seem reasonable? A little high?
I don't know. I want guys that want to be at the University of Florida and want to represent our institution in a first-class manner, on and off the field. And if guys don't want to be Gators, I don't want them. That's a privilege to play at Florida, it's not a right. I want guys that want to be a part of what we're trying to do, want to be on board with what we're trying to do. Because you know what? It's a little bit tough in the summer program workout, but it gets real tough in September. It gets real tough in October and November. So I'd like to find out now if a guy is not ready to be a Gator.
You said following the spring game that you needed leaders to emerge during the offseason to help lead the team in the fall. What have you heard about how the offseason program is going?
I saw a couple of our older players and they feel like things are going very well. We just started our Summer A on Monday, so we've got a three-week term, then we'll have an eight-week term starting in June. But again, it's early, but I feel like we're moving in the right direction.
How would you characterize the Gator Gatherings in your first year?
It's been great. Everybody has been very positive. That's why it's special to coach at a place like Florida. To have such a great following, passionate, great expectations. And I embrace that.
What is Matt Patchan's status (offensive lineman from Armwood who missed all of last season with injuries)?
Matt's been cleared to lift. He's got full range of motion. He's building his strength back. I'm really excited to get him back on the football field.