Updated at 1:00 p.m.
With the Florida Gators just days away from their fourth game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. against the Kentucky Wildcats, he spoke with the media during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week three action.
GATORS’ PUNTING SUCCESS IS VERY STRAIGHTFORWARD
If you follow OGGOA on Twitter (and you should), then you may have seen a retweet we sent out Tuesday evening from a Kentucky sportswriter who believes Florida is skirting the rules on punt blocks. This was triggered by something Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips said during a press conference on Tuesday about the Gators’ punt block team: “They’ve got big guys pulling this guy that way, and this guy that way and a little fast guy with world-class speed comes up the middle to block it. And you can’t get off the block,” he said. “We’ve got to punch them in the mouth when they try to grab you and get their hands off of you and come off and block the little guy that tries to split the gap.”
Asked about the play Tuesday, Muschamp responded with one of his (now standard) quips. “We just play hard. We play hard and coach hard,” he said. “I’m real pleased with what we do. They didn’t throw any flags on that play, did they? OK. We just ran a guy through a gap.”
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, whose team was victimized by the punt block on Saturday, brushed off the question, too. “If we do our job, we’re not even having this discussion,” he said.
Muschamp also expanded on why Florida has been so successful blocking punts over the last few years. “We have good players – that’s the first thing that jumps out at you. We’ve got some guys that got some special ability. There’s been a huge emphasis on special teams, obviously when Urban [Meyer] was here, and I’ve carried that over. Special teams are very important to me,” he said.
“I always talk to the players in terms of, if you want the opportunity to play in the National Football League, the old Bill Parcells line, ‘If you’re not a quarterback or an offensive lineman and you don’t play special teams, you’re a selfish football player.’ I live by that. Our guys understand our best payers will play on special teams – you look at what Chris Rainey and a lot of our starters do – we have good players.
“Second thing is we have good speed. You create space plays in special teams, you got to have guys who can run. And then the third thing, I think D.J. Durkin – our special teams coordinator – does an outstanding job. He puts his guys in the right spots, he does a great job with scheming guys to get good players free in certain situations whether it’s the returning game or specialist or whatever. He takes a combination of all those things, that’s why we are where we are.”
He even discussed how the Gators blocking a punt can significantly affect the outcome of that particular game. “The percentages of winning the game go through the roof. It’s such a deflating thing for the punt team,” he said. “I don’t think off the top of my head I’ve won many games if we’ve had a punt blocked. It’s hard to do. The change in momentum, obviously you can easily score off of it either by the scoop or the next offensive possession. The momentum of the game certainly can slip pretty quickly.”
Asked to clarify his comments at the end of the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, Phillips said he was not trying to insinuate that anything Florida was doing was against the rules. “There’s nothing illegal with that. Nothing,” he said. “Everybody does it. We try to do it also. There’s nothing illegal about it. I wasn’t saying there was anything illegal about it. I was saying they do a great job of it.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Opening statement: “[I’m] very pleased to be 3-0 with a good conference win over Tennessee. Heading to Lexington this weekend is our first road game. We got 16 guys in our two-deep who have not been on the road yet or got on a plane. It’ll be interesting there. Kentucky is playing very well defensively; they’re giving up 13 points a game and leading the SEC in kickoff coverage and punting. They’re playing well so we’ve got our work cut out for us, especially with the newness of what we’re trying to do.”
» On linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins being so in sync: “Over a period of time as far as practice is concerned, they’ve played together last year, first of all. Number two, they’re very close off the field. Generally in my experience in coaching, guys that are close on and off the field generally have a bond. […] As much as anything, they’re both highly intelligent young men, very driven. They’re good football players and very productive for us. Those guys have a good bond of the field and they see things the same on the field.”
» On if redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey is doing well off the field, too: “I can only judge from the time I’ve been here. He’s done everything we’ve asked and then some as far as being accountable on and off the field as a football player, a member of our football team and this university. He’s a guy that is early in the meetings, works extremely hard as far as workouts are concerned and practiced, [and] does everything that’s asked of him academically. He’s been a great example for the rest of our football team.”
» On if Rainey should be in the race for the Heisman Trophy: “I think you look at the first three ball games and his production and what he’s done for our football team – running, catching and all the special teams [like] the return and blocking kicks – you’re talking about value to a football team. It’s a long season. We need to continue to play consistently well at his position and what he’s doing for our team. There’s nothing that tells me he won’t from the standpoint of how he’s working in practice and how he’s approaching the game.”
» On the Gators’ depth at running back: “We’ve really consistently played that group of guys [Rainey, Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee, Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer] and have been very productive at the position. A lot of that credit should go to Charlie [Weis]. Here’s a guy that’s identified, ‘OK these guys are playmakers. These guys can do good things for us. Let’s narrow their role down based on what they can do and their skill set.’ I think he’s done a really good job of identifying what they do well.”