No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s big 31-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores and preview Saturday’s home game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.
Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb, hamstring) missed Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury after returning one week prior with a cast on his hand. Though a “modified” version of the cast will remain on Jenkins’s hand, he is now back to full speed and will be active against South Carolina.
Florida’s offensive line wound up playing without three starters on Saturday as redshirt senior guard James Wilson (eye) did not travel with the team and both senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) and redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) went down with injuries during the game.
Muschamp said Monday that Harrison “should be ready to go” and both Wilson and Nixon “should be fine” for Saturday. We’re really hopeful to get all those guys back,” he said. “They are all definitely going to be fine – or at least ‘probable’ at the worst.” Included in that group is junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who traveled to Vanderbilt but experienced some swelling around his knee and did not play.
The news is not as positive for three other players. Freshman WR Latroy Pittman hurt his ankle on Saturday and is questionable for this week’s game. Additionally, junior CB Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior T Matt Patchan (pectoral) will both miss the game. Muschamp said that Riggs may try to run this week but that both players have an outside chance of returning in two weeks.
Offensive Player of the Game: sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel
Scrap Iron: redshirt junior guard Jon Halapio
* Halapio was also named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Defensive Player of the Game: senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic
“He played extremely well. Very productive, active in the middle, made a lot of plays, playing blocks extremely well. Jon’s really progressed this year as far as his physicality of playing in the core of the formation and playing blocks and disengaging, getting off people. Real proud of him.”
Ball Hawks: Bostic, redshirt sophomore Sam LB Neiron Ball, redshirt senior defensive lineman Earl Okine, sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy
Special Teams Player of the Game: sophomore running back Chris Johnson
“He had three tackles inside the 20 on kickoff. They were doubling him and he ran through every one of him. He’s a guy who I’m real proud of his efforts.”
Big Play: junior wide receiver Solomon Patton
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
DOING WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN
As a former defensive coordinator, that side of the ball is Muschamp’s bread and butter, so it should come as no surprise that he believes there should never been any major lapses in that area over the course of a game.
“I’ve always believed in John Wooden’s theory. He talked about basketball, but you’re going to have some off days offensively. He talks about basketball, but I equate it to football. You can never have an off day defensively because it’s all about effort,” he explained. “If you play hard, you should be OK, and that’s what I feel. I think you [should] never have an off day defensively. The timing may not be there, the weather may be poor offensively. There’s a lot of things that can happen offensively. Maybe your timing is not what it needs to be. But defensively you never have an off day.”
It is to that end that Muschamp said he would be completely comfortable if Florida was forced to move away from running the ball 30 times a game as long as the end result was putting another “W” on the scoreboard.
“I believe you need to do what it takes to win games. Whether that means we need to throw it 60 times a game – let’s throw it 60 times a game. Let’s do what we got to do to win – that’s the most important thing,” he said.
Where attributes like a power running game and strong defensive line come into play is with teams asserting their physicality over an opponent and doing what it takes in the final few minutes to pull out a victory. These are characteristics that Muschamp wants the Gators to possess no matter how the ball is moved offensively during games.
“I do think that you need to be able to have a hardness to your program, physicality to your program in running the football and being able to stop the run,” he said. “There is going to come a point in time when you’re trying to end the game; you better be able to run it or you better be able to stop the run at the end to get the ball back.”
[TRYING TO] CONTROL CLOWNEY
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is only a sophomore, but he is already South Carolina’s best defensive player and has been since last year. Clowney is once again asserting his dominance for the Gamecocks and has already racked up 12.0 tackles for loss (51 total yards), 6.5 sacks, two pass break-ups and two more quarterback hits. He also has 31 total tackles on the season including 21 solo take downs.
At 6’6” and 256 lbs., Clowney is plenty powerful but he is also a big-time athlete that has already garnered the respect of the Gators’ coaching staff and offensive players.
“Here’s a guy that’s very instinctive. He’s got a great initial quickness off the ball, so you’re always kind of on your heels a little bit at the tackle position being able to block him,” Muschamp explained. “They move him around. They do some different things with him. They stand him up and move him inside so you can’t always be certain for a match-up and know what you’re going to get – be able to chip him and do some different things – because they do a nice job of putting him in some different spots. He’s just a really good football player, a guy that plays hard. He plays competitive, he plays with toughness, he’s got great length, he’s got really good flexibility in his lower body so he can change direction. He can bend the edge and flip his hips in the rush. He’s what you’re looking for.”
Driskel believes Florida’s offensive line is up for the challenge.
“We definitely know that he’s a great player, but we know that we have great players as well,” he said. “Our tackles are definitely going to be challenged, and we’re definitely going to have to have some help with backs in protection. But I don’t think he’s definitely a guy that you have to find him before you look at the secondary or anything like that. If you’re a quarterback and you’re looking at the rush, you’re doing it wrong. You just got to trust that the line and the backs will be able to pick-up the blitz and the rush.”
Muschamp will make sure that Driskel and the rest of the Gators’ offense is well aware of where Clowney is at all times.
“You need to account for him. He can ruin your day,” he said. “You got to be able to account for him in the rush and in the run game. He’s a guy who you’ve got to have your antenna up to know where he is.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the attendance in Nashville, TN: “Great turnout by our fans showing up in Nashville and helping them sell their stadium out there. It was a great turnout by the Gator fans.”
» On what he would do if he was tasked with stopping Florida’s offense: “I’m not going to tell you. I’m not saying I could.”
» On Ball and his play this season: “Neiron’s a great young man. He’s been through an awful lot with the injury last year. Though things happened in his life, some setbacks. Any time you’re able to see something like that, it makes you feel good about where you are and what you’re doing and being able to coach guys like him because he’s such a wonderful young man. He’s a really good player, too. He’s a guy that missed football for a year. It’s a developmental game, and when you miss that much time, it does not come back as easily as it does for others. It has come back very quickly for him. He can continue to help us in pass rush. He’s doing a good job for us at Sam linebacker, and he’s an integral part of our special teams. He’s a guy that really, because of the injury he had a year ago, he didn’t lift for about 4-6 months. Here’s a guy that’s going to get in our weight program after the season, and we’re going to make him live in the weight room for about six months. He’s a guy that is going to continue to develop. He’s got great flexibility. He’s a very explosive athlete, a guy that can change direction. He’s got great initial quickness in a short area. I think he’s got a very promising career in front of him.”
» On Purifoy’s lateral after he recovered the blocked field goal: “I’d be fined if I told you what we said on the headsets. […] Some coaches do encourage that. I think Buddy Ryan used to tell them to lateral off of every interception, try to score on defense. That’s not our philosophy.”