Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss what his team accomplished during the open week while Saturday’s home game against the Tennessee Volunteers. The contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, and air live on CBS.
Despite listing nine different players as injured following the Miami game, Muschamp said Florida is in relative good health heading into the Tennessee game. Most importantly, juniors quarterback Jeff Driskel (knee) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) are both good to go.
In Monday’s updated depth chart, redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who missed all of fall camp and the first two games of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, was listed as the starter once again. He is not the only offensive lineman with injury concerns, however.
Sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries hurt his knee against Toledo on Aug. 31 but still started against UM on Sept. 7. He was removed from the game at halftime when the injury flared up, but Muschamp does not believe it will be an issue going forward.
“I don’t think so. I think the week off helped him. He had some soreness and some tightness in the knee. Certainly, it’s a long season. I felt like we wanted to pull him at the time. It is what it is,” he said.
Muschamp also addressed what would happen if Humphries needs to be replaced against UT. “If that’s the situation that occurs, Max Garcia goes to left tackle and Ian [Silberman] goes to left guard and we’ll move forward. We’re prepared for that to happen, but I don’t think that’s going to be an issue moving forward.”
The one player that remains questionable for Saturday is redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore, who hurt his ankle late in the fourth quarter in the last game. “Tyler Moore was the only injured player that probably would have missed this weekend had we had a game, with the ankle. Feel pretty good about him. He probably will not practice today. Hoping to get him back Tuesday or Wednesday,” Muschamp said.
TURNOVERS A CONCERN (ON BOTH SIDES)
The Gators are currently ranked in the bottom third of the nation in turnovers gained (2), turnovers lost (6) and turnover margin (-4), all numbers that understandably upset Muschamp considering Florida was one of the best teams in the nation when it came to taking care of the ball in 2012.
Despite UF coughing up five balls two weeks ago, Muschamp said the Gators have not spent any additional time working on ball protection or turnover creation in practice.
“It’s always a theme. It’s a theme in every practice. We practice it every single day offensively. We take all of our defensive players that are returners and they do it every single day. It’s nothing that’s new. It’s something we talk about constantly. We emphasize it. We take pictures of it. There’s been no new emphasis on ball security that hadn’t been talked about before,” he said.
“We were very good last season in ball security other than one football game. And now this year we had an issue last week, obviously. We got to move forward. We got to create more turnovers defensively and create more momentum for our football team.”
MAKING HIS PRESENCE KNOWN
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is not a starter – yet – but the freshman sensation is certainly playing like he is of that caliber. Hargreaves registered an interception in each of his first two games – something neither Joe Haden nor Janoris Jenkins accomplished at Florida – and is listed as the back-up at three different cornerback positions on the latest depth chart.
Muschamp explained why Hargreaves has been able to see so much time on the field despite being a freshman, noting that he earned the opportunities he’s been given due to his intelligence, athleticism and desire.
“The first thing is he’s really smart. He’s a guy that really works at the game. He comes in, he watches a lot of tape. There’s a reason why he’s playing well. God’s blessed him with a lot of athleticism, but he works at the mental side of the game,” Muschamp said.
“He’s come in and worked extremely hard, very similar to Marcus Roberson as a freshman, a guy that came in and worked extremely hard. We’ll play freshmen when they’re ready and this guy’s ready. That’s the bottom line. He’s been productive in practice. He’s been productive in games. I’m young but I am old fashioned that it doesn’t just snap on game day and all of a sudden it happens and the guy plays really good.
“He produces in practice every single day going back to camp from day one to all the way through till he was injured, then he came back off his injury and was productive again, and then he does it on game day. That’s why he’s playing and really a guy that’s going to be in the rotation as far as starting.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Tennessee’s offensive line, which has 139 combined starts between the players: “This will be the best offensive line we will face this year. Our guys felt that way last year after we played them.”
» On the tight ends having one total reception as a position group: “We’re going to throw it to guys that can make plays. … We’re going to circle the guys that are going to make plays, yards after catch and that’s not been a strong point of that position at this point.”
» On the importance of being No. 1 in the nation in third down conversion defense (.083): “Scoring defense is the only [statistic] I care about…and winning the game.”
» Muschamp said the offense is not where he thought it would be at this point in the season, citing production in the red zone, a lack of explosive runs (specifically against Miami) and ball security as his greatest disappointments to this point. He did, however, say he is pleased with the explosive vertical passing plays and pointed out that the Gators had two Saturdays ago against the Hurricanes.
» On the Florida-Tennessee rivalry: “It’s still a huge rivalry. It’s a very important game to the University of Florida. There’s no question because of the prominence both schools had in the 90s, it was the lead-off game for CBS it seemed like every year. There’s no question that it’s got a great, great, great history.”
» On how Mike linebacker Antonio Morrison performed in his first game of the season: “I think he was OK. I think he was solid, I really do. I think it was typical first game. I think he did some good things for us. There was nothing he hurt us in. but I think he’ll continue to improve and get better.”