Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss progress made during the off week and the upcoming World’s Largest Cocktail Party showdown against the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 2. The contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.
IT’S (“PROBABLY”) TAYLOR TIME
Though Muschamp was quite clear that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor would be getting more work than usual on Saturday against Georgia, he stopped just short of declaring him the unquestioned starter. “Well, we’re working through the week and that’s probably what we’ll end up doing, he said.
Muschamp did, however, offer up a fair amount of praise for Taylor. “He’s continued to improve throughout the season, week-to-week. He’s always been a very instinctive natural runner. It’s very obviously. But again, with assignments and different things, I think he’s done a nice job and he deserves the opportunity,” he said.
Those are sentiments shared by redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy.
“He’s shown that he can do a lot of good things with the ball in his hands. I think the coaches, as well as myself, have to do a good job of finding ways to get him the ball so he can create big plays for us,” Murphy explained. “Like I said, we’re going to need some explosive plays and he has the ability to do that. We’re just going to have to find ways to continue to give him the ball and eventually he’s going to break. He’s very talented, very elusive player. Looking forward to seeing him this week and what role he’ll have.”
ALL HEALED UP
Muschamp did not list Murphy on Florida’s injury report two weeks ago, but he was nevertheless a game-time decision when UF took on Missouri. Murphy played with what was revealed Monday to be a sprained AC joint and put together his worst performance of the season as he was inaccurate with the ball throughout the contest.
“It didn’t bother me at all. I think maybe just not practicing or not throwing a little bit kind of hurt me a little bit. Other than that, I felt fine. It wasn’t bothering me or anything,” he said. “I had that overthrow to Trey [Burton] which hurt us in the beginning. I kind of couldn’t help but laugh because he was so wide open. You gotta hit him.”
Murphy did not throw during the off week – redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg took all the snaps – but should be back in action on Monday and completely cleared to take first-team snaps by Tuesday.
Redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) missed Saturday’s game against Mizzou but “ran well” during the off week and even got in some change of direction work on Sunday. Muschamp said he expects Powell back in action on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest “if he were to play in the game.” He admitted: “[It is] still kind of up in the air whether that will happen or not.”
Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) is set to return to practice on Tuesday and is listed as probable, while senior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) are both doubtful.
AN OFFENSIVE LINE
Muschamp said last Wednesday that a focus of the Gators’ during the bye week would be finding and settling on five starting offensive linemen. With redshirt seniors center Jonotthan Harrison and right guard Jon Halapio set at their respective positions, that leaves three slots along the line up for adjustment.
Redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia has been working in an attempt to supplant sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries at the end, a move that would shift redshirt senior Kyle Koehne into Garcia’s current position. On the other side, junior Trenton Brown is trying to take redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore’s starting job.
Redshirt sophomore Trip Thurman and freshman Octavius Jackson have also been taking reps, but it is unlikely that Florida will burn Jackson’s redshirt even though the player was up for the possibility of even playing just half a season.
“We just haven’t performed across the board as consistently as we want to. There’s no question,” said Muschamp of the offensive line to date.
In addition to being 0-2 as the Gators’ head coach, Muschamp is also 0-4 in the Florida-Georgia series as a player when he was a safety for the Bulldogs. With simple math, that makes him 0-6 all time in the rivalry game.
Muschamp said Monday that he badly wants to win Saturday for the players, not to finally register his own first win in the event. “Not for me. For our players and for the Gator Nation, absolutely. I hate to give you the boring answer, but I don’t approach this one any different than the other ones. It’s a critical game for us, obviously, being a great rival of the University of Florida. A great rivalry game, it’s one of the best college football games year-in, year-out to be a part of. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
He joked that UGA never beat UF because their talent was never up to snuff and that Georgia was starting walk-ons like himself.
A loss on Saturday would make Muschamp the first Florida head coach since Charley Pell (1979-83) to lose three-straight games in the series.
“It’s not like he can go out there and play for us. We have to get the W for him and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” said sophomore BUCK LB Dante Fowler, Jr.
TARGETING COSTS RIGGS
Drawing a targeting penalty just seconds into Saturday’s game, redshirt junior Cody Riggs disappointed himself, the coaches, his teammates, the fans and a much more important group of people – his family that flew from South Florida to watch him play against Missouri.
Riggs has some family in St. Louis, MO, so the rest of his family joined him on the trip for a rare chance to see him play a road game. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to see Riggs much at all as he was kicked out on the first play from scrimmage.
“I was shocked at first, but when I saw the replay, I did launch myself. I didn’t think I did on the field. But if you watch it, I guess I did launch myself. I had no intentions of hurting the guy,” he explained Monday.
“I thought Vernon [Hargreaves III] was going to tip it, and then when he didn’t, I tried to dive into him to see if I can get the ball off of him. But apparently that’s launching, so they made the right call. I just have to play smarter next time.”
Riggs had to be escorted off the field and into the locker room where there was no television for him to watch the game. Florida football staff eventually brought him a laptop so he could see what was going on, but it could not do anything to lessen the disappointment or feeling of helplessness he had sitting by himself while his teammates were losing the game.
“It’s a good rule just because of concussions. I know people that have played in the NFL that have problems with concussions. So I understand the intentions are good,” he said. “But at the same time, my family came all the way up to Missouri from South Florida to watch the game and they saw me play for 10 seconds off a penalty where I really wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. It has its pros and cons. I know what they’re trying to do, but it’s just one of those rules you have to live with.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on what the coaches did over the off week: “We went back and tried to simplify things on both sides of the ball. We need to get our guys playing faster. We need to get our guys playing with more confidence in what we’re trying to do. To me it all comes down to execution. We need to execute better in both phases. … To me, this game all comes down to execution. Go execute better than the other guy does and that give you a chance to be successful. And if you don’t execute, it really doesn’t matter what you call. Let’s quit thinking about plays and let’s start thinking about players.”
» Muschamp on Florida’s last two losses to Georgia: “Our last two trips to Jacksonville, we’re -4 in the turnover margin. So you can cut it up however you want to. You need to take care of the football. Two years ago, we had two turnovers inside our 20-yard line that led to 14 points. And then last year we turned it over six times. It’s hard to win any games doing that. We need to do a better job taking care of the football.”
» Murphy on the importance of the game: “It’s kind of like a one-game playoff. If you lose, your season’s kind of done or down in the dumps. Both teams are going to come out hungry and ready to go.”
» Murphy on what the Gators’ offense does well: “Usually teams have a tough time tackling our guys out in space and our guys do well out in space, so we’re going to have to get guys in space. I’m going to have to find ways to get the ball out of my hand quickly and get them the ball.”
» Fowler on whether the defense has lost its way: “We’re still the same team. We just got to bounce back. I feel like our defense is still a great defense. Once you lose a game or two, you kind of lose your confidence. All we got to do is get our swagger back.”
» Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton on whether he is excited to play the Bulldogs, the team that broke his arm one year ago: “Oh yeah. I’ve definitely been waiting on this game. I’ve had it circled ever since last year. This is like the main game that I’ve been waiting on all year.”