Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from its latest loss while preparing for the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening. Florida will host Mizzou at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida; kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the agme will air live nationally on ESPN2.
INTRODUCING THE TWO-QUARTERBACK SYSTEM
In what was likely to be the original plan last week against LSU, Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida will employ a two-quarterback system this week against Missouri with redshirt junior Jeff Driskel likely to take the first snaps in the contest.
“They both will play this week. We’ll work through the week and see how things go. We’ll see how it goes there,” he said. “Right now, Jeff would probably start, but they’re both going to play.”
Driskel, who learned of his demotion to part-time player when Muschamp made the announcement, said he has no qualms with the decision because he knows he needs to pick up his play going forward. Freshman Treon Harris, of course, will be the other signal caller taking reps with Driskel.
“Treon and I are both going to work hard this week. We’re both going to work for each other. We’re both going to hope that the other person does well when they’re in. Obviously we think that’s something that’s going to help the team, so if it will help the team win, I’m all for it,” Driskel said. “The guys have confidence in Treon, but I think they have confidence in me as well. It’s not going to divide the team or anything.”
Muschamp said Harris spent his first day fully back with the team on Monday. He is confident that Harris will be able to rebound after a tough week and help the team against Mizzou, explaining what it is about Harris that makes him a special player.
“[He is] a guy that has shown the ability to make some plays, to take the ball in the right spots, accurate with his passes, has a certain confidence about him. I think that’s been something I’ve seen and noticed throughout his opportunities, though limited in games. In practice, that’s something that really jumps out at you, his playmaking ability to be able to make those things happen,” Muschamp explained.
“He’s got a certain persona about himself. That’s why I think… his last two years at Booker T. [Washington High School], he was 30-0. That tells you something about him. He’s a winner and he certainly has a persona about him.”
In the end, Driskel said he is most concerned with playing better and giving the Gators a chance to win Saturday’s game. He also does not think splitting reps with Harris will hurt the chemistry inside Florida’s locker room and believes UF continues to progress each week on that side of the ball.
“If we just put together everything in one game, things are going to start going our way and we’re going to be just fine. We just got to stay together, stay the course and keep getting better as the season goes along,” he said. “I think we’re close. As an offense, I think we’re close, had some nice plays in the game. Just a couple mistakes that cost us late and it’s stuff that we can get corrected. We’re going to stay together. We’re a close-knit group. That’s all we can do.”
HOW FLORIDA HANDLED A (SEEMINGLY) SERIOUS INJURY
A fan letter, which criticizes Muschamp for coaching up the Gators and the team not taking a knee while junior wide receiver Latroy Pittman was being tended to on the field (while, conversely LSU’s entire team was down on one knee watching Pittman), has made its rounds recently and stirred up a minimal amount of controversy.
Muschamp was asked to address the situation on Monday, and he explained that his additional knowledge of Pittman’s status allowed him to move forward while the player was being tended to on the field.
“The information [was] relayed to me immediately that he had movement and they felt like he was [being treated for] precautionary reasons, that he was going to be fine. We took that time, and we have not instructed our players to take a knee in those situations, any time someone gets hurt we don’t always know the severity of the injury or the situation. That’s not something we’ve done anywhere I’ve been that we’ve ever done,” he explained.
“We were trying to preview the next set of downs for our defense, and we were also trying to get our situation ready for a field goal block after I had received the information that Latroy was fine. I went over to make sure he was fine. I looked at Latroy, Latroy said he was fine. I talked to our training staff, they said he was fine, thought everything was going to be fine. That’s the situation.”
Pittman was released from the hospital Saturday night and listed by Muschamp on Monday as “day to day.” Though “everything’s come out fine” on tests done to Pittman, the trainers are doing some additional testing before allowing the player to begin physical activity. Muschamp said there’s a “good possibility” he plays this weekend.
Junior running back Matt Jones, who began last week with knee swelling but left the game due to an ankle injury he suffered during practice, was listed by Muschamp as “probable” for Saturday’s game. He is expected to return to practice on Wednesday.
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr, on the other hand, is still dealing with knee issues after having arthroscopic surgery done on the joint a few weeks ago and is once again questionable for the Mizzou contest.
Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (head) and junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) were both injured against LSU, but each should be fine for the next game with projected return dates on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
» Muschamp on redshirt freshman DT Caleb Brantley‘s steady improvement: “I think that the first thing is that he’s a very disruptive player. He’s got a very good first step for a 310-12 pound guy. Caleb’s biggest issue is just consistency in his performance, consistently doing it well, consistently playing with great effort. There’s no question he’s extremely talented, he’s a very talented guy. He can hold the point. For a big guy to have the movement skill he has, certainly God’s blessed him with a lot of ability. A lot of times, whether we’ve in a movement situation up front or he’s playing technique up front, being able to get in the backfield and be disruptive and making the ball run east-west is sometimes, for me, good enough. Now, I’d like him to make the tackle also, but when you’re being disruptive in the run game, it’s very helpful.”
» Muschamp on sophomore WR Ahmad Fulwood seeing additional playing time on Saturday: “He played a lot more this past Saturday and he’ll continue to.”
» Muschamp on junior defensive back Brian Poole struggling once again: “Brian, disappointed with the lack of communication at times, had some eye-control issues at times. We got lost on a couple bootlegs on the backside that didn’t hurt us but certainly could have. Brian’s a good self-evaluator, and he knows what he needs to do to improve.”
» Muschamp believes junior linebacker Antonio Morrison played the best football game of his career Saturday night, and he finished with a career- and team-high 14 tackles on the evening. In fact, Muschamp thinks Morrison is finally turning the corner with his best performances coming over the last two weeks.
» Muschamp on getting redshirt senior Andre Debose more involved on offense: “We’ve got to utilize him more on what we call the ‘go’ situations, where we bring the motions and still run the inside zone, so everybody doesn’t know what’s happening. … There’s no question Andre’s a very explosive playmaker, and [we should be] getting him more involved at times.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on the crowd in The Swamp vs. LSU: “Our crowd last Saturday was amazing. They did a great job of helping us in that ballgame, certainly creating some confusion for the other team’s offense. We certainly appreciate that and are going to need it again Saturday night.”
» Muschamp on dropped passes and whether wide receiver coach Chris Leak is somewhat to blame: “Kurt Roper runs our passing game. That’s something during the interview process and talking to him, that he was going to have a large say-so and control over. That’s something that he does, and he does an outstanding job. We can’t catch [the ball] for [the wide receivers].”
» Muschamp on the pace of Florida’s offense and not using more tempo on Saturday: “The issue we’re getting into is third down. You’ve got to be able to convert and stay on the field. You want to go tempo? I want to go fast, too. But if you’re not getting first downs, going fast doesn’t help your football team. You’ve got to be able to maintain possession and stay on the field. When you’re able to get a first down, generally and even the big tempo teams, that’s when they go tempo, after they get a first down. The chains are moving and they’re going tempo and they’re going fast. We have that plan. But when you’re 2-for-12 on third down, it doesn’t help you go fast.”