Florida’s 2013 season was an absolute disaster. Will Muschamp knows this.
After starting the season 4-1, the Gators dropped their last seven games, including an embarrassing home loss to FCS Georgia Southern, to finish at 4-8. It marked the first time the Gators failed to reach bowl eligibility since 1990.
Muschamp is expecting a big turnaround in 2014.
Hot seat talk
Muschamp didn’t beat around the bush. Toward the beginning of his unnecessarily lengthy opening statement, the fourth-year head coach commented on his job security before reporters had a chance to ask him. Calling this Florida team the “most complete” team he’s had in his time in Gainesville, Muschamp said the best way to combat the “hot seat business,” as he called it, is by winning football games.
“I think you combat the hot seat talk with having a good team and winning games.,” Muschamp said. “Control the controllable is always what I’ve said. Control the things you can control. I haven’t always practiced it, but try and just control the things I can control. That’s coaching our football team, developing our football team.”
Muschamp said the thought of being fired did not cross his mind, even during that dreadful seven-game losing streak that cemented the team’s first losing season since 1979.
“There was never any time in my mind that I didn't think I would be retained,” Muschamp said. “It's the great thing about having an athletic director like Jeremy Foley that has a strong pulse on not only our program, but every program in the athletic department. At the end of the day he understood circumstances we dealt with looking forward to getting them amended this year.”
New offensive system, return of Driskel
Florida’s offense was terrible since Muschamp in 2013. After finishing 113th in total offense and 112th in scoring offense in 2013, Muschamp thought it was time to change things up and hire his third offensive coordinator in four seasons.
Enter Kurt Roper. Roper was hired by Muschamp after running the offense at Duke since 2008. A finalist for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant, Roper brings in an entirely new system than what was installed by Brent Pease previously.
Under Roper, the Blue Devils averaged 32.8 points per game en route to winning the ACC Coastal Division in 2013. Muschamp hopes Roper’s shotgun system, coupled with a healthy Jeff Driskel at quarterback, will help the Gators moving forward.
“We needed to make some changes on offense,” Muschamp said. “I felt like our kids had lost confidence in some things we were doing offensively. I went back and looked at our numbers from 2012 when we were in the shotgun as opposed to being under center. When Jeff (Driskel) was in the shotgun our yards were better, our explosive plays were better in both the run and pass game. He was recruited to Florida to be a gun quarterback. In making that change, I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that's a balanced offense.”
Driskel went down in the team’s third game last year with a broken leg. Now that his leg has healed, he returns under center as a redshirt junior -- one of the more veteran signal callers in the league. For the Gators, it all starts with Driskel, as there is not much depth behind him.
“I think having a quarterback back that's played well and is an experienced guy and understands some of the venues we're going to walk into is a little more relieving for me personally and certainly for our offensive coordinator,” Muschamp said. “As far as the new quarterbacks in the league, people are going to do what they do schematically. They may dress some things down to make sure they can execute more – no different than what we did in 2012 with Jeff.”
The injury bug bit the Gators in 2013 and it bit the Gators hard. A whopping ten starters and 16 players in all suffered season-ending injuries last season. Muschamp said he’s never seen an injury situation quite like that and he recalled one “rock-bottom moment” in his team’s injury-plagued campaign.
“We're getting ready to play late in the season, I don't remember the week, on a Tuesday night,” Muschamp said. “It was about 9:30, 10:00 at night and I'm in the defensive staff room preparing third down for the next day. Our trainer Paul knocks on the door and I come to the door. He's usually not there at 10:00 at night. (He tells me) Tyler Moore just wrecked on his scooter and broke his elbow. I can't tell you exactly what I said, but it wasn't good.”
Muschamp said that going into fall practice, only a few reserves would be limited in practice. The Gators will open against Idaho on August 30.
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