By Jesse Simonton Miami Herald Writer
GAINESVILLE -- Despite growing frustration by Florida fans with the football program, Gators players are standing by coach Will Muschamp.
Team leaders — senior safety Jaylen Watkins, redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy and junior linebacker Michael Taylor — all expressed adulation for Muschamp, who is 22-12 in three seasons at Florida.
“To see somebody who really has our backs means a lot,” Murphy said. “We try to put it all on the field for a coach like that.”
Said Watkins: “He fights for us, no matter what. He takes all the blame, and we’re the ones out there playing. A lot of times, he puts us in the right position, we know he’s got the right scheme for us. We’re just, a lot of times, out of place or something. We definitely love the support he gives us, and we’re gonna support him right back.”
Taylor echoed the comments of his teammates, adding players must “believe” and “trust” in Muschamp’s vision.
Although a sizable segment of the Gator Nation on a number of pro-UF message boards seems to be souring on Muschamp, players say they have mostly ignored the fans’ festering frustrations.
“I really don’t pay much attention to it,” Watkins said. “I try to focus on my teammates, and those are the ones that really matter right now at this point.
“Of course, we love the fan support, but we have to keep each other up.”
UF players insist they won’t quit on the season — something Muschamp highlighted Monday — despite all their main goals being undeniably unattainable.
The locker room, according to Murphy, will not cave in.
“Guys are just pointing fingers at themselves,” he said. “Nobody is really pointing fingers at other people.
“Everybody is looking at themselves in the mirror and trying to fix what they’re doing wrong. There’s no finger-pointing other than people are pointing it back at themselves.”
Florida, losers of three in a row for the second time in three seasons, hosts Vanderbilt (noon, ESPN3) on homecoming Saturday, and although Murphy acknowledged potential cynicism by fans, he believes the Gator Nation has not given up on the team. “Not 100 percent sure,” said Murphy, on the fans’ possible reaction and attendance Saturday.
“But just talking to fans that I know personally, they’re still supporting us and they’re still very encouraging. I’m sure we’ll have a good show and people will still come support us. We can’t really focus on that. We have to focus on beating Vandy, whether there’s nobody in the crowd or all 90,000.”
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