No. 19/20 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers and his team’s upcoming road game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 28. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPNU.
Muschamp announced that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel’s surgery, originally scheduled for Sunday, will instead be performed on Wednesday. Driskel broke his right fibula during Saturday’s game and will have a plate inserted in the leg. “Again, very disappointed for Jeff. It’s part of the game, but it’s very difficult to deal with. Really hurt for him and his family and for us as a football team,” he said.
One other serious injury occurred as redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson, who missed all of 2012 due to injury, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot and will probably miss 1-2 weeks. “I’m disappointed for Colin. He was starting to really progress and do well for us,” Muschamp said. “He’s had some issues with his foot; this is a different issue with his foot. It’s something that has not happened before.”
Three other Gators were injured Saturday but each is expected to be active for Saturday’s game. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr hurt his shoulder and will miss practice on Monday but should be back Tuesday or Wednesday. Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who sat out the first two games of the season with a torn pectoral, got poked in the eye early Saturday and had three stitches after the game. “He’s going to be fine for this week. I’ll tell you, a tough young man he is to play through that,” Muschamp said. Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was also knocked from the game after being hit hard on a kickoff return; he was later diagnosed with a thigh contusion and was back at practice running on Sunday.
As for the three Florida players that missed the Tennessee game, Muschamp believes two will be healthy enough to play at Kentucky. Junior CB Marcus Roberson (knee) ran well Sunday and will be back at practice Tuesday, and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) will also be back in action Tuesday. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers, who injured his ankle during practice on Wednesday, was listed as “doubtful” and will likely be out at least one if not two weeks.
Offensive Player of the Week: Redshirt junior QB Tyler Murphy
“I can’t compliment enough about how he came in, responded and handled the situation. We had a lot of confidence in him. He’s really taken a step forward. I thought he had a solid spring and obviously had a great summer. When you get thrust into the spotlight at the beginning of training camp and how he responded in that time and the confidence began to grow with us as far as him handling the job. Improved tremendously as a passer, taking the ball in the right spots. He’s always been a very intelligent guy and a really good athlete. … Very proud of him, a guy that’s worked through the process of becoming a starter here at the University of Florida and a guy that never complained … always handled things perfectly.”
Scrap Iron: redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia, redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison, redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio
Big Plays (Offense): Murphy, senior wide receiver Trey Burton, junior WR Loucheiz Purifoy, senior WR Solomon Patton, redshirt junior WR Quinton Dunbar
Defensive Player of the Week: Sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr.
Fowler was also named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
“A guy that continues to improve and play well, played much better than he did the previous time out. A guy that can be a pretty disruptive player for us.”
Hard Hat: Sophomore LB Antonio Morrison
Ball Hawks: Fowler, Morrison junior DT Darious Cummings, senior DT Dominique Easley, junior safety Jabari Gorman, senior DT Damien Jacobs, redshirt freshman S Marcus Maye, sophomore CB Brian Poole, redshirt junior LB Michael Taylor
Special Teams Player of the Week: Freshman LB Jarrad Davis
“Jarrad continues to improve. He was also the Scout Team Player of the Week. He works with us half the time defensively preparing for the game and he works to help prepare our offense for the next week’s game. A guy that works extremely hard and is going to be a really good football player here.”
Scout Team Players of the Week: Davis, freshman RB Adam Lane, redshirt sophomore walk-on LB Cody Adams
Fumbling the ball in consecutive games and still getting back in the groove of things after missing fall camp with a serious viral infection, sophomore running back Matt Jones has lost his stranglehold on the starting job. Though he played well against the Vols, rumbling 49 yards on 12 carries and scoring a touchdown, Jones coughed the ball up when he tried to switch hands in traffic.
His miscues have led Muschamp to “go with the guy with the hot hand” in any given game. Redshirt junior Mack Brown became the man on Saturday, taking 24 carries for 86 yards and a score.
“I think Mack played well,” Muschamp said. “I think he deserves that [opportunity]. Matt needs to continue to come on and Kelvin [Taylor] needs to continue to come on. Those are the three guys we feel comfortable with at this point.”
He continued: “We’ll just get in the game and see who’s making the right cuts and who’s getting the ball north and south and who’s getting positive yards and who’s maintaining possession of the ball. That guy is probably going to get the ball a lot.”
That does not mean Muschamp is done with Jones. Not by a long shot.
“Football is a developmental game and it takes time. … He’s got to get in a rhythm. He’s a bigger back. Sometimes those guys, it takes a little bit longer for them to get in their rhythm of playing,” he explained.
“He’s not playing bad. You can’t switch the hands coming across the middle off of a catch. He knows that. That was a basic fundamental ball-security you can’t violate. He did. It’s not that he’s not running well. It’s just that he’s got to be sharper in some of his cuts, taking his eyes to the right spots. We had a couple busted assignments on protection that we need to get cleaned up. I think as we continue to move further in the season he’ll continue to play well.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Halapio being a tough football player: “He’s a typical throwback. His pec is mended and he’s playing through a lot of pain, probably. He won’t tell you, but I know he is. When he got hurt, I thought it was his pec. I went on the field and I looked up and he was bleeding out of his eye. He’s one tough customer, I can tell you that.”
» On winning 26-straight against Kentucky: “Whatever the streak is, it doesn’t matter. It only matters what we do on Saturday afternoon. And that certainly will be reiterated to our players here this afternoon when we start our team meeting for Kentucky.”
» Muschamp said freshman Max Staver will move over from the scout team and begin working with the offense while preparing for the game each week. He also noted that Florida may expand its package with Burton in order to take a bit of pressure off Murphy in the running game.
» On the secondary filling in for lost players: “Travaris Robinson does a great job and doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does with our secondary as far as making sure those guys are ready to play multiple positions. It’s not about putting the next guy in. It’s about putting the next best player in. That means moving three guys and all three of those guys better have repped at the other positions and better have a good enough knowledge base to understand the game plan of what we’re trying to do.”
» Muschamp said he has no plans to take Purifoy off of kick returning duty after he suffered a serious thigh contusion on Saturday against the Vols.
» On the Gators playing their first night game and out-of-state road game of the seaon: “There’s no question, any time you go on the road, it’s a little different. We try to do everything here Friday as far as our meetings are concerned and our walk-throughs. We don’t really do anything as far as just meeting at night. First night game. You’re going to have a bunch of young players for the first time with a lot of idle time on their hands as opposed to just getting up, eating and going to the stadium and playing. The older guys I will rely on to really help them through that process.”