GAINESVILLE — Will Muschamp made his first public appearance as the Florida head football coach Tuesday, saying Florida fans can expect a blue-collar, hard-nosed, overachieving team — closely resembling its new head coach.
By the end of his 40-minute speech, Muschamp made it clear he'll welcome former coach Urban Meyer's input, but he left some critical questions unanswered.
Most importantly, who will join Muschamp on Florida's staff?
The 39-year-old former Gainesville resident said he'll do whatever's necessary to help the Gators get back to winning championships.
But he'll do it on his own timeline.
Muschamp said he will not hire a staff until after the Gators have played their final game on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl but will spend the next several weeks evaluating the current staff.
"I've got zero timetable in hiring a staff," he said. "It's not about doing the easiest thing. It's not about doing the quickest thing. It's about making the best decision and that's what we need to do for the University of Florida right now.
"We'll evaluate those guys (current coaches) in the coming weeks before the bowl game but nothing's going to be done in my opinion before the bowl game as far as coaches that will be hired, retained, whatever. We're going to make the best decisions for Florida, and right now I've got absolutely no timetable for that."
The only current staff member who has been retained is strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, who is in his sixth season at UF.
"That's definitely good for us, just to keep the continuity in the conditioning program," receiver Frankie Hammond said. "He knows how to train us and he knows what everybody's strength and weaknesses are, and having him will help to keep us intact."
Muschamp, who was hired Saturday night, spent Monday on the road recruiting and said he received a "great reception" from those he met with.
"We're going to take care of our own back yard," Muschamp said about heavily recruiting Florida. "We're going to take the right players. We've got critical factors for every position in our offense and defense and exactly what we want for every position, so you eliminate mistakes. Along with that is character and evaluation off the field. … But we're going to take the right guys, and we're going to worry about the guys we sign, not the ones that go someplace else."
During the next several weeks of practice prior to the Outback Bowl, Muschamp will evaluate players and coaches. He said he'll lean heavily on the guidance of outgoing coach Urban Meyer, who plans to remain with the athletic program in a yet undetermined capacity.
"I can tell you this right now, as long as Will Muschamp is the football coach here, Urban Meyer is going to be involved in this program," Muschamp said. "And I've invited him into the weight room, I've invited him onto the practice field, I've invited him to the meetings and whatever he wants to do because he'll be a great sounding board for me, number one, and he needs to be involved in this program. He knows the players, recruited them all, and he's still helping us in the recruiting class that we've got going this year. And he's a great sounding board for me and a part of this great tradition of Florida football."
That decision was met with enthusiasm from the Gator players.
"Coach Meyer wasn't just a coach, but he's also a father figure," junior running back Jeff Demps said. "I think it's very important to have him around. If we have problems, we can still go to Coach Meyer. I think a lot of the guys will appreciate that."
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said he understands the public perception that hiring Muschamp, who has no head coaching experience, is a gamble. He respectfully disagrees.
"One of the premier programs in America (Texas) had already entrusted the job to him a couple of years from now, a year from now, whatever it is," Foley said. "If he had stayed at Texas and became the head coach two or three years from now, no one is writing, well, Texas just hired a coach that's never been a head coach before. Everybody was expecting him to be the next head coach at Texas. So I don't think it's a gamble. I just think that that guy will fit here."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]