Will Muschamp was off to a good start on Wednesday
Will Muschamp started his booster tour with his first announced speaking engagement as a college head coach on Wednesday. Muschamp spoke to 1200 Gators fans in the Lakeland Center as the speaker for the Polk County Gator Club. Beforehand he spent time with the media who asked him about a myriad of subjects. Muschamp said he is excited about the tour ahead of him.
He isn’t going to try and shy away from things. Actually, Florida head coach Will Muschamp expects to be himself spring and summer as he tours the various clubs in the big Gator markets.
“In most situations I am who I am,” Muschamp said when asked what he thought about the club tour.
“I think it is important to get out and see everybody. A lot of these folks are the ones sitting in the stands and buying tickets, so I think it is important to get out and see them.”
It is his first tour as a head coach but Muschamp said he did a lot of the speaking engagements as an assistant at various college stops. He also cannot remember saying something he regretted in front of the fans.
“Not that I can remember,” he said as he jokingly knocked on the wooden table in front of him. “I don’t think so.”
Muschamp appreciates the rabid nature of the Florida fan base, a fan base that will turn out more people in a small suburban county Gator Club function than you might see at a non-conference regular season game in Miami.
“Florida is Florida,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.
“You get situations like the University of Florida. It is a powerful place. It’s the flagship school in the state of Florida. The tradition speaks for itself. The opportunities you have and the tradition. It is a huge honor to be at Florida.“
According to Muschamp, it is all about the fans.
“I have been in The Swamp before, on the wrong sideline, and there is no better place to play college football than that environment you walk into,” he said referencing his days as a Georgia Bulldog. “A lot of that goes to the passion that our fans have.”
He also understands that the fans want and expect a winner.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “You want to be at a place like this. You want to coach at a place like Florida (with) the passion and the energy and the enthusiasm. When they get upset, heck I am usually upset too. I understand the expectations, I have high expectations too.”
This is his first full stint as a head coach and so there is a bit of a transition for Muschamp. However, he says nothing has really caught him off guard. He just has to deal with time management issues.
“I don’t think there is any one thing that I can look at and say ‘this is a shocker’,” he said about early tenure surprises. “The biggest thing is the time management… I want to be involved in the X’s and O’s. I don’t want to be a CEO. I want to be a guy that is involved in what we are doing and I will be.”
He continued with other things that he will be hovering over as the boss.
“I think that to me is the biggest juggling act that I have right now as far as balancing…being able to evaluate the recruiting film, because I evaluate every player on both sides of the ball and everybody we decide to recruit.
“I am obviously very involved in special teams and defense and I still like to have a handle on what we are doing offensively because Charlie and I are very similar in what we do and Charlie runs the offense.
“The biggest juggling act I have as a head coach is wanting to be involved (in everything). I always put myself in the chair, but never was in the chair. You have to be smart in how you manage your time.”
Speaking to the Polk County club, naturally questions were asked about running back Chris Rainey. Rainey is a fifth year senior who was a star at Lakeland High School and has been one of the players Muschamp has singled out this spring as one he expects to be a big time player for the Gators in the fall. Muschamp didn’t lay off the praise for Rainey who has turned his off-the-field life around to match his play on the field.
“Chris has done a phenomenal job competing since I have been at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “He is a guy that really came into the spring as a senior and I have been really proud of his effort, his enthusiasm, and his passion. He’s done a really nice job for us.
Muschamp has harped on the fact that Rainey was likely a fish a little out of water a year ago and the new Florida offense will be a good one for him.
“I think he will benefit getting the ball deeper in the backfield,” Muschamp said. “He has great cut-back vision and tremendous quickness. He’s a big time play maker and I am really excited to see him play in his senior year. He really has some special talent when the ball is in his hands.”
He also talked about some humility that Rainey has gained along the way during his time I college.
“I was impressed with him this weekend,” he said of his senior running back. “He and (fellow senior running back) Jeff Demps are on the 4x100 team and ran a decent 100 time. He wasn’t really pleased with it and came by and told me today.”
Muschamp also knows for his team to be successful he is going to have to get stellar play from his quarterback, but that quarterback is also going to have to be a leader on this team. Senior John Brantley returns as the starter for now and Muschamp believes in his man from Ocala.
“Regardless of age or experience, we have to have leadership from the quarterback position,” Muschamp said. “it isn’t just John. I may single John out too much. I am kind of young but old fashioned and it is kind of like the MIKE linebacker on defense has to be a great leader for us. He is the signal caller, the one that sets the front, the one that gets us in the right situations and is tied to the front and the back. I think the quarterback is the same thing and out of those two positions we need to have really good leadership.”
Muschamp is still aware that there is quite a bit the staff may not know about this team, but he understands it is their job to find out before the season starts. The only time they have to do that will be in 15 practices in July and September before the first game.
“With a young team, in a transition, and some unknown still, I think that is part of the frustration that you have, especially with the injuries we had in the spring,” he said. “We lost some key guys that we expected to be huge contributors for us in the fall. But, that is part of your job as a coach. We have to develop the leadership. We can’t just sit around and say we don’t have leadership.
“You try and put the players in as many situations in fall camp where you create some chaos, create some controversy for them, create some adversity for them and see how they respond. You don’t want to figure out in the first, third, or eighth game, we need to figure that out going in.”
Dunkley Transfer was Mutual…
Muschamp talked more about the transfer of Chris Dunkley. The redshirt freshman will move on and according to Muschamp it is best for all parties. Dunkley healed fine from a hamstring injury and participated in spring drills before the two parted ways.
“He was fine,” Muschamp said of Dunkley’s health before casting some light on why the transfer was happening. “You go through this and things come up. We have a certain standard that we want our players to uphold to. Chris and I met after spring practice and we felt like it was best for him to look at another opportunity and he is excited about another opportunity. That is the direction he has decided to go.”
For now, there are no limitations on where Dunkley can go, but the staff has made it part of their priority to help Dunkley wind up on his feet somewhere.
“We are helping him… with what he wants to accomplish,” Muschamp said. “We appreciate his time at Florida and we will help him go wherever he wants to go.”