No. 4 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s shutout victory over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and preview Saturday’s game against the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles.
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who sprained his ankle two weeks ago and did not see the field against Jacksonville State, “will play” on Saturday against Florida State. Muschamp said Monday that Driskel could return to practice but will be held out until Tuesday for precautionary reasons and so he can get additional treatment. From there, he will see how well Driskel can play and how comfortable he is on his ankle, which will determine how much field time he sees Saturday.
“He will play in the game. To what degree? The week will determine that on how his health continues to improve,” he said. “We’re going to see how the week goes. I don’t know. I know right now, based on [Sunday], that he will play in the game. How much he’ll play, whether he’s going to start, I don’t know that right now.”
Muschamp was careful not to name Driskel the starter but that does not mean the designation will not come later in the week. He has yet to see Driskel practice on his injured ankle and is hedging his bets right now. If Driskel practices in full this week, especially towards the end of the week, there should be no doubt that he will start and be active for the full compliment of plays on Saturday.
Also coming off the injury report are redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle), redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose (knee) and sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer (thigh), all of whom will take Monday off as a precaution before returning to practice on Tuesday. Each is expected to be healthy enough to take on FSU in six days.
Muschamp said Saturday that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders and redshirt sophomore guard Ian Silberman (shoulder) are out for the season, though no specifics were provided on Saunders.
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Offensive Players of the Game: Senior running back Mike Gillislee
Scrap Iron: Redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison, redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio, senior left tackle Xavier Nixon
Big Plays: Gillislee, redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines, freshman RB Matt Jones
Defensive Player of the Game & Ball Hawk: Senior Mike LB Jon Bostic
“What a great example for our young players of a guy that listened and was a really good football player last year but certainly has taken the next step and is playing really good football at linebacker here at Florida.”
Special Teams Players of the Game: Junior LB Darrin Kitchens, redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis
TOUGHNESS RETURNS TO FLORIDA
One year ago, Muschamp spoke honestly with his team following the Florida State game, labeling the players as “soft” for the way they played just minutes earlier as well as throughout the entire season. He repeated those comments to the media after the game. Rather than shrink and hide, Florida responded in a major way and has become one of the toughest teams in the country.
“When you’re 4th-and-1 and you’re trying to run a quarterback sneak and you lose 13 yards, that will trigger it,” said Muschamp on Monday, remembering last year’s game. “I think it was a culmination of things that just get built up, a little frustration, and you say what’s on your mind. That’s what I did with the team in the locker room when the game was over. It has been our challenge as we move forward from that point in our offseason program.
“Really it turned for me in our bowl practice. I thought we had an outstanding bowl practice. When you’re 6-6 at the University of Florida, it’s never good after experiencing it. You also find out who is on board and who is not with your football team. I knew then, with that team, our team right now, that we had a bunch of guys that were bought in to what we were doing. There were no guys wavering. There was no guys wondering if we were doing the right things. That’s really where I saw some good things coming.”
Muschamp added that the Gators are “night and day” now compared to how the team was last season. “Look at the adversity we have faced throughout the year in different games, different circumstances, different places and how we’ve handled it,” he said. “Top-to-bottom, offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff, everybody included has been night and day.”
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who spoke before Muschamp did on Monday, relayed a similar sentiment as to how Florida responded from his coach’s “soft” comment. “It played a huge role. Even this offseason, approaching it with those comments he made, our whole offseason program with Coach [Jeff] Dillman coming in preaching to us about mental toughness and physical toughness overall,” he said. “That [comment was] pretty bad. That’s pretty bad. Guys really took that comment hard. They went to improve and get better. We know coach loves us, loves this football team, and this football team loves coach. Hearing that from him did make us a little more focused and hungry to get better this offseason.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on this week’s opponent: “Obviously a good football team. E.J. Manuel is playing like a senior quarterback should play. … It’s very obvious on film, as he directs his football team, that it is his football team. … Defensively, Mark Stoops does an outstanding job. I think they’re first in the country in everything.”
» Muschamp on the importance of winning rivalry games: “Sure. There’s a list of things, too. Being undefeated at home is important. beating your rivals is important. winning your division is important. Going to Atlanta is important. There’s a big list of them. That’s one of them.”
» Muschamp on pass interference penalties being more excusable than most: “I’m never happy about a penalty. I just think that sometimes, the way we play, that there is contact and it’s a judgment call. … There’s never a good penalty, so don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.”
» Muschamp on players not knowing the team is No. 4 in the BCS: “They’re very good soldiers.”
» Muschamp on Florida’s not winning games in a “sexy” manner that pleases those watching: “My wife told me I was sexy after the game. She said, ‘We don’t win sexy, but you’re sexy.’ That’s a positive. There’s something good in that, I guess. She was kidding.”
» Muschamp on how the Gators have improved heading into this game from a year ago: “We’re very different, differently equipped this year than we were a year ago. I think we’re much better on the offensive line and that’s really where we really struggled against this group last year. They rushed four guys and stopped the run and were able to play guys in coverage and forced the quarterback to throw the ball off rhythm.”
» Hunter on UF-FSU: “It’s a big game. There’s a lot riding on this game. Any time you play a rival, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a hard-fought game. The team that makes the least amount of turnovers and mistakes is going to win the game.”
» Hunter on if the players are talking about playing in a BCS bowl game: “I haven’t heard anything from a teammate saying about BCS or anything like that. Everything has been Florida State this week.”
» Hunter on if he would vote for Johnny Manziel to win the Heisman Trophy: “No, I’d vote for Jeff Driskel … because he’s our quarterback.”
» Hunter on the rivalry from his perspective: “I used to always think that Florida State was the best team in Florida. I grew up a Florida State fan a little bit. Those were some fun games. I hope we keep [the rivalry] up and hopefully we can win. … The one that sticks out for me is probably the Braveheart game with Tebow, his face covered in all that paint. That’s probably the most memorable game.”