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September 01, 2013

Of (Church Mice) and Men: Muschamp's rant

By now, many Florida fans have seen, read or at least heard about coach Will Muschamp’s two-minute tirade chastising the media -- specifically the website GatorCountry.com, The Gainesville Sun and The Palm Beach Post -- for erroneously reporting that freshman defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick was suspended for Saturday’s season opener.

Ncf_u_muschamp11_576
(Courtesy ESPN)

I’m not going to rehash the tedious play-by-play of how everything was reported, nor am I here to start some finger-pointing contest. If you want a solid recap of the timeline of everything, check out Andy Hutchins’ piece on the SB Nation site Alligator Army. 

Hopefully my thoughts don’t read as some ombudsman’s analysis, but rather the opinion of a young writer -- who admittedly has plenty to learn -- but who is on the beat and was present for the public lampooning.

Yes, the three named outlets screwed up, and they screwed up pretty badly. Muschamp was defensible in standing up for Bostwick and his family. He was right in saying a kid who’s done nothing wrong shouldn’t see his name lumped in with a bunch of knuckleheads who did. It is no secret Muschamp is a player’s coach, and Saturday’s public stance is a big reason why. 

But Muschamp’s whole Col. Jessup routine lost all credence the second he dressed down reporters with a lesson on ethics and journalism. While he deserves an ‘A’ for showmanship, it was more like a ‘C+’ on material.

Who can really handle the truth?

Again, the outlets who reported the inaccurate information messed up. Hopefully as an honest mistake -- although how two outlets independently cited (via separate sources) the same incorrect name without ever mentioning the original report -- who first reported the wrong name -- is quite peculiar, but alas, I said I wouldn’t get into that.

Anyways, Muschamp’s ardent table-pounding of “irresponsible journalism” and “who was your source” is rather laughable considering Muschamp brazenly lied Wednesday during the weekly SEC Teleconference. Muschamp told the media, “No. Not at this time,” when asked if Florida had any other looming suspensions besides linebacker Antonio Morrison.

Well about that, here’s what Muschamp -- Accidentally? Purposefully? -- said later in Saturday’s postgame press conference:

“I announced to our football team last Thursday (presumably August 22) we’re going to be down some guys. They knew who I was talking about because they were on special teams. I told them exactly who they were. They made a mistake, and we have consequences in our program. Our players understand that, and we move forward.”

So why wait until two hours until kickoff to announce the suspensions? 

“We were going to announce it before the game. It was going to be announced before the game. That’s my prerogative as the head coach at Florida is for our football team, right? That’s what we were going to do.”

And there you have it. It is Muschamp’s prerogative, and yet erring on the side of secrecy or stubbornly being evasive (all in the name of some arbitrary competitive advantage) preemptively damaged the very player(s) Muschamp later doggedly defended.

Mistakes -- honest or not -- happen.

It was a bad error by multiple publications, but for some time now, the UAA has had a rather adversarial relationship with the media -- and both sides were exposed in a situation like Saturday’s.  

While Florida’s Iron Fist keeps a select few close, it mostly acts as an invisible gate between players/coaches/administration and reporters. 

The "us" vs. "them" mentality must change. We are not the enemy, nor the players/coaches/administration the combatant(s). It's a give-and-take relationship, and if everyone wants to avoid situations like this in the future -- something's got to change.

Hopefully, sooner rather than later. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Muschamp lampoons (select) media

Presented without comment... for now. 

*****UPDATE*****

I've removed the video because it was set to auto-play. Here's the transcript of Florida coach Will Muschamp's postgame rant...

"I am gonna address something. Uh, y'all know, we had four players that were suspended for today. And we had one player, that you know, very inaccurate information in The Gainesville Sun, the Palm Beach Post and GatorsCountry.

That was very irresponsible journalism, okay?

You guys can write whatever you want to say about me. You can say I’m a bad football coach. You can say I’m a bad dad, I’m a bad husband, I’m a bad person. You really can say anything you want to say. That’s your opinion. You can talk about our offense, our defense, our special teams. You can talk about our coaching staff, you can talk about our administration. That’s your opinion. And you’re entitled to that, and that’s fair. But when you take a shot at a kid and it’s inaccurate, and it’s written inaccurately: I got a problem. So I can be accused of a lot of things, of being overprotective of our players for accurate information.

I am really pissed off, and it’s wrong.

And I dealt with it last night with a parent, and I had to deal with it this morning with another parent. All right, because it was inaccurate, and it was wrong, and it was totally irresponsible. Again, your opinion is fine. Take shots at me all day. Jeremy [Foley] pays me enough.

I’ll take [shots] all day. All right?

But to take a shot at a freshman that’s done everything we’ve asked him to do since he’s been here. He is a great young man. He should’ve played today if we’d have gotten into some situations to play him. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s a great teammate. He’s great in that locker room. And to take that shot is wrong.

It’s damn wrong.

And I can’t tell you, our trust is done. I can assure you that. And you know exactly who I’m talking to. I don’t know where the Gator Country guys are,  I’m going to tell you right now, we’re done. And that was completely wrong. You need to apologize to his parents, and you need to apologize to that kid. Because you won’t put your name behind something? Why don’t you tell me who your source was? That’s what I'd like to know. Who was your source? Church mice in here.

You know, if you wanna write something, stand up and stand behind it. That’s what I’m going to tell you. You took a shot at a kid and a family that’s done nothing wrong. And it's, it’s really bad. I’m going to meet with Mr. Foley to see if y’all are even going to be allowed to come back in here again. I’ll be honest with you it's a low blow, for me. To deal with our opening ball game at the University of Florida and I’m dealing with this. Bad journalism. But you know, 'sources said.'"

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

ICYMI: Showers shines

GAINESVILLE -- Valdez Showers has gone from being buried at safety on Florida’s depth chart to offensive linchpin in just a single game.

After eagerly switching to offense midway through training camp, the redshirt sophomore quickly illustrated why coach Will Muschamp is so high on Showers’ offensive prowess.  

“He’s different than what we have (at tailback),” Muschamp said. “He’s a top-end speed guy.”

Florida force-fed the scat-back early, as Showers took a gadget pitch 29 yards -- a game-high run -- to set up a Florida field goal, and also caught four balls for 23 yards.

The former high school running back said he’s excited about his positional change and ready to contribute consistently.

“I feel good. I’m comfortable,” Showers said. “Offense has always been easy to me.”

5-STARS MAKE PLAYS

Freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor -- son of Gator legend Fred Taylor -- excited the crowd late in the fourth quarter with his first career carries.

The former five-star recruit gashed Toledo for 27 yards on his second carry, finishing the afternoon as Florida’s second-leading rusher with 43 yards on five attempts. 

Meanwhile, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves played very well in place of suspended defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy. The freshman collected his first-career interception late in the third quarter.

“When we meet as a staff we talk about who are the guys we know we’re going to play regardless and [Vernon] is one of those guys defensively,” Muschamp said. “There was no conversation about putting him in the game.”

Overall, nine true freshmen played.

FLAGS ALL AROUND

Florida ranked No. 114 nationally in penalty yards per game last season (68.8).

Not much changed Saturday.

The Gators committed 10 penalties for 70 yards, including a pair of holding penalties negating a possible touchdown drive.

“Disappointed with penalties,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t take guys out defensively because I was worried about their substitutions and their tempo, but the self-inflicted issues hurt us again today.” 

Florida also had three offside’s penalties on third and/or fourth down, sustaining Toledo’s drives.  

“It can’t happen,” linebacker Ronald Powell said. “We got to eliminate it. We can’t be the best team defense we can be if we’re making dumb mistakes like that.”

THIS & THAT

Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries went down with a sprained MCL early in the fourth quarter, but Muschamp said the sophomore is “fine.” … Cornerback Marcus Roberson had several electric punt returns, including a 38-yarder that was nearly sprung for a touchdown. … Gators All-American punter Kyle Christy didn’t have his best game, averaging 38.2 yards on four kicks. … Wide receiver Latroy Pittman remains suspended for the next two games (Miami & Tennessee), but cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, defensive lineman Darious Cummings, linebacker Antonio Morrison and offensive tackle Quinteze Williams will all return to action against Miami. ... Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin went 1 of 2 on field goal attempts.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

Gator Grades: Murderball 2.0

Before I re-watch the tape of No. 10 Florida's 24-6 victory, here are some rapid reaction grades. ICYMI: Check out my gamer on UF's 24th straight season opening win too.  

OFFENSE - C+

Esteemed SB Nation college football writer Bill Connelly labeled Florida's ugly, yet effective ground-n-pound offense 'murderball' in his 2013 season preview. 

Perfect description. 

Although the Gators flashed potential improvements in the passing game -- QB Jeff Driskel started the game 10-of-11 -- the explosive plays still weren't there. UF again played to its identity: downhill running. The Return of the Mack (Brown) led the way (114 yards, two TDs), but Mark Herndon and Kelvin Taylor chipped in too. 

Driskel & Co. struggled in the second half, but they still controlled the clock/tempo (Will Muschamp's main goal) and ultimately forced the Rockets to say 'Uncle'. 

There's still a lot to be desired here, but bright spots (Brown, Valdez Showers, Gideon Ajagbe) emerged. 

Brent Pease called a vanilla game and got a vanilla result. We'll see just how many bullets he held next week versus Miami. 

Eas
(Dominique Easley)

DEFENSE - A

Florida was missing two of its best players (Antonio Morrison & Loucheiz Purifoy) and its top pass rusher had a quite afternoon (Dante Fowler Jr.), yet the Gators held last season's No. 32 ranked offense to 205 total yards, six points and just a single third-down conversion (1-of-13). 

Defensive tackle Dominique Easley propelled a nasty front-four, leading the team (along with Ronald Powell) with three quarterback hurries. 

Toledo's tempo caused some problems in the second half, but the Gators avoided any back-breaking plays. Speedy slot wideout Bernard Reedy talked lots of trash before the game, yet he was largly held in check by UF's deep secondary. 

Overall, Florida's young defense -- replacing seven starters from last season's unit -- played well against a formidable offense. 

SPECIAL TEAMS - B-

Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin was 1-of-2 on field goal attempts, connecting on a 24-yarder while pushing a 39-yard attempt wide left. 

Marcus Roberson had several nice punt returns (a long of 38 yards), but All-American punter Kyle Christy struggled a bit, averaging just 38.3 yards on four kicks.

Florida's coverage units were solid, with freshman safety Keanu Neal really standing out. Dude was a missile on kickoff returns.   

Now it's your turn. Thoughts? Comments? Have at it. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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