11/24: Muschamp on preparing for FSU, what he’s told Gators assistants, quarterback position

By Adam Silverstein
November 24, 2014

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (6-4) held his last regularly-scheduled Monday press conference in order to discuss his team’s upcoming game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles (11-0) on Saturday afternoon at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.


“One of the great rivalries in all of college football. Got a really good football team. We got tremendous respect for [head coach] Jimbo [Fisher] and the job he’s done, and his staff deserves a lot of credit for the games they’ve won. They won a bunch of games in a row. Last time they lost was when the Gators were up there. They’ve done an outstanding job. They’ve got a very good team in all three phases.

“Offensively, really with their team starts with Jameis Winston. He’s a great player, a Heisman Trophy winner. Arm talent, he can throw it any way you want it. He’s just got a great, strong arm. He’s able to throw the touch throws, take the ball to the right spots. He’s got a great pocket presence. He’s a very hard guy to tackle in the pocket. You’ve got to tackle him high. Great toughness for the position, you see the guy take some shots. He’s got a bad ankle, he keeps battling, he keeps playing and keeps playing. At the end of the game, he’s won a bunch of games for them, especially this year putting the game on his shoulders and winning the football game. Tremendous respect for him. …

“Looking forward to going to Tallahassee. Our guys will prepare well. Our guys look forward to this game every year and it ought to be a great atmosphere and environment.”


One of the biggest criticisms of Muschamp during his Florida tenure was his inability to win rivalry games. Well, despite being dismissed as the Gators’ head coach two weeks ago, Muschamp will have the opportunity on Saturday to complete the trifecta of beating all three of Florida’s rivals in a single season for the first time in his career.

Perhaps the Gators will be able to build on their last trip to Tallahassee, a 37-26 win over the Seminoles in 2012, for some motivation this Saturday.

“We still got a lot of guys on the team that went up there. It was a great game, they had an outstanding football team, and we played well, got out to a fast start in the game. It’s going to be critical for us there, take care of the football. We did that, we were able to run the ball, and I think that’s something that we’re going to need to be able to do come Saturday,” recalled Muschamp. “But there’s no question that we’ve been a pretty good road team as far as handling ourselves on the road and that certainly is a very SEC-like atmosphere there in Tallahassee.”

Trailing 20-13 at the end of the third quarter two years ago, Florida scored 24-straight fourth-quarter points to ultimately edge Florida State 37-26. It was also Muschamp’s first victory over Fisher, whom he coached with for four years under Nick Saban at LSU. The fact that he will be playing his close friend in his final game as coach of his hometown team is not lost on Muschamp, though he said it will not be a factor on Saturday.

“It doesn’t really change for me. It’s preparation – it’s a good football team. You turn on the tape and you don’t get real emotional. I can tell you that they’ve got a good team. When the game starts, it’s the game. You enjoy the competition,” he said. “I stood on the sidelines in Baton Rouge with Jimbo [Fisher] for four or five years, for a long time. We won a national championship together. I enjoy that competition, as I know he does as well.”

As far as the players go, Muschamp said no additional motivation is needed. Another criticism Muschamp has faced as coach of the Gators has been teaching his players to have a “the most important game is the next game” mentality, never putting additional focus or energy on a rivalry opponents. He also said that he did not plan to change that policy this week, though if the way Florida got up for Georgia a few weeks ago was any indication, perhaps that’s something he’s hiding from the public.

“They don’t need fireworks to get ready for this one. They’ll be ready to go. Our guys are excited about this game,” he said. “Our guys aren’t dumb. They turn the tape on. They’re able to see. But we got some competitive young men in that locker room, and they’ll turn the tape on and understand the type of team we’re going against and the preparation that’s going to take place.

“I told them in the locker room when the [Eastern Kentucky] game was over: We’ve had a week to feel sorry about this, that or the other when all we can control is the controllables and that’s getting ready for Florida State, a really good football team. We need to prepare better than we did this past week. We need to practice better than we did last week. And they all agreed to that, they understood that. We need to prepare much better than we did this past week.”


Saturday will be the end of the road for Muschamp at Florida, but the rest of his coaching staff will still be employed, at least through early January. To that end, the Gators on Saturday named defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin the interim coach for Florida’s bowl game, and Muschamp threw his support behind the five-eyar veteran of UF’s staff.

“He’ll do an outstanding job. He’s a really good football coach, he sees the big picture, he’s an outstanding recruiter, he’s got a tireless work ethic and he does a great job with our players. He will do a fabulous job,” Muschamp said.

Muschamp also divulged the comments he shared with his staff last week following his dismissal.

“I told the staff, ‘Do your job. Do your job. You get hired by the University of Florida to do your job and that’s coach and that’s recruit and that’s represent this university first class, and that’s what you do.’ I haven’t been involved in any recruiting since it happened, but our staff needs to continue to recruit and represent Florida. It’s a great place to come to school and play football and that’s what those guys are doing. They continue the phone calls and all that, and on Sunday after Florida State, they’ll be out recruiting for the University of Florida and getting ready for a bowl game. You get hired to do a job and that’s your job. ‘Go do your job.'”


Quarterbacks freshman Treon Harris and redshirt junior Jeff Driskel each made some big plays Saturday, though Driskel led the way by completing 9-of-11 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns, adding a fourth score on the ground.

Driskel actually saw extended playing time in the contest after Harris got pulled from the game with a contusion on his knee, though Muschamp said Saturday night and reiterated on Monday that Harris is fine and will start against FSU.

Nevertheless, Harris still has a ways to go from a throwing standpoint, and Muschamp was not shy about pointing that out on Monday.

“Well, I don’t think we’ve thrown it as well as we needed to throw it. That’s the bottom line. We’ve had some opportunities against South Carolina for some deep shots and we missed on a couple. We got to give the guy an opportunity to make a play on the ball. Early in the game, a little bit shaky. There is no question, in my opinion, in the South Carolina game he was affected throwing by his hand. That was very evident, especially later in the game,” he said. “But the corner ball he threw to Demarcus [Robinson] was probably as well as you could throw it, to drop it in there and Demarcus made a fabulous play. Just more consistent in the throwing game is what we’re going to need, and he knows that.”

Driskel will not necessarily see more time than planned if Harris continues to struggle throwing the ball, though Muschamp did say that a plan will be in place to play the upperclassman if the opportunities present themselves. Driskel “should be confident after the way he threw the ball” against Eastern Kentucky and may be able to have some of that carry over to Tallahassee.

“We’ll see as the game goes. We’ll always have some sort of package for him in the game. He performed [on Saturday] the way we felt he certainly is capable of performing. Depending on the situation, we’ll see how the week goes and what our preparation is,” Muschamp said. “I haven’t sat down with the offensive staff today and gone through anything in what we’re looking at and what they want to do. We’ll move forward in the week and see where that progresses.”


» On the support he received from the Gators players on Saturday: “I really appreciate it. You spend a lot of time with these young men and that’s part of your job when you want to be a football coach. It’s not just about Saturday afternoon. It’s about Sunday through Friday. It’s about a grandmother passing away and handling it the right way. It’s about doing a lot of things that people have no idea that your job entitles. That’s something that, you know, you enjoy being a mentor-slash-father figure-slash-friend-coach. You wear a lot of hats in our job and that’s part of it.”

» On whether Florida will take more risks against FSU in Muschamp’s last game: “We’re going to do what we need to do to win the football game.”

» On Ron Zook winning this game in a very similar situation 10 years ago: “I’ve kind of heard that story, go ahead. I appreciate you rehashing it for me. … It is what it is. I mean, that isn’t going to help us win the game, I can assure you of that. So we’ll prepare well and we’ll go up there and play well. That’s what we need to do.”

» On whether he’s had job offers after being dismissed by Florida: “No one has reached out to me.”

» On the Gators’ secondary progressing through the year: “I think we’ve steadily improved throughout the year. On 3rd and 25 against LSU, wasn’t good, but past that since the Alabama game, we’ve played extremely well. … We’ve kind of progressed through the year and still played well against some guys who throw the ball pretty well. South Carolina threw it as well as anybody and I think he was under 50 percent and 200 yards passing against some very talented guys on the edges. I feel very comfortable about where we are in the secondary and how we’ve played and how we’ve improved as the year has gone on. So I think we certainly have a huge challenge in front of us with the experience and talent at the quarterback position, and with the talent that they have on the edges, there’s no question about that. It’s our biggest challenge on the year.”


  1. Ken (CA) says:

    FSU may be undefeated but they aren’t unbeatable. I hope that WM can get out of his own way this weekend and go out in style with a win in Talahassee and a crushing blow to their title hopes.

  2. Michael Jones says:

    No reason for Muschamp and the team to not be loosey goosey. . .let it all hang out. . .leave it all on the field. Go for it, man.

    Hopefully Champ has learned from watching Clemson, Louisville, and Miami run out of gas in the 3rd quarter that you have to start rotating your 2nd string DL into the game early. . as in 1st quarter early. Give’em a feel for the game and a taste of the action and rest our 1st string bulls for when we’ll need’em late. That’s when Jimbo loves to go with the speed back, Cook.

    If our guys come out crazy and stay crazy for 4 quarters, we can win this game. We still have top 5 recruiting class studs on the field, just like FSU. It’s going to come down to who wants it more.

    • 305Gator says:

      “No reason for Muschamp and the team to not be loosey goosey. . .let it all hang out. . .leave it all on the field. Go for it, man”

      Funny but that is what Dave Massey said a few stories back and you gave him grief for it.
      Before you get all uptight, I do agree with you on the D lineman rotating early. And I hope Muschamp learned from those teams and games you mention but more than that I hope he learned from his own mistakes that a boring, predictable, run 90% of the time offense will not do the trick here.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Massey said that he would rather Muschamp air it out than us win by 3 points. That’s different from what I just said.

        I don’t know what the deal is with you and Massey and, really, I could care less, but you need to read the things you write as well the comments you are responding to. I personally would prefer that we all have fun on here and be able to voice our opinions, even opinions that differ, without having to take cheap shots at each other. We’re all supposed to be Gators. . . on the same side.

        Hope you boys enjoy the game. Go Gators!!!

    • Steven says:

      Miami shut down their offense and tried to ride it out which would of worked if not for some bad luck, but regardless if you want to beat FSU you can’t sit on your lead.
      If Miami kept attacking instead of basically running on every 1st down in the 2nd half then I think they win that game.

      If we get up we can’t get conservative. Their defense isn’t great. Even we should be able to score on them.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Exactly. Miami got a little too conservative with their play calling in the 2nd half. You can’t sit on a lead against FSU. You can’t play or coach scared. You have to attack until the final whistle blows.

  3. Michael J. says:

    No team is unbeatable, but I’m leery of that maxim after watching FSU. It doesn’t matter what you do to them, they “shake it off” better than anyone. It would be nice if Winston is still hobbling around, but I don’t see UF putting up enough points to hang with Winston. He’s the best player in college football. I don’t care what the stats say, he’s put the team on his shoulders. He’s better than last year, even if the numbers don’t reflect it. When the game is on the line, there’s not a better player in college football. But it is a rivalry game, so anything is possible, but with Winston on the field, UF winning is very improbable.

    • 5wideU says:

      You comment on here constantly like you’re a Gator fan when it’s quite obvious you’re a Nole. Your comments here aren’t unreasonable but coming from you, and after you’ve defended Winston at every turn, it doesn’t mean much. Go back to the Nole boards where you belong. You have no credibility here.

    • Steven says:

      If you had watched all their games then you will see that they are the luckiest team of all time.
      This year they have proved it’s better to be lucky than good because they haven’t been good. They easily could have 3-4 losses already playing a cupcake schedule.

      Let’s hope their luck runs out on Saturday.

      • Michael J. says:

        If you have watched the games, you would know that ‘luck’ has nothing to do with it. Auburn was lucky last year with a couple of the most improbable plays ever. FSU winning has nothing to do with luck, it has to do with making plays when it matters. You can say someone is lucky if it happens once or twice, but what FSU does is not lucky. It’s what they do. There was nothing lucky about any of their wins, nothing at all. I know some of you don’t like facing reality, but you can’t hide from it. Winston is the best player in college football. You should take a cue from Muschamp’s comments about him, he knows what he’s up against facing Winston. I just don’t see how UF can stop him when it matters. No one has been able to do so, that’s why he sets a new record every time he walks off the field. The same comments are made by every team he faces, they all think they have a plan to stop him, but it never happens. I have no faith that UF has an answer that no one else has had. UF is 6-4 for a reason, it’s not like they are a great team. I think it’s going to take more than woulda, shoulda, coulda to stop Winston. You can all tell me how wrong I was Saturday afternoon, but my track record on forecasting this season and individual players has been unmatched by any of you, so I would take that into consideration before you speak.

  4. Kaput says:

    Why is it that Muschamp feels free to criticize Harris’ throwing when he NEVER was critical of Driskel? With Driskel it was always, “the line needs to do a better job,” “receivers needs to run better routes” and “it’s a team game.”

    But not with Harris.

    Strange, is all. Maybe the pressure is gone and he’s speaking freely now.

  5. 305Gator says:

    Hey Adam how come Muschamp is shown smiling in every pic you post lately???

  6. Blake says:


    Everybody is automatically assuming Will Muschamp is going to accept a “defensive coordinator” job after the season, but do you think there are possibilities he might be offered some smaller “head coaching” jobs as well ? You hearing anything ?

    • I don’t think it’s a possibility. I EXPECT him to be a head coach next season. Not at a smaller school but a lower-rung Power 5 job, yeah. Honestly, Illinois has an opening…

      • Gatoralum88 says:

        I’ll laugh if the fighting Illini hire another Foley reject. Whille WM is a better defensive coach than Zook he’s not as good a recruiter so he’ll eventually suffer the same fate if that happens. BTW, my take on his sudden cheery attitude is all about knowing he’ll still get $6.3M once he cleans out his office Sunday…for nothing more than a “thank you Jeremy!”. I’d be grinning to.

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