HOOVER, Ala. — Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp is confident he has the remedy for questions about his job security: winning a lot of football games.
These are strange times for the Gators, who are coming off their first losing season since 1979. Nearly everything went wrong in last year’s 4-8 disaster, but Muschamp was upbeat during his Monday address at SEC Media Days, saying Florida has the talent for a quick turnaround.
“There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business and that’s part of it,” Muschamp said. “The way you combat that is by having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we’re going to do.”
The return of quarterback Jeff Driskel should help. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior played just three games last season because of a season-ending leg fracture. Muschamp also hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper from Duke to revamp a unit that scored 18.8 points per game – last in the SEC.
Driskel said Roper’s offense is “the polar opposite” of last year’s style, which put an emphasis on time of possession and controlling the ball. It’s the third offense Driskel has had to learn over the past three seasons.
“I think the game is just moving toward having to score points and trying to get as many plays in as possible, which is coach Roper’s mindset,” Driskel said. “He’s a positive coach and puts players in positions to be successful.”
Florida returns seven starters on both the offensive and defensive sides. The defense – which has been consistently good during Muschamp’s three seasons – is led two Tampa Bay area products, sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa Wharton) and junior defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. (St. Petersburg Lakewood).
Hargreaves was named a third-team AP All-American last season as a true freshman after finishing with 38 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions.
He said the Gators have the ability to rebound quickly this season, pointing to last year’s SEC champion Auburn as a good example. The Tigers had a 0-8 league record in 2012 before bouncing back and nearly winning the national championship.
“You never know who’s going to be the best, and that’s why the SEC is the best conference in college football,” Hargreaves said.
Hargreaves said Florida’s new offense could also be a big help for the defense – which has had to adjust to the quick tempo during practice. The Gators are the latest team to take the offensive approach, which has led to success for several programs such as Auburn, Mississippi and Texas A&M.