No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the last two weekends of practice, preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl and update the statuses as well as provide his thoughts about a number of players on the team.
Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ian Silberman (shoulder) will both miss the bowl game. Each player had successful surgery on his respective injury recently but will not be able to return in time. Furthermore, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (torn pectoral) has been doing individual work with the team but has not been cleared to play just yet. Muschamp said there are no other players expected to be absent for the bowl game, though he did mention previously that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders would not play.
Muschamp confirmed that freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit who did not play this season, has decided to leave the program and pursue opportunities elsewhere. “Willie Bailey has decided to transfer. He and I met last week and felt like he wanted to move on. We will support him in that,” he said.
He also noted that there should not be any more transfers before the bowl game but things could certainly change after Jan. 2. “We’re good right now. Obviously after the bowl game you sit down and evaluate where a young man is but right now we’re good to go,” Muschamp added.
RETURNING TO PRACTICE
Florida has practiced each of the last two weekends but has spent that time mostly working on fundamentals and getting back to basics. Muschamp said that the Gators will begin preparing for the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday. Florida will then take a break for the holidays before resuming practice in New Orleans, LA, the site of the Sugar Bowl, on Dec. 27.
One thing he has tried to do since the end of the regular season is come up with a balance for the team between resting and getting away from it all but still remaining sharp football-wise.
“It’s really important for them to get away and decompress a little bit from football. You look at bowl games, with this long of a layover, it’s a one-game season. That’s how you really got to approach it,” he said. “You got to put all of your energy into it. I don’t like focusing too early on a bowl game because I think the players get too stale with the preparation. They get tired of watching the same film over and over and over again.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
NEW COACH FITS IN PERFECTLY
Discussing for the first time his decision to hire former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips as the Gators’ new wide receivers coach, Muschamp mentioned that it was a process that he had plenty of time to complete and a choice that he gave a lot of thought to.
“Obviously I had a lot of time with the situation with Aubrey [Hill],” he said Monday. “I sat and looked and evaluated our team and what we needed, where we wanted to travel and what’s best for our staff and for the future.
“Joker’s a guy that I’ve had a lot of respect for as a person, first of all. The more research I did, the more pleasing it was to hear about him as a person, not actually knowing him on a day-to-day basis or having worked with him on a day-to-day basis. The more you talk to people, [they] talk about the integrity, the type of person he is and what he stands for. There’s been no chink in that armor as far as I’m concerned since he’s been here. He’s been outstanding.
“Here’s a guy that’s also coached receivers for over 20 years, but he’s also been a play caller. I think it’s always good, and I’ve always been more comfortable as a defensive coordinator, when I had guys in the room that had sat in my chair. A lot of people don’t like that; they’re insecure about having people in the room that have sat in the chair. I like that. I like having guys that have been there and understand how you’ve got to think and see the big picture offensively.”
Muschamp said he asked Phillips point-blank if he would be interested in coaching the Gators. “[Phillips] said, ‘I would, absolutely.’ It was pretty easy,” he conceded.
He also praised Phillips for his mindset coming into a new program and taking a position coach role after leading a program. “He just wants to be a football coach and affect young people’s lives in a very positive way,” Muschamp said. “That’s exactly what he told me, and I’ve seen nothing but that since he’s been here. Again, I’m really thrilled to have him as part of our staff.”
Graduate assistant Bush Hamdan, who spent the season as interim wide receivers coach, will stay on to coach in the bowl game while Phillips evaluates the players. Muschamp said he made this decision because Hamdan did “a really good job” throughout the year and “deserves” the opportunity. “I told the receivers, ‘You got a month audition. You got 15 practices to go play real well and get a great first impression on your future position coach,’” Muschamp said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp said that he has spoken with juniors on the team about leaving early for the NFL but will not discuss the topic further until next month. “We’ll address that at the appropriate time and that’s after the bowl game,” he said.
» On replacing redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis next season: “I don’t even like to think about it to be honest with you. Austin Hardin kicked well [Monday], he did. He pulled his hamstring midseason and missed about 3-4 weeks maybe. He kicked well [Monday]. … Brad Phillips will be involved in that and anybody else that we feel like can step in and be a dependable guy that can hopefully compare to Caleb at some point.”
» On his opinions of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong: “In our profession, you got a respect for what somebody does. You look at their body of work and the job that Charlie has done not only at Florida but South Carolina and the other stops he’s made. His guys always play hard. They play fast. They play physical. They have a good style of play, in my opinion. … You grow respect for somebody in this profession, and that’s certainly a guy that I’ve got tremendous respect for.”
» On if he has been contacted by other schools trying to hire away members of the coaching staff: “It happens all the time. We got a good staff and a lot of people want them to coach at their place. We’re very content here and certainly feel like we’ll have our full staff intact as we move forward. [I’m contacted] every day. That’s great.”
» On how special senior running back Mike Gillislee is as a player and person: “In our society, we suffer from the disease of ‘me.’ ‘How does it affect me?’ Most people suffer from that. Mike doesn’t. He’s a team guy. He’s a consummate team guy. He’s one of my favorites of all time. He’s a guy that’s a great example. He was voted team MVP by his teammates in a landslide as far as the votes were concerned, so you see the respect he’s got in the room.”