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If you go to a Gator Club outing, wear a belt: Muschamp might charm the pants off you

Image05032011184655 Did You Know: While examining fossilized stomach contents of the Xiphactinus audax, a predatory fish from the Late Cretaceous period, researchers were able to determine that the animal swallowed its last meal (a 6-foot-long fish) whole, and the prey thrashed around in the Xiphactinus' stomach until it choked it?

Pretty crazy right? Well, that's the most interesting thing I learned during Will Muschamp's speech to the Central Florida Gator Club on Tuesday night, which took place in the surreal setting of the Orlando Science Center's dinosaur exhibit, hence the photo (that's Muschamp in the middle below the banner) and newfound knowledge.

OK, OK, I'm kidding (but not about the location). In fact, Muschamp was his usual, engaging self on the evening, offering a masterful blend of preaching core values while also keeping people laughing. He has six stops left on his tour (schedule here), which feels like a string of stump speeches where he's campaigning for Gators fans to love him. He's doing a great job.

I got a little risky with that lead-in, but if you're still with me, here are some notable moments:

  • One fan praised him for kicking Janoris Jenkins off the team, which led to a round of applause (Re-elect Sheriff Muschamp! He's cleaning up the streets!). He wasn't about to bask in it, but he did urge fans to refrain from making judgments about private decisions (like the Jenkins one) without knowing all the facts. Since he's not going to share those facts, I guess that's him politely asking everyone to shut up.
  • Jenkins said Muschamp gave him the boot without hearing him out, but Muschamp told reporters Tuesday that he presented a few options before making the decision. He added that he doesn't think the Gators have a marijuana problem, and while he declined to say Jenkins' punishment was meant to send a message to the team, this general quote pretty much sums it up: "Sometimes actions speak louder than words."
  • He was very complimentary of quarterback John Brantley, saying he had a great spring and adding, "Everybody wants to bellyache about the spring game, but we've got to play better around him," citing poor pass protection as a major factor. The largest bottle of Pepto Bismol ever made won't stop my Orange and Blue Game Brantley Bellyache, unless it also erases memories.
  • He expects everyone healthy by June 22, with running back Mack Brown being the last one. He said he always rips on Chris Rainey for not being able to beat Jeff Demps in a race, had high praise for safety Matt Elam and cornerback Jeremy Brown and even lauded receiver Deonte Thompson (though he added the hilarious comment that Thompson needs to improve on "finishing plays").
  • Muschamp said his main focus is the line of scrimmage, as that's where he believes games are won in the SEC. That's also his biggest area of concern because of depth: "I think we've got quality players, but I'm worried about our numbers. ... We don't have the numbers to have guys getting injured, so we've got to be smart." I have to call him out here though, as he called guard James Wilson "John." To be fair, Wilson has been hurt since Muschamp arrived, so maybe that's why. Side note: James played at my high school and is a great person, and though injuries have derailed his career, I'm not giving up hope that he's going to make sure everyone knows his name this year.
  • On a fan's concern that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis may have a tough time adjusting to the SEC: "Charlie Weis has coached in four Super Bowls. I think he'll be OK."
  • When he hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Muschamp said Jason Taylor texted him in disbelief that he could pull that off.
  • On recruiting at UF: "There's a lot of great scenery, and I'm not just talking about the trees." A little creepy, but right on, coach.
  • When athletics director Jeremy Foley first called him about the job, Muschamp saw the 352 area code and was skeptical (Gainesville was 904 when he lived here). "I have a lot of buddies who like playing jokes," he said, so when the caller identified himself as Foley, Muschamp said "What do you want?" Foley responded with "Uh, maybe this isn't a good time," at which point Muschamp realized it was for real.
  • Muschamp was big on reminding the crowd that he grew up going to UF games and is familiar with the SEC, two facts that seem to have everyone really jacked up. He told a funny story about how he used to sell Coca-Cola at games, but when he relayed that to a previous audience, Foley called to ban him from using the C-word (UF has a contract with Pepsi), so he now says "I don't remember what it was, but it was something like Pepsi."
  • He also made sure to bring up a lot of Gators legends, saying he brought in Fred Taylor, Wilber Marshall (his favorite player) and Tim Tebow to speak with the team. He had to show the players highlights of Marshall so they'd know who he was.

Now, Muschamp is really a hit on the road with his southern charm and embrace of UF history, but I've picked up a sentiment that's really alarming. I've heard/seen a few comments of fans griping about Urban's personality (or lack thereof), such as the guy in front of me Tuesday, who said "Urban would have been on his plane back to Gainesville right now." Well yea, he needed a little extra time to get through security because of those rings on his fingers.

But that got me wondering how widespread the feeling is. Meyer was always an outsider in the south whereas Muschamp is a good ol' boy, but does that matter to you? It clearly does to some, and from what I saw in Orlando, that's probably only going to spread from here.

In my mind, Meyer should be unassailable based on the success he had here. It will likely never be replicated, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Meyer will always rank below Steve Spurrier and any other winning coach who has the right accent. What are your thoughts?

And if you have any other thoughts or questions, fire away. There was a lot of other material I'm not about to cram in here, and if I can't answer your question now, I'll ask The Man at the next Gator Club event I go to.




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