No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Thursday upon his team’s arrival in New Orleans, LA to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals and provide updates on his team heading into the game.
Muschamp confirmed two more transfers, which gives the Gators three in the last two weeks. He said that both redshirt junior offensive tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders “just needed a fresh start given their situations.”
“I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” he added.
He also spoke about keeping Florida players out of trouble and how those practices have unfolded over the last year or so. “It’s a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,” Muschamp said. “Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It’s also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field.”
Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic explained that he is proud of how the team has stayed out of trouble most of the year but is nevertheless sad to see Saunders leave the program. “Our guys have been smart all year. We work together to have each other’s back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction,” he said. “[Saunders is] one of our brothers and it’s tough to see him leave the program. Though at the same time, this might be what’s best for him personally.”
GETTING TO 12 WINS
Though the coach admitted that the Cardinals are going to put up a fight on Jan. 2, Muschamp has been “very pleased” with the team’s preparation through practice last Friday when everyone dispersed for the holiday break. He has also put a great importance on winning this game for Florida.
“It’s absolutely critical. We are trying to become just the sixth team in Florida history to reach 12 wins, which is huge considering how successful this program has been,” Muschamp said. “It’s also an opportunity to finish the season ranked in the top five, possibly No. 3. These things are important to our program as we continue to move forward. This is a one-game season. We haven’t played in a long time but there’s a lot of motivation to play well in this game since it’s a BCS game. We have a special team, and they deserve a special night. We want to send them out the right way and that can only be done with a win.”
The seniors that have stuck with this program through thick and thin will be all-in next Wednesday, but sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel also sees this as a great opportunity to completely knock the 2011 season out of the team’s memory and focus on moving forward.
“It goes back to the offseason. We didn’t have a season that Florida expects year in and year out, so we kind of took that to heart in the offseason. We trained hard, we practiced hard and we really came together. It’s kind of cool to see all the hard work in the offseason pay off during the season,” he said.
Driskel is excited for the opportunity to win a bowl game as a starter “on a national stage [in] one of the biggest games of the year.” He continued, “We’re honored to be in the game. We’re honored to be in the Sugar Bowl, so we’re going to practice well and we’re going to prepare well so we can play well when the game rolls around.”
Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
HIGH MARKS IN THE CLASSROOM, TOO
Not only have the Gators done well on the field, they also performed very well in the classroom. Muschamp said Florida football had its best semester academically since he took over in the spring of 2011. There were 39 players that registered a 3.0 grade point average or higher including 10 true freshmen (five that played, five that redshirted). Additionally, Bostic, redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and walk-on redshirt junior defensive back Tim Clark achieved a 4.0. “I’m really proud of our accomplishments off the field, in the classroom,” Muschamp said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp’s opening statement: “On behalf of the University of Florida, Dr. Bernie Machen, Jeremy Foley and our football program, we are really honored to be back in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Special thanks to Paul Hoolahan and Jeff Hundley for extending the invitation. I am really honored to be back in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Of course, New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl are great memories for the University of Florida – the 1996 national championship game and a lot of other great games. A great personal memory for me was the 2003 national championship game when I was the defensive coordinator at LSU. It’s a lot of fun to be here, and we’re excited as we move forward. We’ve had good preparation in Gainesville with our team primarily getting most of the game plan in. We’ve just got to refine some things as we move through the week. We’ll have our normal game week starting with practice today so we’re looking forward to that.”
» Muschamp on his evaluations of Louisville as a whole: “Beginning our prep for Louisville, I’ve got a lot of respect for Charlie Strong. For me, it all starts with Teddy Bridgewater. The guy’s an outstanding player. He’s the No. 1 efficiency passer in the country. He threw for over 3,000 yards, close to 30 touchdowns, and is completing right at 70 percent of his passes. They have a very talented corps of receivers in [Deon] Rogers and [DeVante] Parker. Those guys are all talented guys that can do some different things. [Damian] Copeland leads them in receptions. They’re very fast on defense; they run extremely well. Marcus Smith is an explosive rusher and a guy they use a lot of different ways. Charlie’s track record as a defensive coordinator speaks for itself.”
» Muschamp on winning the national title in 2003 while coaching at LSU: “Winning the game was the most important moment, but also having a really dominant performance on the defensive end. To win the game on defense late in the game is huge to me.”
» Driskel on what stands out for the Cardinals defensively:
“They have good [defensive backs]. Their DBs make good plays on the ball. [Adrian] Bushell has like 12 pass break-ups this year, which is insane. We’re going to have to get open and we’re going to have to make clean throws against these guys, so we’re excited for the challenge.”
» Bostic on playing the last game of his collegiate career: “You never want this to be your last game but playing in the Sugar Bowl is a great way to end a career. It would be great to go out on a good note. A lot of people say ‘I want to hurry up and get out of here, and move on to what’s next,’ but at the same time it’s great being on the field and in the locker room with the guys I grew up with.”
» Bostic on Strong and what he means to him: “He’s the kind of guy that will get after you right away and push you to do the right thing. He’s the main guy who recruited me to come to Florida. I’ve had a good relationship with him ever since high school. A lot of coaches try to sell the program when they are recruiting, but he really wanted to form a relationship with me and be more than just a coach. I knew wherever Charlie went he was going to have success. It was just a matter of time before somebody gave him a chance after all the great things he has done.”
* All quotes courtesy of the Sugar Bowl.