Participating in his first game week press conference of the season, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the team’s first official depth chart and preparations heading into Saturday’s season-opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. live on ESPN.
Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan – strained his pectoral on Saturday, will miss the season opener
Sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders – “pulled a hamstring” on Thursday and will miss multiple games – “He has a hamstring at this time. He’ll sit the first two games for right now. But he’s got a hamstring problem, so he wouldn’t be able to go the first game at least anyways,” Muschamp said.
Redshirt junior DB Jeremy Brown – set to have his wrist reevaluated on Tuesday to see if he can return to practice, will miss the season opener
Freshman OT D.J. Humphries – outside shot he will play if doctors clear him to return to practice from an injured MCL
Redshirt freshman guard Tommy Jordan – will miss opener with a shoulder injury
PLENTY OF FRESHMEN WILL PLAY
Though only five true freshmen (two offense, three defense) are listed on the opening week depth chart, Muschamp said Monday that as many as 10 are in line to see time on the field throughout the course of the game.
Wide receiver Latroy Pittman (X), guard Jessamen Dunker (right), linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. (Buck), LB Antonio Morrison (Will) and defensive back Brian Poole (dime cornerback) are all listed on the depth chart and will assuredly see plenty of action.
Joining them will be Humphries (if healthy enough to compete), defensive end Jonathan Bullard (“a guy that is definitely going to play Saturday, probably very early in the game”), running back Matt Jones, WR Raphael Andrades and tight end Kent Taylor.
ADJUSTING TO THE NEW KICKOFF RULES
With the kickoff tee moved forward and the ball set to be placed at the 25 yard line for touchbacks, Muschamp and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin have spent plenty of time working with the team this offseason to help them adjust to the new rules.
Muschamp said Monday that ensuring that redshirt junior wide receiver and starting kickoff returner Andre Debose brings back kicks is of paramount importance.
“We’d like for Andre to bring it out. That’s what we’d like for him to do…depending how deep it is,” he said. “We’ve kind of given him a little bit of a landmark back there of when we want him to take it out. We’ve worked really hard on that and making a good decision for those situations. That’s also affected by the hang time of the kick.”
On the more “defensive” side of the play, Muschamp is confident that redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis will be able to kick the ball out of the end zone. However, he also cautioned that Florida may try to pin teams back on occasion. He is equally confident in the Gators’ coverage teams and their ability to eliminate any potential significant returns.
Read the rest of what Will Muschamp had to say on Monday…after the break!
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the defense: “We have a lot of things to prove defensively based on last year’s inconsistent performances. […] We need to go out and executive very well, tackle very well. That’s always a concern going into a first ball game. […] Execute well, execute the game plan, tackle well in the game and play well. All of those things add up to a pretty good Saturday.”
» On how strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman has helped the team: “You look at the change in their bodies over a period of time since he’s been here; it’s been very obvious. I think the confidence level in our players has gained a lot from the standpoint of we’re stronger. We’re a more fit football team than we were a year ago. But we’re a year older as well. We were a young team last year and lot of these guys really bought into what we were doing in the weight room, and we have gotten stronger. We’ve made tremendous strides.”
» On practicing hard but being cautious about injuries: “We’re going to practice hard. When you have good depth on your football team, you’re able to do that. We’re going to go good-on-good every day. That’s how you get better; that’s how you improve.”
» On redshirt senior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “Frankie, he’s our most consistent receiver right now. Everyone looks at vertical plays down the field – and that’s great – but you got to be able to block. You got to be able to make the tough catches across the middle. You got to know your assignments and understand the timing and the different things in the throwing game. […] He’s a guy that’s an experienced player. He’s a guy that brings that to the table as well. I think he has really tried to step up as far as in that [wide receiver] room is concerned for some of the younger players. I think it has been really good for him and them.”
» On what makes junior do-everything Trey Burton so successful: “Trey is very smart. He’s very intelligent. Football comes very easy to him. It comes easier to him than maybe others as far as just understanding concepts in the run game, concepts in the pass game, protections. He sees the big picture; he understands that part of it. You can verbalize an awful lot with him that maybe you can’t with other guys. He just takes to the game very well, so you’re able to put him in a lot of difference spots.”
» Muschamp said redshirt sophomore Mack Brown (No. 2 running back) and Jones will see plenty of carries on Saturday. Redshirt senior Omarius Hines will also see snaps and sophomore Chris Johnson could as well depending on how the game is going.
» On what strides Brown has made as a running back: “Our run game is a little different, first of all. We’re very different in what we’re trying to do as far as our downhill running game is concerned. What we’re doing schematically helps his running style, which last year it didn’t. He’s done a better job as far as his assignments and protections and the different things you got to do besides just carrying the ball at the running back position.”
» Though junior Darrin Kitchens will start at Sam linebacker, redshirt sophomore Neiron Ball will also see the field a lot and may have actually gotten the start if he did not hurt his ankle last week.
» On sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer, who will be used in a variety of sets: “He is a guy that, again, he can do a lot of things. Very intelligent, very smart, played a lot and was practically a starter as a true freshman at Florida – says an awful lot about what kind of players he is and can be. I think he’s really answered the challenge as far as blocking is concerned.”
» On ensuring the team does not look ahead to Texas A&M: “We need to take care of Bowling Green. I’ll turn the tape on from last year and let our team watch that. Did you watch the Furman game? We need to prepare well. We need to play well in the game. And that’s what I expect to have happen.”