In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) as they prepare to lay it all on the line against the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and air live on CBS.
THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM
Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Florida-Georgia, talks starting Treon Harris, fixing Florida’s numerous offensive issues during bye
Story: Gators adopt “bunker mentality” as players support coach
Story: Tim Tebow on Treon Harris: We’ll see what he’s made of
Notebok: Kurt Roper talks Harris starting, Florida’s progress on offense
Notebook: Gators defense ready to stop Bulldogs rush, more from D.J. Durkin
The Silver Lining: Florida players exuding confidence entering Georgia game
WORLD’S LARGEST OUTDOOR COCKTAIL PARTY
Every player on the Florida roster always has and always will get geared up for Georgia game, no matter how either team is playing entering the contest.
Head coach Will Muschamp announced Thursday that four redshirt senior Peach State natives – linebacker Neiron Ball, running back Mack Brown, center Max Garcia and LB Michael Taylor – will be captains for the game. Two of them, along with a couple other players, spoke with the media this week about what the UF-UGA game means to them.
» Taylor on the atmosphere: “It’s a big rivalry game. It’s probably one of the best college atmospheres you can play in. Knowing that it’s just split down the middle, Georgia on one side, Florida on the other side. Coming out of the tunnel and on the field in a neutral site, it’s just something that you pride yourself on playing in and you want to have a good game and a big game in this game.”
» Sophomore RB Kelvin Taylor on his father (Fred Taylor) and his excitement level: “Oh my gosh. This week right here, man, my dad is going crazy in the house right now. He’s ready to just, my dad’s just ready for us to have fun and try and get a win this week.”
» Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries on the intensity: “I’m from North Carolina, so I kind of just inherited it, this hate. I never really understood it, you know what I mean. It’s kind of like Florida State. I never knew anything about Florida-Florida State, but as soon as I got here my freshman year, like automatically hate them. It’s just like an aura when you get there. It’s like, ‘We don’t like you all at all. Period. … It’s definitely personal, one of those physical, personal games. … When you’re in that stadium, that’s when you figure it out. That’s when you feel it. Like when you feel those fans looking at you when you’re coming out of the tunnel, and they’re yelling at you from under the tunnel, that’s when you feel it. That’s a little different than Tennessee or Alabama and everyone else. It’s a little different.”
» Sophomore wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood, a Jacksonville native, on the game’s significance to him: “Usually I’d be outside the stadium. I never really started going inside until my freshman year in high school. But it’s been a big deal. I mean, being from Jacksonville, I get to see hundreds of thousands of people just flood the scene with Florida and Georgia stuff. It’s the biggest cocktail party in the country. I love seeing it inside and out and playing across the river from the stadium, I got to look at that stadium every day in high school. It’s amazing now that I get to play in it.”
» Sophomore LB Jarrad Davis, another Georgia native, on the overall game: “It’s Florida-Georgia. It’s just they’re right next to each other. It’s a big game. It’s been a big game forever, it seems like. It’s always personal. I mean, just from watching it growing up, you can tell it’s personal — how the athletes play in the game, how huge the atmosphere is at that game. It’s just always been a personal, personal matter. … Last year coming in, I didn’t really know about the severity, I didn’t know the severity of it as a player. But once I stepped on that field, then I realized how big this was. Now I have that in mind, and I’m ready to go again this year. I don’t want to fall to them ever again. … It’s just this game. When this game comes up, it’s all about this game from both sides, that’s what it seems like.”
» Redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green on his last chance to beat UGA: “This weekend is huge for us. The rivalry speaks for itself. Like Muschamp has said, the last few years it has come down to the last drive. They’ve got the upper hand those last few years and we want to be on the other side this year. It’s huge for us. … It’s definitely more emotional than other games, more physical. There’s something about playing them. This game is different from other games.”
» Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. on driving into Jacksonville: “it’s really crazy how it is. You go over the bridge, first of all it’s a nice bridge. Just being able to see an NFL stadium that you’re about to play in. just seeing the cocktail party tailgate thing going on. Seeing the Georgia fans and how they react. I like things like that, it gets me pumped up. Then you see your fans and you see for your family. It’s really emotional, again, being able to see the blue and red split.”
RUNNING GAME, BLOCKING AND TREON HARRIS
If the Gators have any chance to upset the Bulldogs, it will be with Florida’s defense doing its job, the special teams finding some renewed consistency and the offense taking a major step forward. In order to do that, UF must find a way to succeed on the ground and compliment rushing success with an effective, turnover-free passing game.
“I think [the offense will] be a little different. It’ll be fun to watch. I’m ready to see how different it’s going to be, how it’s going to look,” said Humphries this week.
For a Gators squad with so much talent in the backfield, and a coach who insists on controlling the line of scrimmage, that’s where things will start for the Gators.
“I know this week, we’re going to pound the ball,” said Kelvin Taylor. “We’re going to play good offense. We’re just very excited to get out there and just try to get a win. All of the backs hope we can contribute a whole lot. Me, Matt Jones, Mack Brown, all of us. We’re just ready to take the load and ready to pretty much have probably the best game of our season.”
Added Humphries: “We definitely need to get back to our run game and getting it on the ground and just being physical, out-physicaling some guys. It’s Florida-Georgia, you know what I mean, it’s time to hit somebody in the mouth.”
Next will be Florida finding a way to put freshman quarterback Treon Harris to succeed. Humphries believes “any change can spark an offense that’s kind of been standstill” and therefore thinks Harris can make an impact right away.
“I like him when the play breaks down, how he just doesn’t let the play die. He makes something happen once the play breaks down. Once he feels a little pressure in the pocket he just makes something happen with it,” said Humphries of the freshman. “He’s definitely a calm kid. That’s one thing I noticed about him. Coach yells at him or anything like that, he never gets rattled or nothing like that. He comes back to the line and calls the play the same way every time, just keeps moving.”
Kelvin Taylor, who is close friends with Harris, is already impressed with the signal caller’s intelligence, noting that he makes good decisions on the field and really has a way about him in the huddle. He is also confident that Harris can help turn things around for the offense.
“I think Treon’s going to go out there and he’s going to play his game. He’s going to have fun and he’s going to make plays. And I think we’re just going to play great as a team. We’re just ready to get things rolling,” he said.
“Treon, he’s a great competitor, so he’s going to go out there with a lot of passion. He’s just going to play his heart out. I think he’s going to do a great job. He can run the ball great, so that’s going to give us another thing on offense that we need at the quarterback position. Jeff [Driskel] kind of did the same thing as well, but I think Treon’s going to do a great job.”
Fulwood and Green both pointed to Harris’s poise and maturity as a huge reason why he is being trusted to take on leading the offense, with Green pointing out some specific examples of things Harris does well even when under pressure.
“If it’s a bad snap or something happens, something that’s not expected, he’s able to respond pretty well and he shows that in practice,” he said. “We got to stay on our blocks. We know that he can scramble the pocket, so we have to keep our blocks and keep going until the whistle blows.”
Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper both noted that while Harris is starting this week, there could still be a role carved out for Driskel. However, Driskel missed an entire week of practice with back spasms and Muschamp also said Wednesday that Saturday’s contest is Harris’s “game to play.” Nevertheless, he indicated that Driskel could still see the field at some point.
“Just depending on the situation. We’ve got some things that we feel like he certainly can help us with, but it’s Treon’s game to play,” he said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Freshman defensive lineman Gerald Willis sprained his ankle in practice on Tuesday but was deemed probable for Saturday’s game.
» Muschamp on finding a way to get players some additional money: “Hopefully we’ll move forward with some cost of attendance situation for our players. There’s no question the amount of money that we’re making in college football and all of college athletics [that we should] be able to give these guys a little money on the side to help take care of themselves and transportation for families to games. People don’t realize how difficult and how much it costs to be able to travel to an away game or even come to a home game, travel four or five hours away and being able to pay for all that. There’s no question hopefully we’ll be able to move forward in being able to help the players.”
» Muschamp on Florida’s preparation for Georgia: “I think our attitude has been outstanding. You go on the open week, and we had very physical practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. We had 6 a.m. meetings on Thursday, everybody is there 20 minutes early getting ready to go. They understand what’s at stake in this game playing Georgia. We had a great practice Monday and Tuesday and look forward to another good day [Wednesday]. Our attitude has been outstanding. I don’t think for a second that our guys don’t have confidence in what we’re doing. You can’t turn the ball over six times and win. That’s the bottom line. I think when are able to point to situations where we inflict ourselves and for them to understand what we need to do to be successful it starts on taking care of the football.”
» Kelvin Taylor on not seeing much action this season: “I’ve just pretty much been playing my role and helping my team get wins. That’s all that we’re looking for and really all that we’re thinking about. Other than that, keep working hard and everything else will fall into place. I’ve just been going to practice with the same mentality to just keep working hard and I know everything else will fall in place. I’m just ready to go.”
» Kelvin Taylor on freshman RB Brandon Powell: “BP, he’s going to be great. The guy can catch the ball; he’s like a receiver in the backfield. He’s got great hands and he can do it all. He’s going to be a great player. I’m looking forward to him keeping having a great year.”
» Kelvin Taylor on Muschamp: “We love coach. He’s a great guy. He’s a players’ coach. He loves his team. We’ve got to go play our best for him. Coach is awesome. We’re going to play hard and everything else will turn out fine. Coach will be fine. We’re just worried about winning this game and everything else will be fine. … He’s just a great guy. He’s a funny guy. He coaches you hard. He’s always on your butt. I could break for a 70-yard run in practice, but he’ll tell me there’s something I could’ve done better. Coach is just going to get the best out of you no matter what and keep working you hard. I love Coach. He’s going to be fine.”
» Humphries on former Florida offensive lineman Mo Collins, a fellow North Carolina native, passing away: “Aw man, he pretty much taught me the craft, you know what I mean? He took me from being a left tackle with a right-handed stance and showed me all the stuff to become an All-American in high school. That was pretty tough when I found I lost him this week. That was a big deal.”
» Davis on the defense’s overall improvement: “We took that [Alabama loss] personally. You never want to be in a situation where you give up that many yards. We try to go out there every week and try to just go as hard as we can for as long as we can. You try not to worry about anything after that. We just try to go get the ball and make sure we make the stops on defense so we can get our offense on the field and they can produce.”
» Fulwood on why the wide receivers have struggled: “I would just have to say a lack of focus. As a unit, we just haven’t had the greatest focus. We have been trying to calm down lately though, get back on track. I would probably say focus.