GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Despite the worst loss in school history and the first losing season in more than three decades, Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn’t feel like he has a rebuilding project on his hands.
Muschamp, who will return in 2014, said winning the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and getting to Atlanta is “absolutely” possible next season.
It sounded a little ambitious for a team that has dropped six consecutive games – the program’s longest losing streak since 1979 – and lost 26-20 to lower-division Georgia Southern on Saturday.
But Muschamp insisted the Gators (4-7), who finish the season Saturday against No. 2 Florida State (11-0), can rebound quickly.
“I don’t believe we’re that far off,” he said Monday. “Regardless of the results Saturday afternoon, which is all disappointing for everyone, starting with me, I just don’t feel like we’re that far off.”
When asked about his job security, Muschamp said he “absolutely” will be around next season.
Athletic director Jeremy Foley made that clear two weeks ago, saying he was “a thousand percent convinced that Will Muschamp is the guy to lead this football program.” School President Bernie Machen echoed those sentiments.
Many outsiders hoped that would change following Saturday’s loss to Georgia Southern – a middle-of-the-pack program from the Football Championship Subdivision – but the Gators are moving forward with Muschamp.
“There’s some obvious reasons why we are where we are,” Muschamp said. “We’re a team that won 11 games last year, and I don’t think that happened by accident. We have a really good football staff. We have some good players on our football team. We’re going to have a good football team moving forward.”
He likely will make staff changes.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis are probably gone. The Gators rank 111th in total offense and have been woeful on the line.
“There’s no changes that have been made at this time,” Muschamp said. “I’m not ready to make any statement on that at this point. We’re still playing out the season, and those guys are going to coach their butts off. I’ll make that decision when I think it’s right.”
Injuries have been a contributing factor for Florida’s struggles. Quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, defensive tackle Dominique Easley and right tackle Chaz Green are among 10 players sidelined with season-ending injuries.
Several others missed significant time. Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) is doubtful against Florida State. So are left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) and linebackers Mike Taylor (knee) and Alex Anzalone (shoulder).
But many wonder how Florida – even with backups – can have the worst offense in the SEC and lose to Vanderbilt by 17 points and to Georgia Southern.
“I don’t know why that’s happened to us,” receiver Solomon Patton said.
Added safety Jaylen Watkins: “We just have to focus on Florida and try to get back to where we used to be.”
Muschamp is 22-15 in Gainesville, including 13-11 in conference play. And Florida’s three SEC wins this season came against Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas – teams that are breaking in new coaches and have a combined 1-21 record in league play.
But Muschamp believes his team is close to competing for a title.
“I think there’s some key components for our football team that aren’t playing for us right now,” he said. “And we’re very thin in some areas. It is what it is. I’m not making excuses. That’s just the facts, and it’s real.
“I think we’ve got a good staff and I think that we’ve got a really good football team ... heading into spring. And I’m excited about that.”