Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (5-3, 4-3 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team looks to continue its hot streak when it hosts the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-5, 2-5 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Florida.
GAME TIME ANNOUNCED
Florida will play its second-straight game at noon in the friendly confines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium when it takes on Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 22. The contest will air live on the SEC Network, which will make it Gators football’s seventh – and most likely last – game played on the new channel this season.
For the second-straight week, it looks like at least a pair of Florida players will miss the team’s upcoming game. Sophomore safety Keanu Neal (high-ankle sprain), who also sat out against Vanderbilt, has been termed “doubtful” for South Carolina though he will try to give it a go and return to practice on Wednesday. Also likely out is redshirt sophomore linebacker Jeremi Powell, who sprained his surgically-repaired knee and is also doubtful for the contest.
Redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green (knee), senior right guard Trenton Brown (knee) redshirt junior RG Tyler Moore (ankle) and freshman defensive lineman Gerald Willis (ankle) will all practice this week in anticipation of playing on Saturday.
“Trenton would be the only [offensive lineman] that I would be concerned about not playing, but Mike Summers does a great job of moving those guys around and throughout the week, teaching them the whole concept of the run game and protection so they don’t just understand their position and how it affects them,” explained Muschamp. “You know, we’re like everybody else in the country right now – a little nicked up. We’ve got to take care of these guys in practice to make sure we’re playing fast and physical on Saturday.”
TAKING BACK THE SWAMP
In addition to the Gators’ other struggles under Muschamp, Florida has done a poor job defending its home field. Over the last four seasons, UF is just 17-7 at The Swamp with a 9-6 record against SEC opponents and Florida State.
The Gators are also entering Saturday’s contest with back-to-back league losses to LSU and Missouri, not to mention defeats on homecoming in consecutive seasons. Muschamp proved Monday that he understands the issue at hand.
“Noon kickoff, 12:01 here in The Swamp, great to get back in front of some of the best fans in the country. Can’t wait to get in front our crowd again. I really challenged our football team after the Vanderbilt win about how important it is to take back The Swamp – and that’s what we need to do this coming Saturday,” he said.
“We needed to be able to throw the ball better. Explosive plays in the passing game, very accurate down the field with Treon [Harris]. Our guys finished some plays down the field. [Harris was] very accurate on third down. He’s doing a great job of taking care of the ball, converting third downs, taking the ball to the right spots. Really proud of him; very efficient in throwing the football.
“We’ve got to improve on short yardage and goal-line. We met a lot about that last night. Being a shotgun team and Treon’s never been a guy that’s ever been under center, we’ve talked a lot through some of the things we can do to help ourselves down there that we’ve been hurt throughout the season. We’ve got to get that corrected. Perimeter blocking is not what it needed to be. It was nowhere close to what it was the week before. …
“Defensively, disappointed in the second drive. It’s one thing to let somebody beat you, just because athletically they’re better or whatever. But to have bad eye control, a personal foul — we hadn’t done that stuff all year – we got up front and we got slipped and reached a little bit. Their offensive line splits were a little tighter than maybe we had prepared for, but we got settled down in the game, and I thought as the game grew on we played extremely well. Affecting the quarterback – we had 19 pressures and affected an incomplete pass there on third down – we were outstanding. Four turnovers and really as much as anything with a young secondary, I thought our players did a great job on the sidelines making adjustments and going through things and previewing the next series and really doing a good job of being dialed in on those situations. I was real proud of that.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Harris’s overall toughness: “He got his bell rung pretty well there on the sideline. I went over, said, ‘You all right?’ He said, ‘Go over and worry about someone else, I’m fine.’ That’s the physical part of it but also the mental side of it, the toughness aspect of it, you got to have at that position, especially here.”
» On Harris stepping up when it mattered: “Third down conversions were huge, especially in the second half. He took the ball to the right spots. The deep ball to Dunbar was actually an over route called for [Tevin] Westbrook off play action. [Harris] saw the safety bite on the over route and took a shot down the field, took it to a different spot, really an outstanding play. I’m really proud of him.”
» On redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar bouncing back from being benched after he was substituted for sophomore WR Ahmad Fulwood (turf toe) on Saturday: “He dealt with it very well. We weren’t getting the production we needed, and Ahmad had been a guy that had done a nice job getting those opportunities. … Quinton went in and did a good job. So you go in and cash in on your opportunities when you have it. ‘Man down, man up’ – and that’s what he did. So, I’m very proud of how he handled the situation. … It’s the way you’re supposed to handle it.”
» On how junior linebacker Antonio Morrison has matured: “You don’t have to live off the field as a tough guy to prove you’re a tough competitor on the field because everybody has got great respect for how you compete on the field. There’s probably no better respect for anybody in our locker room as far as from a competitive edge standpoint than Antonio and how he plays the game.”
» On how the freshman defensive backs have been performing: “I think that those guys improve every week. They’ve gone about their business the right way at practice. They’ve taken some steps forward throughout the year and the more and more reps those guys get, the more the game slows down for them, the more they understand, the more they’re able to adjust formations and splits – all of the different things good players are able to do. As they get more and more snaps and more and more experience, they’re able to make those adjustments quicker, make them faster, make playing the game a little faster. There’s no question those guys are improving and they’re going to have a great challenge Saturday.”
» On freshman DB Duke Dawson stepping up: “I thought Duke did a great job Saturday communicating and being on the same page with the other safeties. … Athletically, Duke is extremely talented. He’s like Jaylen Watkins. He can play corner, he can safety, he can play nickel. But you got to make sure you’re not giving him too much in those situations. We put a lot on our safeties to make calls every single snap based on formation, back set, splits, all of those things. I think he’s done a really nice job of coming in during the week, spending extra time with Coach [Travaris] Robinson and making sure he knows exactly what we’ve got to do to be successful. He’s got a huge future here at Florida. He’s a guy that’s going to continue to come on.”
» On how getting to a bowl game can be beneficial for the team: “You’re able to go out there and get another probably 12-14 practices in before a bowl game depending on when it is. … When you’re in a bowl situation, kind of like training camp and spring ball, you’re not getting ready for a game and you’re not game planning. You’re teaching the defense, you’re teaching the offense, you’re teaching the techniques and the fundamentals that go with the position at a very slow pace as opposed to when you’re getting ready for a game, you’re still teaching fundamentals and techniques but you’re also trying to recognize sets. … There’s no question I’ve seen guys take huge steps forward on the football field in a bowl situation. No doubt.”