9/4: Watkins steps up, penalties a problem

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the team’s season-opening victory and look ahead to Saturday’s road game against the Texas A&M Aggies at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

WATKINS MAKING A STATEMENT

Head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn maintained all summer that there would not be two starting cornerbacks but rather a four-man rotation that was each on the field about 75-90 percent of the time throughout the course of the game. While that was somewhat true on Saturday, sophomores Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Pufioy played the most but not necessarily the best. Junior Jaylen Watkins stood out during the game and made a legitimate case to be the one starting opposite of Roberson at least in the next game.

“He was very productive,” senior safety Josh Evans said of Watkins. “We spoke before the game and I just gave him a chat to go out there and play his game. He showed that, and as a team we liked it. We’ll be expecting a lot from him this year.”

Watkins realizes that all he can do is show up and make an impact, that it is ultimately the coaches who decide how much he sees the field each contest. He did that on Saturday, registering three pass breakups while Purifoy struggled immensely with his tackling.

“It’s up to the coaches. I expect to [start], but it’s a coaches’ decision,” he said.

“We’re going to go with the guys who are doing pretty good in that game. Coaches have confidence in all four of us. It’s not really a big deal. All of us pretty much play an equal amount of snaps.”

PENALTIES, MISSED TACKLES ARE PLAYER PROBLEMS

Both Watkins and Evans chocked up most of Florida’s 14 penalties on Saturday to mental errors, noting that as players they have to be better in being more tuned in and not making silly mistakes like jumping offsides.

“It was the first game so we knew we were going to have a few penalties,” Watkins said. “The penalties we did have were mostly mental errors on the players, something that they got to go within themselves – being too aggressive at times. Obviously coach addressed it. We don’t want to go down the road we did last year with penalties. We had 100 yards of penalties that led to a few scores, too.”

Evans noted that staying disciplined is the key.

“Sometimes our front gets a little anxious and wants to get a quick jump on the ball, which is good sometimes but can hurt us in the long run, too,” he said. “Just staying focused, everybody watching and keeping their eye on the ball. That’s something we can work on definitely in practice and any other way we can.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Watkins on quick passes being tough to defend: “I feel like a lot of people try to avoid our pass rush so they want to do quick passes. We press pretty much every down so a lot of quick slants and pick routes, teams try to do that to us. It was good having it last week because we might see it this week, too.”

» Evans on how the defense can make fewer mistakes when tackling: “Just working on our fundamentals, working on our craft. This week working on our tackling drills. [...] We’ve been trying to keep our [missed] tackling under double digits. In a game, if you can do that, hopefully it’s a win.”

» Evans on the atmosphere of Kyle Field: “It’s The Swamp. We’re used to 90,000. We’re used to the same crowd. So that won’t impact us.”

» Redshirt senior guard James Wilson on the offensive line’s relationship with senior running back Mike Gillislee: “We love Gilly. He’s always telling us, ‘Just hold that one more time. Just hold that block a little bit longer; I got you.’ He feeds back to us, and it’s really a good relationship.”

» Wilson on offensive coordinator Brent Pease being caught cursing on TV: “What coach doesn’t cuss?”

» Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins on how freshman Buck LB Dante Fowler, Jr. performed: “I thought he played well for being his first college game. I was real proud of him.”

» Jenkins on junior defensive end Dominique Easley’s performance on Saturday: “Yeah, he looked like himself. He was real disruptive like always.”

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