Friday, April 20, 2018
Colleges

Will Muschamp sees better days ahead for Florida Gators

TAMPA — Florida football coach Will Muschamp wants Gator fans to know that he has read their emails and heard their concerns over quarterback play and offensive struggles during his 7-6 rookie season.

"I'm not asking anybody to be patient," Muschamp said Tuesday night before addressing the Gator Clubs of Tampa and Pinellas County at the Wyndham Tampa Westshore.

"Let's be realistic where we are. Obviously 15-11 over the last two years at Florida is unacceptable. I do think it's headed in the right direction. I believe that emphatically. I know it."

Muschamp's optimism comes from a more experienced team and a solid spring, but questions remain, especially at quarterback. Muschamp acknowledged that Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel had to see the field earlier than he might have hoped last fall. That led to growing pains.

"Now I'm really glad they played ..." Muschamp said. "They were not ready last year, and that's not a slight on them."

The Gators will evaluate the pair heading into the fall by focusing on their ability to manage the offense. Both have strong intangibles, Muschamp said, and UF remains open to the possibility of having them share snaps in the fall.

"If we need to play both of them, we'll play both of them," Muschamp said.

The backfield also remains unsettled after the Gators lost last year's two leading rushers, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.

Muschamp said UF will run more downhill behind senior Mike Gillislee and Wesley Chapel/Tampa Catholic product Hunter Joyer. Muschamp is also interested to see what Mack Brown and incoming freshman Matt Jones of Armwood High look like at the start of camp.

"I think all of those questions will be answered in the fall," Muschamp said. "We've got to sort them out pretty quick."

Muschamp also hit on several other topics with the media and fans:

• On future SEC schedules: Muschamp said UF is in favor of keeping an eight-game conference schedule instead of moving to nine league games. He said the Gators want to play their six division opponents and LSU every year. The other SEC West opponent would rotate.

• On a Week 2 SEC opener at Texas A&M: Muschamp — who coached against the Aggies as a coordinator at Texas — called College Station an SEC-like atmosphere with loud fans. "We will work on crowd noise a lot in camp and getting our guys prepared to make sure we're able to communicate under the circumstances."

• On the future of the BCS: Muschamp said he thinks conferences will eventually settle on a plus-one system. Regardless of the new system's logistics, Muschamp wants to keep bowl games alive. "Whatever we do, we don't need to get away from the bowl system," Muschamp said.

• On 2012 recruits: Muschamp said TE Kent Taylor (Land O'Lakes High) could contribute as a true freshman this fall. Muschamp also said that as far as he knows, all of UF's incoming recruits are on track to be eligible this season.

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]

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