Muschamp preparing for second year

By Joe Morgan

HOOVER, Ala. — The second year has been a significant one for past Gators coaches.

Steve Spurrier won Florida’s first Southeastern Conference title. Charley Pell oversaw an eight-win improvement in 1980 after the worst season in UF history. Urban Meyer hoisted the crystal football above his head at the conclusion of the 2006 campaign.

Despite expectations from history, Will Muschamp says he feels the same as he did when he first took the job in 2011.

“Well, no more pressure at all,” Muschamp said last Wednesday.

“The pressure is what you put on yourself, and I put an awful lot on myself whether it’s year one or year 10.”

When Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley hired Muschamp, the former defensive coordinator was already a household name in college football. Named the head-coach-in-waiting at Texas in 2008, Muschamp was known for his rambunctious sideline demeanor and his nationally ranked defenses.

In eight years as a Division-I defensive coordinator, Muschamp-led units surrendered 285.18 yards per game and have ranked in the Top 10 in total defense six times.

However, his behavior during games became his trademark.

Muschamp would head butt his players, jump into their arms and yell continuously during football games.

He even began bleeding from his ear during a 52-10 Texas win against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 30, 2008.

When he accepted the UF job, Muschamp said he had no plans to change his coaching style.

“I’m going to be me, I’m going to be Will Muschamp,” he said at his introductory press conference last December.

“The players are a reflection of their coach and I hope they feed off the intensity that we try to bring to the game.”

Muschamp’s animated side shined through multiple times during his inaugural campaign with the Gators.

Perhaps his most memorable display came in a 17-6 loss at Auburn on Oct. 15. Punt returner Chris Rainey signaled for a fair catch right before a Tigers defender made contact, which resulted in a muff and an Auburn first down on the UF 32-yard line.

After the play, ESPN cameras and microphones caught footage of Muschamp’s expletive-filled rant directed at the back judge. Muschamp apologized three days later.

While Muschamp cleaned up his language, he maintained his intensity and even referred to his team as “soft” after a 21-7 loss to Florida State on Nov. 26, 2011.

Redshirt senior linebacker/defensive end Lerentee McCray believes that Muschamp may tone down his act, but that the fiery coach would not change too much.

“He is going to bring a lot of ‘Rah, rah!’ A lot of energy and a lot of passion to the game,” McCray said. “You can see it from the sidelines. I think he does a better job of controlling it now, so this year you won’t see as much of that. But that’s him. That’s his energy so it’s going to happen.”

Muschamp’s players believe he has the passion to succeed. The goal for the second-year coach is — as he said when first hired — to have his players feed off the energy.

In order to reach that goal, senior linebacker Jon Bostic says it will require a change on the players’ part more than Muschamp.

“He has stressed the same type of things,” Bostic said. “We see it on film and it is exactly what he stressed. It’s making the right block and everybody knowing their assignment.”

With a year of experience under his belt, Muschamp is better prepared to compete in the SEC. Losses from last season’s team may make life difficult for Muschamp in 2012, but senior running back Mike Gillislee sees a more confident man wearing the headset.

“I feel like he is in the mindset of what he has to do and what we have to accomplish now to win football games,” Gillislee said. “That is being physically and mentally tough.”

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