Jim McElwain, Florida Gators assistants to make 13 stops on 2015 spring speaking tour

Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain is set to make eight appearances at Florida-based Gator Clubs (plus one in Atlanta) as part of the team’s annual Gator Gathering speaking schedule, with his assistants participating in four more events.

Joining him with speaking engagements are defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, associate head coach and linebackers coach Randy Shannon, offensive line coach Mike Summers and defensive line coach Chris Rumph.

The speaking tour is put on by the UF Alumni Association and Gator Boosters, Inc. in association with the University Athletic Association. Tickets are available to the public and sold to the respective events with proceeds usually going to support the club and fund scholarship opportunities for local area students.

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Will Muschamp, Florida assistants to make 12 stops on 2014 spring speaking tour

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp is set to make eight appearances at Florida-based Gator Clubs as part of the team’s annual Gator Gathering speaking schedule with his assistants participating in four more events.

Muschamp made 10 Gator Club appearances ahead of the 2013 season with four of his assistants also participating in events throughout the state. The three newest members of his coaching staff will hit the road this spring.

Joining him with speaking engagements are offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, offensive line coach Mike Summers (two) and special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler. Their events are not scheduled as of press time.

The speaking tour is put on by the UF Alumni Association and Gator Boosters, Inc. in association with the University Athletic Association. Tickets are available to the public and sold to the respective events with proceeds usually going to support the club and fund scholarship opportunities for local area students.

Will Muschamp
» April 8 – Gainesville Quarterback Club (Gainesville,FL)
» April 17 – Gator Club of Jacksonville (Jacksonville, FL)
» May 1 – Broward County Gator Club (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
» May 5 – Tampa/Pinellas County Gator Clubs (Tampa, FL)
» May 7 – Polk County Gator Club (Lakeland, FL)
» May 13 – Central Florida Gator Club (Orlando, FL)
» May 20 – Titletown Gator Club (Gainesville, FL)
» May 22 – Fightin’ Gator Touchdown Club (Gainesville, FL)

Assistant coaches (dates to be announced)
» Roper – Marion County Gator Club (Ocala, FL)
» Summers – Capital Area Gator Club (Tallahassee, FL)
» Summers – Northwest Florida Gator Club (Pensacola, FL)
» Hutzler – Volusia County Gator Club (Daytona Beach, FL)

Head basketball coach Billy Donovan will also participate in yet-to-be-scheduled Gator Gatherings set to be held at the Southwest Florida Gator Club (Fort Myers, FL) and Atlanta Gator Club (Atlanta, GA).

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Muschamp gathers Gators in West Palm Beach

Florida Gators fans in Palm Beach County were visited by a head football coach for the first time since 2008 and came away both enthusiastic and impressed on Thursday when Will Muschamp dropped by the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds to discuss his first season at the helm and his expectations for 2012.

After a 20-minute opening statement, Muschamp took questions for another half hour and stuck around to sign autographs for all of he nearly 200 fans in attendance. Below is a recap of some of the more newsworthy and interesting topics that Muschamp covered (and were not included in stories here and here):

» The competition between sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has not slowed down at all. “I have the utmost confidence in both guys. They’re working extremely hard here in the offseason. It’s going to be critical – it’s got to become their football team. And their competition will make each other better which will make our offense better and is going to make our football team better,” he said. “Jacoby and Jeff are both guys we can win a championship with. I do know that. […] We can win with both. I’d like to name a starter. If we have to play both, we will play both. We’re going to do what it takes to win games at the end of the day. If one guy will distance himself then certainly we will name him the starter.”

» Muschamp said Florida had a legitimate opportunity to match-up against and win every game but two in 2011. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing,” he said. “Last year we played two football teams that were better than us in Alabama and LSU. The rest of the games we had our opportunities. Whether it was maturity or coaching or whatever you want to say it was, at the end of the day we didn’t get the job done. 7-6 is not acceptable at Florida; neither is 15-11 – that’s what we’ve been the last two years.”

» Junior safety Matt Elam’s groin continues to be an issue for the Gators but Muscahmp is confident it will be all healed by the time summer rolls around. “He twinged it in the latter part of spring. We really needed to look at the young safeties Valdez Showers and Jabari Gorman – get those guys a lot of reps. Matt’s a good football player. I know what he can do,” he said. “I pulled him the last three practices before the spring game. I just felt like it was another opportunity for someone else to get the reps. I saw him in the weight room [Wednesday]. He looks great and is working hard. He’s a guy that is very instinctive, has great ball skills, toughness. He can cover; he can play in man and zone. He does a lot of things for our football team.”

» His pair of freshman offensive linemen are impressing him: “Jessamen Dunker from here in Boynton Beach and D.J. Humprhies from Charlotte, North Carolina are two really good players. I’d recruit them again. Glad they’re on our football team.”

» Muschamp said he learned plenty of lessons after his first season as a head coach but in the end you cannot change what happened, you can only move forward. “There’s a lot to be learned through last season. You can’t go back and re-do and press the reset button and start over. That’s not what you do. You learn from it, you move forward, and I think our guys have learned from it,” he said.

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FAMILY will set the tone for the Gators in 2012

No, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp does not have a soft spot for the 1979 chart-topper by Sister Sledge. He just wants to see his team put the group over the individual. That is probably why he was wearing a certain orange wristband with white lettering on Thursday at the Gator Gathering in West Palm Beach, FL and made it a point to explain to the crowd that his team has a new motto for the 2012 season.

This version of the Gators will be all about FAMILY: “Forget About Me. I Love You.”

“At the end of the day, let’s take the personal agendas off the table and let’s get into this team,” Muschamp said to smiling faces at the South Florida Fair’s Expo Center. “I think we’re headed in that direction, I really do. We got some guys right now that understand and comprehend that when the collective unit does well, we all do well.”

But Muschamp wants to do more than “well” in 2012. He believes that Florida has many of the pieces necessary to be a championship football team but must find a way to bring them all together in order to win football games. That is where FAMILY comes into play.

“When you win, everybody benefits from that,” he said. “That’s the constant message you got to deliver in this day and age with young people, [for them] to understand it’s more than about you.

“You’re not a player anymore – it’s ‘University of Florida football player so-and-so.’ And that’s what I’m trying to build our football team to understand – it’s bigger than they are.”

Muschamp has already seen that focus and attention in the classroom, where he said the Gators sport a cumulative team GPA of around a 2.8, “which is close to a 3.0,” he said with a smirk. “I’m going to tell you guys…a 2.7-2.8 cumulative for a football team is really, really good,” he added. “Our academic people do an outstanding job.

“I didn’t come close to a 2.7 when I was in college…and y’all know where I was so that’s not an excuse.”

All joking aside, Muschamp is noticing his players buying into his systems and philosophies in a big way. Juniors safety Matt Elam, defensive lineman Dominique Easley and Buck linebacker Ronald Powell are just a few of the players he singled out for showing increased maturity, putting the team over the individual and doing the right thing when it comes to preparing for the upcoming season.

“We got guys that understand what it takes to be successful,” he said. “And really for the most part last year was their first year playing consistently in this league throughout the season. It’s a long season in the SEC. This was really the first year for them playing, and I see a big step forward for all of those guys coming into next season.

He also told a story about how Easley’s mentality has shifted this offseason and related it to how the overall team has understood what it takes to be successful in both college football and life in general.

“He’s way ahead of schedule and probably doing too much, knowing him,” Muschamp said of Easley’s recovery from a torn ACL last season. “He’s a guy that you talk about [when you mention] maturity level.

“Last year Dominique was fighting to get home. ‘I want to go see my family and do this. I saw them two months ago.’ [This year] I said, ‘Are you going home to see your family?’ He said, ‘Nah Coach, I’m staying here and training.’

“That’s maturity. They’re starting to understand what it takes to be successful. Same thing with Ronald Powell, Matt Elam. They’re all in Gainesville training right now. They didn’t go home. That’s part of becoming a good football player is that maturity level.”

That increased maturity is exactly what Muschamp has been searching for the last 12 months from the Florida football team. Maybe now his Gators are finally realizing that while their real families are always priority No. 1, the band of brothers they step on the field with in Gainesville is a real family, too.

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Will Muschamp not irked by Florida transfers

Though his team faced major depth issues in 2011 and is still trying to fill its roster with talented, hard-nosed players with a winning mentality, head coach Will Muschamp has no concerns whatsoever about the 12 players that have transferred away from the Florida Gators since he took over the team.

Before giving a speech at a Gator Gathering in West Palm Beach, FL on Thursday, Muschamp broke down transfers into three categories (natural attrition, family reasons, other issues) and said he and the coaching staff approach each individual request differently depending on the player and their unique situation.

“What are the reasons?” he asked when posed a question about his thoughts on a dozen players leaving the team since he arrived. “I use Josh Shaw as an example. He’s a young man that came to me. He’s very happy at Florida. He was a good football player for us. He was competing to be a starter at Florida. He had a bright future ahead of him. He had some personal issues within his family that were obviously affecting him at Florida and him being that far away from home.

“Very similar to Graham Stewart’s situation. Both of those young men came to me, and I don’t know at the end of the day that they wanted to leave Florida, but they wanted to do what was best for their family. And I saw both guys on a day-to-day basis struggling. At the end of the day, life’s too short.”

That is why, upon Shaw making a decision where he wanted to transfer [USC], Muschamp petitioned for him to be eligible to play immediately rather than sit out the one-year mandatory transfer window required by the NCAA. Shaw’s waiver was approved, giving Muschamp hope that the same will be true for Stewart at Connecticut.

“Let’s help these guys out,” he said of his position. “I petitioned for Josh to the NCAA for him to be eligible immediately at USC, and I’m doing the same for Graham Stewart because it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s distance from home and being with your family, and family always comes first with me. Helping those young men is a lot more important than what we’re doing at Florida as far as their future is concerned.”

That does not mean that every player who wants to transfer is met with the same reaction. Some do not respond well to being pushed. Others don’t want to (or feel like they can’t) compete against the talent in front of them to start at their position of choice.

Most importantly, Muschamp does not want to even group these types of issues together because sometimes the student-athlete is to blame and other times, well, it could be the coaching staff’s fault that he is not getting the opportunity he deserves.

“Now when a young man comes to me and says, ‘I don’t feel like I’m being treated fairly, and I want to transfer,’ that’s a different case, a different story,” he explained. “I hate to put a blanket over all transfers and say this is what our stance is. I think they’re all different. I view all situations different. Are you at a position that’s stockpiled with four guys better than you? Is that your fault? No. We signed you. That’s our fault. Those are things you have to take into account.”

The good news for Muschamp and the Gators is that, despite losing Stewart on May 4, the team is deeper than it has been in two seasons at the line of scrimmage. He has finally been able to build the depth he has sought out for the last year and believes that Florida will be better for it both in 2012 and beyond.

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp, Dillman, Donovan, Tebow

1 » Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp is set to make 10 appearances at local Gator Clubs (nine in the state of Florida and one in Atlanta, GA) as part of the team’s six-week 2012 Gator Gathering schedule. The events are open to the general public; however, tickets are sold for each speaking engagement with proceeds benefiting the individual Gator Clubs and the university. You can check out the entire schedule here.

2 » The Gators opened up the Griffin-Oakley Strength & Conditioning Complex to the media on Thursday making new director of strength and conditioning Jeff Dillman as well as a few Florida players available for interviews and to talk about how training is going heading into the 2012 season. UF released a video recap of the event, which you can view below, through their GatorVision.tv service.

ESPN explained his philosophy further:

Dillman described Olympic-style lifting as weighted plyometrics — essentially exercises with fast, powerful movements while lifting weights. It’s designed to provide a total-body workout and a cardiovascular workout in a short period of time. It includes numerous variations based on three main lifts: the power clean, the snatch and the split jerk.

Because Olympic weightlifting movements are done quickly with heavier weight, and require significant coordination and muscle control, they can help athletes with such quick movements as sprinting, jumping or firing off the line of scrimmage. They also develop a strong core, better conditioning, and better balance.

3 » Head basketball coach Billy Donovan told the school’s website on Wednesday that sophomore forward Will Yeguete was “pretty crushed” when learning about his broken foot and how he will miss the remainder of the season. Donovan also said that the Gators have an opportunity to prove how good of a team they are and that “everybody has a chance to step up” and fill in for Yeguete. “I think with a great belief and a great commitment and an incredible focus, with guys wanting to step up, a lot of those special things can happen in the midst of people not thinking they can happen,” he said. “Now, I’m not saying they’re going to happen. I’m saying we need to try to make them happen.”

4 » At the 2012 NFL Combine on Thursday, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox said that he was not worried that the comments about starting quarterback Tim Tebow from backup Brady Quinn would be an issue heading into the season. “Knowing their relationship, knowing both Brady and Tim very well myself, you know, sometimes things get lost in translation,” he said, according to NFL.com. “I know their relationship is very close, they have a lot of respect for each other. They’re very good teammates to each other, so, that’s kind of what I know.” Fox made it sound like he wanted Quinn to return to the team in 2012, but the player is not under contract with the club and is a free agent this offseason.

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Weis talks Brantley, Wenger at Gator Gathering

Just a day after head coach Will Muschamp entertained the media at the 2011 SEC Media Days, Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis filled in for him by participating in a Gator Gathering at the Marion County Gator Club.

During the event, Weis spoke about a number of topics but was most notably asked about the potential of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and the recent transfer of redshirt senior center Dan Wenger from Notre Dame.

After struggling one year ago, Brantley will be given the best chance possible to succeed, Weis said, because the goal is to develop the entire offense and not put all of the onus for success directly on his shoulders.

“When you put in a new offense, too much responsibility on any one player is not a very good philosophical idea,” Weis said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “The most important thing for me and the offensive staff is to figure out what we can do the best, and then just do a lot of that. Too many times in football people try to reinvent the wheel. What we have to do is develop a personality and find out what [Brantley] can do the best, and do that.”

The Super Bowl-winning offensive mind also reiterated that film of Brantley from last year has not done much to help his evaluation, even though he is confident in his ability to handle the offense and succeed long-term.

“It doesn’t help me very much because it’s so different from what I do,” Weis said. “[Brantley wasn’t] really in a true drop-back setting, so therefore I need to be able to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. […] In a pro-style offense, it’s more about whether you have all the physical tools to be able to run the offense – which he does. Then it’s mentally how do you handle it.”

Weis also spoke for the first time about Wenger, who joined the team in the summer and hopes to earn significant playing time considering his experience in Weis’s offense and as an player taught directly by new offensive line coach Frank Verducci at Notre Dame.

“He started a whole bunch of games for us at center and guard,” Weis said, according to GatorZone.com. “You want to talk about a bonus, a throw-in guy who has started about 30 games at center and guard? You can’t buy things like that. He’s really helped with those guys when we haven’t been able to be with them.”

Photo Credit: Unknown

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Muschamp gathers Gators in Fort Lauderdale

Flying into Fort Lauderdale, FL for a Gator Gathering with the Broward Gator Club on Tuesday evening, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp appeared anything but tired after a long day’s work. He gave a confident and passionate speech to nearly a thousand orange-and-blue-clad fans in attendance before energetically answering questions until it was time to depart. Below is a recap of some of the more newsworthy and interesting topics that Muschamp covered during the event:

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