Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (4-3, 3-3 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team looks to rebound from a signature win while preparing for the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-6, 0-5 SEC) on Saturday evening in Nashville, Tennessee.
» The Southeastern Conference announced Monday that the Florida-South Carolina game on Saturday, Nov. 15 will be played at noon and air live nationally on the SEC Network. The game is already the Gators’ sixth of 10 scheduled contests to be broadcast by the network this season, and UF will likely have a seventh before the year is out as it hosts Eastern Kentucky the next weekend.
» Redshirt seniors center Max Garcia and wide receiver Michael McNeely were both honored with league awards on Monday. Garcia was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, and McNeely earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his fake field goal touchdown against Georgia.
Florida will be without two starters this week at Vanderbilt as sophomore safety Keanu Neal (high-ankle sprain) and senior right guard Trenton Brown (knee) have already been ruled out for the game.
Neal and Brown, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise, will both be reevaluated next Monday after a full week of rest. The former will be replaced by a combination of players led by redshirt sophomore Marcus Maye, while the latter will see redshirt junior Tyler Moore take his place.
Also potentially out Saturday is freshman defensive lineman Gerald Willis, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in practice and did not make the trip to Jacksonville, Florida. Willis is currently questionable to play but will be reevaluated by the trainers on Wednesday.
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Freshman quarterback Treon Harris, the youngest player to start for UF in the Florida-Georgia game since Chris Leak in 2003, hardly broke a sweat on Saturday but nevertheless did exactly what was asked of him by the Gators’ coaching staff.
On Monday, he earned more praise from Muschamp.
“Really proud of Treon in his first start. I thought he managed himself and our offense very well in the game. He was very composed in how he handled himself and his position. But I’m very proud of him in his first start,” he said.
“I don’t know that a lot of pressure is with Treon internally, if he ever has a lot. He’s a very calm, composed young man. He doesn’t get flustered by a lot. I saw that throughout the preparation. I saw it on Friday in our walk-through into Saturday morning in the hotel talking to him. If he was nervous, he does a good job of faking it that’s he’s not. I can assure you of that.”
Muschamp called Harris a “team guy” who only “wants to win” and was not concerned about only dropping back to throw on six occasions in the game. There will seemingly be more opportunities this week, Muschamp insisted, with Florida likely to open up things for Harris against Vanderbilt.
RUNNING WITH PLEASURE
The success running backs junior Matt Jones and sophomore Kelvin Taylor had on Saturday does not necessarily need to be revisited, other than to say that the players combined for 389 yards and four touchdowns, splitting those stats almost down the middle.
Muschamp praised both rushers on Monday but also understandably attributed a bunch of their success to the offensive line, which created great running lanes and blocked as well as any line has during Muschamp’s tenure at Florida.
Regarding Taylor in particular, Muschamp said he has never worried about his temperament despite not seeing the field much early in the season. In fact, he does not believe it affected the player much if at all.
“I’m sure he’s very pleased [with his performance on Saturday], which we are too for him. But Kelvin’s a team guy. He’s not a guy that has been sitting in my office complaining about this, that and the other. That’s just not who he is,” Muschamp explained. “He’s a great person. He’s really happy for our football team when we have success, whether he rushes for 190 yards or 60 yards, in my opinion. But he goes out to practice every day and works hard, does what is asked of him. That’s the kind of teammate you want.”
Muschamp also noted that the Gators have been monitoring Jones’s health as he has been dealing with lingering swelling from two knee surgeries last season. Jones “didn’t have any swelling on his knee” from Saturday, though his reps will likely be managed through the week just to ensure he is healthy for Saturday’s game.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER EVALUATIONS
» Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III: “I think he’s handling himself extremely well. Vernon’s a very – you can coach him hard, and he’s a guy that really handles all of that well as far as those things are concerned. But I think he’s played extremely well. I really do. … He’s really played well; he’s a very good football player. … Very pleased with how he’s handled this year and how he continues to improve and get better. He’s a really good leader and a very good communicator as well.”
» Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.: “He’s very important. He’s played extremely well. I don’t know what his stats are, but I like the tape I see. And he’s playing extremely hard. You turn the tape on and ol’ No. 6 is flying around. He’s a guy you got to account for every snap. I think he’s playing extremely well, very pleased with how he’s playing. … He’s getting a little extra attention, but I’ve been very pleased with, number one, his effort, his attitude at practice. He goes out every single day. Again, another guy that one of the best things God blessed him with is a competitive edge. The guy goes and competes every day at practice. He works extremely hard and is a great example for our young players in our program. But when he was a young player, he watched Dominique Easley practice, he watched Sharrif Floyd practice, so you kind of bring that through your program that guys understand in order to be a really, really good player, you need to practice well. It’s important.”
» Junior linebacker Antonio Morrison (from Saturday): “He’s a very instinctive, tough player. He’s having a great year. I think one of his better games was against LSU, a traditional two-back team. You saw him playing off blocks and making tackles, which is hard to do. I think he’s had a good year for us…from the standpoint of his endurance is much better. He’s able to sustain and play longer periods of time at a high level. I think a lot goes back to his conditioning.”
» Sophomore LB Jarrad Davis: “He’s playing really well. We talked about it yesterday and D.J. [Durkin] said we need to give him some more snaps. This week, we’ll be in more regular, so we’ll be playing more Sam, Mike and Will as opposed to two ‘backers and a nickel set. He’s playing extremely well.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On using the victory as a launching point and whether he’s worried about overconfidence against Vanderbilt: “We need to bury the game and move on. … We don’t have anything to be overconfident about. I think that one of the things you talk to your players about is how you respond after a loss and how you respond after a win. We need to form some consistency in what we’re doing. The work ethic of this football team I think will be – they’ll respond the right way. … I don’t think there’s any question [that it helped our confidence]. We needed a win like that over a good football team. So there’s no question that that ought to breed some confidence in what we’re trying to do. There’s no question.”
» On why Florida has been successful in reducing penalties committed per game: “I wish I could tell you something real fancy, but we just…maybe we’re not making some of those knucklehead late hits and things that we’ve sometimes done. … I guess our guys are getting more disciplined, I don’t know. We address it all the time. It’s something we talk about, it’s the self-inflicted wounds of a late hit… There’s a difference to me between an aggressive penalty and a stupid penalty. And a guy going and exerting to go make a play and they call, it’s a fine line there. You know, the jumping offsides business we haven’t had hardly any. … But I just think as much as anything, maybe our guys are a little bit more dialed in on some things. We do a lot of hard count at practice, more than maybe we’ve done before, and we haven’t jumped offsides as many times during the game. We do it in practice all the time, will drive you nuts. I don’t know. We haven’t coached any differently, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I think our guys have done a better job of it. We’ve coached about the same way everywhere I’ve ever been.”
» On Florida having belief and that empowering the team: “Well I don’t think there’s any question [winning] gives you a lot of confidence and belief in what you’re doing. You know, you put in a lot of time. Football’s a hard game. You only play once a week, and you sit here and come over here for four hours a day and watch film and practice and lift and do all the things that you do. You need to get some positive results from it. The only way you do that is winning. So to be able to get a quality win against a good football team as much work and as much things as we ask these guys to do, there’s no question that helps.”
» On the Gators’ entering Saturday’s game with some renewed swagger: “I don’t know if swagger ever won ya a game.”
» On whether he has looked at what the Gators need to do to win the SEC East: “No. At the end of the day, we need to win. And that’s laser focus on Florida and Vanderbilt for our football team. No scenario matters unless we win, and it starts at 7:30 in Nashville.”
» On what he will do with the game ball he received from the team and what it meant to him: “Well, again, I was more happy for our players and our fans and then to let them enjoy it as much as anything. I was standing there talking about the game and thinking about the next one to be honest with you. So you kind of move to the next. You reflect when the season is over, in my opinion. But I gave it to Jeff McGrew, our equipment manager. He’ll paint it up and give it to me after the season.”