Florida unveils new assistants, new offensive plan

MARK LONG AP Sports Writer Published:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida coach Will Muschamp is in a considerably better mood these days.

Maybe it's his new assistants. Maybe it's his new offensive scheme. Maybe it's just a new year.

After the program's worst season since 1979, Muschamp made significant changes -- and not just to his staff.

Muschamp introduced three new coaches Monday -- offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, offensive line coach Mike Summers and special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler -- and announced plans to install a hurry-up offensive scheme that will include spread elements.

"We needed more tempo, we needed to create more snaps, we needed to create more space plays," said Muschamp, who grew increasingly frustrated with every loss last season. "I felt like being in the gun would help some of our personnel, and that's where we're headed."

The Gators lost their final seven games in 2013, finished 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. The offense was the primary problem, finishing 113th in the nation in total yards.

Muschamp responded by firing offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis less than 24 hours after the season ended. Special teams coordinator Jeff Choate resigned in December to take a similar position at Washington.

Their replacements are tasked with helping Florida get back on track -- and in a hurry.

It's unlikely that Muschamp, who is 21-16 in three seasons at Florida, will get more than a season to turn things around. So the Gators have to find some quick fixes to the offense, and going with an up-tempo scheme can be an equalizer.

"If you can play the game with some tempo and speed and you can play it in space, you can create as many 1-on-1 tackle opportunities as you can," said Roper, who left Duke to join Muschamp.

"If you can create a bunch of 1-on-1 tackle opportunities, then you have a chance to have positive yards, and positive yards keep you on the field. Our whole philosophy on offense is points per game. It's not yards. It's not going up and down the field. It's how many points we can get.

"Playing the game in space creates more opportunities to score points."

Florida hasn't been the same offensively since 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left school. The Gators ranked 82nd in total offense in 2010, 105th in 2011 and 103rd in 2012. Some believe it's a talent issue; others insist it's a talent-development issue.

Either way, Muschamp knows it has to improve.

"Philosophically, all I've ever asked is to be balanced," Muschamp said. "I feel like you've gotta be balanced in this league. We've run the ball at times extremely well. ... We need to throw it better. We've said that all along. We need to be more efficient in throwing the football and certainly looking forward to that progress."

The Gators were decimated by injuries last year, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose and right tackle Chaz Green either before or early in the season.

Driskel broke his right leg against Tennessee in September and should be ready for spring practice in March. Debose will be non-contact in spring while continuing to recover from reconstructive knee surgery. Green (torn labrum) should be full speed. Jones, meanwhile, might be sidelined a while.

Muschamp said Jones had a completely torn meniscus in his left knee and will need a second surgery to repair the damage.

"It's a little more serious than a regular (torn) meniscus," Muschamp said. "He will miss spring. We feel like he'll be ready to go for summer workouts."

With all the changes taking place, there are no guaranteed starters on the roster.

"Every position's open. Every position," Muschamp said. "When you go 4-8, it's all open."

And it often leads to changes. Roper, Summers and Hutzler agreed to join Muschamp in Gainesville despite speculation that it could be a one-and-done situation if the Gators don't make a significant turnaround over the next 10 months.

So why take that chance?

"There are jobs out there when you start out in coaching and look at and think this is where I'd love to be someday," Summers said. "Florida has always been that for me. I grew up in Kentucky, grew up in SEC country and have always looked at Florida from the outside wishing I could be on the correct sideline. ... The reputation of this program is strong. I've been doing it long enough to know that every program has ebbs and flows, but this foundation and the reputation of this program will always be strong.

"The things I've seen in the short time that I've been here make me encouraged that we're going to get right back to that point."