Muschamp growing more comfortable
Will Muschamp has every reason to be nervous. Coming off a 4-8 season, Florida's worst since it went winless in 1979, he should feel the pressure of being on the hot seat, one tough loss away from possibly losing his first and (so far) only head coaching gig.
Yet Muschamp appeared relaxed and completely comfortable on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as he sat down with the media ahead of his Gator Gathering in front of the Broward County Gator Club, his second such speaking engagement during his spring tour of the state of Florida.
Leaning over in his chair with a relaxed hunch, both forearms on a table as he joked around with reporters, Muschamp looked like anything but someone whose team struggled as much as it did a year ago.
"Absolutely there is no question [I'm more comfortable as a head coach]," he said with a grin. "Coming to these things, dealing with the media. Recruiting is recruiting. Coaching Xs and Os is coaching Xs and Os. It's all of the stuff around you that you have to deal with."
Most head coaches do not take their first gig with a team as prominent as the Gators. And most head coaches, in their second season, do not take a team as far as inches away from a league championship appearance with an 11-1 regular-season record.
But Muschamp had a lot of growing to do as the man in charge of an entire program, not just a defensive unit. He said he's learned a lot over his three years at Florida with his greatest lesson coming three games into the 2013 campaign when then-junior quarterback Jeff Driskel got knocked out for the season and changed UF's fate for the worse.
"Keep your quarterback healthy. Number one through five [on my list]," he said with a half-grin.
"I think every year you go back and look at the growth stages from being a coordinator through now being a head coach. I don't know that I was a much different coach than I was when we won 11 games.
"Keep your quarterback healthy. Anticipating issues that come up, maybe, after being through an experience like that. I've never been through an experience like that as an assistant coach. I've had head coaches that have been coaching for a long time call me and say, 'I had no idea the amount of things that happened and occurred.'
"You live and you learn. I never want to experience it again, I can assure you of that. But I think as much as anything, [you grow by] anticipating things that come up [over the course of a season]. "
In terms of Muschamp's coaching and philosophy, at times, it has left more questions than answers.
He repeated many of his same mantras on Thursday.
The 2013 season was frustrating. The Gators did not handle adversity well. The expectation at the University of Florida is to compete for and win championships.
Where Muschamp departed from past comments was in his praise of the Florida program. In years past, Muschamp would concentrate on what UF needed to improve rather than the strides it had made in the off-season. That was not the case this time around.
"We got a bunch of good players returning. We like the changes we made offensively. You go through a season like that, you certainly self-evaluate all the time. You evaluate what you need to do to move forward," he said.
"You always evaluate where you are and what you need to do. I think every team is different, every year is different. I really like the maturity of this football team. I like the leadership. I feel much more comfortable at this time than I did a year ago with last year's team. … I like where we are. I like where this team is. I think we had a very good spring, a very good offseason program. We have a very unselfish team."
It is for that reason that Muschamp is geared up to get the 2014 season underway. He wishes the Gators had already reported to The Swamp and is not pleased that there are still three months to go until Florida can truly restart its preparations for the upcoming campaign.
And when he does get the opportunity to oversee the Gators once again on the field, he will do so without any added pressure.
Muschamp is not concerned about his job security any more than he was the first day he took over at Florida.
"I feel the same pressure I did day one. Hot seat, all that business? The hot seat is a good deal. Everybody's praying for you. Everywhere I go, they're praying for you. I feel like something good has to come out of that, right?
"That's a good deal. Everybody says, 'I'm behind ya.' I'd like some of them to get in front of me just in case, you know?
"It is what it is. You're on the hot seat at the University of Florida every day."