No. 19/20 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team heading into Saturday’s road contest against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Muschamp started his appearance by discussing Florida’s injury situation and updating the status of one player who was rumored by multiple media outlets to have suffered season-ending knee injury during practice on Tuesday.
“Dominique Easley tweaked his knee a little bit [Tuesday], will probably be out [Wednesday] and we’ll see how it goes,” he said of the senior defensive tackle. “It’s his other knee. It was a non-contact [injury]. He was playing to run on a screen and just tweaked it a little bit. And we think he’ll be fine.”
Easley previously tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee near the end of the 2011 season. The new injury is to his right knee.
“We just need more information right now. We’re going through that process at this time,” he added.
Easley then sent out the following message via his personal Twitter account.
“Gatornation thank you for all of 4 yrs of sticking wi th me but god has something else planned for and have no worries #believe”
Muschamp also updated the status of five other players. Redshirt junior nose tackle Leon Orr (shoulder), redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) and junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) will all practice Wednesday and should be active against Kentucky. Moore and Roberson did not play versus Tennessee.
Redshirt sophomore running back Vadlez Showers, who injured his ankle a week ago in practice, remains doubtful for Saturday’s game, and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson is out as previously noted with a stress fracture in his foot.
STICKING UP FOR BRIAN POOLE
It was obvious after the game that Muschamp was none-too-pleased with the ejection levied on sophomore cornerback Brian Poole, who was penalized under the NCAA‘s new targeting rule for tackling a player with the crown of his helmet. Though Muschamp believes the call was fair and accurate based on the language of the rule, he does not approve of the penalty that forces a player to miss an entire game (split into halves if the incident occurs in the second half of a particular game). He went off on the following rant when asked about it on Wednesday.
“I don’t have any problem with the rule. I don’t like the ejection. I don’t think Brian Poole was trying to maliciously hurt anyone. It was a bang-bang play. He fell back inside. He did not hit the Tennessee receiver in the head. He hit him in the chest, but he did hit him with the crown of his helmet. Brian’s about 5’10 1/2″, 5’11″; the tight end is about 6’4″, 6’5″. I don’t know how…obviously he needs to maybe hit him with his shoulder but there was not a targeting situation. It was a crown of the helmet foul.
“It was called correctly by the officiating crew, and based on the way the rule reads, he should have been ejected from the game. But again, I think it’s really simple and easy for all of us to sit here and talk about it. When you’re in that situation, and I’ve played the game before, I’ve played in the secondary before. When it’s a bang-bang play and you’re closing in on a play and it’s easy for someone to be critical of what you should’ve done in that situation, it’s a little different when you’ve played and you’ve done it before. I don’t like the fact that I don’t think it was a malicious act that this young man is going to have to sit out the first half of the next ball game and the end of the Tennessee game. I don’t think that’s right.
“We need to go back to the commissioners and let them make the decision the same way Commissioner [Roger] Goodell does in the National Football League and sit down and watch the tape with Steve Shaw, who is the head of officials who does an outstanding job for our league, and determine if it was a malicious hit or not. I have no problem with the penalty. That’s not what I’m saying. I don’t think the ejection is the right thing. I think we all need to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and watch the tape and make a decision if it was a malicious hit or not. That’s what we’re trying to get out is the malicious hits. There’s no question – does that happen? Yeah. That, there’s no question. I don’t think Brian’s hit was malicious. I don’t think it deserved to get him ejected from the game.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on the 26-game winning streak against the Wildcats and whether he uses it to motivate the team: “I think we’re all motivated differently. That’s not something I’ve really addressed with our football team. I think our guys, most of them would probably be aware, some of them don’t know. This is the next ballgame. It’s an SEC game. It’s a road game. It’s our first night game. Preparing the right way. I felt like our preparation last week for Tennessee was as good as since I’ve been here as far as our attention to detail, as far as our just total focus on the task at hand and playing another football team. That’s really what we need every week and something that we’ve certainly challenged them to do this week regardless of the streak. None of those games will have any impact on what happens Saturday night.”
» Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops on this week’s game: “[Florida is] a team that I have great respect for having played them the past three years from Florida State. Very good, well-coached team, very physical team. It doesn’t take long to turn on the film and see just how physical they are.”
» Stoops on the Wildcats’ 26-game losing streak to the Gators: “I addressed it with the players, I did. I talked about it. Listen, our message has been to our team since I’ve been here to control what we can control. To control today, this upcoming game. We’re trying to get better one day at a time, really one play at a time. I think since we’ve really been concentrating on that as the season has progressed, I think we’ve gotten better. So we’re really worried about ourselves, this team and this week. We really don’t worry too much about that streak, but like I told the team, if they want to use that as motivation, go right ahead. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we need to get better and control today.”
» Stoops on Florida’s defense: “I’ll tell you, that defense is very impressive. I’ve talked about them quite often this week, but they deserve it. That’s an impressive group. I love the energy that they play with and the passion they play with. You know they’re well-coached with Will Muschamp. And of course D.J. Durkin, he’s a Youngstown guy, so I wouldn’t expect nothing less from a guy from Youngstown to coach them up that way. They’re very impressive. I think they’re very disruptive upfront. They’re extremely talented on the second level at linebacker and very physical. And their secondary is extremely impressive. They really cover well. Their experience in certain positions in the secondary – I know not all of them – but it’s nice to have some of those guys with some good experience. And I know quite a few of them having recruited them and watched them on film and all those things coming from Florida State. I’m very familiar with those guys and have a lot of respect for them.”
» South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier on what makes The Swamp is so difficult for opposing teams: “The crowd noise is right there amongst the toughest in the country. … The Swamp is a tough place. Crowd noise and usually Florida’s got a very good team. They may have the best defense in the nation right now, some people think.”
» Spurier on the psychology of players going into The Swamp: “’Swamp’ is just sort of a fun word to say. That’s why it stuck, I think. Even the opposing players used to say, ‘Man, we’re looking forward to going to The Swamp.’”
» Muschamp on coaching in The Swamp: “Amazing. We got to give them a reason to cheer, and in my first year we didn’t give them too many, that’s for sure. The atmosphere last year for LSU and South Carolina, this past Saturday Tennessee, was pretty amazing. Being in here as a visitor, I can tell you, they’re on top of you. Back when we first started playing here as a visitor, they put the Florida fans behind our bench. We don’t do that anymore for some reason. We need to get that changed. I talked to Jeremy [Foley] about that. We got their fans sitting behind their bench. So that was always interesting. Coming into our atmosphere here, the Gators fans are the best. The Gator Walk this past Saturday was probably as good as I’ve been around, especially coming off a tough defeat in-state against a rival. You get in here, it’s electric, it really is. The kids feel it. The closeness of the stadium. It’s a tight sideline. They’re on top of you. They’re into the game. They’re very well-educated fans as far as knowing when it’s good and when its bad. It’s a great place to play.”
» Muschamp on the heat and humidity of Gainesville, FL: “There’s no question. It’s very difficult to prepare for the humidity here. This is very similar to Baton Rouge from the standpoint of we’re far enough from the coastline where there’s not a breeze. That’s the way I kind of look at it. When I was coaching at the dolphins, you always had that breeze coming off the coast there. Here, there’s no breeze. It’s sticky. It’s hot. And it always helps when you have a bunch of good players in Orange and Blue, that helps, and Coach Spurrier had a bunch.”
» Spurrier on his relationship with Florida coaches that succeeded him: “I think it’s been very good. I think my relationship is very good with all coaches. Urban [Meyer] and I get along fine and Will Muschmap and I get along fine. They know I pull for Florida just about every game but ours. Obviously if we needed them to lose one for us to lose the division, certainly I’m a Gamecock all the way. But Florida, we sort of hope we’re playing each other for the division each year. A couple of years ago we did that but the last two years Georgia’s been able to beat Florida and so forth so we did not play them for a division the last two years. But I think I have an excellent relationship [with those coaches].”
» Spurrier on if he’s surprised that UF’s streak against UK has reached 26 game: “Yeah, 26 is a lot, isn’t it? What’s the Vanderbilt streak with Florida? That’s pretty long, too. … Kentucky, they’re capable. Mark Stoops, I think has got those guys playing with a lot of effort, a lot of energy up there. They’re capable, I think, of winning some games this year certainly.”