HOOVER, Ala. - Florida football coach Will Muschamp wasn't one to tiptoe into conversation about his job security Monday afternoon.
After expressing excitement over the Aug. 4 start to preseason camp, he went right to work.
"There will be a lot of chatter about hot-seat business," Muschamp said at SEC media days. "That's part of it. The way you combat that is having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do."
Winning was all Florida knew from 1980 until last season, when never-ending injuries and inept offensive play turned a 4-1 start into a 4-8 debacle. The Gators were thumped 34-17 at home by Vanderbilt, but the biggest embarrassment was a 26-20 home loss to Georgia Southern, which was in its final season as a Championship Subdivision member.
Muschamp is 22-16 through three seasons with the Gators, a record bolstered by an 11-2 finish in 2012 that included a Sugar Bowl berth.
"Control the controllable is always what I've said, and that's coaching and developing our football team," Muschamp said. "There was never any time in my mind that I didn't think I would be retained. It's the great thing about having an athletic director like Jeremy Foley, who has a strong pulse on not only our program but every program in the athletic department.
"At the end of the day, he understood the circumstances we dealt with."
The Gators return seven starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Jeff Driskel, who started just three games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Matt Jones is back from the walking wounded as well, and Florida players insist that sophomore receiver Demarcus Robinson is on the verge of breaking out as the program's long-awaited playmaker on the perimeter.
Florida will be guided offensively by Kurt Roper, who had a successful run at Duke under David Cutcliffe.
The Gators were stout most of the season defensively, ranking first in the league against the pass and second overall. Defensive end Dante Fowler and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves are expected to bid for all-conference honors this season, though they likely will have to answer their share of hot-seat questions for the foreseeable future.
"We don't talk about that in our locker room," Hargreaves said. "We talk about winning games just like every other team, and that's what we plan on doing. Our coach is a competitor, and we love to play for him, so we have to have a better year."
Said Fowler: "We definitely can't forget about last year. It's in the record books, and it's motivation for us to do better."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.