Updated at 5:45 p.m.
Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke twice on Wednesday, making his scheduled appearance on the Southeastern Conference‘s coaches teleconference before sitting down with the media for the only time during his team’s off week.
Florida lost another player for the season, Muschamp announced, as freshman linebacker Jeremi Powell tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a non-contact situation during the Missouri game while on the field with the punt block unit. He is the eighth player the Gators have lost for the season, four of which have gone down with ACL injuries. “He’s a guy who was really emerging, special teams-wise. He did a great job on kickoff for us and on special teams, was really playing well,” Muschamp said.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who played Saturday with an injured shoulder after not practicing most of the week, will be held out of practice all week but “will start throwing again next week [and] should be fine” to start against Georgia.
Similar precautions are being used with redshirt junior LB Ronald Powell (ankle), who missed the Mizzou game and will also be held out of practice this week. Muschamp expects to get him back on the field next week. “I think we’ll get Ronald Powell back next week. He’s been unable to do anything thus far this week. He’s been running but just not ready for the change of direction and taking on blocks. But I think he’ll be fine,” he said.
Additionally, senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) should return next week. Jacobs was injured against LSU when his helmet came off in a pile and he got kicked in the head. Florida pointed out that he returned to the game, but Jacobs did not fly with the Gators to Columbia, MO, and has not practiced since. “I felt like he was going to play last week. I really didn’t know until Thursday practice he was not going to be able to go,” Muschamp noted.
He also could not provide much of an update regarding redshirt junior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder), who is rehabbing from his injury but also currently away from the team with his wife, who gave birth to a baby girl Monday night. “He’s been with his family, which is where he needs to be,” Muschamp said.
STATE OF THE GATORS
“Obviously when you struggle like we have the last couple of weeks, I think you go back on Sunday… I had some coaches who were supposed to be out recruiting Sunday and Monday and told the whole staff we need to get back in, we need to sit down and figure some things out. You go back to technique and fundamentals, you simplify. We’ve got to get our guys playing faster; we’ve got to get our guys playing with more confidence. That’s what we’re trying to do right now.
“We constantly self-evaluate. It’s not something or anything new that we’re doing. But from a standpoint of scheme, personnel, preparation, practice, however you want to cut it up, that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s what we’re doing at this point – finding some things we can do well offensively and get back defensively to the way we’re capable of playing, which we certainly didn’t do that Saturday, and that’s on me.
“We need to do a better job across the board. When you’re not producing, you can’t continue to do the same things or you’ll get the same result. Very pleased with our players’ attitude yesterday.”
STAFF CHANGES AHEAD?
Asked whether he gave offensive coordinator Brent Pease a vote of confidence over the weekend, Muschamp avoided the direct question and instead noted that the staff as assembled is nearly identical to the one that helped the Gators find a high level of success just one season ago.
“This is the same staff that came a game away from playing for national championship, OK? Obviously we’re not where we want to be right now and nobody knows that more than our staff. We need to go back and reevaluate what we’re doing and continue to improve our football team over the next five weeks,” he said.
He also, in a roundabout away, appeared to provide an opinion on the job offensive line coach Tim Davis has done this year with his position group. Muschamp was asked if he ever could have guessed the offensive line would struggle so much this season considering the players coming back and new blood being infused via transfer.
“I just don’t think we’ve performed as well as we need to, there’s no question. First year, we were a little handcuffed as far as where we were and what we were trying to do. But certainly this year I felt like that we would have played a little better at this point,” he answered.
Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor was the lone Florida player to shine on offense Saturday, picking up 77 yards and his first career touchdown on 12 carries in the ballgame. The problem? He did not touch the ball more throughout the contest, especially late in the game after he got rolling with some big runs.
Taylor amassed just four total carries in the first half. In the third quarter he only had two until the Gators decided to feature him on a drive late in the period. On that drive he touched the ball on five out of the six plays and gained chunks of nine, eight, 14 and 20 yards, with the last rush winding up in the end zone.
How many times did Taylor carry the ball the rest of the game? Once.
“Well, again, we probably did that too early in the game, getting away from that. It became a two-score game in the fourth quarter and we felt like we needed to pick up the tempo of the game a little bit as far as creating some plays. Probably got away from that a little early, we did,” Muschamp explained.
Taylor’s touchdown cut UF’s deficit to 23-17. Unfortunately, Florida allowed Missouri to drive right down the field and kick a 33-yard field goal. The Gators next gained possession trailing 26-17 with 13:32 left in the game.
Murphy completed a pass for a one-yard loss and threw incomplete twice. The Tigers got the ball back and took 4:17 off the clock with another field goal drive to go up 12 with 8:04 left. Redshirt junior Mack Brown got the touch at the start of Florida’s next drive.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp laid out the schedule for the off week. He said Florida ran and lifted on Monday, had a good practice Tuesday, would start preparing for Georgia on Wednesday and Thursday, and would run and lift again on Friday before getting the weekend off.
» On dealing with so many injuries: “We go to Missouri and they’re really explosive offensively, no-huddle team, you play 80-plus snaps and we only had about 13 guys on defense healthy. That was tough as the game wore on. But that’s part of the game. It’s unfortunate. It is what it is. You’re not going to hear us complaining about it. Certainly no one is feeling sorry for us. We just got to coach our guys up better, put them in better situations to play faster. I think when you struggle, you need to go back to technique and fundamentals, you need to simplify to get our players to play faster and play with more confidence. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
» On why the defense struggled so mightily against the Tigers: “We got displaced a little bit in the run game and that was disappointing from the standpoint of movement. We didn’t do a good enough job of playing blocks up front. Guys were free-releasing on linebackers, which is hard when a guy’s 310 pounds and you’re 230 pounds taking a guy on in the hole. Do a better job of striking and playing up front to keep those guys off the second level. That’s the way we play, and most good run defense teams play that way. And we just didn’t do a very good job of that up front.”
» On what has changed since senior DT Dominique Easley was knocked out for the season: “Dominique brought a lot from a playmaking standpoint, but he also brought a lot of leadership in how he played the game. And so that certainly has been a void that we’ve been trying to fill. Said it when it happened – you don’t replace Dominique Easley. It’s going to take a team effort to get some of those things done, and we just need to play better. I do feel like we’ve played better offenses, but again, we need to play better and put our guys in better situations to be successful.”
» On the status of Florida’s two second-year tight ends, redshirt junior Colin Thompson and sophomore Kent Taylor: “Colin Thompson has not been able to get back on the practice field with a foot injury. Again, a guy that we felt that was really developing well. Was blocking well at the point of attack, which is something we’ve struggled with at that position this season. Right now, Kent’s healthy.”
» On if recruiting has been hit due to the team’s recent performances: “Recruiting is going fine. We’re in good shape there. It is what it is. I think anybody with a shred of intelligence can see the situation. It’s been frustrating but we need to coach better.”
» On the first day back: “I was pleased with [Tuesday’s] practice. Our players responded very well. … I think our guys obviously aren’t pleased with where we are. It’s not what they came to Florida for. It’s not what I came to Florida for. So I told them again we just need to circle the wagons, pull together and come together of the common purpose on Saturday afternoon of playing better and coaching better. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
» On injuries causing the team to be weakened overall: “We don’t make excuses around here. We need to play better than we have the last two weeks, that’s for sure.”