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Florida coach Will Muschamp employing 'bunker mentality' to deal with job security questions

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GAINESVILLE, Florida — Florida coach Will Muschamp is trying to handle growing speculation about his job security with a "bunker mentality."

It doesn't really work at home.

Muschamp said Monday that his team's 42-13 loss to Missouri on Oct. 18, which included chants of "Fire Muschamp," affected his two sons, 13-year-old Jackson and 9-year-old Whit. They were on the sideline late in the game.

Muschamp said explaining the situation to his youngest was "not very fun."

"But my family understands it," he said. "They understand the deal of being a coach. There are some great things that come along with this job and there are some tough deals you've got to deal with. I don't complain about any of that stuff. That's part of the job when you come here."

Athletic director Jeremy Foley chose not to fire Muschamp following consecutive losses against teams that previously struggled in Southeastern Conference play. Instead, Foley gave Muschamp one final chance to turn things around — without quarterback Jeff Driskel, who had 12 turnovers in the last four games.

Freshman Treon Harris will make his first career start against rival and ninth-ranked Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday in nearby Jacksonville.

Florida (3-3, 2-3) used its bye week to get Harris acclimated to a bigger role in the offense and figure out what the Gators can do to improve an anemic passing offense that has been hampered by interceptions, fumbles and dropped passes.

"I think more than anything, when you have 15 turnovers in four games, it's a struggle to get anything going offensively," Muschamp said. "But we've run the ball pretty well through the year. ... We've struggled with an identity because of the turnovers. That's been a major issue."

The Gators rank 96th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in total offense, averaging 368 yards a game.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2014, file photo, Florida head coach Will Muschamp, center, leaves the field after losing to Missouri 42-13 in an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla. With his job on the line, Florida coach Will Muschamp is turning to freshman quarterback Treon Harris. Muschamp says Harris will start next week against Georgia in Jacksonville. (AP Photo/John Raoux, FIle)
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2014, file photo, Florida head coach Will Muschamp, center, leaves the field after losing to Missouri 42-13 in an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla. With his job on the line, Florida coach Will Muschamp is turning to freshman quarterback Treon Harris. Muschamp says Harris will start next week against Georgia in Jacksonville. (AP Photo/John Raoux, FIle)

Muschamp pointed to inconsistency at quarterback and receiver for continued problems on that side of the ball.

"I think that those two positions have not been what we've needed them to be," Muschamp said, making his most pointed comments about Driskel. "For whatever reason, we have lost some confidence, whether it's dropped passes, whether it's timing, whether it's forced throws. And we've had way too much inconsistency as far as our ball security at the quarterback position. And that's why we're going with Treon."

Teammates expressed excitement about the quarterback switch, with center Max Garcia saying Harris makes "tons of plays in practice, unbelievable plays."

"I'm like, 'Man, this guy is a special player,'" Garcia said.

Players backed Muschamp with similar enthusiasm.

"It's hard when people talk bad about him," Garcia said. "All we can do is just support him because he does put us in the right position. He does give us the opportunity to go out there and win. But he can't catch the ball for the receivers. He can't make the call or make the right read on the field. He can just prepare us to do it. As players we have to go out there and execute."

Added linebacker Michael Taylor: "People can really say what they want. ... They got the tickets. They have Twitter. They have all that stuff. And they can voice their opinions. There's nothing wrong with that. It's somewhere in the Constitution, in one of those amendments, where you can voice your opinion.

"People can say whatever they want to say, but if we go out there and play well Saturday, we win, a lot of stuff that comes on my Twitter feed will be a lot more positive than what it has been."

Florida is 25-19 in Muschamp's four seasons, including 15-14 in conference play.

Beating Georgia won't save Muschamp's job, but losing that neutral-site game for a fourth consecutive year could mean the end of his time in Gainesville.

"As a football coach, it's a bunker mentality," Muschamp said. "It's what you deal with when you get in this profession. I told the team after the game Sunday, I said, 'As a fan, you buy a ticket. They reserve the right to boo. They buy the ticket, they can come boo and chant and holler and scream and start a website and all that stuff.'

"If that's what they want to do, that's certainly their prerogative. As a coach or a player, when you come to the University of Florida or a place like this, that's something you've got to accept. That's part of it."

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PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2014, file photo, Florida head coach Will Muschamp, center, leaves the field after losing to Missouri 42-13 in an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla. With his job on the line, Florida coach Will Muschamp is turning to freshman quarterback Treon Harris. Muschamp says Harris will start next week against Georgia in Jacksonville. (AP Photo/John Raoux, FIle)
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