Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from consecutive losses while preparing for the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon. Florida-Georgia will play in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. with the game once again airing live on CBS.
Set to be the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Gators in the Florida-Georgia game since Chris Leak in 2003, Treon Harris took nearly all the first-team reps with the offense during the bye week and will get the majority of them this week as UF prepares to take on UGA in Jacksonville.
Muschamp, to this point, has been impressed with what he’s seen from the signal caller.
“Treon will be getting his first start, excited for him and what he’s going to be able to do,” he said. “[Harris is] a guy that has a knack for making plays, certainly has got a calm, cool, collected [way] about himself and how he carries himself. I think we’ll play well. Identify some things he feels comfortable with as well as we continue to move forward offensively. As much as anything, we’ve struggled with an identity because of the turnovers. That’s been a major issue.”
He also believes Harris will be able to carry a full workload, without a limited playbook, considering all of the extra action he’s seen through the bye week.
“I think in the open week our offensive staff did a pretty good job of identifying some things that Treon does extremely well, so we won’t pare things down as much as you might think with a freshman quarterback,” he said. “He’s an extremely bright young man. He’s able to handle a lot of things on his plate. I think the [extra] repetition … will help him moving forward.”
Muschamp cites Florida’s 15 turnovers through its last four games as one reason the Gators’ offense has “struggled with [its] identity.”
“It’s a struggle to get anything going offensively,” he said. “But we’ve run the ball pretty well through the year; we need to continue to build the play actions off of that.”
To that end, expect redshirt junior QB Jeff Driskel to see some action on Saturday, as Muschamp first noted last Wednesday. Driskel’s role has yet to be determined for the game, but he will likely be counted on to be more of a power runner out of the quarterback position despite sitting out of practice last week.
“Jeff’s had a sore back a little bit. He missed most of last week as far as just getting some rest with him,” Muschamp said. “But he’ll be back at practice [Monday] and be ready to go. And we’ll identify [what his role will be] moving forward.”
FOUR YEARS OF OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES
Asked to break down four years of offensive struggles at Florida and pinpoint the overriding issue – coaching, staff changes, player performance, etc. – Muschamp went through all his four seasons with the Gators, noting that that two positions in particular (really, one) have been at fault for Florida’s issues.
“I would say inconsistency at quarterback an receiver. I think those two positions have not been what we’ve needed them to be. You go back to our first year when we got here, John Brantley was a senior and Tyler Murphy was an underclassman. We recruited Jacoby [Brissett] and Jeff, both to come in as freshman quarterbacks. John got hurt the second quarter of the Alabama game; threw the ball extremely well in the first half, over 200 yards passing against probably the best defense in college football that year. Him coming off the injury was never healthy as the year rolled forward, so we had very inconsistent performances on top of missing some playing time.
“Our second year, Jeff was in his first year as a starter. We were very good on defense. We were very good on special teams. We were a very physical run football team. Quite frankly, as the head coach, made decisions that we were going to play to our strengths and that’s run the football, play action, use the quarterback’s legs in the run game. It afforded us 11 wins, so it worked.
“I don’t think it’s really fair to judge last year from the standpoint of we went through three quarterbacks. We went through a lot of different offensive line combinations, especially at the tackle position, and we struggled mightily throwing the football.
“Going into this year, I felt very comfortable as far as coming out of training camp with how we were throwing the football. I really did. You look at our first couple ballgames, I thought we were very efficient throwing the football, especially the second half [and overtime] of the Kentucky game. For whatever reason, we have lost some confidence. Whether it’s dropped passes, whether it’s timing, whether it’s forced throws, and we’ve had way too much inconsistency as far as ball security at the quarterback position and turnovers. That’s why we’re going with Treon.”
WHERE ARE THE RECEIVERS?
For a position group expected to be much-improved from a year ago, Florida’s wide receivers have been as disappointing as any unit on the team. Aside from sophomore Demarcus Robinson, who has racked up 524 yards and four touchdowns on 34 receptions, no other Gators wideout has more than 122 yards, one score or 10 catches.
Combined, Florida’s wide receivers (aside from Robinson) have totaled 281 yards and a single touchdown on 30 receptions. That’s just not going to cut it, especially for an offense that Muschamp said – on more than one occasion – had the most talent he’s had in his four years with the Gators.
“I don’t think we’ve played up to our capabilities. Demarucs Robinson has been our one lone receiver that’s been consistently productive throughout the year,” he said. “I think our offensive line, for the most part, has played well. We didn’t the other night. …
“Again, it’s been disappointing coming out of training camp and thinking about where we were, where I thought we were, and then for whatever reason, from a confidence standpoint, lack of production has been there.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On the rivalry: “Well, we need to get a win. That’s the first thing. It’s just one of the great rivalries in college football. … To be in the stadium that’s split 50-50, the importance of the game to both universities is very special. It’s obviously very important. Our guys understand the importance of this game as the university of Florida. that’s enough said for it.”
» On whether job concerns have affected game week prep: “Every week is the same during the season. It’s Groundhog Day. … Complete bunker mentality during the season as far as what we need to do to be successful.”
» On redshirt senior WR Quinton Dunbar, who did not play against Missouri, possibly playing against Georgia: “We need to be productive, and Ahmad [Fulwood]’s been a guy that’s been very productive at practice and working hard. Quinton had a good off week, and he’ll play against Georgia, and we’ll continue to work through the repetitions throughout the week.”
» On freshman running back Brandon Powell: “He’ll have a significant role in the game.”
» On Georgia’s tremendous turnover margin: “You look at Georgia, the one thing that jumps out at you is the turnover margin. They’re +13. They’ve only had four turnovers on the entire season. That’s the reason why they are where they are. They take care of the football.”
» On the Bulldogs’ running backs: “Those guys are all physical guys, run the ball down the hill, north-south. They’re one-cut runners. They get the ball north-south pretty quickly.”
» On bigger running backs succeeding in the SEC: “It’s no different than buying a boxing ticket. Do you buy it to go see the featherweights fight or the heavyweights? The heavyweights.”