No. 4 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s important 37-26 victory over the then-No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and preview the next few weeks of inaction.
Exciting the game early, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins learned that he broke a small bone in his foot and will be out 4-6 weeks. Muschamp said he was having surgery on the foot Monday and will probably miss the bowl game.
Florida is relatively healthy otherwise. Redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball (ankle) will be back in time for the bowl game. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle) is sore but fine coming out of the Florida State victory. Redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (ankle) got dinged up and is in a boot but will be OK as well. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (kidney infection) should be able to return to physical activity this week.
As far as sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders, Muschamp said he remains out for the bowl game with what was mentioned a few weeks ago to be the hamstring injury.
Reporter: “Saunders, you said a couple weeks ago wouldn’t…”
Muschamp: “Yeah, he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Is that injury or discipline?”
Muschamp: “Yep. he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Because of?”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Offensive Players of the Game & Scrap Iron: Entire offensive line, tight ends, running backs
Big Plays: Driskel, redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed, senior running back Mike Gillislee, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar, junior RB Trey Burton, freshman RB Matt Jones
* Gillislee was also named SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week.
Defensive Players of the Game: Junior safety Matt Elam, freshman LB Antonio Morrison, sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy
Ball Hawks: Elam, Morrison, Purifoy, Jenkins, sophomore CB Marcus Roberson, senior safety Josh Evans, redshirt senior Buck LB Lerentee McCray, junior LB Darrin Kitchens
“All those guys had a hand in forcing a turnover, causing an interception, pressuring quarterback.”
Hard Hat: Morrison
Special Teams Players of the Game: Roberson, redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis
* Sturgis was also named SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.
Big Plays: Kitchens, Purifoy, sophomore CB Jabari Gorman
» On the performance of Jones over the last few weeks: “He’s practiced better. That’s hard sometimes for young players. They’ve been the big fish in the little pond and they haven’t always had to work as hard or do the things you’ve got to do on this level. The speed of the game an understanding the scheme, the system, trusting your blocks. That’s something that he’s continued to work on. He’s just done a better job of preparing himself through the week and understanding what it took to be successful. He’s got a great role model in Mike Gillislee; as good as you’ll ever find. Given the opportunities that he’s had, he’s done an outstanding job.”
» On Sturgis and sophomore punter Kyle Christy and their importance to the team: “There’s no question [they’ve won Florida some games]. When you roll Caleb Out there, unless you fake a field goal, you’re going to get three points every time. Kyle has been outstanding. He really has changed the field for us, and we’re a field position team. We’re not a team that has been as explosive offensively as maybe we want to be, so we’ve had a harder time making explosive plays down the field. In our league with some of the defenses as good as they are, you’ve got to play field position. You’re going to have a hard time putting together 14-, 18-play drives consistently in a game. So you’ve got to be able to work on a short field and make them work on a long field, and Kyle has certainly done that consistently well for us this year.”
» On Elam and how he stands out as a top player on defense: “He’s really become a much better communicator as far as really being in a situation. Matt can play as lot of positions for us. … He is a guy that, from a communication standpoint, has done a really good job of communicating the calls. … He does an outstanding job of that. He is a very smart football player. … A guy that, I think, has just had an outstanding year in what we’ve asked him to do. You look at special teams, you look at some of the coverage things he’s been able to do for us. He gives great effort, intensity, attitude, has the resolve that has certainly helped our team. .. Matt is a guy that plays the game very focused, fast and physical. His leadership abilities are based on how he plays. He’s not an overly vocal guy, but I’m not going to task a guy to be something they’re not. He’s a guy that leads by example. He has a certain persona of leadership around him and certainly our guys follow.”
» On Driskel returning as the starter in 2013: “First year starter and you win 11 games. I think he’s accomplished an awful lot. Certainly his legs and us being able to stay multiple in the run game because of what he was able to do, the way I kind of saw things as we evolved through training camp. The guy’s a tough guy, went out there not full speed and played very well against an elite defense. Certainly his growth through the offseason will be critical for our success next season.”
» On how impressed he is with Morrison in his first year: “Antonio’s a very instinctive, tough, physical player. He’s a guy that tackles well. He enjoys the physical contact of the game. He really does. Very instinctive. We noticed that on his high school tape. He wasn’t a real highly ranked guy, so y’all probably didn’t like him, but we liked him a lot. Instincts are hard to coach and they’re hard to find right now in high school because a lot of people are running spread offenses … those are things that are hard to see now and evaluate because you don’t see it much on tape. That is something we saw. D.J. [Durkin] went up a spring ago and watched him work out, saw his work ethic and his toughness and what he was about. He knew he was the type of guy we want in our program. Very, very pleased that he is here.”
» On how he thinks sophomore QB Jacoby Brissett will handle not being in a competition to start: “Jacoby’s been great. Jacoby knows he’s one snap away. He’s a guy we’ve got a lot of confidence in.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp said the football team’s annual banquet will be held on Dec. 8 with former All-American defensive end Kevin Carter serving as a keynote speaker.
» Both Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley discussed the team’s bowl situation, agreeing that the Sugar Bowl is the most likely destination. To that end, bowl practice will begin on Dec. 14-15. Florida will not work on the opponent early in bowl practice but rather improving as a football team and developing the younger players. The Gators will begin practicing for their opponent during the last four practices before Christmas break and will continue that once they arrive at the bowl site, giving them two full weeks of opponent preparation.
» On just one benefit from beating Florida State: “The Gator Clubs will be a lot more fun this year, I can tell you that.”
» On how the Gators’ defense compares to others he’s coached and how it is performing right now: “I think we’re playing as well as anybody in the country right now defensively. I don’t compare. I don’t want to do that. They’re a very talented group and they’ve really played well together. They’ve played for each other. Regardless of the circumstances or the situation, they play through it. They’ve got a mental resolve about themselves and it’s a tough bunch now. I’ll put them up against anybody. They’re a group that really plays well together. They understand the team concept and how it compliments each other. We cover well on the back end. We can play man and zone very well. We’re able to rush the passer and stop the run up front. We’re very athletic at linebacker. We stack up pretty good.”
» On Nick Saban saying the loser of the SEC Championship should go to the Sugar Bowl and not Florida: “I can switch and go to Atlanta if he doesn’t want to go to Atlanta and play the Dawgs. Be careful what you ask for, Nick.”
» On not playing for the national title: “We knew the rules of engagement when we started the season. I’m not one who is going to sit there and complain about it. It is what it is. We had our opportunity in Jacksonville and we didn’t get it done. That’s our fault, nobody else’s.”
» On putting so much emphasis on playing in the SEC title game: “I just think that I’ve been in that game and there’s nothing like it. You work at a place like Florida to go there. I feel very strongly about that and that will never change.”