Florida QB Brissett earns second start at Auburn

After seeing his first action of the 2011 season by starting at quarterback for the Florida Gators just one week ago, freshman Jacoby Brissett has earned his second-straight start on the road Saturday against the Auburn Tigers.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp made the announcement Friday through the school’s website but did not provide specific reasoning for the decision. He said on Wednesday that no decision had been made because the skill sets of Brissett and fellow freshman QB Jeff Driskel are “so similar, so it’s not like we’re having to drastically change what we do when one young man is in the game as opposed to the other.”

Driskel, who missed Saturday’s game at LSU due to a sprained ankle, practiced all week but was unable to beat out Brissett head-to-head for the open job created when redshirt senior QB John Brantley went down with a high-ankle sprain against Alabama.

The hope around the team is that Brantley will be able to return after the bye week to face Georgia on Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, FL.

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said Tuesday that Brissett and Driskel would both be ready to play and that they took even reps in practice much of the week. He also said there is a chance that Driskel will still see the field even if he is not the starter.

“Yeah, there’d be a chance of both playing in the game,” Weis noted.

Brissett completed 8-of-14 passes last week for 94 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. His scoring toss came on a 65-yard bomb to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose down the left sideline, and his second interception was the result of a pass to Debose in the end zone.

Sophomore running back Trey Burton took nearly a dozen snaps behind center in the game, and redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey received some direct snaps as well. Weis said he plans continue using plays from those packages at least until Brantley returns.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

SIX Tebow BITS: Pass or fail as a starting QB?

1 » As quarterback Tim Tebow gets set for his first start of the 2011 season for the Denver Broncos against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 23, everyone seems to have an opinion about how he’ll perform. Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer spoke to NFL.com about Tebow on Tuesday and said he is “really fired up for Timmy,” who he believes is capable of succeeding as long as he gets some help. “Will Tim be a success?” Meyer asked rhetorically. “The question is, will the Broncos be a success? That’s the question. Not so much Tim — will the Broncos improve their play where they can go win a game? […] I know one thing: A quarterback can only do so much. He’s a product of those around him. If everybody can play a little better, Denver could have a chance to win. Quarterbacks get far too much credit and far too much criticism. He needs to have those guys around him really step up their play as well.” Meyer had plenty more to say about Tebow, which you can read here.

2 » Tebow’s former teammate with the Gators and the starting center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Maurkice Pouncey has all the faith in the world that his good friend can get it done against his twin brother’s team next Sunday. “Hopefully he goes out there and performs and kind of shuts everybody up,” Pouncey told The Florida Times-Union. Another former Florida player who played with Tebow last year in Denver, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, echoed Pouncey’s sentiments. “I don’t know how they’ll do as far as wins, but I can tell you they won’t be disappointed in him,” Gaffney told Sports Illustrated. “You won’t find a guy who’s going to work harder out there and compete any harder than Tim. Last year I got to play with him as a rookie, and I got to work out with him a couple times over this past offseason. I could just see in our workouts that he was a bit more poised over the offseason. He changed up his throwing a little bit, and he was getting rid of the ball a lot quicker and making some great throws. […] Man, that dude can make every throw out there. It may not always be pretty, but he can make every throw out there and he can throw just as far as any quarterback in the league.”

3 » Asked to motivate Tebow by the hosts of ESPN‘s SportsNation, professional wrestling legend Hulk Hogan cut a promo on the show and tore a No. 15 Broncos jersey in half. You can check out a video of it below.

Three more BITS on Tim Tebow (including three videos)…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX Tebow BITS: Pass or fail as a starting QB?

A tale of two guards: Walker and Boynton must lead Florida Gators by example

For the last two seasons, senior point guard Erving Walker and junior shooting guard Kenny Boynton have been the Florida Gators dynamic scorers. The problem is that neither has figured out as of yet how to become a complete player.

Walker’s penchant for turning the ball over and forcing too many shots has taken attention away from his clutch scoring and improved court vision. Boynton is one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation and can shoot lights out at times when he’s finding the bottom of the net, but he does not penetrate enough and can get cold from the perimeter just as quickly as he gets hot.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan challenged Walker to become an assist machine last year. He responded by averaging 3.4 dimes per game, second on the team behind small forward Chandler Parsons. Donovan has again made improving his handling and dishing of the ball Walker’s primary focus. He hopes the most veteran member of his team understands how important these traits are to the Gators’ long-term success.

“Erving and I had a conversation about this. His goal needs to be to try to lead the league in assists,” Donovan said. “With us having more shooting around Erving, and with his speed and quickness, he needs to be a guy that has a great assist-to-turnover ratio. There’s things that all these guys have proven since they’ve been here.

“Erving Walker has proven he can make big shots. He’s proven that he can make the adjustment when Nick [Calathes] left to the point guard position. He’s proved that he can play a lot of minutes and hold up. He’s proven that, even though he’s a small guy, he’s still a very gifted. But now can he prove that he can really take his game as a point guard and take that to a different level to help our team? I really think that’s going to be really important for him.”

To his credit, Walker has taken Donovan’s challenge to heart and hopes to prove to his coach that he, once again, can prove the critics wrong.

“I embrace it a lot. I look at it as another challenge for myself,” he said. “I have all the trust in the world in Coach Donovan and if he thinks that’s what I need to do, then I agree with him.”

Walker’s 1.42 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2011 is another concern, especially because his 87 miscues were most on the team – not an ideal stat for the primary ball handler. It’s not so much that he makes bad passes that often but rather that, as someone with a diminutive stature, he drives the lane either when it is too crowded or forces shots close to the basket against much bigger opponents.

“As the game gets going up and down the floor, [he has to not be] driving down the lane and getting caught in the air and taking tough shots,” Donovan explained. “Him understanding that if we’ve had five or six trips down the court and Patric Young hasn’t gotten a touch, does he understand what’s going on? Does he understanding if Kenny Boynton’s made three threes in a row? Those are the things he really needs to elevate his game on for our team and for him to make the next step as a player.”

That’s not to say Donovan doesn’t want Walker to shoot. His 14.6 points per game, 41.1 percent shooting from the field and 38.5 percent efficiency from behind the arc led all guards on the team last season.

“There’s always a fine line. Great players always play to whatever is needed in a game. It’s not even about Erving shooting less,” he said. “There was times where Erving stepped up and tried to take over. I don’t want him necessarily shooting less as much as I want him playing off of what the game dictates. We’re going to need him to shoot, to score, to do the things he’s always done. But for us to be collectively better, if he hasn’t taken a shot in eight straight trips down the floor and we’re 7-for-8 from the field, he’s got to recognize that and he’s probably going to have to make a sacrifice scoring the ball.

“I could see Erving Walker, if he’s really playing the position like I’d like to see him play it, I could see in a game he gets eight points, eight assists and one turnover and we shoot a high percentage. And I could see some games where he scores 20 points because we needed that. From game to game it’s always going to change. [It’s] not necessarily I want him to shoot less, but I want him to be able to make all the other guys on the floor better.”

Boynton worked with a shooting specialist before the 2010-11 season, but his numbers were only marginally better than they were after his freshman year. He spent all summer in Gainesville, FL and “shot the ball very well in the preseason,” Donovan said.

“Instead of trying to change it, I have just been getting more repetitions and get used to it.,” Boynton explained. “Basically getting more practice makes perfect, so I have been trying to shoot a lot of it every day.”

Boynton’s coach appreciates the consistency he provides on the court.

“That’s been the thing that’s been so impressive for me as a coach with Kenny Boynton. He has been a guy from his freshman year that I know exactly what I’m getting,” he said. “With regards to him shooting the ball, I always want him to maintain a level of aggressiveness. He’s got a better understanding of shot selection. He is a consistent guy every single day. He gives you great effort. He works really hard. He’s a great kid and he wants to be a good player.”

When it comes to Boynton, even though he was Florida’s second-leading scorer from a year ago (14.2 points per game), what he does on a weekly basis from a defensive perspective is even more impressive considering the competition.

“The one thing that’s really underrated about him is what he can do defensively. He’s a very good defender,” Donovan said. “If you look at all the games that we played from [Jimmer] Fredette to Scotty Hopson to a Brandon Knight, he’s guarded every team’s best player on the perimeter and he’s done a really good job of that.

“I know his reputation coming out of high school was that of a scorer, but part of the reason why I recruited Kenny so hard and wanted him here at Florida was because a lot of times you see a guy that can score the ball like Kenny can but they totally rest on defense and have no interest. That’s the great thing about him. He’s got a great motor on the defensive end. He wants to win. He’s highly competitive, and he’s really been a consistent guy since he’s been here. He’s been a reliable guy that I know is going to come out there and give me everything he has.”

Effort has never been a question for Walker or Boynton. As the Gators’ most experienced and court-tested players, it will be how they can improve their game that will shape Florida’s ability to compete at a high level this season. Each serves as an example to the rest of their teammates, all of whom are being challenged by Donovan to step up and become more reliable players in 2012.

Frontcourt a work in progress for young Gators

It is tough to replace veteran leadership, so the fact that the Florida Gators have to find a way to make up for the size, strength and 19.4 rebounds per game provided by Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin last year is one that has been tough to swallow this offseason.

Head coach Billy Donovan, faced with a rotation primarily filled with high-scoring guards, is looking for ways to replace his veterans. He like everyone else knows that job starts with helping sophomore center Patric Young take his game to the next level.

“Patric has made some good strides and good growth from a year ago. Maturity-wise, it is always important going from your freshman to your sophomore year,” Donovan said of Young. “A lot of people keep talking about his offense. The thing that I have really tried to stress to Patric is that he’s got to keep it very simple for himself.

“He’s a physically strong, dominant player so he needs to utilize his size, strength and athleticism. He’s got a great motor. He’s got great energy. He needs to utilize those things. Patric doesn’t need to be a guy who is totally consumed with his offense around the basket as much as he needs to be consumed with the fact that we lost…rebounds from last year. He needs to be a great rebounder. He needs to be able to play defense without getting himself in foul trouble. He needs to get great deep post position and post up in an area of the floor where he can be successful and effective in what he’s doing.”

That’s not to say Young will not be expected to contribute offensively. Donovan hopes he learned from Macklin’s ability to consistently score in the post last year.

“Vernon established that with our team, that he was a reliable low-post guy that we could throw the ball to and he could make plays and score. Patric’s got to keep it simple where he’s a reliable guy when we throw the ball to him that he makes good decisions,” he explained. “If he’s double teamed, he can get it out. If he catches it, he can make a good, aggressive post move. All of those things are going to be really important to his growth.”

Donovan also believes he has the chance to step up in another way.

“It’s always hard to establish yourself as a leader when you’re coming out of your freshman year and you were coming off the bench,” he said. “Patric has got all of the abilities to be a terrific leader. Patric is one of those younger guys that I would say no question needs to develop into a leadership role. That will be important.”

Young believes he has that innate ability. “I have been a pretty passionate guy my whole career as a basketball player. I think every time I step on the court I go as hard as I can and do all the right things,” he said. “Guys will start noticing things like that and hopefully I’ll earn some respect from guys and have a good influence on the team.”

Florida’s second leading rebounder off the bench last year was forward Will Yeguete (2.6 per game), who spent part of his summer playing for the French national team, an experience that Donovan agreed was positive even if it did have one slight drawback.

“It was good because Will didn’t get a chance to play a lot last year. Any time these guys can go into a summer where they play competitive basketball, it’s always a good thing,” Donovan said. “I wish he would have came back in a little bit better shape. Maybe a little too much pastry eating over there. Will’s a great worker. He’s a great kid.”

Yeguete’s energy and enthusiasm for defense and rebounding was a necessary addition to the Gators’ rotation last season, but this year he is just one of a few players being counted on to provide assistance in that area off the bench.

“There’s four guys on our team that are really critical going into the season,” said Donovan while speaking of Yeguete, sophomore F Casey Prather, redshirt freshman F Cody Larson and freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin. “They all bring things to the table that our team desperately needs.

“They’re really good loose ball guys. They’re quick to the ball. They are good rebounders. They’re good defenders. They’re opportunistic scorers. They give us depth. They have a presence athletically and physically.”

Donovan plans to utilize Prather, who some say resembles a shorter Corey Brewer at 6’6” and 212 lbs., in a variety of ways to utilize his athleticism and quickness. With so many scorers on the court at any given time, his bench this year will be focused on doing the “little things” like rebounding and defending.

“Casey and Will and Scottie and Cody, they can bring a depth and element to our team that can be very helpful,” he said. “Those four guys, to me, are going to be very important because we need those four guys in whatever role it is. The things that they can bring to the table our team needs.”

Florida’s success this season may hinge on its experienced backcourt but contributions from a young and talented frontcourt are going to be necessary, especially as the team enters league play in January.

For Beal and Rosario, practice makes perfect

No one would argue that the Florida Gators basketball team is going to be guard-heavy this season. Aside from questions about how the frontcourt will support their high-scoring counterparts, plenty remains to be seen from two of Florida’s newest scoring threats – freshman sensation Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario.

Head coach Billy Donovan’s most lauded recruit since point guard Nick Calathes, Beal was ranked as the No. 4 player in the country by Rivals and, at 6’4” and 195 lbs., has the size to penetrate as well as the stroke to hit shots from the perimeter.

Discussing what Beal brings to the table during Florida basketball’s media day on Wednesday, Donovan raved about his character more so than his immense talent.

“Brad is a very, very unique kid. He’s probably as mature as any freshman I’ve had come in here. He’s got a really, really good understanding of team chemistry,” he explained. “The one thing that I admire is, when you have a high-profile player come in, when there’s a level of humility and respect and understanding that there are some guys here before you arrived that have been successful and have had the opportunity to accomplish a lot of different things throughout their career.

“Brad’s not the kind of the guy that’s coming in here, ‘I’m taking your job. I’m starting.’ He’s not that way at all. He really understands the importance of chemistry. He understands the importance of being unselfish.”

As talented as Beal is, Donovan has already identified one area in which he needs to push him early and often before the regular season gets underway.

“Brad, maybe more so than anything else, I’m going to need as a coach to push him to be even more aggressive than maybe he is. He is very conscientious of fitting in, being part of the team and doing what he can do to help our team,” he said. “Right now with really no practices under his belt, he has no idea. What is my role? How am I going ot be used? What position am I going to play? He doesn’t know any of those things right now because those things will get answered as we start to practice.

“In terms of his work ethic, in terms of hits talent and what he can bring to our team, he’s certainly very gifted. Like all freshmen, there will be some growth, some ups and downs. It’s not always going to be easy. I do think he’s very competitive. He’s highly motivated and driven, and I think he’ll be a good addition to our team.”

Beal is confident that the praise he received coming out of high school will not play into how he conducts himself on the court in college. “Honestly, all of that doesn’t matter anymore. That was high school, and now I’m in college. And Coach Donovan has told me that before, and it stuck with me. The McDonald’s All-American stuff doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just focusing on what he wants me to do,” he said.

Unlike Beal, Rosario was with the Gators last year but was unable play due to NCAA transfer rules. Averaging nearly 17 points per game during his sophomore season with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Rosario is used to being his team’s top scorer. He will have a different role with Florida in 2011-12 and going forward.

“Mike made a decision to stay close to home. There was a lot of expectations he had placed on himself as being a local guy to help raise Rutgers’ basketball team. Like all these guys wanting to someday play in the NBA, he thought there was a route or a vision he was going to take,” Donovan said.

“He’s a guy that has scored a lot of points in college but his teams haven’t won in college at the level that he probably wanted to. He’s coming into a situation where he realizes there are other good players here on our team that he’s got to fit in with.”

Donovan’s hopes Rosario can continue learning to share the ball while simultaneously ensuring that he maintains a level of consistency.

“We’ve got to be a very unselfish group, and Mike’s got a good feel of how to play. He’s smart, he’s intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s got to be an everyday guy though. He’s got to come every single day with an understanding that he’s got to continue to grow, develop, work and get better,” Donovan said.

“There’s a reason he’s no longer at Rutgers. It didn’t work out. There is lot of room that he needs to grow as a person and as a player. If it was going really well for him with all the minutes he was getting at Rutgers, he would have stayed there. There’s some things he’s got to get better at as a player. Part of that is just being a regular guy every single day that comes to work. Sometimes Mike, emotionally, can be up and down, up and down. He’s got to be more consistent for our team in that fashion.”

With so much emphasis placed on Florida’s backcourt this season, the development of Beal and Rosario will be paramount to the Gators’ level of success.

Donovan confident in Gators’ rebuilt staff

It has been a long offseason for Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan. In addition to serving as a court coach for USA Basketball, traveling across the country recruiting some of the nation’s best high school players and preparing for the 2011-12 season, Donovan had to hire four new staff members including three assistant coaches.

“The only guy that liked me half way decent was our trainer [Dave Werner]. That’s because I take him fishing a lot,” Donovan joked during Florida basketball’s media day on Wednesday.

“In hiring, there [were] a couple things that were concerns for me. One, I felt like I needed some familiarity. People around me that knew me, knew Florida, knew the way we were going to do things here. It can be very time consuming when you have to train three new people. When I say ‘train,’ I’m not talking about coaching train them, but terminology on the court, how you go about recruiting, dealing with players, individual workouts, breaking down tape, scouting reports. All those things are things that need to be taught because it’s their first time doing it this way, not the first time in their career.

“The other thing too is, I talk a lot about our team chemistry, how we play together, chemistry on the court, chemistry off the court. I think it’s really hard to sit there and talk to your team [about that] when your coaching staff doesn’t have chemistry. Players see that stuff. I wanted to try to hire a staff where we all were going to try to make each other better, there were going to be great relationships, great respect and great passion.”

Donovan first reached out to an old friend and a familiar face for fans of Gators basketball. John Pelphrey, fresh off being fired by the Arkansas Razorbacks following five years as the team’s head coach, decided to return to Gainesville, FL where he was an assistant under Donovan from 1996-2002.

“From a familiarity standpoint, bringing John Pelrphey back first was very helpful to me because he had been with me for quite some time,” Donovan explained. “He knew me, knew Florida. I knew he could help the other guys.”

Next up was hiring another experienced assistant. Though there was no direct connection to Donovan, former St. John’s Red Storm head coach Norm Roberts became a top candidate. Like Donovan, Roberts is a native New Yorker, and the two had crossed paths as players and on the recruiting circuit. Roberts had been out of work for a year after being released by St. John’s in 2010.

“Getting the chance to hire Norm was a real big steal for us. Norm’s a high-character, a really good basketball coach,” Donovan said. “He obviously has head coaching experience under his belt at the highest level. He’s been a great guy. I’ve known Norm since we both got out of high school in New York at the same time, played against each other a little bit. Never had a close relationship but we knew each other.”

Rounding out the staff is former University of Florida director of basketball operations Matt McCall. Also serving as a team manager, head manager and graduate assistant during the seven years he worked under Donovan (2004-08), McCall left the program to become an assistant coach with the Florida Atlantic Owls under head coach Mike Jarvis. He is now back in a coaching role and with a lot more responsibilities.

“I don’t think it’s any different than when I was hired by Coach [Rick] Pitino at 24 years old at Kentucky. I started off as an administrative assistant and worked my way up and within 2-3 years was on the road recruiting at 25-26 years old. Matt’s been with me for a long period of time. He’s been involved. He was like an administrative assistant here,” Donovan said of hiring such a young assistant.

“He learned an awful lot at FAU. He had a lot to do with the players that were brought in there along with their staff. They won the league this past year. It’s one of those things when you know somebody as a person, someone that you’ve worked with and someone you’ve been around, it makes it a little bit easier. I don’t think there’s any question that he will do a terrific job for us and is more than ready to handle [it] because he knows exactly what’s going on.

“The one thing that’s great about him is he’s got great energy in recruiting. He’s very passionate about it and he’s very good. On the floor, he knows our system. He knows our style of play. He knows practice. He knows all those things. That will be OK for him.”

Donovan is not only thrilled about the character and talent of his new assistants but also how well they are already meshing both on- and off-the-court.

“It’s great to see those guys work together because you have Norm and John who have obviously recruited at a high level for a long time, and you have Matt who has been here and around and has watched us at Florida try to recruit like that,” he said. “Now you’ve got Matt’s energy and enthusiasm recruiting with the experience of Norm and John. The staff, the way it’s mixing and matching, is very good.

“It really exceeded my expectations of what these guys have done to this point in time. Having to get right into recruiting and develop relationships, having to know the players and find out our system and style.”

The hiring process was not over for Donovan after Pelphrey, Roberts and McCall were in the fold. Strength and conditioning coach Matt Herring also decided to leave the program to become the director of athletic performance with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. Donovan replaced him by hiring Preston Greene, who had spent his last three years as the assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Clemson Tigers.

“Hiring those three guys was really great. And then hiring Preston Greene our strength coach, I think we added another really good guy,” Donovan said. “I would say that, right now, our ability to work together, recruit together, coach together, I feel like we’re all on the same page and it has been good.”

If Florida’s chemistry on the court can be built the way its coaches have formed relationships off the court, the Gators have a lot to look forward to this season.

Photo Credits: Unknown, Chris Trotman

Florida basketball 2011 media day – Donovan

With the Florida Gators beginning 2011-12 fall practice, head coach Billy Donovan and the entire team met with the media Wednesday to discuss the season ahead.


It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” Donovan will sign a five-year extension that will keep him at Florida through the 2015-16 season. Donovan explained that he is currently wrapping up an extension with athletic director Jeremy Foley that will keep him wearing orange and blue at least a little while longer. “I think [we’re] pretty close. Jeremy and I have already agreed on that. Jeremy has really always been proactive with me. Dr. [Bernie] Machen has been great. In terms of us on the same page, we totally are. It’s a matter of me just singing it and getting it done,” he said.

“In this day and age in coaching, it’s very rare that you stay at a job starting my 16th year and you still have the same athletic director in place. It has been our relationship that has made this job and this opportunity for me here so special is my relationship with him. I would think that it would happen soon. Probably need to ask him that question. I’m ready to go. With a couple years left on this contract, the other one would probably be a five-year extension. That’s what Jeremy wanted to do and I’m fine with that. Besides my first year coming in here where it was maybe six years or seven years, because we were trying to rebuild, I think pretty much from there it has always been a five-year deal, and that’s what we talked about.”

Donovan’s current contract earns him approximately $3.5 million per year before bonuses. He took home his first Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year award in 2010-11 and took the Gators to the Elite Eight with a senior-laden team.


Florida’s schedule was one of the toughest in the country last year, and the way it was built for this season is not giving the Gators much of a break before SEC competition begins. UF is set to face Ohio State, Syracuse, Arizona, Texas A&M and Florida State in non-conference action before playing at Tennessee on Jan. 7 to start the first division-less SEC season.

“I told Jeremy – we were trying to add one more game – but because of the lockout right now, they weren’t sure which NBA team they were going to add,” Donovan joked. “We’re trying to obviously play a highly competitive schedule. We want to do that. The only time I was opposed to that was after ’07 with all the new faces. Going forward we want to do that. Looking at it on paper right now, at least preseason, I think we maybe have if not the toughest one of the toughest schedules out there. It’s good for our team to find out where we’re at.

“Certainly have a very early game with Ohio State on the road. We have to play Syracuse on the road, Arizona at home, UAB, Florida State, Texas A&M. We’ve got a lot of high-quality games, not even including our league. There’s a lot for our team to get prepared and ready for. There’s a lot that we’ll be faced with early in the season. Our schedule last year being as competitive as it was probably helped our team going into the league, and I’m hopeful the same thing will happen this year.”


Donovan opened his press conference on Wednesday talking about the hot topic of the offseason – the arrests of forwards junior Erik Murphy and redshirt freshman Cody Larson. He explained that both matters have been resolved and the players have returned to the team after their indefinite suspensions but expressed how apologetic the players were for their actions and how they affected those they care about.

“Both guys were very embarrassed and had a great deal of sorrow and regret for what had happened. A lot of times when people don’t know somebody and they see something like that happen, I don’t think that necessarily defines who they are as people. I know they and themselves and their families went through a lot personally over the last several months with what happened,” he said. “Both of them are extremely sorry for what happened. They know that they don’t want to represent themselves, their families or our program in that way. There were obviously some things disciplinary-wise that we had placed on them while the case was going on. Because it did take quite a bit of time, I think that for both of those guys, they have shown a lot of growth and development as people. It’s time for them to move on and get prepared for the season and our team.

“Erik’s got resolved obviously a lot sooner than Cody’s situation. It was an unfortunate situation, and I don’t think anybody condones any of their behavior. They paid a price for that. I’m just hopeful that this is something they learn from and they grow from and they realize that their leash, so to speak, there’s a lot of eyes on them right now and how they conduct themselves, how they handle themselves. Hopefully this is something that will make them better as people moving forward.”


Florida’s defense under Donovan has – especially over the last six years – been one that tried to take the ball out of their opponents’ hands early by pressing throughout the length of the court with players staying tight on the defender. Due to the Gators’ lack of depth in the backcourt, Donovan had to change that model recently in order for his guards – namely senior Erving Walker and junior Kenny Boynton – to remain energized and play the long minutes they needed to. He may be able to go back to his old ways a bit this year.

“I do think that because we have speed and quickness in our backcourt that we really need to try to get up the floor and be more of a full-court defensive team. That’s not to say that we can do it for 40 minutes, but I would certainly like to do it more than we have in the past,” he said. “Any time you get into a situation where you’re pressing like that, you’ve got to have depth in your frontcourt and right now that’s probably one [thing] that we don’t know. What kind of depth are we going to have because every guy in our frontcourt right now is being put into a completely different and new role than they had a year ago. All of those guys are excited and anxious about the opportunity that is in front of them. Defensively I think we do need to use our speed and quickness and try to be somewhat disruptive and try to utilize the depth we have in our backcourt.”


» On the team having plenty of work to do in order to play at a high level: “This is a team that has a lot to develop going forward. Although Erving and Kenny have played a lot together, there’s going to be three other guys on the floor that they’ve never really played with and vice versa. Our chemistry on the court is something that’s got to be developed very, very quickly because of the strength of our schedule and how competitive it is early. That’s going to take a lot of work. Some of the things we’ll do offensively will change. Some of the things we’ll do defensively will change. It’s going to be new for everybody going into this season. The relationship and the chemistry away from the practice court between all those guys is very good. There’s a great deal of respect. They all like each other. It’s different when you step on the floor and now you got to try to utilize each other’s strengths as a player. I’m hopeful that through starting practice here this week that we’ll be able to kind of work though some of those things and improve.”

» On finding rebounds without many big men down low: “The biggest dilemma I have in some of those unique lineups is can we rebound and can we defend form the power forward position if we don’t have a conventional power forward. The one thing that really probably a lot of people didn’t talk about last year’s team is we clearly had the best offensive and defensive small forward rebounder in the league in Chandler [Parsons]. There was nobody at the small forward spot that could rebound the ball better than him. With him gone and potentially playing three guards, what kind of opportunity do we have to get the ball back on second-chance points and how well can we keep teams off the glass on the defensive end of the floor? Those are real concerns for me with our team because we’re not as long and we’re not as big as we were a year ago. But there’s other things that we do better. We had a +5.5 rebounding margin in our league last year, which was a pretty big margin that there were not too many teams that outrebounded us. If you look at when [Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah and those guys left, we had a void ether for a couple years in the frontcourt. We had a really difficult time rebounding the basketball and competing up front. “

» On if losing to Butler in the Elite Eight is lingering in his mind: “For coaches it always lingers where you look at how close we were. There were some things in that game that hurt us that were probably somewhat of a weakness of our team the entire year. I thought our guys had a phenomenal year winning the league and getting to the championship game of the SEC Tournament and then a game away from the Final Four. The one area that I didn’t think we were great at was I didn’t think we were a great loose ball team. What happens is, when you go in the NCAA Tournament and the further you advance and the further you move on, the more your weaknesses as a team get exposed. One of our weaknesses was we weren’t a great loose ball team. That game, a lot of people talk about Erving Walker’s shot there, that was one shot and one play. We gave up 12 points the last eight minutes of the game on loose balls with an 11-point lead. I hope for a guy like Erving Walker, who has made a lot of big shots in his career – Kenny Boynton the same thing – that would linger for them somewhat.

“I would hope that going into this season that they can look at why we didn’t get to the Final Four and what we need to do to get better as a team. I can tell you, when you get to that point in the season, if you get to the Final Four. I remember walking off the floor after Michigan State. When you keep getting closer and closer to a championship, I don’t know if it ever settles well for you at any point as close as you get. It’s always difficult, especially when you feel like you’re that close. If we did beat Butler, who knows what would have happened going forward. I do hope that it’s not something that is lingering with them in a bad way but it’s lingering with them [in a way] that’s going to motivate them, drive them to be better and to look at this season as far as things we need to get better.”

10/12: Quinn focuses attention on defensive line

As the Florida Gators prepare for their second-straight road game on Oct. 15 against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss last week’s game and the team’s upcoming contest.


If this headline looks the familiar, it should, because it is unchanged from Quinn’s meeting last week. Speaking Wednesday about the area in which the defense must show the greatest improvement going forward, Quinn admitted he was disappointed with the defensive line and how it has performed over the last two weeks. “Us and our staff take a lot of pride in the way we play run defense. Certainly when one of the things that you really are counting on to be a backbone of your core, and you don’t play the technique quite as well as you want, certainly there was some frustration there,” he said.

One player in particular – sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd – earned some praise from Quinn, though he did not offer up much for the rest of the unit. “Floyd would have been one that stood out and had a better performance than the week before. Overall one of the things we’re really emphasizing is getting our hands and getting knock backs and separation – really moving back the line of scrimmage. It’s such an important part of playing defensive line. It’s something we’ve emphasized from the time we’ve gotten here,” he said.

“As as whole unit, there may be certain guys here and there that shined to us, but it was a tough performance for all of us and not a lot to pull from to be honest with you. We didn’t single anybody out necessarily that stood out to us one way or another.”


One man who was expected to be a big playmaker for Florida’s defense, sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, has been relatively quiet the last three weeks after helping force two interceptions with his pass rush against Tennessee. Quinn on Wednesday expressed his disappointment with Powell’s production lately.

“At that position we certainly want the production to be higher,” he said. “When the rush opportunities are there, converting faster into your rush. [The] technique of edge setting when we’re playing that way. I wouldn’t say it’s one thing. It’s something we’re working on daily in practice with him. In pass rush, it’s all about our get-off with him. In the run game, the outside guy has to set the edge. It’s a daily thing with he and a lot of the guys to say how are we going to play our brand of football better.”

Quinn was quick to note that changing Powell’s position to less of a hybrid role was not under consideration at this time. “He’s in the right spot for the system. What we’re looking for at that spot is a guy who has speed and length and he certainly has those two,” he said. “For him, like a lot of our guys, it’s just a function of us playing better. The evaluation on him, like a lot of the guys, is nowhere near complete. At that position, along with others, we really need to play better.”


The main area in which the Gators have struggled over the last two weeks has been stopping the run. Florida’s opponents put up season-high numbers against them, which is not exactly the goal going into the game. Quinn, though he praised Alabama and LSU, did not want to make excuses for the line. “We’ve faced some talented backs and some talented offensive lines. Really it says we’ve got to play a certain way. When you face a good team – whether it’s a good offensive line or a good running back – you really have to be on your technique,” he explained. “It told us, ‘This is where we are today. This is where we have to get to.’ That’s the message I gave to the club. I told them, “These are the errors we made. This is how we’re going to play.’ And we’re working hard to getting back to the style we want to play.”

Quinn also spoke about the team’s inability to get off the field on third downs and how the Gators have been unable to secure a single takeaway in their consecutive losses. “It’s our job to stop them. Some of the times for the long drives we missed a critical third down where maybe we could have got off the field,” he said. “We’re firefighters and let’s go put out the fire. If it’s third down, we got to get off the field. If we didn’t stop it, we had to go another series, then it’s on us to get it stopped and really get the ball. That’s one of the things we’ve been most disappointed about the last few weeks – not creating opportunities for the offense. Zero takeaways for us is really hard to swallow. It’s something we’re working hard at.”


» Quinn said that an eight-man rotation on the defensive line is optimal.

» On how the linebacker rotation will change with Dee Finley transferring: “Certainly Mike Taylor is the top backup inside behind Jon [Bostic] and Jelani [Jenkins]. We’re kind of working in as we have been the last few weeks Graham Stewart and Juice Johnson.“

» On Finley transferring: “I wish him the best.”

» On preparing for an up-tempo offense like Auburn’s: “It’s not uncommon at times, when you have to prepare for a team that could do some tempo to use two huddles. When a group of five guys go out, maybe the offensive line stays the same and maybe a different set of running backs and receivers comes in. That’s one way to simulate the speed. Certainly our offense has the ability to go in and out of that system as well. For us, being able to go against our offense or try to simulate it in practice was really a critical part of our preparation this week.”

» On how the team has prepared for Auburn’s offense: “The scout guys had a really critical role in this to watch tape together and see how fast the action went. How fast you have to get back to the line of scrimmage. That was really an important part of it.”

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