1/18: Dunker suspended, more Gators leave, injury updates, Sugar Bowl review, 2013 preview

Florida Gators head football coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to wrap up the 2012 season, look ahead to the upcoming spring practice and discuss some of the recent changes and issues within the program.

PUNISHMENT HANDED DOWN

Muschamp announced Friday that freshman offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities pending the outcome of his legal affairs. Dunker was arrested Monday on a third-degree felony charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle as well as a second-degree misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license. He was released on his own recognizance on Thursday and claims that he paid $600 for the scooter not knowing it had been reported stolen.

“I met with Jessamen Dunker [Friday] morning. I have suspended him from all team activities until we get more information,” he said. “I just met to him face-to-face [Friday] morning for the first time for 15 minutes. Once we get a little bit more information, then we’ll move forward, but he’s suspended from the team at this time. We’ll address that further when I know more.”

THREE MORE GATORS LEAVING PROGRAM

It was also announced Friday by Muschamp that redshirt juniors wide receiver Stephen Alli and defensive lineman Kedric Johnson will both be graduating in the spring and moving on from the Florida football program.

Muschamp said that Alli plans to go to graduate school; should he remain at UF, he will have the opportunity to join the team as a graduate assistant. Johnson “may play somewhere [else] next fall,” Muschamp said, and the two are planning to discuss it.

Furthermore, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan, who never stepped on the field for the Gators due to nagging shoulder problems, has applied for a medical exception to remain on scholarship but no longer play football.

CLEANING UP SOME INJURIES

Muschamp once again noted that redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio (knee), redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) all had scopes on their various injuries this month.

“We expect all three of those [players] to participate at some point in spring. I don’t know when that will happen, how much contact there will be. I’ll know more as we move forward,” he said.

Junior WR Solomon Patton (broken arm) is “doing really well,” according to Muschamp. He has already been cleared for non-contact work during the spring.

Additionally, sophomore punter Kyle Christy had minor shoulder surgery and will be fine for spring football. “He played pretty well with it. I don’t know why we did surgery, but they felt like he needed it,” Muschamp said.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!

EXPLAINING FAILURES IN SUGAR BOWL

Muschamp opened up Friday’s press conference by discussing at length what went wrong during the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 against the Louisville Cardinals.

“In all three phases, we got away from our formula for our season of winning 11 games, the sixth time in UF history of doing that. … Offensively, got away from running the ball and playing the physical style we play with. And that was on my shoulders. I told Brent to pick up the tempo on some things. I felt like we needed to create some energy for our team in the game and some momentum. We got away from what won 11 games, and we pressed a little bit. In special teams, Andre [Debose]’s kick return was fantastic – run well and executed well and blocked well. But we really did nothing other than that in the game to positively affect the outcome of the game as far as that is concerned in special teams. Turnover margin we lost two of them in the entire season and we lost both games. We’re a team with a low margin for error for self-inflicted wounds and we certainly, in that game, created several for ourselves that put us behind in the game. … The two we lost was turnover margin and not doing what we needed to do to get it done. Fantastic year. You win 11 games. Didn’t accomplish some things we wanted to accomplish. I think I’ve been pretty open about that. But I’m very proud of where the program is headed and there’s so many positive things happening in our program as we speak.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the players that left early for the 2013 NFL Draft:Matt Elam had a fantastic year. You look from year one to year two and the production he had was outstanding. … Jordan Reed really continued to develop himself as a tight end, really being only his second year of playing tight end. I think his best football is ahead of him. Jelani Jenkins, I wish had been more healthy this year. Really had a great offseason and going into the [2012] season expecting some big things. Certainly when he played, he was very productive. And Sharrif Floyd was dominant this year, really was dominant inside. As good of an inside players as I’ve been around as far as taking control of the line of scrimmage for us. He just played outstanding.”

» On how, as a coach, he helped the juniors make decisions for their future: “That’s one of the benefits of Florida. With my NFL experience, I’m able to get on the phone with general managers. It’s our job to get the right information to each one of these young men. All four put in their NFL evaluations, which is their business not ours, to look at where they’ll be projected for the draft. At the end of the day, this is a family decision and this is a personal decision and it’s their decision. It’s not mine, and it’s not the University of Florida’s. We support them 100 percent. Nobody understands the situations that these guys are in and the factors that they’re making the decisions based on. That’s their personal decision and we support them 100 percent. I appreciate what they did for Florida and wish them well. Certainly our doors are always open to those guys.”

» On if the team overachieved in 2012: “I think so. I think we’re a team that we had a very young talent base, a very good young talent base here. I think we did a nice job of developing these guys this year and pulling together for a common purpose and understanding that. That’s the challenge we got to continue to do. Whenever you have a first-year starter at the quarterback position, you’re going to have question marks. You got to play well in other areas. We’ve got to continue to make improvements offensively. We played really well defensively and on special teams, which really was our formula for winning games [along with] playing well enough on offense to be successful.”

» As far as the interior of the defensive line is concerned, considering the Gators lost Floyd and redshirt senior Omar Hunter, Muschamp said a combination of players will be counted on to fill in. Junior Dominique Easley “can play inside and out so [depending on the grouping] he can slide inside,” Muschamp said. Additionally, junior Damien Jacobs, redshirt sophomore Leon Orr, freshman Quinteze Williams and incoming JUCO transfer Darious Cummings will all be competing at the position.

» Muschamp said juniors Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins will both get a look at safety in addition to cornerback. Because Florida played 75 percent nickel or dime in 2010, getting the best players on the field in the secondary is of utmost importance. Also competing will be freshman Marcus Maye, “who had a very good bowl practice,” freshman Rhaheim Ledbetter, sophomore Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Valdez Showers.

» Muschamp said that redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy and freshman Skyler Mornhinweg will be listed as the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks, respectively, heading into spring practice.

» On freshmen playing time: “A lot of playing as a freshman, I’ve said it before, is maturity, how they handle being away from home, how they handle the new environment, new coaches, different terminology, different scheme, all those things and how they handle and manage those things.”

» On quarterback Jacoby Brissett transferring: “I wish him all the luck in the world. He’s a first-class young man. I wish him all the success that’s out there for him, and I think he’ll be very successful.”

» On dealing with so many transfers in his first two seasons: “I think any time that there’s a coaching change, you can track it, there is natural attrition that happens in those situations.”

» On recruiting: “Looking forward to [National] Signing Day on February 6th. … I’m real pleased with where things are.”

» On Bernie Machen remaining on as school president: “I’m excited about Dr. Machen continuing to be our president. Here’s a guy that understands the window that athletics can provide a university. I appreciate his continued leadership for the university.”

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