8/29: Brantley’s sore back, Burton’s primary fear, Bostic’s thoughts on the defense

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 Monday to discuss how the team is progressing.

BRANTLEY’s BACK SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM

Confirming what head coach Will Muschamp indicated last week, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley said he has been having issues with his back recently but promised that, while he has missed some practice time, he will be a full-go for the game on Saturday. “I’ve been feeling good lately,” he said. “I’m ready to move forward. I’m not worried about it at all.”

STEPPING UP AS A TRUE LEADER AND MOTIVATOR

Saying he has become “probably a little more vocal, a little more comfortable with everything in the starting leadership role,” Brantley expressed that he has matured a lot in the offseason and figured out exactly what he needs to do from a leadership standpoint going forward. “You got to carry yourself very well off the field. You have to be a leader on- and off-the field – make sure everyone’s doing the right thing, going to class, doing their studies,” he said. “There’s no one way to do it – you just know what’s right and wrong.”

The miscues and mistakes from one year ago have aided him in that development. Now he is able to forget plays that (as he said) “killed the momentum” and “sucked the wind out of us” and move forward. “Last year definitely helped me grow up a lot. It matured me a whole bunch,” Brantley said. “I think I’ve grown up a lot. I’m ready for this season. I’m ready to deal with ups and downs if they come our way, and I’m excited.”

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has also had a big role in changing Brantley’s mindset going into this season. “He mentions it to me – not too often but often enough – to keep forgetting about last year and just keep moving forward. Even this year, if something happens, you just got to forget about it,” he recalled. “You can’t beat yourself up about it. You got to play the next play no matter what happens the play before. You can’t have that hanging over your head because that can affect more plays in the future.”

BURTON SHARES HIS WORST FEAR

For “Mr. Versatile,” sophomore running back Trey Burton, there is only one thing he is scared of on the football field. “My worst fear is sitting on the bench,” he said Monday. “I told coach, I’ll do anything he wants me to do.” That is one of the reasons why Burton has accepted so many roles with the team – in order to stay on the field as much as possible and give the Gators their best chance to win.

Part of that versatility included Burton learning how to block when he is in the backfield. That has been a difficulty for him but something he continues to improve on. “I’m still trying to get comfortable with it because it’s a whole new different thing, especially at this level, it’s a lot harder,” he explained. “I’m going to always need to work on something, especially with stuff I’ve never really done before. […] Coach Weis tries to give everybody the ball as much as he can. You can’t touch the ball every play, so I have to be doing something else.”

Perhaps the most difficult thing for him to learn, however, is actually being handed the ball rather than taking it directly and running with it. “[It’s] a lot different. Probably the hardest thing I’ve had to work on this camp is receiving a handoff instead of just catching it from the center and running with it,” Burton said. “Last year we did a lot of reading defensive linemen and linebacker and stuff like that. This year it’s more smash-mouth football compar[atvely].”

“THE FORGOTTEN GATORS”

Motivation tactics are a dime a dozen these days, but junior linebacker Jon Bostic sounded genuine when talking about his team’s chances going into the 2011 season. Bostic noted that while nationally Florida may not be getting much respect, the atmosphere inside the locker room is one of hard work, top-notch effort and dedication to being the best the team can be this year.

“We’re not looking to back down from anybody. A lot of people are overlooking us right now, but we got to prepare each and every week to go play on Saturday,” he explained. “You can just see it. A lot of people from everywhere are just overlooking us. Everybody’s kind of like the forgotten Gators, you know. It doesn’t bother us at all. That’s how we’re trying to look at it. We’re trying to take it day-by-day, play-by-play.”

DEFENSE WORKING OUT THE KINKS

Following a rough scrimmage last week, Muschamp chastised the team for a lack of execution and making too many mistakes. Taking a look at the tape, Bostic said he understands why Muschamp was upset and thinks the team turned the corner at the end of the week.

“There was a lot of things that went wrong in the scrimmage. I didn’t think it was as bad as it was when I was out there, watching it back on film, but there was a lot of little mistakes that he gets tired of,” he explained. “A lot of people were still making those same errors from the first days of camp. He’s a little frustrated about that. We had a pretty good practice after that day. I don’t know exactly what it was, but a lot of people were making mistakes – even myself – but towards the end of last week we got everything fixed up and we’re ready to go.”

Bostic believes the younger players on the defensive side of the ball are really coming together in that regard. “At the beginning of camp, some guys were still lost because they were throwing a lot of things at some of the freshman,” he said. “Some of the guys came out a little confused, but you can see even last week a lot of those guys are picking that up and they’re not making the same mistakes they were making earlier in camp.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Brantley on if the fans will like the new offense: “I think they’re going to be very pleased. We’ve had a great camp, a great three weeks, and we’re excited just to get out there and play against someone else besides ourselves. We’re looking forward to showing our fans what new Gator football is doing.”

» Brantley on how he feels behind the offensive line: “Very comfortable. They’ve done a great job; they’ve made so much progress in camp and everything. I feel really comfortable behind them and trust them with everything.”

» Brantley on Weis’s specialty: “Coach Weis does a real great job of using what’s working. He’ll use the same thing until it doesn’t work anymore and then change it up.”

» Brantley on redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed: “He’s going to be a huge weapon. He’s one of the best athletes out there on the field. We’re going to put him in positions to make plenty of plays. He’s just going to go out there and keep going hard every play.”

» Brantley on former offensive coordinator Steve Addazio: “I think Coach Addazio is a great coach and a great guy. I respect the man so much. We definitely miss him.”

» Brantley on his favorite targets at wideout: “They all are, to be honest with you. They’ve all had a great camp and made plenty of plays. I feel very comfortable getting them the ball. Probably Deonte [Thompson] and Frankie [Hammond, Jr.] – I’ve been around them the most and feel real comfortable with them.”

» Bostic on the difference between new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and last year’s DC Teryl Austin: “The variety of stuff he brings to the table. He’s one of those guys who brings multiple types of defenses – we can do different types of things with the linebackers, defensive line, the buck position, he has a lot of different things he can bring to the table.”

» Bostic on Brantley’s composure: “A lot of stuff went wrong on the offensive side of the ball [last year], but he kept his head high. A lot of people are saying his confidence may be down this year, but I didn’t see that at all this offseason. I saw one of those guys who walked around with his head high, anxious to get back on the field.”

» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell on if he thinks his position is the most critical: “On the field any position is key because we all work together. It takes all of us.”

» Powell on seniors returning to the team: “It’s meant a lot to us for guys like [Brantley] to come back and step up as a leader. Along with Jeff Demps and guys like them coming back. They’ve been there before and they know what it takes. Now they’re taking over and leading us in the right way. [Brantley is] a lot more vocal. He’s really taken control of the offense and taken control of the team.”

» Powell on the practice after the “bad” scrimmage last week: “Guys were coming in and really getting focused. [There were] a lot less mental errors. Guys just really working hard.”

Florida Gators release first fall depth chart

As Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and his staff continue to determine the starters for the team’s opening game of the 2011 season against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPNU), the team released its first fall depth chart after media day on Monday to provide a slightly clearer indication of how Florida will line up.

QB: John Brantley, Jeff Driskel
HB: Jeff Demps/Chris Rainey, Mike Gillislee
WR (X): Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose
WR (Z): Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond
TE: Jordan Reed, Gerald Christian
F-21: Trey Burton, Hunter Joyer
*In with two halfbacks and one tight end
F-12: Gerald Christian
*In with one halfback and two tight ends
F-11 (Z-11): Frankie Hammond, Andre Debose
*In with one halfback and one tight end

LT: Xavier Nixon, Chaz Green
LG: Dan Wenger, Kyle Koehne
C: Jonotthan Harrison, Dan Wenger
RG: Jon Halapio, Nick Alajajian
RT: Matt Patchan, Chaz Green

Buck: Ronald Powell, Kendric Johnson
DT: Dominique Easley, Leon Orr
NT: Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter
DE: Sharrif Floyd, William Green
Sam LB: Lerentee McCray, Darrin Kitchens
Mike LB: Jon Bostic, Michael Taylor
Will LB: Jelani Jenkins, Dee Finley

CB: Marcus Roberson/Jaylen Watkins/Jeremy Brown
CB: Moses Jenkins/Cody Riggs, Louchiez Purifoy
S: Matt Elam, Josh Shaw
S: De’Ante Saunders, Josh Evans
Nickel: De’Ante Saunders, Cody Riggs

KR: Andre Debose/Solomon Patton/Jeff Demps
PR: Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed/Frankie Hammond
K: Caleb Sturgis, Zack Brust
P: David Lerner, Kyle Christy
H: John Crofoot, Tyler Murphy
LS: Drew Ferris, Christopher Guido

F POSITION: Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s F position is one that changes depending on the other personnel on the field. The first number refers to the halfbacks in the formation, while the second number corresponds to how many tight ends are on the field. (Ex. 21 = two halfbacks, one tight end). The student-athlete listed at the F position is the other playmaker on the field aside from the starting HB/TE and two WRs.

BUCK POSITION: Players listed at “buck” are more commonly referred to as hybrid defensive ends/linebackers. Examples of players coached by Muschamp at this position include Jason Taylor, Calvin Pace and Sergio Kindle. Powell, for example, would play defensive end in a 4-3 formation and linebacker in a 3-4.

NOTES

» Wenger looks to have taken the lead at left guard over Koehne, who was given the nod last week by Muschamp. The position has been in flux all offseason.

» Floyd has returned to wearing No. 73 instead of No. 4.

» Injuries to Brown (knee) and Hines (hamstring) are the reasons why the former is listed as a potential starter (with the slash) and the latter is not on the depth chart.

» Saunders has supplanted Evans as the second starting safety as of press time. If he does hold that role, Riggs will likely start at nickel unless the team decides to insert Evans and shift Saunders for those plays. Riggs could also start as one of the two primary cornerbacks.

» Brust supplanted Brad Phillips, Lerner swapped spots with Christy, and Ferris took the lead over Guido in the specialist category. Additionally, Murphy becoming the back-up holder is certainly notable.

Florida soccer splits, volleyball sweeps

Coming off back-to-back victories in South Florida, No. 8 Florida Gators soccer looked to continue their stellar start with a pair of contests against ranked opponents on the road in Knoxville, TN over the weekend. Florida (3-1-0) wound up defeating the No. 18 Texas A&M Aggies (1-2-0) 3-2 in exciting fashion on Friday before suffering their first loss of the season 2-0 to the No. 15 UCLA Bruins (3-0-0) on Sunday.

The Gators jumped ahead 1-0 in the 25th minute when junior midfielder Erika Tymrak corralled a through ball from freshman MF Havana Solaun and pocketed it into the net. The Aggies responded quickly with back-to-back goals from Annie Kunz and Kelley Monogue before UF was able to tie it up at 39’. Senior MF Lindsay Thompson sailed a cross from the right wing to the left post, which sophomore forward Taylor Travis headed in for her second goal of the season.

All was quiet in the second half as the clock began to run down. With just 15 seconds remaining, Florida redshirt junior F McKenzie Barney found a cross in the middle of the field and buried the game-winning goal into the net from six yards out.

For the second straight day, Gators senior goalkeeper Brooke Chancey allowed two goals past her on Sunday, but this time her teammates did not accomplish anything on the offensive end to support her. UCLA scored at 35’ and 72’ to put Florida away 2-0, keeping their undefeated season alive while handing the Gators their first loss.

Back in Gainesville, FL at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, No. 9 Gators volleyball was looking to start the season strong by participating in the Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge. The ladies won back-to-back contests in the two-day event to earn the team championship, and the Southeastern Conference defeated the ACC 3-1.

Florida (2-0) swept the Boston College Eagles (1-0) 3-0 on Friday, defeating them in straight sets 25-11, 25-15, 25-16. Senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson and senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the team with 11.0 and 10.5 points, respectively, while also combining for 13 kills. The Gators notched 14 aces in the match, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and sophomore setter Channel Brown combined for 27 assists.

Continuing their good fortunes on Sunday, Florida similarly swept the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) 3-0 via straight sets of 25-17, 25-20, 25-14. Senior OH Stephanie Ferrell earned the tournament’s MVP award after registering 20 kills over the weekend (including 13 on Sunday). Joining her on the All-Tournament Team were Jaeckel (double-double with 12 kills, 10 digs), Murphy (match-high 20 assists, eight kills, seven digs) and redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (19 digs combined).

The University of Florida has began its 2011-12 athletic season a combined 5-1 and will look to continue its ways as its two women’s teams take part in five more games this week before the football team takes the field on Saturday evening.

Gators Halapio, Okine involved in car crash

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt junior defensive tackle Earl Okine were involved in a crash on I-10 in Madison County on Sunday.

The car they were driving “hit small trees and bushes in the median,” according to WCTV, but both players appear to be unharmed after emergency medical personnel dispatched to the scene evaluated the two young men.

A Florida spokesman confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel Sunday evening that the players were not injured in the crash. Expectations are that both will be at practice Monday.

Dolphins to honor Gators championship team

Two former Florida GatorsMiami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow – will meet up on Oct. 23 when their teams go head-to-head in a regular season contest at Sun Life Stadium. In order to cash in on Tebow’s cache and generate additional ticket sales for the contest, the Dolphins have decided to honor the Gators 2009 BCS National Championship team that Sunday.

Florida defeated Oklahoma 24-14 at what was then Dolphins Stadium on Jan. 8, 2009 to win its second national title in three years. Pouncey started at right guard in the game, and Tebow accumulated 353 total yards and three touchdowns while throwing two interceptions in the Gators’ victory.

Miami has invited a number of former players who are not in the NFL to join the celebration. More than 20 have already confirmed and head coach Urban Meyer will also be in attendance along with Albert and the pep band. UF has a bye that weekend.

Numerous Gator Clubs in South Florida are hosting the inaugural Gator Day at the stadium. Ticket packages begin at $115 per person (subject to availability) and include a pre-game tailgate celebration; gameday ticket; all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink refreshments; a team cheerleader performance, Miami Dolphins/Gators alumni players question & answer, live entertainment and more.

Photo Credit: MCT

FAU psyched for showdown with Florida

College football returns exactly seven days from now for the Florida Gators. Adjusting to an entirely new coaching staff including different schemes on both offense and defense, Florida has been concentrating on getting the playbook down all summer and just began scheming for their first opponent, the Florida Atlantic Owls late last week.

Four hours south in Boca Raton, FL, Florida Atlantic has taken the opposite approach. The Owls are once again under the stewardship of head coach Howard Schnellenberger. Though he will retire at the end of the season, Schnellenberger has had Florida Atlantic preparing for their big-name opponent for months.

“I watched film all summer,” safety Demetrius Williamson told the Sun-Sentinel. “I don’t know everything they do, but I am getting an idea of what they do and how they are going to attack us.”

He added that the team learned head coach Urban Meyer’s Gators teams “would formation you to death,” but new head coach Will Muschamp has a different strategy. “I feel like they are going to get it to their playmakers and let them play ball,” he added.

Defensive tackle Jarvis Givens indicated to the paper that FAU is playing up the underdog aspect of the contest with the team feeling that it can compete head-to-head with Florida.

“It is just like the difference between a Cadillac Escalade and an Avalanche,” he said. “It is just a name. You pay an extra 20 to 30 grand for a name, but it is all built on the same platform of hard work.”

The Gators defeated the Owls 59-20 in 2007 and held them scoreless in the first, third and fourth quarters. Florida Atlantic was successful moving the ball, totaling 384 yards of offense, and held onto the it longer than Florida (31:40-28:20) in the contest.

The two teams will square off at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Sat., Sept. 3 at 7:00 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU.

FOUR BITS: Tebow on NBC, Murphy, Crowder

1 » Though plenty are questioning Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s ability to succeed in the NFL, there is little doubt about his ability to motivate. According to Entertainment Weekly, Tebow (along with New Orleans QB Drew Brees and Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson) will make an appearance on the Oct. 4 episode of The Biggest Loser on NBC. EW reports, “Some of the athletes will be seen competing against the contestants in a throwing contest, while others help the pound shedders with their ‘Last Chance Workout’ before that week’s weigh-in.”

2 » Florida Gators senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named by ESPNW on Wednesday as one of the “five things to watch in college volleyball” this year. “[She] looks to dominate again after three straight All-American seasons and a 2010 selection as SEC Player of the Year,” says writer Mick Elliott. “She was the league’s only player last season to rank in the top 10 in kills per set, service aces per set and hitting percentage. Ranked as the nation’s top 2007 prep recruit coming out of Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy, Murphy became just the second Florida player to lead the SEC in aces per set during a single season. Ranked fourth in the SEC and 26th nationally with a .374 hitting efficiency, she also tallied seven triple-doubles last season, including three that came in three-set matches.” Murphy on Thursday was one of 30 student-athletes named as a candidate for the 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, an honor given to college players in each sport who demonstrate excellence in the community and classroom as well as with their character and in competition.

3 » Southeastern Conference coaches on Thursday selected the Florida women’s cross country team as the preseason favorites to win their third-straight league title. Earning six first-place votes, the Gators could take home the team’s sixth-ever SEC Championship if the coaches are correct. The men’s team was chosen as a preseason third-place finisher and did not receive a single first-place vote.

4 » He may be semi-retired, but former Florida and Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder is still in demand, according to Pro Football Talk. “Per a source with knowledge of the situation, at least two teams recently expressed a desire to lure Crowder out of retirement,” Mike Florio writes. Crowder has given no indications that he plans to return to the field this year (his new wife is having a baby during the season and he wants to remain in South Florida with his family).

Meyer talks Gators, coaching on ESPN call

Former Florida Gators head coach now ESPN analyst and color commentator Urban Meyer participated in a teleconference with the network on Thursday and spoke at length about his former team as well as his mindset not being on the sidelines this year. He also touched on some subjects (such as using a two-quarterback system in 2006 and John Brantley’s struggles in 2010) that pertained to his time with the Gators. Below are some excerpts of the conference call that are informative and relate specifically to Florida.

Q. – Urban, I had a question for you about the way you used Leak and Tebow in 2006 I was curious how that process evolved, how maybe easy or difficult it was to commit to it, and how did the team respond to it when they first saw the design?

URBAN MEYER: It was not something we went into the season planning because we really didn’t know what we had with Tim. You don’t know until you get into the game atmosphere, and his value we learned rather quickly. So it evolved throughout the course of the year.

It was a very fragile situation and very unique where if you don’t have character guys that are playing that position, you can see where it could become a locker room issue or become a chemistry issue. The parents were fantastic. You’re talking about a quarterback at Florida, which is a very high profile position, on a team that had a chance to be really good. So it was incredible to work with two guys that are built like Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. There was absolutely no ego, there was no anything other than what’s good for the team, and their families were on board, and the team really bought into it, as well, too.

Like Chris made a comment, which is if we didn’t win then it probably would have been chaos, but winning cures all evils, and we won a lot of games and we had one stumble and that was against Auburn. But to see that team rally back from that, and really both quarterbacks were a major, major part of that.

Read the rest of what Urban Meyer had to say on Thursday…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Meyer talks Gators, coaching on ESPN call

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