9/13: Wenger, Dunbar, Halapio, Harrison speak

By Adam Silverstein
September 13, 2011

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preparing for their first Southeastern Conference opponent of the 2011 season, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in The Swamp.

SEC STANDS OUT FOR WENGER

A redshirt senior transfer from Notre Dame, starting left guard Dan Wenger said the talent of his teammates and future opponents he has watched on film have really opened his eyes as to how the Southeastern Conference is truly on a different level. “If you understand football and you know football, you can tell the caliber of athletes the SEC has,” he said. “With our guys alone, it’s a lot different than the guys we had at Notre Dame. Speed, quickness, all that strength adds up. I can only imagine that every school across the SEC is going to be the same way.”

Wenger’s impressions were forever changed the moment he stepped onto the Florida practice field and got a chance to take a look at his new teammates. “The athletes that our line has, it’s just unbelievable. When I came down and saw it first-hand, the first thought in my mind was, ‘These guys are freaks.’ You know, in a good way,” he said. “They do some things I haven’t seen before and just have a lot of athletic ability that I never got a chance to play with. It’s been amazing to be a part of this group of linemen. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to play with on the O-line.”

RECEIVING OPPORTUNITIES WILL COME

Florida’s wide receivers have not been too heavily involved in the offense up to this point, but redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar is not worried. In fact, all he cares about is the final score. “As long as the team is winning, I’m fine,” he said. “I’m happy.”

Nevertheless, he is confident that the passing game will pick up at least in part due to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley continued improvement throwing the ball over the middle. “John’s been playing extremely well,” he said. “He’s been playing his game. He’s very confident and I believe he’s been playing good.”

Dunbar also opened up about how the wide receivers are being coached different this year, noting that the routes are much more precise. “It’s a totally different offense from last year,” he said. “All the offense is about timing and being in a certain spot, so if you don’t run a route right in a certain spot, you’re going to hang yourself out to dry and get hit.”

OFFENSIVE LINE CONTINUES TO SOLIDIFY
[EXPAND Click to expand and read the rest of this post.]The Gators offensive line has yet to allow a sack in the team’s first two games, a statistic not lost on the unit’s starters. Due to strong personal relationships, great coaching and terrific performances, the players believe they can be the strength of the offense and will only get better as the season goes on. “I feel like we’ve played a lot better these past two games,” redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio said. “It shows on the field. We haven’t given up a sack and our goal is to not give up a sack this year. We’re trying to be the best offensive line this year.”

He credits that statistic mostly to offensive line coach Frank Verducci. “He’s just teaching us technique and the plays and we’ve been working hard ever since camp,” he said.

More than anything else, the unit’s chemistry may be the biggest factor in its early season success. Redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison said his teammates have learned how to get through to each other. “We know how to work with each other,” Harrison said. “We know if someone’s getting down on themselves, how to handle each person individually. Some people don’t accept yelling as well – maybe positive reinforcement [is better for them].”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Halapio on Tennessee week: “Everything’s more intense this week. We feel like the preseason is over and we’re just getting ready for Tennessee, a big game.”

» Halapio on the team not singling Tennessee out: “Coach [Will] Muschamp preaches that every week. Nameless and faceless opponents. We’re just going to prepare every week the same and treat everybody the same.”

» Halapio on holding blocks longer for the playmakers: “Coach [Charlie] Weis was coaching us yesterday a lot about it. When [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps have the ball, play to the whistle because you never know what them two may do with the ball – hold your blocks as long as you can.”

» Halapio on the holding that negated Rainey’s touchdown: “I didn’t see a holding call at all and [the coaches] didn’t see a holding call at all. I had two penalties – the first one I don’t believe that I was holding – and the second one, yeah I blocked him in the back.”

» Halapio on if Brantley does stuff for the offensive line: “Yeah, he’s talked about it a lot but he’s been real busy. Over the summer Johnny B would bring some snacks and some Gummy Bears or some candy for the offensive line. I’m pretty sure that he’ll be doing that pretty soon.”

» Halapio on what he heard Tim Tebow did: “I think he would take them out to like McDonald’s or something.”

» Halapio on Rainey’s love for football: “Chris Rainey loves football. In practice he has a lot of juice and a lot of energy and he’s just bringing everybody up. Having him out there doing what he does helps us a lot have fun. He just loves the game and he loves to practice and he loves football.”

» Halapio on if Rainey loves football more than others: “I feel like it’s real important to everybody, I feel like he shows it – it’s really more important to him than others. It’s easier to see that through Chris Rainey because he’s a real joyful guy out there on the field. Never has a down day and just loves to come to work every day.”

» Harrison on how the team is reacting to SEC play: “The intensity of practice just increases a little bit. Besides that, we just worry about one game at a time and are hoping to have a good game this weekend.”

» Harrison on how the return of sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd can help the team: “He is a great athlete, real strong guy, real powerful. Real modest also for how exceptional of an athlete he is. We’re glad to have him coming back this weekend. He’s an amazing pass rusher. Real good, real versatile on the line. His power and his quickness [make him an effective pass rusher] – he’s still pretty quick for a big guy.”

» Harrison on sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley’s dancing:: “He’s a firm believer in playing with what he calls swag. He just feels that if he can play how he likes to play – of course he’s still going to listen to coaches with technique and stuff – but the little dancing, that little energy is his way of playing. He’s just a real lively person, always energetic, that brings the whole team up so we appreciate that.”

» Harrison on if Easley’s dancing would piss him off as an opposing lineman: “It would and maybe that’s one of his techniques to getting into the offense’s head.”[/EXPAND]

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