Alan Dell

College football | Florida coach Muschamp says proposed playoff system should not be limited to conference champions

LAKEWOOD RANCH

Will Muschamp embraces the proposed expanded college football playoffs, but doesn't want to include only conference champions.

You can't blame the Florida head football coach, whose Gators reside in the SEC, where the runner-up is often the second-best team in America.

Muschamp shared his views to a media gathering before addressing a throng of Gator football fans Thursday night at the Polo Grill and Bar.

The proposed playoffs are expected to go into effect in 2014. The big holdup at the moment is how to select the four participating teams. Some are saying only conference championships should be included.

"I don't think that is right, especially in the SEC," Muschamp said. "The point of the whole thing is to get the two best teams in the country to be playing, and I think that happened this past January with Alabama and LSU."

A lot of people would argue the last thing Muschamp needs to be thinking about is a playoff system. His Gators finished a disappointing 7-6 in his first year at the helm last season, and that is unacceptable at The Swamp.

He says Florida is already a better team and was close last year.

To get his point across, Muschamp used what some might call a Martian number system, noting that seven games went down to a one- or two-score difference and his Gators could've gone 5-2 or 6-1 instead of its 3-4. After giving him a one-year grace period, the Gator faithful won't accept that explanation twice.

"We have more depth up front, and more guys are buying into what we are trying to do," Muschamp says. "There is always that time period when a new coach comes in, but I feel comfortable about our football team and where we are right now."

Muschamp predicts his offense should be rejuvenated under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease and an improvement over last year's unit, which didn't have the big back SEC teams covet like Alabama's Trent Richardson.

Defense is Muschamp's forte, and he likes what he sees there, especially in the secondary if Southeast High graduate Brian Poole can step in right away.

The coach sounded like a guy who believes Poole can make the difficult transition from high school to high-caliber college football.

"We are really excited about Brian. He is a guy who has a lot of multiplicities as far as positions are concerned," Muschamp said. "He can play corner, nickel, dime and safety and is a very intelligent young man with great instincts for the game. You never know how freshmen are going to respond, but he has got the ability number one, is going to get the opportunity number two, and I think he has the maturity number three."

Unfortunately he couldn't offer a similar analysis on Palmetto High product Kedric Johnson, the redshirt junior defensive end who has struggled to get playing time because of injuries and off-the-field issues.

"He needs to stay healthy. He had shoulder surgery again this spring and didn't go through the spring drills. In order to get on the field you've got to practice," Muschamp says.

The coach hasn't changed his belief that you need beef and talent up front to succeed in the SEC and says his team is getting closer than most people realize.

"We need to build depth on both lines of scrimmage and settle on a quarterback. But if we have to play two at quarterback we will play two," the coach says. "We need to play with more consistency on defense and develop pass rushers and cover guys on the back end, and we think we have that."

The starting quarterback battle between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel figures to go down to the opening kickoff and might not even be settled then, but Muschamp says his new offense that will feature a lot of shifts and motions should help.

"It can create some consternation defensively," he says.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.

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