8/31: Rainey, Elam, Harrison speak about Gators

With the Florida Gators beginning weekly preparations for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing.

RAINEY READY TO RUN

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey has shown flashes of his immense talent throughout his career. After sitting out a few games last season, Rainey got the chance to rejoin he team and prove that he can be effective and dynamic. Starting the 2011 season with a more mature mindset, he is ready to contribute even more to the Gators offense. “I see everything like a man. I do everything [more] professional,” Rainey said when explaining how his mindset has changed. “[I] think first. I would do something before I [thought] about it [before].”

He is also excited about the team’s pro-style offense, which he said is similar to the one he ran in high school. “It’s been a long time since we were playing and we’re in an offense that I love and I can’t wait to perform,” he said, noting that he will spend “a lot” of time in the backfield with senior RB Jeff Demps. “Everybody going to get the ball in this offense.” Asked if he enjoys getting the ball deeper in the backfield, Rainey laughed. “I feel super-good, great,” he said. “You can see the whole field, so you know how the scheme works, where to cut and stuff like that.”

UNKNOWN STARTERS MAKE ELAM UNCOMFORTABLE

As the only sure-fire starter in the secondary at this point, sophomore safety Matt Elam has a lot of responsibilities going into the season. Not only is he being counted on to perform at a high level game-in and game-out, he is also looked to as a leader by all of the freshman playing beside him in the secondary. “I really don’t have a choice but to be comfortable with [being a leader] because we’re young in the secondary,” he said. “A lot of people look up to me, so I have to abide by the rules basically and do my job. [...] It was a very difficult role because I wasn’t used to that, but every day I try to get better. I’m getting better every day. I was always the quiet guy, but something had to grow out of me.”

One of two players who will start at safety in the season opener, Elam still does not know who is going to play next to him but would certainly like to sooner than later. “It’s hard not knowing who is going to play besides you, but I just continue to push the other players so they can get better. I want to feel comfortable,” he said. “It’s basically feeling comfortable. Knowing the person next to you, knowing what kind of plays he’s used to doing and what he’s great at and things like that. [...] It could be a problem because you’re not used to playing with each other. You always have to have set starters so you can be comfortable. It can also help with energy; you get more energy and more enthusiasm with more people rotating in, fresh legs and stuff like that.”

HARRISON ACCEPTS THE PRESSURE

Moved over to a new position in the spring, redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison knows he will have to succeed as the man in the middle in order for Florida’s offense to work this year. The first player to start at center without the last name Pouncey in quite some time, Harrison accepts the pressure that comes with snapping the ball each play and is ready to take it head-on. “There should always be some kind of pressure to be a starter on a team, especially a team like the Florida Gators,” he said. “There is some pressure, but you just have to live up to the high expectations. To start on a team, especially in the SEC, there will always be pressure to be a starter.”

Discussing snapping the ball in particular, Harrison said that there obviously was an adjustment period for him but all of that has been worked out with time and practice and he can do it now without any miscues. “When I initially moved to center, I was having a little transition with the snaps and everything,” he explained. “Now I’m fine. We’ve got a lot of extra practice in and a lot of extra snaps after practice.”

Should he not perform, Harrison is aware that his job could be snatched up quickly. “Positions change day-by-day,” he said. “Whoever performs the best – the best five will play. Every day is a chance to get better, every day you got to perform at your best.” That mindset comes from offensive line coach Frank Verducci, who is forcing the players to play up to the level he wants on a practice-by-practice basis. “He has high expectations for all of his offensive linemen. If we meet or beat his expectations than he’s fine, but if he feels like we’re not living up to the expectations he set – that’s when he starts to get upset,” Harrison said. “If he has to, he will [get in your face]. He will do whatever he has to do to get the best offensive line.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Rainey on how head coach Will Muschamp has changed this week: “[He’s] more aggressive. He wants everybody to be mentally tough, focused and no putting around. It’s game week.”

» Rainey said all of the linebackers and defensive linemen hit hard but redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins is probably the hardest hitter on the team from his experience.

» Elam on freshman De’Ante “Pop” Saunders moving to safety: “Pop’s been doing great. I didn’t expect him to do so well because he’s never played the position, but Pop has been doing good.” He added that Saunders’s size is not an issue for the position.

» Elam on tackling redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed: “It’s very hard to cover and tackle Jordan Reed. He’s a very great player. He makes me better every day, and I make him better.”

» Elam on his excitement level heading into this season: “I’m way more excited because I have a lot more on the line, a bigger role and a lot of weight on my shoulders. That’s why I’m so excited.”

» Harrison on his expectations for the first game: “I would just like to see both offense and defense running as smooth as possible. I’d like to see all of us coming together and meshing as a team. We’ve been going against each other all through camp, so now it’s time to actually bring it together as a team and compete against other opponents.”

» Harrison on being ready to hit somebody: “I’m dying to. I’ve been itching to since Penn State.”

» Harrison confirmed what others have said, that the offensive line is very close both on and off the field. He said that the players being close in age has helped them communicate better and their friendship has really helped their production on the field.

» Harrison on redshirt senior transfer guard/center Dan Wenger: “He’s actually helped a lot. He’s been around the offense for five years going on his sixth year right now. He’s been able to point out little things that maybe the coach could not relate to us as well. He’s been able to help us out with that and it’s really helped the offense.”

8/31: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators just days away from their first regular season game under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Florida Atlantic Owls, he spoke with the media during the first Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference of the fall to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into the season.

OPENING STATEMENT & INJURY UPDATES

“I’m excited about Saturday obviously. Florida Atlantic – I have great respect for Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger and the team that he will be in. our guys are anxious to play a game like most everybody in college football. I’m pleased with our preparation at this point as a staff has been outstanding. We’re looking forward to teeing it up and we’re judged on game day, so that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back): Active with no restrictions – “He’s really responded well to the treatments and different things that we’ve done. We have an outstanding medical staff here.”

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee): Questionable – ran yesterday

Redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring): Questionable

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder): Questionable – non-contract practice on Tuesday, meeting with doctor Wednesday

NOTES & QUOTES

On Texas A&M going to the SEC: “If that happens, so be it. [...] It’s a great state of high school football. The high school coaches are outstanding in the state of Texas. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

On if he is preparing differently for the game as a head coach: “I prepared like I always do. [...] As far as the football is concerned, no, I prepared the same I did as a coordinator. I’m looking forward to making great decisions on game day and representing the University of Florida in a first-class manner.”

On his sideline manner during the game: “I plan on being emotional, that’s kind of me as far as the game is concerned and the competition. Don’t let it cloud your judgment on game day.”

8/30: Weis speaks for first time since March

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday for the first time since March to discuss his unit going into the opening game.

Rather than dissect Weis’s comments and put them in perspective as per usual, OGGOA has decided to print them in full in order for you to get a better handle on Florida’s offensive coordinator’s true thoughts about each topic.

COACHING FROM SIDELINE GOOD FOR NOW

Weis explains that, while coaching on the sideline or from the box upstairs both have their advantages, this season it is imperative that he stay on the field to help the Gators.

“I coached on the sideline ever since the day that [Drew] Bledsoe went down with a hit from Mo Lewis and Tommy [Brady] took over as the quarterback. We felt at the time with the Pats that there was a leadership void with a drop off from Drew to Tommy when we went in there. And then we won a bunch of championships and Bill wasn’t going to change it at that point.

“I’ve been upstairs and I’ve been downstairs. There are pros and cons with both of them. Upstairs you can see the field so much better and you’re away from all the distractions. Downstairs you get to finger for the pulse of the players and you know what has to be said. Sometimes they get the far away eyes where you have to go ahead and snap them back to reality. You can’t see that from upstairs. You have to count on your assistant coaches to give you that feedback. There’s pros and cons with both, but I think this year with a new system, Will and I talked about it, with a new system I think that this is the best way to go. I don’t know if we’ll keep it like this forever, but for now it makes the most sense.”

BRANTLEY DEVELOPING AS EXPECTED

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley has been rejuvenated in Weis’s pro-style offense, and the offense’s idea man explains that perception is not always reality.

“John Brantley had a really productive spring. A lot of times, the one showing that you guys get is the spring game, you know it’s a fire drill. Actually he had made a lot progress the whole spring. Where he is right now doesn’t surprise any of us. He’s continued to progress. It’s not in any way derogatory towards the system that he came from; it’s just a different system. Fortunately for him, this system fits his physical qualities better than the last one.”

Weis also said that what happened with Brantley before does not matter at all, especially considering how well he is doing now.

“When I started looking into the job, you do your due diligence, especially when this is a quarterback-friendly offense, you want to know who the candidates are and what the story is. My big thing is short-term memory. I think with quarterbacks, any quarterbacks who keep things with them never can be any good. You can’t worry about the last play; you got to worry about the next play.

“I’m not saying anything about what they did last year. […] I really don’t know what they did. I don’t know the spread. I’d be lying to sit there and act like I knew… I know that he’s not going to run the read option. I know that he’s not going to do that.

“A quarterback like John is better suited to be in a pure drop-back passing game that centers around runs and play actions. He has the mental capabilities to do all the things that I like to do. The more he shows me mentally, the more freedom I can give him when it comes to getting out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage.”

Check out what else Weis had to say about the offense including his thoughts on the offensive line and playmakers as well as the unit’s foundation and progress up to this point…after the break!

Continue Reading » 8/30: Weis speaks for first time since March

8/30: Riggs competing, respect for FAU, Jenkins leading, Reed blocking, Dunbar’s opening

With the Florida Gators beginning weekly preparations for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is progressing.

RIGGS READY FOR HIS SECOND SEASON

By all accounts, sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs played well as a freshman in 2010, but that does not mean there was nothing for him to improve going into his second year. Specifically, Riggs noted Tuesday that he made it a point to gain some significant weight in order to be a tougher player for wide receivers to get open against. “I’ve gotten more physical this year. I’ve also put on some weight so I’m able to handle bigger receivers,” he said. “I put on 15 pounds since last year. I’ve gotten stronger in the weight room and on the field it’s showing.”

Citing his game experience from last season and his tenacity for trying to improve each and every practice, Riggs still believes he has a shot to earn a starting role in Saturday’s season opener against the Florida Atlantic Owls. “It’s all up for grabs,” he said. “It’s up to Coach [Will] Muschamp whoever starts this week.” He does admit, however, that some of the younger players at his position are doing well and can be relatively interchangeable when necessary. “We have a lot of talent back there,” he said. “If someone goes down, the next person comes in and we’re not going to miss a beat.”

Riggs, who prides himself “on bothering receivers up and down the field,” also believes the secondary as a whole will be making plenty of plays throughout the year. “We get after the ball a lot in practice,” he said. “We just try to make as many plays as possible. Whenever the ball is our way, we just try to make a play on it.”

PLAYERS RESPECT FLORIDA ATLANTIC’s ABILITY

Though FAU’s own head coach, Howard Schnellenberger, admitted Monday that his team is probably not going to win Saturday’s game against Florida, the players on the home team see things a bit differently. To them, the Owls are just like any other opponent that they will have to play at the top of their game to take down.

“I have a lot of respect for their team and the way they play,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “They’re a hard-nosed team and they like to run the ball. They’re not going to come in here afraid of us, so we’re going to have to play to our best to beat them.” Redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar co-signed Jenkins’s thoughts. “They got pretty good athletes,” he said. “I feel like they got nice size, nice corners, so we just got to come out and play our game. We can’t slack on them.”

JENKINS LEARNING TO BECOME MORE VOCAL

With a relatively quiet demeanor off the field, Jenkins has been forced to have a loud voice on the field not only to direct his team during the game but also to help lead a defense filled with a lot of younger players. He says the transformation has not been “too difficult” for him to undergo this year. “We have a lot of checks, we have a lot of signals as a defense that force you to be vocal,” he said. “You’re always talking out there, always communicating, so it hasn’t been that difficult. [...] People count on you on the field to make a lot of calls, even off the field they’re always listening to you. The more you know the defense, the more you’re talking always helping each other out.”

LEARNING TO LOVE BLOCKING

When redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed was finally named a full-time tight end, he envisioned catching plenty of passes, making some great plays and hauling in some receptions for touchdowns. There was one part of his duties, however, that has been the toughest for him to learn thus far. “Blocking. I was a quarterback before, so I never had to be physical,” he said. “Now I’m learning to block and everything, so that’s probably [been] the hardest. I don’t think anybody likes blocking. You got to learn to love it, but you’re never going to like it.”

It is a good thing that Reed is learning to block well because offensive coordinator Charlie Weis loves to feature the tight end in his offense, something Reed is perfectly aware of. “From what I heard from the past about his offenses, I knew that he used the tight end a lot, so I was pretty excited,” Reed said of Weis agreeing to let him play it full-time. “I just got to go out there and make plays. Hopefully he’ll try to get me the ball.”

REDSHIRT FRESHMAN SENSATION’s TIME TO SHINE?

Dunbar’s name has popped up over and over again throughout the offseason as the player who has stepped up the most during practice and training camp. He showed some flashes of his ability during the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut in the spring and is ready to contribute this year however he is needed. “Deep passes come into play,” he said, “but I’m an overall receiver – short, deep, medium – it doesn’t matter. I’ve been working on every route.”

Speaking about both the offense of himself and his personal goals, Dunbar believes the season opener can do a lot of good for the Gators. “[We just have to] come out clicking, with great timing, doing good to get ready for the season,” he said. “Personally for myself, it’s just to get one game under my belt, get game action and get used to game speed.”

He also discussed the advantages of having Weis on the field this year as opposed to up in a box watching the game from above. “He’s closer to the field so he can see some things out there that he probably can’t see from the box. That’s probably a big advantage,” Dunbar said. “This is a new offense, so [he can] continue to show us things during the game. It’s very helpful. If I see something out there that I don’t understand, I see the offensive coordinator there so I can ask him.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Riggs on redshirt junior CB Jeremy Brown (knee) missing time: “I’m sure it hurts him a lot. Jeremy’s a great player and we miss him a lot.”

» Riggs on Muschamp’s demeanor this week: “Still as fired up as always. He’s always trying to make us better.”

» Dunbar said that Weis is “an aggressive coach but at the same time he teaches you.” He recounted being yelled at by Weis a few times and said he usually makes a confused face that sometimes gets him even angrier.

» Reed said he was able to knock down redshirt sophomore LB Dee Finely once during spring practice. “It felt good,” he said, “but not better than catching the ball.”

» Reed said the offense is using “a lot” of two tight end sets with redshirt freshman Gerald Christian playing opposite him.

4 NFL BITS: Brown, Lemmens, Spikes, Black

1 » In a surprising move on Tuesday, the New Orleans Saints released former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown. A nine-year NFL veteran who spent the first eight years of his career with the Chicago Bears, Brown was signed by New Orleans as a free agent in 2010 and notched 39 tackles (32 solo) with a forced fumble and two sacks as a 16-game starter. He held the same position through the first three preseason games and worked with the first-team defense in every practice this offseason. “It saddens me to say that I have been released from the Saints because [they're] a first class organization and I will miss it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Good luck to the guys and Who Dat Nation keep roaring… My family and I had a blast here.. Thanks.” Brown joins DE Bobby McCray and offensive tackle Max Starks as big-name free agents currently available with Florida ties.

2 » Also receiving bad news was former Gators linebacker Duke Lemmens, an undrafted free agent who found out Tuesday that his contract with the Arizona Cardinals had been terminated. Lemmens played in the team’s first three preseason games and made a number of tackles but was one of many players the team released in this round of cuts.

3 » New England Patriots LB Brandon Spikes had not practiced or played with the team since Aug. 4 but finally returned to the field on Tuesday according to reports from numerous media outlets. Spikes has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury but is expected to see some time in the team’s preseason finale at home on Thursday. He played in 12 games with eight starts during his rookie season and was fifth on New England with 71 tackles (41 solo) and an interception. He was suspended for four games in 2010 for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

4 » Another player out for an extended period of time was former Florida safety Ahmad Black, a fifth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2011 NFL Draft. Black suffered a high ankle sprain in the team’s preseason opener and has missed numerous practices and both subsequent preseason games since. There are rumors that Black could be cut soon because the team is only planning to keep four safeties and he has not had much of a time to make an impression, but head coach Raheem Morris has said previously that he believed Black was one of the steals of the draft. “I know he’s going to try to go this week,” Morris said, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “But it’d be hard right now for him to go out there and do some things, especially with the way Larry Asante’s playing, and Corey Lynch. Those guys played their butts off this preseason, not to mention our starters. It’ll be tough. You’d like to see him out there.” Black could always be a candidate for the practice squad in a worst-case scenario.

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason 3/4

With the 2011 NFL preseason officially underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 3 action, some of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second exhibition week of the 2011 campaign.

VETERANS
LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Three solo tackles
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Two tackles (one solo for loss)
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Reception for 10 yards
OL JASON WATKINS, Buffalo Bills: Played as a reserve
FS MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Four tackles (three solo)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Played as a reserve
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Team-high five tackles (three solo)
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Four tackles (three solo)
OT PHIL TRAUTWEIN, Cleveland Browns: Played as a reserve
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Denver Broncos: Played as a reserve
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos: 6/11 for 93 yards (QB Rating: 82.8), four rushes for 25 yards (long: 19), two fumbles (none lost)
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings Four rec. for 29 yards (targets: 5, long: 13)
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, N.E. Patriots: Five rec. for 46 yards (targets: 8, long: 14)
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Started at defensive end
G COOPER CARLISLE, Oakland Raiders: Started at right guard
WR CHAD JACKSON, Oakland Raiders Played as a reserve
DE JARVIS MOSS, Oakland Raiders: Played as a reserve
CB LITO SHEPPARD, Oakland Raiders: Played as a reserve
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Target
TE CORNELIUS INGRAM, Philadelphia Eagles Solo tackle
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Started at center
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Solo tackle
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three carries for five yards, touchdown, two receptions for 27 yards (targets: 4, long: 15)
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Wash. Redskins: Two rec. for 27 yards (targets: 3, long: 14)
QB REX GROSSMAN, Washington Redskins: 8/15 for 112 yards, TD (QB Rating: 99.9)

DRAFTED ROOKIES

C MIKE POUNCEY, Miami Dolphins: Started at center, solo tackle
OT MARCUS GILBERT, Pittsburgh Steelers: Started at right tackle
SS AHMAD BLACK, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DNP (high-ankle sprain)
OG MAURICE HURT, Washington Redskins: Played as a reserve

UNDRAFTED ROOKIES
LB DUKE LEMMENS, Arizona Cardinals: Played as a reserve
LB BRANDON HICKS, Buffalo Bills: Three tackles (one solo)
DE JUSTIN TRATTOU, New York Giants: Unknown
P CHAS HENRY, Philadelphia Eagles: Four punts for 174 yards (avg.: 43.5, long: 58)

INJURED – DID NOT PLAY
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Knee
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Pectoral
DE JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Concussion
LB BRANDON SILER, Kansas City Chiefs: Torn Achilles (season)
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Undisclosed
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Undisclosed (ankle)
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Hamstring

PRESEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Dillon Graham makes it official for Florida

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan is aware his team will likely lose at least two guards after this season and is continuing to bolster his 2012 recruiting class with shooters. The Gators learned Tuesday they have received their third 2012 commitment from three-star shooting guard Dillon Graham (Orlando, FL).

Graham, at 6’4” and 175 pounds, chose Florida over Central Florida, Florida State and Kansas but also had offers from Louisville, Maryland, Vanderbilt and other schools.

He took unofficial visits to UF, UCF and FSU in late August, according to Rivals, and decided that wearing orange and blue was the best move for him.

Graham averaged 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.2 steals per game last year and saw his recruitment pick up some steam over the summer.

The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reports that Graham is considering walking on to the team in 2012 and beginning his scholarship in 2013.

Florida also has four-star point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) and four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier (Montverde, FL) committed for 2012.

OGGOA has reached out to Graham and will update this story shortly.

8/29: Muschamp on injuries, coaches, position separation and standouts before opener

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss a number of topics relating to the team and their opening game.

OPENING STATEMENT AND INJURY REPORT

“I’m excited for the first game; I’m excited for game week. I know that the players are and we are as a staff. Starting off with Florida Atlantic, offensively they are a pro-style attack with multiple formations. I think that Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger does an outstanding job of teaching the quarterback and what they want to do offensively. That obviously is their success and defensively they have more of a four-down team and now they have changed their personnel listing the possible three down, so we’ll prepare for both of those as we work through the week here.

“Obviously, anytime there is a first game there is some unknown on both sides of the ball and I think we’ve got some ourselves but I’m very pleased with our preparation at this point. Last Thursday and Friday, we came back and had a little better day from Wednesday. We had good meetings last night, very attentive and I thought the guys were bouncing around a little bit as far as the walkthroughs and things that we were doing. I’m real pleased at where we are at this point.”

OUT: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonoard (torn meniscus)

QUESTIONABLE: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder)

ACTIVE: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back)

COACHING POSITIONS, JOBS ON GAME DAY

Though many offensive coordinators spend their game days up in a box overlooking the field, Charlie Weis will be stationed on the sidelines this year along with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and most of the other position coaches. “I feel that it’s important to have Charlie on the field from the standpoint of the first year on offense,” Muschamp explained. “John is a senior but it’s the first year of going through the adjustments that happen in the first year. I’ve been through it before, the growing pains of something happens on game days that you’re not prepared for. We’ve got to get them up, we’ve got to get them calmed down. We’ve got to say this is what’s happening.”

Defensively, Muschamp reiterated that Quinn will be making the calls on defense though he will “be on the headsets and I’ll certainly make suggestions when I feel I have to look at some things.” Filling up the box upstairs will be running backs coach Brian White and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson Of White, Muschamp said he has experience of watching a game from that vantage point and “does an outstanding job of communicating what is happening with the other team’s defense. In regards to Robinson, Muschamp said he “is the same with knowing our defense very well” and that he needs his eyes up in the box.

As a whole, he reiterated that there is not much more he could have asked for from his staff after their first offseason together. “I’ve been very pleased with how we’ve come together and understanding where we are headed with this thing. First of all, philosophically being on the same page and that starts with offensively and defensively, special teams, recruiting and public relations. It’s everything,” he said. “I think that they understand and they know what I want done in the program and how we want things done in the program as far as discipline is concerned, how we approach practice, how we approach our players, how we handle the situations. I’ve been very pleased with the results to this point, but again, we are measured on game day.”

READY AND RARING TO GO

The team may not be there yet, according to Muschamp, but they will be. He said it all starts “with today and finish[es] through Thursday and having a good walk-through on Friday.” To his dismay, the Gators will be playing an evening game rather than an early afternoon game, something that he would prefer. “We’re going to get ready and try to play the game and unfortunately it’s at 7 p.m. I wish we were playing at 1 p.m., but that’s the way it is and we’re looking forward to doing that,” he said. Asked why the game time matters, Muschamp indicated he preferred earlier contests because of the motiviation players have in the morning. “You wake up and you’re ready to play and that’s kind of the way you feel but once you get out there at night with the great atmosphere – we’re going to have we’ve got the best fans in the country so I’m excited about that, they are going to be excited about that,” he said. “They’re going to be excited at 7:00; they’re going to be excited 1:00. They’d be excited at 11:30 a.m. if we played then so I will be fine.”

In the long run though, Muschamp just wants to get out on the field and relieve some of the light anxiety he is facing as a first-hear head coach. “I’m emotional every day. I’m excited about it, but more than anything is to just focus on the task at hand. It’s coaching well, it’s making good decisions for your football team, preparing well during the week,” he said. “Come Friday, the preparation is done, it’s just a mental game from that standpoint moving on to game day and going out and winning the football game. That’s what we’re looking forward to doing. I’m not nervous. ‘Anxious’ would probably be a better word.”

WORK IN PROGRESS: OFFENSIVE LINE AND SECONDARY

During his introductory press conference and before each semester so far this year, Muschamp has repeated that the offensive line and secondary are the two units that need the most cohesion in order for a team to be successful. Unfortunately for Florida, those are the two areas that the team is having the greatest difficulty finding players to separate themselves from the pack. “The bottom line with me is that you have to earn the right to start, so if a guy doesn’t practice, he’s not going to start,” Muschamp said Monday. “A guy has got to get out there and practice and compete and play the right way when we start our football game.”

In the depth chart released a few hours after his press conference concluded, Muschamp outlines exactly where certain players fall as of right now. He said he is pleased with junior Xavier Nixon, redshirt junior Matt Patchan and redshirt freshman Chaz Green at the tackle position and considers all three of them to be starters even though Nixon and Patchan will likely earn that title. The left guard and center position, however, remain up for grabs even though redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger and redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison currently hold those respective positions. Muschamp said Wenger is pushing Harrison for the center job but redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne is also making a case for Wenger’s left guard position, leaving both up in the air right now.

He is similarly concerned with the starting positions in the secondary, noting that every spot (left vs. right cornerback, left vs. right safety) is interchangeable. “all of those positions are a little bit up for grabs as far as who practices the best,” he said, except for sophomore Matt Elam who has locked down a starting job at safety. Take a look at the depth chart released today for a closer look at the alignment of the secondary.

In the end, his main goal is to see players finally separate themselves and claim a starting job rather than be just another good player who is not consistently leading the pack at their respective position. “We’ve got certain guys and I’d like to think they are competing very well and they’re competing to be the star. They all will play, and I can tell you that. So, who deserves to be the starter and jog out there to start the game? We’ll see what happens and how they progress through the week,” he said. “You can look at it as motivation, you can look at it as a lot of different things, but the bottom line is them understanding it is how you prepare is how you play. I’m young, but I’m old-fashioned and generally how you play is how you practice, too. That’s the way I view it and nobody, in my opinion, has separated themselves to be named the starter here Monday before our first game. Does that mean that we’re playing poorly? I don’t think so, that means we have not created a separation at the position as we have at other positions.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders: “He would be the front-runner today [to start at safety], but it’s about consistency and that’s the hardest thing for young players. It’s hard for them day-in and day-out to go out and consistently do it but I’m very pleased with him. I think he has in the intangibles as far as the instinct to play in the deep part of the field, tackling ability, coverage ability, playing the ball and a guy that I’m excited about playing for the Gators.”

» On restoring Brantley’s confidence this season: “I don’t know about restoring…I think that if more than anything when you have some sort of change you grow with that change and that’s what John has done. I’ve been very pleased through the off-season and his work ethic and his approach through spring practice and it’s catching on onto what we are trying to do. I think he feels more comfortable in the things that we’re doing and I’ve been very pleased in his progress. I think that John has built his confidence himself and I think that when you have a quarterback coach and an offensive coordinator like Charlie Weis, the track record speaks for itself and Charlie has confidence in a guy like John and that should bring confidence to John. I think that’s what is happening and I feel very comfortable for where we are right now.”

» On if the reserve quarterbacks, specifically freshman Jeff Driskel, will see the field: “We’ll cross that bridge we come to it. As far as the game is concerned, we’ll work through that but John is our starting quarterback and if it presents itself that somebody else plays then that will be fine and if it’s Jeff, it’s Jeff. At this point, it would be Jeff being the backup but certainly through the week we’re going to see the guys who are practicing best and who deserves to play. John Brantley is our starting quarterback.”

» On where fans can expect to see sophomore Trey Burton on the field: “At a bunch [of positions]. You better track him. He’s a guy that can line up in a fullback position, he can line up in the tailback position, he’ll line up in the slot, he’ll line up at tight end, he can be split out wide. He brings an awful lot of variety to your playing call because he’s smart and he gets football, he understands it. When you want to change something with him, you can say, ‘This is what we did yesterday, we’re just doing it from a different spot,’ and he understands that. Some guys have a harder time with that and he does not. We’re going to use him in a lot of different ways, he’s a very valuable member of our football team and on special teams he does a very good job.”

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