Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley is not the only member of the athletic program dismissing the notion that head football coach Will Muschamp is on the proverbial “hot seat” entering the 2014 season.
Despite the fact that Muschamp is coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2013, Florida’s worst record since 1979, and has failed to put together a single dynamic offense in three seasons at the helm of the Gators, players on both sides of the ball insist that Muschamp’s job status is the furthest thing from the team’s mind.
“We don’t really listen to none of the outsiders,” explained junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. on Monday. “We’re all we got – my brothers, my coaching staff. That’s how it’s going to be here.
“Our job is to fight adversity and our job is to make the Gator Nation happy and get Florida back on top where they used to be. When we do things like that, there’s no worries about no job or no hot seat.”
Fowler said he has “fun playing for Coach Muschamp,” who he described as a “great coach” with a tremendous defensive approach. It is for that reason that he flipped from his commitment to Florida State and enrolled at Florida in the spring of 2012.
“The plays that he has drawn up, just the way he works around his defense, he’s very versatile. We just don’t stick to one defense, we play multiple defenses. He’s a multiple-defense coach,” Fowler continued. “He’s just very bright, Coach [D.J. Durkin] as well being the defensive coordinator, too. With them two guys teaming up together, they’re like defensive football gurus. What more could you ask for?”
The Gators’ defense has never been a question mark under Muschamp. Florida has finished ranked top-10 nationally in total defense and scoring defense each of Muschamp’s three years at the helm of the program. UF’s offense, however, has been one of the worst in the country over that same span of time.
That could all be different for the Gators in 2014 with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper leading the charge. Florida will operate out of the shotgun and run a spread offense, offensive attributes that fit the skill set of redshirt junior starting quarterback Jeff Driskel like a glove.
Driskel went 11-2 as a first-year starter in 2012 before going 1-1 in two starts that he completed in 2013 prior to going down with a broken angle that ended his season.
He dismisses any talk of Muschamp’s job being in trouble.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “And I don’t think we’re putting any added pressure on ourselves to play for Coach Muschamp’s job or anything like that. In college football, coaches are always on the hot seat, people are always moving around. There’s always pressure to win. That’s what we’re going to do this year – win.”
Driskel also noted that even though he has made some major mistakes at times on the field – most notably turning the ball over in the red zone – Muschamp has always kept his cool and not blown up at him during games.
“He’s never blown up on me in a game. Coach Muschamp knows that’s not going to help me out,” he said. “Coach Muschamp has been behind me 100 percent since I’ve been on campus, and we’re lucky to have Coach Muschamp as our head coach.”
Muschamp anticipated all the questions about being on the proverbial hot seat and addressed the concept right the start of his press conference in front of the large media contingent at the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days.
“There will be a lot of chatter about ‘hot seat’ business. That’s part of it,” he explained. “The way you combat that is having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we’re going to do. I got a lot of confidence in this team and staff. This is probably the most complete team we’ve had since I’ve been at the University of Florida in all three phases. Looking forward to getting this thing going.”
He later expanded on that notion and added that he has never feared for his job at Florida.
“I think you combat the hot seat talk with having a good team and winning games. ‘Control the controllables’ 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 explained.
“There was never any time in my mind that I didn’t think I would be retained. 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.”