Weis talks Brantley, Wenger at Gator Gathering

Just a day after head coach Will Muschamp entertained the media at the 2011 SEC Media Days, Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis filled in for him by participating in a Gator Gathering at the Marion County Gator Club.

During the event, Weis spoke about a number of topics but was most notably asked about the potential of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and the recent transfer of redshirt senior center Dan Wenger from Notre Dame.

After struggling one year ago, Brantley will be given the best chance possible to succeed, Weis said, because the goal is to develop the entire offense and not put all of the onus for success directly on his shoulders.

“When you put in a new offense, too much responsibility on any one player is not a very good philosophical idea,” Weis said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “The most important thing for me and the offensive staff is to figure out what we can do the best, and then just do a lot of that. Too many times in football people try to reinvent the wheel. What we have to do is develop a personality and find out what [Brantley] can do the best, and do that.”

The Super Bowl-winning offensive mind also reiterated that film of Brantley from last year has not done much to help his evaluation, even though he is confident in his ability to handle the offense and succeed long-term.

“It doesn’t help me very much because it’s so different from what I do,” Weis said. “[Brantley wasn't] really in a true drop-back setting, so therefore I need to be able to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. […] In a pro-style offense, it’s more about whether you have all the physical tools to be able to run the offense – which he does. Then it’s mentally how do you handle it.”

Weis also spoke for the first time about Wenger, who joined the team in the summer and hopes to earn significant playing time considering his experience in Weis’s offense and as an player taught directly by new offensive line coach Frank Verducci at Notre Dame.

“He started a whole bunch of games for us at center and guard,” Weis said, according to GatorZone.com. “You want to talk about a bonus, a throw-in guy who has started about 30 games at center and guard? You can’t buy things like that. He’s really helped with those guys when we haven’t been able to be with them.”

Photo Credit: Unknown

Four Gators on media’s Preseason All-SEC Teams

Four Florida Gators student-athletes were named to the 2011 Preseason All-SEC Teams on Thursday, as voted on by 167 members of the media currently in attendance at the 2011 SEC Media Days in Birmingham, AL.

Florida, whose players were some of the league’s highest vote getters one year ago, only placed redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis on the second team. Junior linebacker Jon Bostic and sophomores defensive tackle Dominique Easley and all-purpose player Trey Burton received third team nominations.

The Gators were also chosen to finish third in the Southeastern Conference‘s East Division (with 12 first-place votes – South Carolina received 114).

Last week, the conference’s coaches picked six Florida players for their Preseason All-SEC Teams. Senior running back Jeff Demps (second team), redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins (third team) and redshirt sophomore specialist Andre Debose joined Sturgis, Bostic and Burton, who were voted into identical spots.

FOUR BITS: Zook on Muschamp; Black; Wambach

1 » As a defensive-minded coach with no former head coaching experience, new Florida Gators boss Will Muschamp has been compared to former Florida and current Illinois head coach Ron Zook on numerous occasions. Florida fans, obviously, hope the comparison ends there as Zook’s tenure with the Gators (while successful from a recruiting standpoint) was filled with underwhelming records (23-14 combined) and early eliminations from the title hunt each year.

Appearing on ESPN 1000’s GameNight out of Chicago, IL on Monday, Zook offered some advice for Muschamp on his new gig. “The thing is you got be yourself,” he said. “Don’t try to be anybody else. It’s one of those jobs all you can do is the best you can do. You can’t get tied up with all the other stuff. Believe me, there’s a lot of noise in the system down as there is at a lot of places. He’ll do fine. There’s a great state base there, and he’s a good football coach. There’s no doubt they’ll do fine.”

2 » With the NFL lockout nearing its conclusion, former Gators safety Ahmad Black is excited to finally play professional football for his favorite team growing up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Selected by Tampa Bay with the No. 151 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the 2011 Outback Bowl Most Valuable Player has his sights set on a starting job but hopes to contribute in any way he can.

“I want to try to get a starting spot, but if not, then a significant role on the team,” he told the Pewter Report. “I really just can’t wait to get in there and do my thing.” In the meantime, he has been staying in shape and making sure he is ready to go when the season starts. “I’ve been pretty much training four or five times a week,” Black said. “I’ve been doing a lot of outside stuff, going to the beach and trying to relax a little bit. I know that once we start it is going to be crazy.”

3 » Returning to her hometown of Rochester, NY with locals chanting her name, former Florida striker and U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach celebrated as the city honored her with “Abby Wambach Day.” As a member of the Women’s Professional Soccer league’s magicJack squad, Wambach was in town for her team’s game but did not play even though the league set an attendance record (15,404) due to the appearance of her and other members of Team USA (Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan). “I hope I didn’t disappoint too many people tonight, but my body really needed a rest,” she told the crowd at halftime. “Honestly, I’m humbled [by your support].” Read more about Wambach’s return to Rochester and the reception she received.

4 » For the second time this offseason, Muschamp will travel to Bristol, CT to participate in another Car Wash at ESPN. Consisting of appearing in nearly all of the network’s programming over the course of a given day, the Car Wash often includes spots on First Take, SportsCenter, College Football Live and a variety of ESPN Radio programs. Muschamp, along with five other Southeastern Conference coaches (including Steve Spurrier and Dan Mullen) will be at the Worldwide Leader on Monday, July 25. The rest of the league will participate in the Car Wash on Tuesday.

2011 SEC Media Day: Muschamp exudes intensity

Updated at 9:45 p.m.

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt seniors quarterback John Brantley and wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and senior defensive end William Green represented the team on Wednesday by appearing at a number of press gatherings at the 2011 Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, AL.

BALL OUT FOR THE 2011 SEASON

As expected, sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball will miss the entire 2011 season after learning of an arteriovenous malformation in his brain that was discovered when he passed out due to a blood clot during the spring. Muschamp confirmed that Ball will not be with the team in a physical sense but does hope that he can return to play in 2012.

“We’re very fortunate our medical staff recognized it; very fortunate to have Shands right there in Gainesville to handle that,” he said. “[I] talked to Neiron [on] Monday, he has been in Colorado at a spiritual development camp. He’s very healthy, doing fine. He will not physically be a part of our football team as we progress here in the fall. We will reevaluate his status as a football player in January and February of next year. The number one priority is that he’s healthy, and that’s the most important thing.”

DEMPS EXPECTED TO RETURN FOR 2011

Putting to rest rumors that recently had senior running back Jeff Demps possibly foregoing his final year of football eligibility to run track professionally, Muschamp confirmed an OGGOA report from over the weekend that Demps plans to be a part of the team for the 2011 season.

“He has been working out with our team, and I expect him to be a part of our football team next fall,” Muschamp said when first asked about the player’s future. “Based on our conversations, he’ll be back. I don’t deal in rumors, and I don’t deal in message boards. I don’t know any good ball coaches that do that.”

One of the reasons Demps’s return has been in question is the fact that he is currently in Italy competing with the U.S. National Team. Muschamp noted that he and Demps have spoken on numerous occasions throughout the course of the summer and are on the same page, though they do need to have a conversation when the player gets back to America about when he will officially rejoin the team.

“When I deal with people, I like to deal eyeball-to-eyeball, talk to them face-to-face,” Muschamp said. “That’s been hard to do with some of the traveling he’s been doing. I ain’t never been to Italy.

“He may run a little bit in August with the U.S. National Team, and we’re going to determine that next week when he and I sit down and talk. You talk about a fine young man; I want him in our locker room. He’s a guy who is very explosive in space, and I’m very excited about him being a part of our football team.”

BRANTLEY’s CONFIDENCE RETURNS

There is no question that Brantley’s confidence was seriously shaken throughout the course of last season. However, on Wednesday, his head coach and classmate both went out of their way to explain that he looks better than ever and is finally stepping up to the plate as the signal caller that the Gators need going forward.

Asked if he stood by his statement in the spring that he had complete confidence in Brantley, Muschamp said, “I feel the same way. Johnny had a really nice spring for us. John’s very capable. Charlie Weis has tremendous confidence in Johnny and that gives me an awful lot of confidence, too.”

Thompson agreed, noting that his quarterback’s entire approach has changed. “He’s got his confidence back. [There is a] big difference. With the offseason training, he’s come in very confident – putting guys in the place they need to be, taking control of the huddle, being vocal. He’s being the quarterback that we need him to be.”

The WR is also pleased with how Weis has been able to help him personally as well as the offense as a whole from a learning perspective. “I don’t think he’s going to add too much more [to the playbook],” Thompson said. “He keeps it simple. He’s giving a lot of different looks – same plays, different looks. He doesn’t make it difficult. He doesn’t want you thinking too much out there, he wants you to go play fast. […] It’s actually easier.”

That is a process that is undoubtedly helping Brantley, too. “[Weis has] made the transition easier. He’s made learning the playbook easier,” he said. “He knows how different players learn. He’s able to teach us the playbook in different ways to help us learn. Come August, he’s going to teach me about reading defenses, watching film.”

WENGER’s PRESENCE BEING FELT

Notre Dame transfer center Dan Wenger has only been working out with and getting to know his teammates for a matter of weeks yet he is already becoming a locker room leader. Deciding to spend his final year of collegiate eligibility reunited with Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci on the Gators, Wenger is more familiar with his former coach’s offense than any other player currently on the team. Because of that, he’s served as a mentor to the younger players still looking to find their groove.

“He fits in really good,” Brantley said of Wenger. “He’s almost like a player-coach because he knows the offense better than anyone else and he’s taken that role on.” Thompson concurred. “Dan came in and he’s been teaching the guys,” Thompson said. “That was a big help. We needed that.”

NOTES & QUOTES

Muschamp on what he is happiest about right now: “The most pleasing thing for me right now has been our work ethic, our workman-like attitude.”

Muschamp on depth issues: “I think we’ve got good enough players to have a good football team this year.”

Muschamp on the most difficult adjustment he has made since becoming a head coach: “As much as anything, it has been time management. Managing being the coach at Florida. The worst thing you can do in a leadership position is be something you’re not. I’m a football coach. I’m going to coach on the defensive side of the ball; I’m going to coach on special teams. I hired Charlie to run our offense; I got great confidence in what he’s going to do with our offense. I’m really excited about that; he and I are on the same page. The time management of being the head coach and understanding those things that come across your desk throughout the day, handling those [things].”

Muschamp on hiring a top-notch offensive coordinator: “Charlie Weis brings instant credibility to our football program offensively. The track record speaks for itself as far as the development of the quarterback and offenses.”

Muschamp on possibly wearing orange jerseys again: “I don’t know; you’ll have to come to the games. I’m going to meet with our seniors a little bit and get some more input from them when we get back rolling and talk about some of those things. But we won’t get real extravagant with the uniforms. We need to play good; it doesn’t matter what you wear, you need to play good.”

Muschamp on the biggest challenge he has faced: “Team building is so important, having that team camaraderie and the team concept. That’s what we’ve really worked on with the team in the offseason.”

Muschamp on coaching his first “home” game: “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of work before that happens. I’m really excited about August 5, getting our team back together. I love training camp and working, building for the season. We’re going through our installation; we got all the practice schedules done. I’m really pleased with our staff and looking forward to the first game.”

Muschamp on keeping many of former head coach Urban Meyer’s philosophies: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Urban did a phenomenal job; he and his staff did some great things that we’re going to continue to do.”

Muschamp on the differences between recruiting in Florida and Texas: “The competition in recruiting is much more fierce in the state of Florida because of the proximity of programs like you – programs that have big stadiums, programs that have great academic institutions, great support, great resources, outstanding staffs, championship tradition. [The differences are] the competition level and the proximity of all the schools being that close to you. We’re going to recruit the state of Florida first and foremost; we’re going to take care of our own backyard.”

Muschamp on being friends with so many of his rival coaches in the league: “I don’t have any problem with having great respect or liking somebody we’re competing against. I don’t necessarily look at it like a fan would look at it. I look at it from a respect standpoint. I don’t worry about what anybody else does. I worry about the University of Florida.”

Muschamp on meeting with New England head coach Bill Belichick: “Coach Belichick actually came down in the spring, spent some time and watched some spring practice and, a matter of fact, I asked him to speak to our football team and he did and did an outstanding job. What a presence he has in a group.”

Muschamp on an 8-5 record not being acceptable to fans: “They’ve told me.”

Muschamp on being a Georgia guy coaching at UF: “I’m a Florida guy.”

Muschamp on starting out his coaching career as a graduate assistant: “When you just come out of playing, you realize how little you knew as a player.”

Thompson on his personal goals: “If we get to the SEC Championship, all the personal goals will fall into place if we do that.”

Thompson on the team’s motivation: “We lost five games last year, and that’s just motivation for us. We’ve got a lot of young guys that’s hungry and want to be successful. I think we’re going to be very successful if we stick together and get this chemistry going.”

Thompson on the coaching change: “All the guys are pretty much buying in. It’s a close-knit group. Everyone just wants to win. It comes down from the coaches. They’re eager to win and we want to win. I think it is all going to fall in place. […] A lot of the guys are buying in and having great summers right now. Good workouts. Everybody is coming in and doing extra; coach don’t even have to tell us to come in, guys are coming in on their own. That’s what we need.”

Thompson on Meyer coming back and leaving again: “It probably impacted some guys. It shouldn’t have. Urb was a great coach, and we sent him out with a win.”

Thompson on Muschamp during practice: “He’s got so much energy. He be running around, screaming like some of the players.”

Thompson on Weis: “I was very surprised [that he came to Florida’. At first, I thought it was just a rumor, and I thought ‘Ah, he’s in Kansas City, he’s not coming here.’ He’s had success with his offenses wherever he goes. He knows how to pick out the things that work with each guy.”

Thompson on the 2010 season: “It was frustrating at times. We’re used to scoring 40, 50 points a game, and now we’re struggling to get 21, but we hung in there together as a team, and we got through it.”

Brantley comparing Meyer and Muschamp: “Coach Meyer is very intense, great coach. They have a lot of similarities with the intensity and great coaching ability.”

Brantley on how Muschamp’s intensity and discipline have changed the team: “Guys aren’t getting away with some of the stuff…”

Brantley on Weis’s offense: “It definitely helps me out a lot. I’m not a runner. I don’t like to run. I like to hand it off to a fast guy. I’m all for that. I don’t like to take too many hits.”

Brantley on being lucky to be coached by Weis: “It’s awesome [to have him]. You grow up watching a team like the New England Patriots and see the offense he runs, you just don’t expect to have him as a coach. It’s an honor to play for him. Just in the last six months, I’ve been learning just as much as I can, and I can’t wait for August when we pick back up.”

Green on the lack of preseason hype: “We care about it. I think everyone has a chip on their shoulder. We want to be our best every Saturday and just try to get back to Atlanta.”

Green on the younger defenders: “In the past year, they’ve grown up a lot. The maturity is a lot better. I think they’ll help us tremendously this year.”

Photo Credit: Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

Tebow, Wambach also all over the place Tuesday

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and United States striker Abby Wambach – two former Florida Gators – were featured prominently on the air Tuesday, with the former’s ESPN/Make-A-Wish Foundation segment and the latter’s guest spot on the Late Show with David Letterman as their primary appearances.

My Wish: Tim Tebow:

Wambach, alongside goalkeeper Hope Solo, on Letterman:

Wambach on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning: Listen

Earlier in the day, Wambach and teammate Lauren Cheney stopped by the Early Show for an interview. CBS has decided not to post it online but instead provided the following quotes from the appearance:

Wambach on the fans: “The outpouring of support that we’ve gotten here since we’ve gotten home to the States has been unbelievable. Times Square, I mean I went for a walk last night, and I must have gotten stopped 100 times. Just congratulating us. People appreciate what we did. Hopefully, we inspired a country. The Olympics are just around the corner. Hopefully, we can bring home that gold.”

Wambach on not bringing home the World Cup: “This country was so supportive. We got so many great e-mails, text messages. Obviously, the people came out and supported us through this whole thing. We’re just so sorry not to have brought home the World Cup. But you know, we do a lot of things over there. We inspired people, and I think in the end those are the positives that we’re going to really take away from this.”

Wuerffel takes three steps forward, two back

Weeks ago, Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with and hospitalized for Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which, as the Mayo Clinc puts it, “your body’s immune system attacks your nerves.” Though he is not forced to stay in the hospital overnight, Wuerffel has been undergoing extensive treatment for the disease in an effort to recover from it as quickly as possible.

He continues to receive outpatient treatment and is on the road to recovery. Wednesday morning, Wuerffel released the following (truncated) message to friends and fans through Desire Street Ministries, of which he is the executive director.

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was a great day. I went for a short walk in the morning, did my rehab in the afternoon (which is going really well) and even went out for dinner with Jessica (one of my first outings). I was encouraged with my progress and even felt like a normal person.

That was yesterday.

Today has been a really tough day. I’ve been extremely tired, my body has been achy and I’ve got a steady headache. I didn’t even feel like reading or listening to music for most of the day. Recovering from Guillain Barre is like life—three steps forward and two steps back.

Please know, though, that despite all the steps forwards and backwards, I’m very encouraged.

Thanks for your love and prayers.

God bless you,

Danny

Wuerffel has requested that any gifts, donations or letters of support be made to DSM rather than him personally. Should you wish to send any of the aforementioned, please direct them to adam@onlygators.com, and I will forward them to the appropriate contact.

Pounceys go through the ESPN car wash

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and soon-to-be-official Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey visited the ESPN studios in Bristol, CT to participate in the famed “car wash,” which consists of making appearances on nearly every live and taped program to air on television and radio during the course of the day.

The twins and former Florida Gators offensive linemen began the day by appearing on First Take before heading over to the main studio for SportsCenter. They also dropped by the Scott Van Pelt Show, ESPN Rise, the Doug Gottlieb Show, SportsNation and NFL Live (among other shows) before departing.

Being interviewed on the Scott Van Pelt Show: Listen

Playing a game on First Take:

Talking about a number of topics on SportsCenter:

Meeting U.S. women’s soccer stars goalkeeper Hope Solo and striker Alex Morgan:

Planking on the set of NFL Live:

Florida is the choice for safety Marcus Maye

Long favoring the Florida Gators, four-star safety Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL) made his decision final on Monday, announcing that he is the newest member of the team’s 2012 recruiting class.

Considered the No. 7 safety in the country by Rivals, Maye pushed aside overtures from Florida State to accept Florida’s scholarship offer. The No. 13-ranked safety according to ESPNU, he is the second player at his position to commit to the Gators in the last four days. Three-star Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC) gave his pledge to Florida on Friday.

A big fan of head coach Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, Maye believes that being a member of the new regime’s first full recruiting class with the Gators will give him the best chance to succeed in the long run.

“Coach Muschamp is a defensive guy and Coach Robinson is an energetic coach which I like,” he said. “He’ll make me the best player I can be so I’m excited about Gainesville.”

He visited the University of Florida on Monday and was accompanied by his mother, other members of his family and his high school coach.

Florida now boasts a 15-player 2012 class and have commitments from a total of four defensive backs. The Gators hope to add to their bounty at the conclusion of the Friday Night Lights showcase at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on July 22.

Photo Credits: Nike, Holy Trinity Episcopal

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