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December 26, 2013

Anonymous Player Parting Thoughts, Part V

Each year, Inside the Gators fills its offseason coverage with our "Parting Thoughts" series, a collection of interviews with departing seniors and early-entry juniors recapping their time at Florida.

For the second year in a row, we have decided to open the series with something a little different. We asked an anonymous player to share his thoughts on a wide variety of topics regarding the current state of the Gators. From assessment of individual players to a big-picture look at the major issues facing Florida football, no topic was off-limits in this five-part interview.

As an aside, allowing a player to comment anonymously obviously has its benefits and downsides. The goal of this is to give the reader an honest and freely expressive look inside the Gators' locker room, but we also acknowledge the nature of anonymous comments and the stigma that can come with them.

In our final installment, we asked our subscribers to submit questions to be answered by the anonymous player. Here are some of the questions.

Were there legitimate riffs between the guys Urban Meyer recruited and the guys Will Muschamp brought in?

"I wouldn't say so. Everybody seemed to gel together. I know our last game of the year, Friday night in the hotel before the Florida State game, all the seniors got up to talk and a lot of them stood up and thanked coach Muschamp. Obviously, they weren't recruited by him, but they thanked him for all that he had done for them and everything like that. I don't think there's any division between those guys."

Looking ahead, who is the leader or leaders in the locker room?

"Jeff Driskel, for sure. He had come out of his shell over the summer and had really started to take a leadership role. And then obviously he goes down with an appendectomy before camp and then obviously gets hurt. He wasn't around the team much this year. Having him back, he will definitely be a big voice on the team and for the offense. Guys like Andre Debose, he'll be back and I think he'll have a really big influence on the receivers. I see guys like Michael Taylor and Antonio Morrison having the opportunity to be the leaders on defense."

Do you feel as if the best players are on the field? Are players getting a fair shake at playing?

"I think they put the best players on the field. We were so decimated with injuries that they really didn't have a choice. The only two I would say would be Kent Taylor and Demarcus Robinson, but obviously D-Rob was in a lot of trouble so that led to him not playing. And then Kent, he must have just not known what to do. Those were two big receiving threats that didn't play for us hardly at all. Other than that, I do feel like the best players got on the field."

How much of an impact does Muschamp have on the offense? Does he allow the OC the freedom to run the offense the way he wants?

"I don't think he did. I don't think he handcuffed it at all. I think what you saw was what coach Brent Pease was wanting to do. Coach Muschamp has the final say on what style we want to run. We wanted to be smashmouth and run the ball, that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, the injuries and personnel didn't quite match up with that. I don't think coach Muschamp handcuffed him at all in playcalling."

Does Muschamp prepare or coach differently for the true rivalry games, or does he really just consider them as just another game?

"There's definitely some emphasis on the Georgia game and the FSU game and that sort of thing. Obviously we practice the same way and we do everything the same way during the week, but you can tell there's an added emphasis on beating those guys, LSU included. Those are the big games of the year. There's an added emphasis for us to go out and play well and beat those guys."

With all the injuries that took place this season, was there a time where guys were thinking more possibly getting injured instead of just reacting?

"No, I don't think so. Once you get in the game, you don't really focus on that sort of thing. I don't think guys were out there thinking, 'This guy and this guy went down. I hope that doesn't happen to me.' Once you're out there, that sort of stuff never crosses your mind."

Outside of injuries, what were the two biggest factors that led to all the losses this year?

"It's hard to say anything other than the injuries because you just look back and if those guys don't get hurt, I don't see us having that bad of a year. There were some guys that were thrown into the mix that weren't ready and had to play because of those guys getting hurt. I honestly think the injuries played the biggest role of anything."

Was the negativity that circled around the team from fans and media used as motivation?

"They definitely used it as bulletin board material. Some of the stuff that outside sources were saying, that we weren't good enough or we lost too much coming off last year, whatever it is. There was stuff like that posted around, trying to use it as motivation for us to go out and play well."

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