GAINESVILLE — This is Florida’s most important spring in coach Will Muschamp’s tenure.
Coming off their first losing season since 1979, the Gators have a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach and plenty of room for improvement after finishing 113th in the nation in total offense.
So all eyes will be on that side of the ball when Florida takes the field today for the first of 15 spring practices.
“I know from the schematic standpoint, the guys are excited about what we’re doing,” Muschamp said. “That’s good. You’ve got to have belief in what you’re doing. I feel like that was a huge issue for us last season. We lost belief and confidence in what we were doing.”
The Gators were decimated by injuries last year, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose and right tackle Chaz Green either before the season or early in the season.
Driskel broke his right leg against Tennessee in September, but has been cleared to practice. Jones (Armwood High) tore the meniscus in his left knee and needed two surgeries. He won’t be cleared until early May. Debose (knee) will be cleared for non-contact later this month, and Green (torn labrum) will be full go for today’s practice.
Muschamp lauded Green (Tampa Catholic) for his attitude during the offseason, and the fifth-year senior could be the key to helping Florida get its line in better shape.
“When something is taken away, sometimes you realize how important it is to you,” Muschamp said.
The Gators lost their final seven games in 2013, finished 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. The offense was the primary problem, finishing last in the SEC in total yards.
Muschamp responded by firing offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis. Their replacements — Duke’s Kurt Roper and USC’s Mike Summers, respectively — are tasked with helping Florida get back on track.
And in a hurry.
It’s unlikely that Muschamp, who is 21-16 in three seasons at Florida, will get more than a season to turn things around. So the Gators have to find some quick fixes to the offense, and they brought in Roper to install an up-tempo scheme that could play to Driskel’s strengths.