11/9: Watkins steps up, Patchan improving

With the Florida Gators finally earning a victory on Saturday after a difficult four-game losing streak, a number of players were made available to the media Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into Saturday’s game on the road against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.

WATKINS STEPS UP AND EARNS PRAISE

After allowing a touchdown against Georgia, sophomore defensive back Jaylen Watkins worked hard in practice last week on his head turns and ability to play the ball while it is in the air. That paid off Saturday against Vanderbilt as Watkins became a disruptive player who earned praise from head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn this week.

“It was good to see him get some pass breakups in the ballgame. I was real pleased to see him do that,” Quinn said Wednesday evening.

Watkins attributed his improvement to preparation. “All week [Quinn] told me to get the ball off guys in the Georgia game. I was in two good positions and didn’t get the ball off. I think I was in good positions [against Vanderbilt and did my job],” he said. Watkins added that he stayed after practice to work on getting his head around and learning to play the ball better in the air. “Trying not to get a pass interference, timing when the ball is coming and actually getting it down when it’s coming [are the most difficult parts of playing the position,” he added.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Junior linebacker Jon Bostic on redshirt freshman Michael Taylor: “He’s growing up every week. He was asked to step up last week and that is what he did.”

» Bostic on redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard: “Leadership. With him being a senior, him being here the longest out of everyone, he’s seen everything. He’s been here during the good times and the bad times. He’s the one keeping everybody going and everybody up.”

» Bostic on beating a team with a winning record: “It’s important. It doesn’t change from week-to-week. Every week we want to go out and win.”

» Watkins on sophomore safety Matt Elam: “Matt is a leader. When we play teams that do the option and all that, we move him down to nickel to get him on the edge because he’s strong and smart.”

» Redshirt sophomore tackle Matt Patchan on returning and playing better: “I’m not perfect, so I always have to get better. That’s the way I approach every day. Everything I do in practice and in the games is to make improvements and get better.”

» Patchan on offensive line coach Frank Verducci: “Coach is a great coach. He really knows the technique part of it. It’s good that he’s an NFL type guy so he comes in and we get to learn that way. It’s really impressive. I like working with him.”

Redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter on beating South Carolina and/or FSU: “Those are big wins. Any time you can line up against South Carolina or FSU, those are big games. We always want to win those games.”

» Quinn on redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail: “We’re hoping to keep developing him. Right now he hasn’t cracked the two-deep in that way, but he’s out there practicing and working hard at it. […] For us inside it was more just controlling blocks, being productive as a rusher, where he can make some more plays.”

Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

College basketball season has arrived, and the excitement is in full force surrounding the new-look Florida Gators squad. Florida basketball has the potential to be one of the best programs in the nation this year and should be one of the most exciting teams to watch from November to March.

The Gators feature what could be the best backcourt in the nation to go along with a rather inexperienced but talented frontline that has been waiting to prove itself.

There is no question that this team possesses the talent to be great but concerns surround the backcourt chemistry and keeping
everyone happy with playing time.

Guards senior Erving Walker, junior Kenny Boynton, sophomore Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore Casey Prather already have experience playing together, but how will the addition of two potential star players in freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario wind up working long-term?

In head coach Billy Donovan‘s portrait, he sees a perfect combination. Many wonder how the talented guards will share the ball and allocate shots amongst one another. The only true “pass-first” guard is Wilbekin but sharing the ball will be an issue with this group. Coach Donovan will have the guards playing together and feeding off each other because he is the best in America at getting players to understand their role and what they need to do to help the team win.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!
Continue Reading » Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

FOUR BITS: All-SEC, Oliver, Meyer, Jones

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced its coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second team selections on Wednesday, and three Florida Gators were honored on the lists. Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton both earned first team nominations, while sophomore center Patric Young was the only UF representative placed on the second team. Walker and Boynton were both on the media’s All-SEC second team, and Young was left off.

2 » Former Florida safety Louis Oliver was one of six people inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening. Fellow former Gators student-athlete Dara Torres was inducted previously. “It is very flattering,” Oliver said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “I am very excited to be in a group that includes a group like [Dan] Marino, Coach [Don] Shula, H. Wayne Huizenga, Michael Irvin and those types of people. Just to be recognized with those people puts me in a category that most people aren’t in. It’s not Canton, Ohio, but it is a really big deal for me.”

3 » With Joe Paterno stepping down from his job as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions at the end of the season, former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is obviously going to be the No. 1 name on the list of the university and fans. Meyer discussed his admiration for Paterno at the 2011 Outback Bowl but has also said on numerous other occasions how much he is enjoying his time off from the game. However, Meyer is not the only candidate as Miami head coach Al Golden and Rutgers top man Greg Schiano could also be in the running for the job. The fact of the matter is that Meyer may very well not be ready to return to college football and could also look at the sport’s landscape (with major violations and legal issues going on at his supposed top two destinations of Ohio State and Penn State) and choose to wait a bit longer.

4 » Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones was suspended three conference games without pay and publicly reprimanded by the NCAA on Wednesday for being aware of contact between a recruiter for a sports agency and student-athletes and not preventing it. The recruiter allegedly paid tuition and travel expenses for some players and recruits. “As the program’s head coach, I accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur,” he said in a statement from the school. A former assistant at Florida under head coach Billy Donovan, Jones took his UCF team to Gainesville two Saturdays ago for an exhibition game against UF.

11/9: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off their first win in over a month and set to face the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks this Saturday, head coach Will Muschamp spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at heading into the contest.

STATUS AND INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger are all good to go and expected to play Saturday. Redshrit junior LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), on the other hand, will be a game-time decision.

Though redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison was pulled from the Vanderbilt game due to inconsistencies in his shotgun snaps, he is working this week and trying to earn the job back. He is competing with Wenger (a center at Notre Dame) and redshirt junior Sam Robey, who replaced Harrison on Saturday.

“Jon’s played well for us,” Muschamp said. “His consistency in snaps since we’ve gone to strictly shotgun formation due to John’s ankle [has been an issue]. That has been the only issue. As far as his assignments and blocking, he’s been fine.”

MUCH RESPECT FOR SPURRIER

A Florida fan and football player growing up, Muschamp kept a close eye on South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. When he faced him both as a player at Georgia and defensive coordinator at Auburn, he understood even more why Spurrier is so good.

“I’ve got great respect for coach Spurrier as an opponent when I was a player and the job he did with his football teams. Being a player wanting to be a coach, you see the success he had here at Florida and how he really turned this place around to winning championships. As an opponent, I have tremendous respect as a player and now as a coach,” he said. “It’s the way he does things. He does things the right way. He goes by the rules, works hard and his teams compete each Saturday every time out. I have a lot of respect for the man and what he’s accomplished.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Penn State story: “It’s obviously tragic. I don’t know all the facts; we’ve been working. If the allegations are true, my thoughts are with the victims and the victims’ families at this time.”

» On how the quality of college football teams have changed with freshmen wanting to play right away: “I don’t know that the quality of the game is a whole lot different. There are some teams right now a little ahead of the others. There are younger players playing – a lot of guys are coming out [early] now for the NFL and that sets you back a little bit as a program because you count on a guy to be here and then he’s not there. Generally if he’s leaving early, he’s a really good player. […] All of the freshmen coming in because of recruiting now think they’re going to start as a freshman. They don’t want to go to a school that has an incumbent starter. Some of those things make your depth not as good as it’s been in past years where you’re a little paper thin at certain areas as far as positions are concerned.”

The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (35-23)

With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the first half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 35-23.

35 – Walter Pitchford V (Grand Rapids, MI)
Freshman forward
6’10” 221 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Pitchford was the last player to join the Gators’ 2011 signing class. He originally committed to DePaul in 2010 but requested a release from his signed scholarship when the head coach was fired; Pitchford wanted to attend Summit Christian Academy prep school for a year and reevaluate his options. DePaul and the NCAA initially denied his request before eventually granting it in July, paving the way for him to commit to Florida.

2011-12 Outlook: Though the Gators do not have much size, Pitchford is still quite raw as a player and will likely see the fewest game minutes of anyone on the roster this season. “Walter is still learning and growing,” head coach Billy Donovan said in mid-October. “Walter is not any different than a lot of freshmen that come in terms of figuring out how hard they have to play, better competition, what to do, where to go, what’s happening.” Pitchford said in April that Donovan plans to have him on the court as a stretch four who will have opportunities to play on the perimeter at times.

34 – Cody Larson (Sioux Falls, SD)
Redshirt freshman forward/center
6’9” 231 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A three-star power forward coming out of high school, Larson is quite athletic and quick for his size and position. Though he averaged 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a high school senior, Larson redshirted last season and will play his first regular season minutes this year.

2011-12 Outlook: Back with the team after being indefinitely suspended over the summer, Larson is expected to see major playing time as a reserve at the four and five. He is the primary backup to sophomore center Patric Young and could have a big role this season. “Cody is a big body who can rebound and run the floor and step out and knock down jumpers,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He just has to bring it every night and provide energy and whatever else the team needs. He could really help out down low this year.” Donovan has also praised him. “Cody has been a guy that is doing a lot of really good things right now in terms of the little things that aren’t going to show up on a stat sheet,” he said. “I’ve been pleased with what he’s been able to do for our team physically because we need another physical presence up front.”

33 – Erik Murphy (South Kingstown, RI)
Junior forward/center
6’10” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: The first-ever player from Rhode Island to be named a Parade Magazine All-American, Murphy was a four-star commit in 2009 who has played as a backup in each of his first two years with UF. He is shooting 55.7 percent for his career, 40 percent from downtown and 69.2 percent from the line while averaging 2.4 rebounds per game.

2010-11 Season: Murphy earned one start in 2010-11 when Parsons was injured and unable to play. Otherwise he served as the primary frontcourt reserve off the bench behind a veteran unit. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 33 games and scored in double digits three times. Murphy shined in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting.

2011-12 Outlook: Like Larson, Murphy was indefinitely suspended for most of the offseason but rejoined the team and earned a starting role this year. He was 6-of-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown for 17 points in the team’s exhibition against Catholic. “I’m just going to try to play my role, do what coach asks and do whatever I can for the team to help us win,” he said last Wednesday. Murphy jumped up to 230 lbs. in the offseason and said that his much-needed weight gain has helped him become stronger and more durable. “A couple times both seasons I got banged up a bit,” he said. The weight [gain] has definitely helped me. I’m in the best shape of my life. It feels good, and I feel comfortable right now.”

24 – Casey Prather (Jackson, TN)
Sophomore guard/forward
6’6” 212 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A highly recruited swingman and four-star player coming out of high school, Prather saw 6.7 minutes of action per game as a freshman but served mostly as a roleplayer during the season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per appearance. He wound up starting two games due to Parsons’s injury and scored double-digits once – on 5-of-8 shooting against North Carolina A&T.

2011-12 Outlook: Prather, who can play in the frontcourt or backcourt, is one of the Gators’ most versatile players. His length and athleticism allow him to move the ball, get open in space and attack the basket, but he is still trying to refine his touch and become an all-around player. Prather had a team-high seven rebounds in the exhibition and will be counted on to hit the boards hard all season long.

23 – Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO)
Freshman guard
6’3” 207 lbs.

Quick Bio: Arguably the best player ever to sign a national letter of intent with Donovan and the Gators, Beal was a five-star recruit and one of the top five players in the country coming out of high school last year. The 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, he averaged 32.5 points, 5.7 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a high school senior. Beal is the 14th McDonald’s All-American signed by Donovan and also a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Missouri. In the offseason, Beal led the United States’s U17 FIBA World Championship team to a gold medal and captured the tournament’s most valuable player honor.

2011-12 Outlook: A starter from day one, Beal joins a veteran backcourt that has been playing together for three years. He has been a model freshman in practice so far and could be a big catalyst for Florida in 2011-12. Beal scored a 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with five dimes in the exhibition game one week ago and could very well be the team’s best offensive player this season due to his ability to hit open shots and slash to the basket. “He’s been a guy that’s absorbed everything pretty well,” Donovan said of Beal. “He’s more advanced than most freshmen in terms of being able to retain and understand what we’re trying to get done. Coupled with the fact that he’s a talented and gifted player. He’s been unfazed, so to speak, by what he’s gone through. It’s been challenging, but it’s not like he’s lost or confused. He has a really good understanding and feel of what we’re trying to do and [he] is able to do that.”

11/8: Weis evaluates Brantley, center, players

As the Florida Gators prepare for their next road contest against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12 in Columbia, SC, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss his team’s upcoming contest.

BRANTLEY’s BACK AND HELD IN HIGH REGARD

Though he returned two weeks ago against Georgia, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley has been anything but 100 percent over the last two games. His ankle injury may be subsiding, but Brantley dinged up his arm in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt and sat the final few series. He did not practice Monday but was supposed to return to the field Tuesday, something Weis confirmed after practice. “John looked pretty good. He could have practiced yesterday. He got more rest and the other guys got more work. That worked out for everyone. He took almost all the reps today,” Weis said.

He also discussed the pistol set and said he did not install it against Georgia because Brantley was so banged up that he could not have even run plays like that. Nevertheless, he is impressed with how quickly Brantley picked up the changes and believes it is indicative of the type of player he is dealing with. “I wish I had him another year. I’d love to have him,” Weis said. “He’ll move on and I don’t think his football playing career will end when he leaves here.”

Weis also praised Brantley for his strong mental makeup and gumption, two things he certainly needed to have after a rough 2010 season. “I like the fact that when I got here he was a beaten down young man, and he stood as tall as you can possibly stand. That’s what I like more than anything else,” he said. “You don’t think these kids hear the boo birds when they come off the field? They hear it. They take it to heart. There is no doubt that the team looks to him as the leader of the team. That’s something that I didn’t know whether or not that would happen or not, but they definitely do.”

ROBEY REPLACING HARRISON?

Many wondered why redshirt junior Sam Robey did not win the starting job in the preseason and how redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, who had not played the position in years, was able to supplant him. Now nine games in, it looks as if Robey may be regaining the job due to Harrison struggling with his snaps.

In addition to a few high snaps that Brantley has had to jump on this season, Harrison’s shotgun snaps have been a bit low, something that is messing up the timing of plays. “That’s why we made a change in the game because the timing of when the back gets the ball – whether its protection related or in the run game – it’s significant,” Weis said about pulling Harrison for Robey on Saturday.

Weis added that Robey has taken reps as the starter this week but did not mention whether or not Harrison has as well. “One thing we’re not going to do is just stand pat,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we put ourselves in the best position whether we’re underneath center or in the shotgun.”

Should Harrison lose his job, he could regain a starting guard job, possibly supplanting redshirt senior Dan Wenger who has been dealing with various injuries.

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “For a young guy, his arrow is pointing way up. He’s still figuring it out, but he’s a football player. He’s got good football intelligence. He’s physical and he’s not even playing as physical as he can yet because he’s still feeling his way through.” Weis said he was in for more than 30 snaps during the game and will be a great player to run inside zones with and pound the ball in the future.

Senior running back Jeff Demps: “When he puts his foot in the ground and accelerates, he has that track explosion. There aren’t that many people that have explosion like that. Once he plants his foot in the ground, he can explode.”

Freshman QB Jacoby Brissett: “On the play [that drew a pass interference call], which was a bootleg, I told him that they were bringing a lot of heat and to expect some pressure coming off the right edge and he might have to bail out a little bit to bide him some time. Fortunately he’s athletic enough to do that. He saw nothing shallow […] and went to the deep route and they were all over Frankie. He made a couple plays with his athleticism in the game. […] It doesn’t surprise me that he’s making those plays. He’s shown since the first game he was out there that he has pretty good composure.”

Redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy (possibly changing positions): “This is game 10. We’re just worrying about getting the team ready to play South Carolina. Those questions are ones that are answered in the offseason, they’re not answered in the middle of the season.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey practiced in full on Tuesday and is expected to be active for Saturday’s game on the road against South Carolina.

» On the penalties decreasing last week: “The head coach made it a point of emphasis, which he has been every week. The players played with more discipline, and I think that’s the way you have to play. You have to play with more discipline. There’s going to be an occasional holding call, but line of scrimmage penalties – especially playing at home – are things you have to avoid and eliminate.”

» On the offensive production disparity between halves: “We only had the ball three possessions in the second half. Sometimes you have to take that into account. I always look at why drives work or why they falter. The more possessions you have, the more opportunities you have to go out there and score. So when you play a game like that and only get three possessions in the second half except kneel down, you have to make the most of them.”

11/8: Donovan, players talk season opener

With Florida Gators basketball opening the 2011-12 regular season at home Friday against Jackson State, head coach Billy Donovan, senior point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Brad Beal met with the media Tuesday to discuss how practice has been going and what preparations have been made for the first game of the season.

REBOUNDING REMAINS THE FOCUS

There is no question that the Gators are going to be able to score and score often this year, so Donovan has spent the last week trying to teach his players rebounding techniques that will help them fill in the other parts of their game. He believes that Florida can be a good collective rebounding team even though their guards lack the size to hit the boards as hard as some other players might.

“They were a little taken back and surprised with practice on Friday because I said to them, ‘Let’s take the 20 threes we made out of the game right now. Let’s look at it without that – us defensively and rebounding wise.’ When you shoot the ball well, it cures a multitude of sins. But when you don’t shoot the ball well, sometimes those things are a lot more exposed,” Donovan said, referring to the team’s need to improve its rebounding.

“We’re not a long, big, strong, athletic team with unbelievable size, so we’re not going to be a team that just is all of a sudden going to be a great rebounding team.”

That is why Beal is going to have to step up for the Gators. Starting at the three, he will be off the ball most of the time and have an ability to crash the boards when shots go up. “Clearly Brad is the best rebounder from that position of our perimeter guys. He’s got to do a better job getting in there because he’s capable. It’s a little bit new for him in terms of what we’re asking him to do, but we need him [to rebound],” Donovan said.

Beal said Florida has been attacking the basket a lot more in practice but realizes that he must personally be responsible for grabbing boards game-in and game-out. “I definitely have to do a better job of rebounding,” he said. “Coach Donovan has been on my head ever since our scrimmage game. He’s just been on me about rebounding. I have to take the initiative and just get in there and rebound with the bigger guys.”

COUNTING ON YOUNG’s AWARENESS

Considering the Gators are going to be taking so many perimeter and mid-range shots, Florida is going to need a solid post presence to play off of during games. That presence is sophomore center Patric Young, who has been working on cutting down his fouls and staying on the ground rather than being caught out of position in the air.

Donovan praised Young’s effort and ability but said he needs to learn how to stay away from bad situations and ensure that he is in the correct position on the court.

“The one thing that I’m trying to get him to understand is because he’s so athletic and because he plays hard and has a really good motor, there are times that he can really make incredible, exceptional plays by being totally out of position,” he explained. “Trying to get him to understand positioning on the court offensively and defensively is something I have been trying to work with him on.”

In games that the Gators struggle scoring, Donovan said defense will obviously be of paramount importance. In that regard, he said that Florida should not have to count on Young to handle everything inside.

“We have the ability to be really good defensively because I do think this team has more speed and quickness than we had a year ago, but we don’t have the length we had a year ago,” he said. “We can collectively be good at it, and we do a pretty good job of it. Because of things we have to do defensively, we got to do some things to try and protect Patric. Sometimes we double team in the low post so he doesn’t pick up fouls.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said the starting lineup would likely remain the same for the season opener but noted that it could change at any given time depending on how players perform. He added that whichever players start is not of great significance to him in the long run as long as the players do well in whatever role they receive.

» Donovan on how he will divide up minutes amongst the guards: “I never try to preplan that stuff because so much happens in the game that you have to be ready to adjust and make decisions based on what’s going on in that game.”

» Donovan on how good of a shooting team Florida is this year: “We’re a much better shot-making team than we have been. The last two years the way we played, we really did not have a power forward that shot the ball. […] The last two years, we always gave ourselves a chance because we were able to rebound the ball. When you have a good shooting team, that part of it can get lost. You could have a bad shooting night at a key time during the season. […] I do think offensively we have a chance to be explosive.”

» Walker on this being his last year with Florida: “It should be a fun season. We just got to keep working hard, play every game like it’s your last because you never know.”

» Walker on sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin: “He’s one of those guards that is going to get in there and bang, play great defense and run the team – he does a good job at that.”

» Walker on how different the team is this year: “This team has a good confidence about it. Not arrogance but just confidence. We feel like we can be a special team. Guys see that, listen to coach, and I think this is one of the hardest working teams I’ve been on since I’ve been here.”

» Walker on if it’s exciting to play a tough non-conference schedule: “It’s very exciting, but it also brings out a better focus because we know we got tough challenges coming ahead. We got to be prepared for them. Playing in these big games serves no purpose if you don’t win many of them.”

» Walker on being the SEC’s active leader in career scoring: “That doesn’t mean anything to me. That’s in the past. I’m just looking at the present and the future.

» Walker on how junior G Kenny Boynton has improved: “Just watching him play, he’s more mature and his midrange has got a lot better. His ability to finish at the rim and even his jump shot, I think with another year of experience he’s become a better player.”

» Walker on former players coming back to Gainesville: “It just shows how much they love it here and how it is a great place to come back [to].”

» Beal on the team’s chemistry: “The chemistry is great. I feel great, confident and comfortable with the team that we have. Everybody is playing together as a team, and everything is fun and flowing right now.”

» Beal on how he’s standing up to collegiate-level competition: “I’m humbled but at the same time I know that this is an elite level and I’m not here for no reason.”

» Beal on learning to foul less often: “Just being aggressive and smart basically on defense, not committing silly fouls. Most of the fouls I had were pretty dumb fouls. Mostly being smart, staying on the ground and playing good defense.”

» Beal on what the guards are learning from each other: “I’m kind of the biggest guard, so I guess I have a more physical body than those guys do. I can teach them to finish more towards the rim, but at the same time they’re teaching me how to be quicker and off the dribble because the game is lot faster. I’m just learning from these guys, and I’ve picked up a lot of things from them.”

11/7-8: Brantley, Howard, Demps, Debose, Koehne

With the Florida Gators finally earning a victory on Saturday after a difficult four-game losing streak, a number of players were made available to the media early in the week to discuss how the team is progressing heading into Saturday’s game on the road against the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.

WINNING OUT FOR THE SENIORS

It would be hard to blame him, so redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard admitting that he did not want to be seen during Florida’s four-game losing streak through the month of October is certainly understandable.

Now that the Gators have picked up a victory, the team has one goal remaining: win the rest and send the senior class out on a high note.

“My goals are to win for the seniors,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose said Tuesday. “You come to Florida to win and we just want to win all the games. That’s my only goal – just to win. If we do win out, it’s a very successful season. We would have accomplished a lot of things this year. We didn’t get the ultimate goal of going to Atlanta but with the team we have that’s a good season.”

Just like Debose, redshirt sophomore tackle Kyle Koehne said the team wants to ‘finish things right for the seniors.” He believes the Gators are “hungry for another SEC victory” and have a great shot doing that this week against South Carolina.

Senior running back Jeff Demps, who only has two more home games before hanging up his orange and blue uniform, said winning is important but he what he cares about most going forward is the effort his teammates show. “As long as we finish out good and everybody plays hard, I’ll be fine with that,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley on the young QBs: “These young guys are maturing faster than usual because of these tough times. You learn from these times. Just like Jacoby [Brissett], [Jeff Driskel is] growing up and maturing each week. […] They’re going to have a good battle come springtime.”

» Howard on his NFL prospects: “Right now I’m just concentrating on winning. I want to win for my program and do it for Coach [Will] Muschamp. He really has been a tremendous change for me in my life. I just want to see him win and be successful. He motivates me. I talk to him every other day. He always has something positive to say. I needed that change.”

» Howard on what changed for him this year: “I took advantage of my time this year. I’m not taking any class so I’m in watching film with my classes every day, trying to get better. I have certain areas that I need to improve on. I’m still young. I’ve only been playing football since my freshman year in high school, so I still have a lot to learn.”

» Howard on which young defenders are improving the most: “Especially the [defensive backs]. They’ve really grown up over the last couple of weeks. you can just see them coming in, getting extra film work and carrying themselves like professionals.”

» Howard on his most improved player:Dominique Easley. He is completely a different guy from what he was last year. He’s all about football. That’s what he loves to do.”

» Howard on sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell: “He’s just learning the game also. That defensive line is going to be real good in the next two years. They’re probably going to be unstoppable.”

» Debose on the mood of the team after the win: “We’re definitely happy about the win. We’re a little bit more cheerful coming out to practice and stuff like that. We’re feeling more confident from losing four games straight.”

» Debose on losing so much this year: “You come to Florida to win. For you to just lose four-straight in a row, that’s not a fun feeling at all.”

» Koehne said redshirt junior center Sam Robey took first-team reps on Monday.

» Koehne on Brissett’s presence in the huddle: “He’s a calm guy. He’s slowly building confidence with us all and is taking the lead as a young quarterback.”

» Koehne on redshirt sophomore C Jonotthan Harrison being pulled: “We all wanted to help him out and pick him up. It’s up to him and how he responds to it to decide how he’s going to be in the future.”

 Page 455 of 781  « First  ... « 453  454  455  456  457 » ...  Last »