In typical New Orleans fashion, a jazz band played on the tarmac as Florida Gators players and coaches deplaned at Armstrong International on Thursday. afternoon.
No. 3 Florida (11-1) is in “The Big Easy” to prepare to play the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals (10-2) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Players dressed casual for the flight, sporting gray Allstate Sugar Bowl hoodies. Along with the jazz music playing, each was greeted with handshakes by Sugar Bowl representatives.
Florida coach Will Muschamp, wearing a brown tweed sports jacket and light blue shirt with no tie, addressed the media as did linebacker Jon Bostic and quarterback Jeff Driskel.
With the game in New Orleans, all three spoke about the importance of avoiding distractions. The Sugar Bowl is notorious for players running into trouble off of the field, with a few French Quarter arrests over the years for incidents such as public intoxication and disturbing the peace.
“The more mature teams generally have success in bowl games because they understand when to focus and they understand when to have fun,” Muschamp said.
“That’s what you’ve got to be able to do when you’re in a place like New Orleans.
“There’s a lot of distractions and a lot of fun things to do. You’ve got to understand when we’ve got to go work — we work. When we’re going to go have fun — let’s have fun.
“That’s something mature teams handle very well and I expect our to as well.”
Driskel said not to expect to see any Gators players names make any headlines “in the paper” for the wrong reasons over the next week.
Florida has avoided off-the-field issues for the most part during the past calendar year. Defensive lineman Leon Orr was arrested for marijuana possession in January and tight end A.C. Leonard, who has since transferred, was arrested for simple domestic battery in February. Orr was cited again in May for knowingly driving without a license. Offensive lineman Trip Thurman was cited for two misdemeanors, one involving the use of a fake I.D. to get into clubs (he was 20) and the other for being in possession of a beer.
In other words, only three players — including one no longer on the team — have had run-ins with the law in the past 12 months. In college football these days — and considering the 30-plus UF player arrests when Urban Meyer was the head coach — that’s a significantly low number.
Bostic credits players for helping each other walk the line.
“Our guys have been smart all year,” Bostic said. “We work together to have each other’s back and stay out of trouble. We all make sure that we are always going in the right direction.”
Muschamp also spoke about why he’s been able to keep the number of arrests down. He sent a strong message to players early in his UF tenure when he kicked cornerback Janoris Jenkins off of the team after a second marijuana possession arrest in a three-month span. Many projected Jenkins to be a first round NFL pick before he opted to return to Florida for his senior season, only to end up being dismissed from the team that spring.
Muschamp’s message was clear: Repeating bad decisions, regardless of star status, would not be tolerated.
“It’s a continual education and stressing to the players everyday about making good choices,” Muschamp said. “Everyone makes bad decisions here and there, but these are good kids. It’s also about recruiting the right kind of guys and understanding the standard of excellence at the University of Florida on and off the field.”
When asked what time curfew would be for the players, Muschamp slid in a jab.
“We’ll handle that with our team (smiling),” he said. “It’ll be earlier than your curfew, I can guarantee that.”