“I talked to our guys about that before we went out to do our first scrimmage in The Swamp, I got goose bumps talking to them,” Muschamp said. “I do every time I walk out there. I also get like that when I walk out on the practice field.”
The spring has had a surreal feel to it for the first-year Florida head coach. He works two miles from the house he grew up in, coaching the team he grew up rooting for. The real moment that it set in came when the team had their first Saturday scrimmage, but Muschamp wouldn’t deny the extra excitement around the spring game.
“There was a lot of adrenaline flowing out of the tunnel, but more than anything, it was about getting in front of the fans,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got a great fan base that does a phenomenal job. Playing in this stadium ought to be a tremendous advantage for us in the fall.”
The weekend offered more enthusiasm for the head coach in that he got to enjoy it with his family. Muschamp’s wife and kids flew in from Austin, where they still live until they are able to make the move.
“I’ve missed them, and I don’t know if they’ve missed me, but I’ve certainly missed them,” Muschamp said.
SPRING OVERVIEW: Saturday also ended spring practice, making it the final time the coaches will be able to work hands on with the players until fall camp opens. Muschamp was positive with the outcome.
“The first part was the installation of scheme,” Muschamp said. “Then you have to identify playmakers, and that dictates what you do. That’s our philosophy as a coaching staff to evaluate our players and put them in situations where they can be most successful. We’ve identified the guys on offense, defense and special teams.”
Identifying the playmakers didn’t happen immediately. The coaches wanted to go throughout practice before deciding on what players they trusted with the ball, and they made those decisions last week.
“We have identified our playmakers,” Muschamp said. “We ranked the top 22 on both sides of the ball as (coaching) staffs the other day. We need that list to grow with guys we can count and rely on in our league.”
QUARTERBACKS DEBUT: It wasn’t a debut for John Brantley after starting last season, but Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel made their first appearances in front of Florida fans during the scrimmage. Murphy went 7-for-11 for 68 yards and one touchdown. Driskel was 3-for-8 for 29 yards through the air and 23 yards rushing.
Murphy was the most impressive day. The redshirt freshman moved outside the pocket, and his skill set was aided by play calling that put him in the right places to make a play.
“Charlie (Weis) does a nice job of calling things that fit a personality,” Muschamp said. “Tyler is very good at moving the pocket and creating plays. He’s accurate with the ball in the underneath throws.”
Driskel’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he showed flashes of the quarterback he can be in the future.
“Jeff has all the tools and is going to be a real good player for the Gators, it’s just going to take some time,” Muschamp said. “Right now, he should be going to the prom. He’s going to be a really good football player, and we just need to give him some time to be a really good football player.”
Brantley went 4-for-14 and threw for 45 yards. He didn’t complete his first pass until there was 5:30 left in the second quarter, hitting Jordan Reed for 19 yards.
“(Brantley) had a really good spring,” Muschamp said. “If we started our season today, John Brantley would be our starter. He’s experienced and has talent. He is close to 70% completion for the spring. He does a great job at the line of scrimmage to run pass checks and protections. I’m pleased with Johnny.”
A drop on the first play of the game hurt Brantley, when he threw deep down the sideline to Quinton Dunbar. The ball hit the redshirt freshman in the hands but was dropped. He also had multiple passes tipped at the line of scrimmage that didn’t get to an open receiver.
“We had two tipped balls that if we get past the line of scrimmage are completions, and then the one deep ball to start it out,” Muschamp said. “He’s also got to have better people around him to help. That starts with our offensive line.”
Muschamp won’t panic from one performance on Saturday, and he still says Brantley would be the team’s starter if they opened the season on Saturday.
“He’s ahead,” Muschamp said. “If you look at the whole body of work, he has done a nice job. Quarterback to me is no difficult than any other position in that we’ll have competition during the fall. We need to go compete and understand no position is given to anybody.”