No. 17/18 Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s road game against the No. 11/10 LSU Tigers scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA, and air live on CBS.
Below are some stories, notes and quotes that fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).
Monday: WR Solomon Patton: from “jet sweep guy” to game-breaking receiver | Will Muschamp recaps Arkansas, previews LSU
Tuesday: Brent Pease talks RB Kelvin Taylor, quarterbacks and LSU
Wednesday: Muschamp, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier talk Florida-LSU on the SEC teleconference
Thursday: DT Darious Cummings doing his part to replace the irreplaceable
Friday: LB Ronald Powell has payback on his mind for LSU
DANTE FOWLER, JR.: FEROCIOUS TEDDY BEAR
As menacing as sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. is on the field, he’s quite the opposite off the gridiron. That is according to basically every coach and player that was asked about him over the past week – which amounted to every single person who was made available to speak to the media.
“He’s a big kid. He’s tough on the field, but he’s like a little teddy bear off the field,” said senior safety Jaylen Watkins. “He’s funny, jokes around. I’ve never seen him get mad.”
Concurred junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings: “He’s a big kid. He’s very soft spoken. It’s night and day how he is on the field and off the field. That being said, it’s a pleasure to play with him every Saturday.”
Fowler is happy his teammates see him that way and even referred to himself this week as a “big, goofy teddy bear-guy.” But he also doesn’t understand why his laid back personality is such a big deal.
“Look at me, I’m smiling right now. I’m goofy. I like to play around and stuff,” he said. “I just turned 19, so I just try to live life. I’m still a kid. I’m not 21 yet. My mom still washes my clothes … when I go home. Now I have to. It sucks though, man.”
He also explained why he can turn off that personality at a dime as soon as he dons his pads and puts his helmet on.
“It’s crazy though because on the football field, I probably say some things and people be looking at me like, ‘What?!’ I be like, ‘I’m sorry bro, it’s just football.’
“You have to [play angry]. I always want to play mad. I feel like it brings the best out of me and things like that. You always want to be serious because, on the football field, the offense isn’t your friend. So I’m not going to let him be my friend and be all buddy and pal with him.
“I want to break him.”
That mix of being personable yet ferocious is exactly what head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin like so much about Fowler. Both noted that he always has a smile on his face while not looking to take someone’s head off.
Muschamp on Monday called Fowler a “joy to coach,” noting that his desire to be “coached hard” is one reason why he has been so productive. Durkin praised Fowler’s football awareness and versatility. He is also a fan of the somewhat split personalities.
“He’s a classic example of just a nice guy, unassuming off the field. But when he’s out there playing, he plays nasty,” Durkin said. “He’s a very likable guy, always a smile on his face, great guy to coach. You couldn’t have a better guy around the locker room or out on the field to coach.”
Fowler’s coaches and teammates have also resigned themselves to the fact that the Chucky doll owned by senior DT Dominique Easley will continue to have a presence in Florida’s locker room even though Easley is sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Durkin does not seem to be bothered.
“I’m not aware what the formal hand-off ceremony was, but he somehow got that [doll]. I noticed it the first game that Easley wasn’t there and Chucky was. He was with Dante. Chucky’s welcome in all our meetings. He’s learning the defense.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy on whether he’s had a chance to sit and reflect on his accomplishments so far this season: “I try to go back and reflect a little bit on the things I’ve done. I try to look more at the bad plays rather than the good plays because Coach Muschamp always talks about you have to be a good self-evaluator. I try to learn from my mistakes, and I just try to move on quickly and get ready for the next opponent because being in the SEC, it’s a tough conference and you can’t take any week for granted.”
» Murphy on senior wide receiver Trey Burton: “He’s doing a lot of things well. He’s catching the ball. He’s doing a good job getting yards after the catch. He’s finding ways to get open. He’s being a leader off the field. He’s doing a lot of things well. You can’t say enough about Trey Burton.”
» Senior WR Solomon Patton on the wideouts finally getting some respect: “It means a lot. Since I’ve been here, that’s all I’ve heard about, that we didn’t have any receivers that could catch and make the plays that those guys used to make back when you had Hernandez and Riley Cooper, those type of guys. It means a lot that we’re throwing the ball way more now and we’re making a lot of plays.”
» Sophomore LB Antonio Morrison on redshirt junior LB Michael Taylor: “He’s very energetic, man, very passionate about the game. And that guy, man, he just loves to play the game, loves to hit people, very physical. So that’s what makes him a good player. It’s good to have a guy that’s just like you right next to you. We see the same things and we react the same ways, so it’s good to play with a guy like that.”
» Sophomore WR Latroy Pittman was bumped up to the No. 2 slot at the F position on the latest depth chart released by Florida on Monday. Pittman missed the first three games of the season due to suspension and was not added to the depth chart last week when UF took on Arkansas. Whether or not he will get the chance to step on the field and make some plays remains to be seen.
» The Gators also have their starting kicker listed as redshirt freshman Austin Hardin OR senior Brad Phillips for the first time this season. Phillips replaced Hardin after the latter badly missed a 47-yard field goal against Arkansas.