One of the most handy tools newly-hired football coaches have in tamping down expectations is to declare the task at hand is a rebuilding job from a talent standpoint. But in his first news conference since being dismissed, Florida coach Will Muschamp made it clear he doesn't want to see his roster disparaged like that.
"They've got a deep and talented roster, so don't let that new guy tell you he ain't got any players. I can tell you that right now," Muschamp said. "There are some good football players in that locker room."
Among the top players who could return next year under UF's new coach are linebacker Antonio Morrison, defensive end Dante Fowler, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, safety Keanu Neal, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, and running back Kelvin Taylor. But with several UF underclassmen considering an early jump to the NFL, most notably Fowler, Muschamp can't be sure what the next coach will inherit. Others, like the sophomore Hargreaves, won't be draft-eligible sooner than 2016.
"We've got a good football team coming back. We've got some juniors who are going to make some tough decisions on their (draft) decisions for next year," he said. "I always offer those guys my two cents. If you're going to be a first-round pick you need to come out. If not, you need to come back here and continue to develop in their game."
Muschamp will coach the Gators' final two regular-season games against Eastern Kentucky and rival Florida State. UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said Muschamp declined the opportunity to coach a bowl game, if UF qualifies for one.
Foley said there is no timetable for a new hire, but that he would "ideally like to have someone in here before Christmas."
Florida (5-4) compiled a 9-12 record under Muschamp since the beginning of last season, and fell out of SEC East contention on Saturday in an overtime home loss to South Carolina, 23-20.