Thursday, May 17, 2012
Muschamp: Discipline has improved at UF
By Edward Aschoff
ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- When Florida defensive tackle Leon Orr violated the terms of his deferred prosecution agreement for his misdemeanor marijuana possession charge by being cited for knowingly driving with a suspended license on Monday, he became the ninth Florida player arrested and the 11th overall arrest during Will Muschamp's short coaching tenure.
Though Orr wasn't taken into custody, his citation did count as an official arrest.
With that, there's a growing perception that Florida has an off-field discipline problem. The numbers are hard to ignore, but Muschamp isn't convinced there's a problem. He acknowledges the run-ins that have taken place since he officially took over for Urban Meyer in January of 2011, but insists that perception isn't his reality.
While he wouldn't comment on Orr's situation, he did say that increased media outlets have placed the microscope closer to college athletes.
Will Muschamp insists discipline in his program is better now than it was when he first arrived.
"When you're dealing with young people, it's an ongoing educational process, especially in this day and age," Muschamp told ESPN.com shortly before he greeted the Atlanta Gator Club at The Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta Wednesday. "I'm not taking a shot at anyone in the media. It's your job to report and more things are being reported now than 15, 12, eight, five years ago. There's more social media outlets now where there's more information. There's a lot of misinformation out there, too."
Of the 11 arrests, only three have occurred during this calendar year, while five occurred during Muschamp's first spring.
The overall number is high for less than two years, but it's obvious the off-field incidents have steadily decreased and Muschamp said there's "no question" the discipline is better now than it was when he first arrived ... and he's right.
It hasn't been an overnight transformation, but the improvement is there. Muschamp took over a team that experienced 32 arrests during Meyer's six-year tenure and feels things are turning around. He especially sees it in the fact that during his first five months on the job he had five arrests on his hands. Since September, he's had three.
"At the end of the day, our players understand that there are consequences for their actions," Muschamp said. "They understand there's a certain accountability within the program. It's not a right to play at Florida, it's a privilege."
Though not all punishments have been made public, action has been taken by Muschamp. Star cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed after his two marijuana-related arrests, while former linebacker Dee Finley didn't play against Tennessee last year following his arrest for driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence. He later transferred to North Alabama last October.
Tight end A.C. Leonard, who was arrested for battery in February, was suspended for part of spring and Muschamp has said there will be further suspension this fall, meaning he could miss multiple games.
Three of the nine players arrested are no longer with the program.
With spring practice over with, Muschamp said the concerns of the offseason are on his mind. Players have less strict class schedules and more time on their hands. More time away from the coaches can be a dangerous time for programs.
Muschamp is putting the team in the hands of the players and strength coach Jeff Dillman. Muschamp said he isn't relying on a select group of players to lead the team, but expects everyone to hold each other accountable for workouts, off-field behavior and classroom work ethic. Muschamp said reports from Dillman have been positive.
Muschamp also said off-field issues haven't affected recruiting. He said conversations concerning that have gone over well with recruits and their parents and he's been able to promote Florida and its players well.
"We've got the right guys in our locker room," he said. "Are they all deacons in the church? No, but we've got a good locker room. I know one thing: My two young boys love being in the locker room."