Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (1-0) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s Southeastern Conference opener against the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
INJURY (AND REPLACEMENT) UPDATES
Muschamp confirmed Monday that redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee’s leg surgery, to repair a broken tibia and fibula, was successful with the player expected to leave the hospital later that afternoon. No decisions have been made by McGee about his future, Muschamp said, which is understandable considering the incident just occurred. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang had McGee rated as a fifth- or sixth-round selection prior to the injury.
Senior Clay Burton will take most of McGee’s snaps at tight end, while senior Tevin Westbrook and freshman DeAndre Goolsby battle for the second-string job. Goolsby was potentially headed for a redshirt but is unlikely to have that luxury anymore.
“We plan on activating him and getting him going,” Muschamp said. “That means you’ve got to get him going on special teams and get him going on offense. That’s our plan.”
Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (high-ankle sprain, bone chip) will be out three weeks as initially diagnosed, Muschamp said. Humphries has already been ruled out of Kentucky and likely Alabama; he will get the off week to rehabilitate before returning to action.
In response to Humphries’s absence, redshirt senior Chaz Green will move over to left tackle with redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson becoming the new starting right tackle. Freshman David Sharpe will be the third tackle, while senior Trenton Brown slides in as the fourth when needed.
“In my opinion, he’s going to be very good. He played extremely well early on in the game,” said Muschamp of Johnson. “Obviously, there was some anxiety in your first time playing in those situations. But as the game wore on, we thought he played very well, climbed on the second level and the run game, did a nice job of doing some of those things, really settled down as far as protection was concerned. Rod is certainly capable of playing very well. I think he will.”
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Marcus Maye (hamstring) will be back in action on Saturday, though freshman DB J.C. Jackson (shoulder) suffered a second dislocation this fall and is questionable going forward.
Offensive player of the game: Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel
Offensive lineman of the game: Redshirt senior center Max Garcia (also named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week
Hard hat: Sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis
Special teams player of the game: Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose – “It was great getting him back in The Swamp, playing and playing well. [He had a] big-time punt return and is just a big-time threat back there.
Scout team players of the week: Redshirt senior TE Gideon Ajagbe (offense), freshman defensive tackle Khairi Clark (defense), redshirt freshman walk-on WR Case Harrison (special teams)
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Florida scored 65 points on Saturday. The Gators also held their opponent scoreless. Yet no matter how well it looked like UF played, Muschamp found plenty to pick apart when reviewing game tape on Sunday.
Offensively, Muschamp was most concerned with Florida’s ball security. “We had some issues handling the ball. It didn’t hurt us [in the game], but it certainly can [going forward],” he said.
He also thought the Gators could be cleaner from an execution standpoint. “We’ve got to clean up some things in the run game and clean up some things in protection,” he noted. “We had a couple routes run at the wrong depth.”
Though Muschamp was pleased with Florida’s tackling, especially considering it only had six missed tackles in a season opener, he knows it is something the Gators will have to work on going forward. His biggest concern was with UF’s perimeter run defense and how the defense leveraged the ball. “We played some perimeter things and screens [badly] that we will certainly see this week. That’s something we have to get cleaned up,” he noted.
Perhaps of greatest issue is Florida’s still-young secondary, which had plenty of growing pains on Sunday even though it did not necessarily cost the Gators in the opener.
“Eye control for a young player, especially on the back end, is a major issue, and we had some major issues. So, that’s something that was expected,” he began.
“I don’t think we were as physical as we needed to be as far as playing blocks and tackling. We were really soft. But, you know, again, you are coaching some guys with some ability and they’re going to continue to improve, they’re going to continue to take steps forward.
“A couple of them commented to me after practice, ‘Now I understand what you talk about, urgency in getting aligned.’ We had some times we got lined up late, we didn’t get in the right spot. It caused our eyes not to get into the right spot, and they don’t understand always that generally. I’m young but old-fashioned from the standpoint of ‘how you practice is how you play.’ … Overall, pleased, but we’ve still have a long ways to go with some of these guys.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the Wildcats: “First SEC game. Mark Stoops has done an outstanding job there; much, much improved in all areas in his second year. … They do a nice job in the run and pass game. They’re a tempo team. They’re going to be on the ball. They’re going to play as fast as anybody that we play this year. … They haven’t had a turnover this year offensively. … Defensively, they’ve gone really to an odd structure they did last year now it kinda looks exclusively moving forward. Forced seven turnovers. … They run extremely well at linebacker, but the thing you see is they’re playing fast, they’re playing with a lot of confidence defensively, Mark’s done an outstanding job there. Special teams, they have a 53-yard field goal in the last ball game, so that’s a threat.”
» On sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson showing out: “He played a lot in the first half. We had a lot of opportunities with him, but he’s a guy that’s got a really good catch radius. He’s able to get the ball in a lot of different spots, and he’s able to go get the ball and attack the ball. He’s got natural ability to do those things. He’s a very explosive guy, so, he’s a very talented young man.”
» On Florida’s 27-game winning streak against Kentucky: “It’s a 2014 Florida team versus a 2014 Kentucky team. That’s all it is to me.”
» On the relationship between running backs junior Matt Jones and sophomore Kelvin Taylor and the duo being amenable to splitting carries: “I think they’re both great teammates. That’s part of what we identify in guys in the recruiting process. One of things that we look at is the ability to put the team first. That’s important – to have guys that have that ability to be able put the team first and understand the big picture, see through the door instead of the keyhole, as I tell the players. Both of those guys can do that. Both of those guys are outstanding people. They’re fun to be around; they’re fun to coach. But they understand the big picture of this thing, and we’re going to be playing 75-80 snaps a game. They’re going to have their opportunities. They’ve got to make their opportunities count. They understand we’re going to go with the guy with the hot hand, but we need both of them. It’s a long season, so they understand that.”
» On the command shown by freshman QB Treon Harris in limited action: “Took the ball in the right spot where you’re supposed to go with it, so I thought he made two huge plays for us and showed a lot of confidence in what he was doing. That’s something that really appealed to us in his process. He’s been a guy that’s able to make plays and that’s something he does well.”
» On ensuring that speedy playmakers like Debose and freshman RB Brandon Powell get the ball in games: “We’ve got to have more touches for Andre [Debose]. We’ve got to have more touches for Brandon Powell. You’ve got to put it in [hands] of guys who can score touchdowns. Those guys have the ability to do that. As far as moving forward offensively, that was something we talked about [Sunday] as a staff, creating opportunities for those guys to get the ball in their hands.”