Top recruits visiting the Gators on Saturday

Southeastern Conference play begins for the No. 16/17 Florida Gators football team on Saturday as they take on the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL but another type of competition also will be going on off the field. Both the football and basketball teams will be hosting some of the top recruits in the country in what stands to be one of the biggest in-season recruiting weekends of the year.

Plenty of Florida’s 2012 commits will be on campus to watch the game, but also hosted are players that the Gators hope to grab verbal commitments from sooner than later.

From a football standpoint, four-star offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty of Pittsburgh, PA (who is said to have Florida as his leader) is the headliner, while four-star defensive end Leonard Williams (Daytona Beach, FL) and Gainesville native three-star cornerback Chris Bivins will also be taking in the game even though the latter is committed to South Florida. Bivins does not hold an official UF offer as of press time.

The Gators will also have some 2013 recruits at the game, most notably running backs Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL) as well as wide receiver Richard Benjamin (Tampa, FL), safety Leon McQuay (Seffner, FL) and cornerback J.J. Green (Kingsland, GA). If two of those names sound familiar, it is because Kelvin is the son of Fred Taylor and J.J. is the nephew of Jacquez Green.

The weekend may turn out to be even more important for the basketball team, which will have two big-time recruits on campus.

Five-star point guard Kyle Anderson (Jersey City, NJ) is the No. 2 player in the nation according to Rivals and will be on campus for an official visit. Florida desperately wants Anderson and many believe it will come down to a two-horse race between UF and Seton Hall.

Readers of OGGOA have informed us that there are plans to make signs during the football game in hopes that Anderson recognizes them and how badly the fans want him on campus next season. He is planning to commit on his birthday, Sept. 20, and the reptiles are happy to have him take a visit close to that date.

Also stopping by for visit is a top-ranked player at a position the Gators desperately need to fill. Four-star 2012 center Willie Cauley (Olathe, Kansas) stands 7’0” and weighs in at 225 lbs. The No. 6 center and 39th best player in the country per Rivals, Cauley is down to a final five of Florida, Alabama, Kansas State, Kentucky and Oklahoma. He wants to make a decision during the early signing period.

The future of Gators football and basketball could receive a huge boost if some of Saturday’s visits turn into commitments for Florida going forward.

Outside the Lines to focus on Tim Tebow’s faith

ESPN’s Outside the Lines, an “Emmy Award-winning investigative series [that] examines topical issues off the playing field,” will center on one person in particular on Sunday – Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

Below is the network’s preview for the program along with a video clip:

Tim Tebow is currently a backup QB whose jersey ranks among the best sellers in the NFL. To some, he’s the greatest college football player ever. To others, he’s an overrated product of media hype. Is his well-publicized faith at the center of his polarizing nature?

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9/14: Quinn talks defense, evaluates players

With the Florida Gators preparing for their first Southeastern Conference game of 2011 on Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn spoke about the Gators defense and also evaluated some of Florida’s standout players.

DEFENDING TENNESSEE THROUGH THE AIR

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is looking like a top-notch signal caller through the first two games of the season. Having completed 78.5 percent of his passes for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns, Branty “certainly passes efficiently like a NFL quarterback,” Quinn said Wednesday. “It’s one thing that really jumps out to you,” he added. “When you put their tape on, it’s how efficient they are in throwing the ball. You can tell that they’re starting to get together as a quarterback and receivers [group].”

Unfortunately for Florida, the Volunteers’ passing game will be attacking the Gators’ weakness – their extremely young secondary. Quinn noted that Florida will have to do a great job schematically and with on-field communication in order to win the aerial battle. “Really when you’re facing a really efficient offense like these guys, you really got to be on point with communication and you got to be on your stuff,” he said. “Because they really are efficient, if we’re playing a certain coverage or a certain technique, it’s got to be communicated really fast. That’s one of the things we’ve been working on hard since we started here all the way through training camp.”

One positive for the Gators is that all offseason the defense has been able to go against Florida’s offense which, like Tennessee’s, features the same personnel in multiple package. Quinn sees this as a huge advantage for UF heading into the game. “One thing that’s great about our team is that there’s really great competition at practice,” he said. “One thing that you like [is] whether you’re a linebacker that has to cover Chris Rainey or a safety that has to cover Jordan Reed. That competition prepares you a little bit for what you’re going to face down the road. Not just from this club but from all the teams. We certainly enjoy going against our offense, and I hope they feel the same way getting the competition in practice. That’s a valuable part of what we do.”

DEALING WITH THE VOLS ON THE GROUND

For the Gators to be successful, it all starts with stopping the run, getting pressure on the passer and creating turnovers – three things that are paramount to any team putting together a standout performance. Quinn was quick to note that even though the Volunteers are making their money through the air, they can also run the ball quite well.

“Although their stats are really high, they do have a run game, too. I’ve coached against their line coach before and have a lot of respect for the way they run the ball. Certainly they’ll try to establish that too,” he said. “I thought [their offensive line] was one unit that really improved when you watched their first two ball games of the year. Although they may be young like us at some spots, I think they’re a talented group, too. I really think on both sides the line of scrimmage is going to be a fun match-up to watch. They play hard, physical and tough, and our guys do, too.”

Once Florida gets that under control, they will also have to find a way to get to Bray consistently. The Gators registered two sacks in their season opener against Florida Atlantic but did not earn any against UAB’s passer last weekend.

“Sometimes you’ll hear me talk about affecting the quarterback. In our rush, we kind of talk about hits on the QB. We also use a term called a ‘reset’ where the quarterback has to move in the pocket, reset his feet and make a harder throw,” Quinn explained. “Some people talk about getting the quarterback off the spot, where he can’t just go to his five-step drop and then make his throws. Some of it will be pressure; some of it will be with our four-man rush. We certainly need to do a better job of collapsing the pocket from the outside in with our defensive ends.”

AFFECTING THE QUARTERBACK THE ENTIRE DEFENSE’s JOB

The return of sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd will help in that goal, Quinn said, but the defense as a whole (everyone from the defensive tackles to the safeties) must step up to rattle Bray from multiple standpoints. “I think he’s a big part of it but, like I said, and this is going to sound unusual, it might be the disguise of a coverage where the quarterback might have to wait a little longer [that does the trick]. This week’s match-up is really affecting the quarterback with our whole defense. Although [Floyd’s] going to be a part of it, in a way we’re all tying together to do it

“It might be a linebacker who is blitzing or a safety who is showing one coverage and playing something different to affect the QB. At the end of the day, you want to make it hard on a quarterback. Sometimes that’s with the four man rush where you get hits on the guy and he can really feel it. Sometimes it’s the mental pressure you can put on him. Those are kind of some of the games you play as a defensive coach when you go against a talented offense.”

PICKING WEIS’s BRAIN

Quinn was a big name when it came to defensive coaches in the NFL. He was very revered and praised by such players as Jason Taylor as the best position coach he ever had. However, even Quinn would agree that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is at another level in terms of reverence and appreciation for what he has accomplished in his career. When Weis decided to leave Kansas City for Florida, many were surprised and wondered how he would handle being second-fiddle to head coach Will Muschamp. So far so good, Quinn explains.

“The great thing about Charlie, when he stepped into that role, there was no doubt that he was in support of Will. That’s a real credit to him,” he said. “It’s a good person for Will to talk to and say, ‘Hey, in this situation, have you been there?’ And he’s kind of done that. It has been good for me too, to be honest with you. If I have a question about something, Charlie is, in my opinion, one of the sharpest offensive coordinators in football at any level. If I have a question, ‘How would you see us playing this? How would you [attack] this?’ Not only for Will but he’s also been a good resource for me from a football standpoint.”

In fact, Quinn will pick Weis’s brain often not just for schematic considerations but also specific concepts like the best ways to defend a two-minute drill, for example. “In my opinion, he’s been on teams that were the best in the world at [two-minute drills],” Quinn said. “Certainly during the week of game planning, we’re both dealing with our own issues on our side of the ball. But certainly if it would come up, I would certainly ask him.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS, NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what area of the defense he is most frustrated with: “There’s a lot of areas that we really need to come along at. To me, I think affecting the quarterback is one that’s a big emphasis for us. Even more importantly than that is taking the ball away. Coach and I made a big emphasis on that, and it’s something we so strongly believe in – being a ball hawk, getting your hands on balls and being disruptive. If I had to circle one area that I would aim for improvement, it would be taking the ball away.“

» On Floyd’s ability and what it means for him to return to the team: “Any time you have a guy with size and with length to him – Sharrif’s a big guy. He’s got some size but he’s got some speed to move. He’s a defensive tackle who can also play D-end. We line him up in multiple spots. He’s a good technician. He’s strong when he gets his hands on you. He’s very heavy handed. He’s a good inside pass rusher. He’s such an outstanding teammate. He’s a terrific teammate and everybody’s looking forward to having him back out there. We certainly missed not having him out there.”

» Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (who has returned from a knee injury and has gotten much healthier over the last two weeks): “Jeremy looked good on the early part of the week. It’s good to see him back out there. He’s been gone for so long so now it was just cool to kind of get him back in the mix. I think we’ll find out more as we go further on during the week and as he gets through the whole week and then kind of make the decisions from there.”

» Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley’s dancing: “For me, I think he brings a lot of energy to our defense. That has certainly been brought up a lot lately. To be honest with you, I don’t notice it as much maybe as the next guy because I’ve been around him so much. You see him and that’s just Ease. He does bring a lot of energy and juice to the defense.”

» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell needing to step up: “At that position, which is called our buck, it’s kind of a unique spot. It’s a guy who can stand up at rush, play over the tight end, and it’s really one of our featured spots where we play to the open side of the defense a lot. That guy is counted on to be one of our big rushers. With Ron, we’re certainly looking for more production from his as a rusher; it’s something we’ve been working really hard at through training camp and over the start of the season. I’m looking forward to seeing him develop and move forward in that way. It’s a little bit of the system. You’re up in a three-point, you’re down. It’s just for him feeling more comfortable and playing all the different techniques. When you first start, it’s like you can be so many different things it’s kind of hard to master something. Now that he’s been playing in the system all the way through spring and training camp and now he’s got some experience with two games under his belt, I think we’ll see that production increase.”

» Redshirt freshman DE Lynden Trail, who is healthy but did not dress for Saturday’s game due to his performance in practice: “[We’re] just looking to increase his performance right now. No disciplinary action along those lines. Just looking to get more out of Lynden, and I think we’re getting that this week.”

» On if he is excited to open SEC play even though his players say Tennessee is a nameless and faceless opponent: “I’m certainly looking forward to it. That’s part of the reason why you come to a place like Florida, for the opportunity to play in cool games like this. Our approach has been that we take the same approach each week in how we prepare, how we study, how hard we practice and that kind of thing. But you definitely feel a buzz about the opponent and that kind of stuff.”

TWO Tebow BITS: Denver banner, Jay-Z lyrics

1 » Denver Broncos fans are annoyed. Not so much that second-year quarterback Tim Tebow remains on the bench in an undefined position but rather than veteran Kyle Orton is still the team’s starter after another dismal performance to begin the season. How angry are the Broncos faithful? According to the Denver Post, eight Denver fans plan to spend $10,000 to ensure that head coach John Fox understands they are tired of Orton and ready for some Tebow time. “We believe in Coach Fox, we’re just tired of Kyle Orton,” Jesse Oaks told the paper. “We were sitting around after Fox said he didn’t hear the chants for Tebow, and we figured if he’s deaf, we hope he’s not blind.” The eight men (and other fans who are contributing to their fund) plan to purchase two billboards in downtown Denver to voice their displeasure and call for a change at Mile High.

2 » Featured in the new song Mr. Nice Watch from hip-hop artist J. Cole, Jay-Z contributes a verse at the end of the track and gives shout outs to none other than Tebow and the Florida Gators in the first few bars of his lyrics. You can read them below (edited for language) or listen to the clean version of the song by clicking the play button.

I got a Hublot, I call it Tebow
I strap that b**** with a Gator band
Y’all n**** ball half time, y’all n**** like the Gator band

9/14: Evans, Bostic and Thompson speak

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preparing for their first Southeastern Conference opponent of the 2011 season, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in The Swamp.

FLOYD’s RETURN A BONUS FOR PASS RUSHING

The Gators registered two sacks against Florida Atlantic but not a single one against a UAB team with an offence predicated on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. Junior linebacker Jon Bostic said the defense’s front seven is working hard this week to figure out how to improve their pass rush in any situation. “It’s no different from any other game. We got to get to the quarterback,” he said. “Last game they were getting the ball out quick, but we still got to figure out a way to get back there. The D-line still wants to get after it – they want to get their sacks.”

Hopefully helping Florida succeed in that task is sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd, who will be returning to the field after a two-game suspension. Bostic is confident that he will be able assist in the effort. “He’s going to help out a lot because he’s one of those big, strong guys that can change the line of scrimmage in still get to the quarterback,” he said.

Some might think Floyd will have extra motivation to play hard on Saturday, but Bostic says it has been business as usual for him this week. “He’s taking it the same way. He’s going out to practice, still working hard. He’s the same old Sharrif,” he said. “He comes out every day. You never have to tell him to go hard, run off the field, run on the field. He’s one of those guys who is always going to do what he need to do.”

JOB ONE: STOP THE RUN

Though Tennessee has been lauded for its outstanding passing attack over the first two games of the season, Bostic said Wednesday that the Gators’ primary job will be stopping the run and forcing the Volunteers to be one-dimensional. Passing game for UT: “Even though they threw for a lot of yards last game, they like to run the ball. You can see it with that big offensive line. We saw it on film – they’re big guys who like to get after it,” he said. “Our main objective is to stop the run first and then we’ll react to the pass.”

In order to do that, Florida will key in on Tauren Poole, who has 45 carries for 199 yards with a touchdown over the first two games. Bostic described him as a “good back, physical, gets downhill, he’s real good between the tackles, so we got to contain him this week.” He said Tennessee’s offense is “old school” and “they’re going to run the ball and control the clock.”

JOB TWO: IF THAT FAILS, CONTAIN THE PASS

The Gators hope to be the first team to limit the Volunteers’ passing attack this season. Junior safety Josh Evans realizes Tennessee’s talented wideouts will present a challenge for Florida but thinks putting pressure on them from the get-go could do the trick. “We’re going to attack them early in the game and let them know that we’re confident in our DBs and they can play them man-to-man,” he said. “By actually getting after them, not letting them get anything on us – deep balls or any big plays during the game.”

That may be tough for a very young secondary that Evans admits has not been tested in game action yet. However, he believes covering his team’s receivers in practice has prepared them just fine. “Honestly these last couple days as far as practices went, we’re going against our guys and stuff, so that’s kind of been a test, going against them while getting ready for this game,” he said.

Going into the game, Evans thinks vision and personnel recognition are the two keys to the Gators’ succeeding. He also believes being conscious about the down and distance will help Florida know who to key-in on from a coverage standpoint and putting constant pressure on QB Tyler Bray will help as well.

Though the secondary may be the defensive unit that everyone is concentrating on heading into the contest, Evans does not feel that makes them any more important than the rest of the defense.

“I don’t feel like the pressure is on us. We’ve been playing pretty good as a unit. I feel like we’ve all been playing as good as a whole defense,” he said. “It’s up to everybody to do their jobs so we don’t put pressure on just the secondary. Everybody’s coming together as a team, even the D-line is going to give us the push up front to help the secondary.”

SECONDARY EVALUATIONS

Evans spent some time Wednesday discussing how his teammates in the seconday have been performing both in practice and in game action this season.

» Freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson: “[His athleticism] can help him pretty good because he’s got good size and he also can jump. That’s one thing that helps him with taller receivers. He’s an athletic young guy and I think that he’s ready to D-up any receiver in the SEC.”

» Sophomore S Matt Elam: “The communication has been great lately. We’ve been communicating and helping out the linebackers and corners and putting them in the right spots. We took steps and steps as far as learning a whole new defense and everything. It was a big adjustment for us but now we’re starting to get the key vitals of it.”

» Sophomore CB Cody Riggs: “He’s a fast guy – a real fast guy. We know that they’re probably going to want to take shots due to his height, but I think he covers up pretty good. He’s a real aggressive guy. He’ll get hands on you and he likes to pres guys a little bit.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Evans on if he works more with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn or head coach Will Muschamp during the game: “it’s kind of equal, but Muschanmp kind of looks at the secondary as far as the safeties and stuff like that – so he gives us the adjustments. “

» Evans on if he prefers an intense or relaxed atmosphere before the game: “I think being able to relax is pretty good, but before the game everyone likes to pick up the tempo a little bit. By seeing the coaches relax a little bit, it makes you relax and makes it seem that while you’re getting ready for the game nobody is too tight. I say being relaxed and then up-tempo before the game, picking it up a little bit. [Muschamp]’s pretty high-tempo but that’s just him being enthused and being in the game and being a head coach, coaching the DBs and everything.”

» Bostic on how redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey has changed: “He definitely matured a lot, as a player, as a person, everything. As a player he’s still doing the same moves. We laugh at it on the sideline – one of the moves he put on the safety last week – because Matt gets the same move every time and bites it every time. We were laughing about that on the sideline. I’m glad he’s happy; he’s getting the ball like he wants to get it. I’ve gotten the same move, too. Sometimes when he puts that move, you act like he didn’t even get you and you just keep running up the field.”

» Thompson said he had his bell rung and did lose consciousness in the FAU game but did not suffer a concussion. He returned to practice a few days after the game and competed against UAB last week.

» Thompson on how Rainey is different this year: “Just all-around. He’s taken his game up to another level. From offseason all the way to now, he feels like he’s in high school again. He’s confident; he walks around confident and knows he can do it.”

» Thompson on if he expects to stretch the field against Tennessee: “No doubt. It’s SEC play. They feel like they got just as good as players as us, so they’ll come up jam us and challenge us to make the deep ball.”

» Thompson’s thoughts on freshmen Roberson and S De’Ante Saunders: “They’re both going to be a hell of a player. They’re good players. Roberson kind of reminds me of Janoris [Jenkins] his freshman year, when he first came in. Pop is great, got good ball skills. Both of those guys they’re good, great athletes.”

» Thompson on how Roberson is like Jenkins: “He’s good at the line of scrimmage. He’s a good jammer just like Janoris was.”

» Thompson on if he noticed New England’s offense was like Florida’s on Monday Night Football: “It is. Very interesting. I’m like, ‘Man, I know what they’re doing!’”

9/14: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators just days away from their third game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against the Tennessee Volunteers, he spoke with the media during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week three action.

PLAYER ABSENCE AND INJURY UPDATES

The availability of a few players has been on fans’ collective minds throughout the week, and Muschamp on Wednesday discussed how they are progressing.

About redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely, who was arrested and charged with a pair of misdemeanors for driving a scooter with a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence, Muschamp was dismissive and refused to provide any details. “Yeah, I’m handling that. We’ll work through that. That’s where we are,” he said.

As far as sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd, Muschamp confirmed that he is set to return from a NCAA-mandated two-game suspension. He also said that Floyd’s plan in regard to paying back the $2,700 the NCAA deemed he owed to charity has been put into motion. The only thing he did not know was which charity Floyd would be donating the money to. “I have no idea. It’ll be a good one though,” he said.

Muschamp also had the opportunity to speak about Floyd’s character and what he brings to the team from multiple standpoints. “He’s a really good player. He’s a guy that is probably the most respected player in our locker room as far as how he handles himself on- and off-the-field,” he said. “He’s just a great young man and a guy that brings a lot of passion and a lot of energy to the locker room, to our football team. On top of all that, he’s a really good football player. God has blessed him. He’s very talented, hard-working – he’s as hard-working a kid as we have on this football team.”

Though Muschamp was not asked about the status of redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed’s hamstring (he said on Monday that Reed should play on Saturday), he was questioned about senior running back Jeff Demps’s shoulder. “He’s fine. He’s going to be fine. He’s practicing,” Muschamp stated.

EVALUATING TENNESSEE

A member of the same coaching staff as Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley when the two were at LSU some years ago under Nick Saban, Muschamp is well aware what the Volunteers will be bringing to the table on Saturday.

“We’ve got Tennessee coming to The Swamp this weekend, and I’m looking forward to that opportunity,” he said as part of his opening statement. “They’re very explosive team offensively with [Justin] Hunter and [Da’Rick] Rogers outside. [Tyler] Bray is playing very well at quarterback. [They] run the ball well and do play-actions off of that. Defensively the guys are playing hard with a lot of multiple looks. They’re doing a nice job and, of course, Derek does a great job with special teams – he and Eric Russell. A lot of respect for those guys and we’re looking forward to playing them Saturday.”

Bray, who has completed 78 percent of his passes through the first two games of the season, is of primary concern for a Florida defense that will feature a young secondary at the start of Saturday’s contest. “He’s been very accurate with the ball – not just in the intermediate but also with the vertical passing game,” Muschamp said. “He’s got two explosive guys outside, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

He also took some time to complement Dooley for his ability to coach up his team each week. “Derek is a smart guy, extremely hard-working, very detail-oriented in his approach to everything that we do,” he said. “[He] did a great job with our special teams, but a guy that sees the big picture. [He’s] very detail-oriented coach and that obviously shows on tape with this football team.”

COACHES NOT HOLDING ANYTHING BACK

Having outscored the team’s first two opponents a combined 80-3, Muschamp was asked if his team was holding anything back from a schematic standpoint during the first two contests. He scoffed at the notion though he did admit that the lopsided scores dictated that they could go away from their game plan in the latter portions of the game.

“We game plan every week to win the game. We’re going to do what we got to do to win the game,” he said. “Obviously as the game changes, you change your play calling offensively and defensively and even in special teams from the standpoint of what you’re doing based on the score. Obviously in our first two games we got up early and played very good there at times. We may have not done some things we had planned for in the game, but we don’t go into a game holding stuff for another opponent. I guess some people do that. I don’t. We prepare to win the game and we prepare to take the things we’ve got to do to win the game. Now whether or not we call them depends on the situation in the game.”

THOUGHTS FROM TENNESSEE COACH DOOLEY

» Opening statement on Florida: “This will be certainly our biggest challenge because it’s on the road and it’s against a team that’s dominated this league in the last decade. And it’s a team that we haven’t played very well against in a while. It’ll be a good measuring stick of where we are and we’ll see how we do.”

» On what part of the Gators’ defense and offense concerns him: “The first thing you notice on defense is probably the most talented defensive line in the country –extremely big, athletic and disruptive and almost impossible to block. If your five can’t block their four, it doesn’t matter what plays you have, it’s going to be a long day. Schematically, they were able to be very vanilla just because of the nature of the two football games that they played. I don’t think we’ve seen near what we might see on Saturday and that’s to be expected. Ultimately it’s going to come down whether we can handle up front. On the other side of the ball, of course, what you see is they do a great job of getting their ball to their playmakers and creating air for them. When they create a little air for their fast guys, they’re hard to catch and hard to bring down.”

» On his team’s third-down efficiency: “Jim [Chaney]’s done a good job with a play calling, but the Jimmys and Joes tend to make third down a lot easier for the coaches. Tyler’s done a great job of placing the ball where it needs to be. The receivers have done a good job of running fast routes and being where they’re supposed to be. So far we’ve been pretty good, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ll find out how we handle it against a quality defense this week.”

» On his young offensive line: “They’re young but we think they’re talented, too. They’re starting to get experience. Now this will be about their seventh or eighth game. Hopefully as each game goes on they play a little bit better and a little bit more confident.”

» On dealing with Florida redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey: “It’s not just his first two games. Watching his body of work over time, he just has an incredible way to impact a game. Whether it’s at runner, whether it’s at returner, whether it’s blocking punts, whether it’s returning blocked punts for touchdowns, you always see the guy in critical moments making big plays. Players like that are very hard to stop or contain. It’s just a combination of tremendous speed and athleticism but also competitive character.”

» On if he has memories of coaching against Muschamp in LSU practice: “Yeah, I have a lot of memories. Six years of them. He’s got his team and he’s in charge of everything now, not just the defense. I know this – his team is going to be well-prepared. They’re going to be very well-coached. They’re going to prepare fast and hard and fundamentally sound and tough, and it’s going to be a big challenge because he’s a good football coach.”

» On his team’s young defenders: “We’re glad we have A.J. [Johnson] and Curt [Maggitt]; we’d be in a real bind if we didn’t. That doesn’t mean they’re playing great, but it means they have the potential to be really good players for us over the long haul. They’ve done a real good job for true freshmen over the first two games, but this is going to be a big test for them because they’re going to be playing a lot and going against guys that are more athletic, bigger that are blocking them than they’re used to, and they’re going to be chasing down guys who are faster than they’ve ever seen.”

Charlie Weis in a great situation at Florida

When he made the tough decision to leave the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of the 2010 season and transition back into college football as offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators, Charlie Weis was questioned by everyone as to the reasons why he ultimately decided to rejoin the collegiate ranks rather than continue working in the NFL.

At the time, Weis explained that it was a fantastic opportunity for his family. His son would be a student assistant with the Gators, his wife would be pleased with a 10.5-acre estate in Reddick, FL with plenty of horses, and his special needs daughter could get the assistance she needed with her condition.

During a media availability on Tuesday, Weis expressed that college football is also a better family environment than the NFL, something he appreciates as a family man.

“The one biggest difference between college football and pro football is college football is way more family friendly. Pro football is way more of a business. I’m not saying they’re not both a business, but that’s reality,” he said. “Our families are on the field after the game’s over. I’ve never, other than the Super Bowl, I’ve never seen families on the field in a pro game. You might have the head coach’s kids there but that’s about it. If you’re a family guy, which I obviously am, it’s kind of refreshing.”

There was another factor that drove him back to college – he enjoys the game.

“My approach has always been that I’m a teacher; that’s what I am. I’ve never wavered from that. That’s what I think I do the best,” Weis explained. “Everyone has their personalities and probably the biggest difference is I’m in a different role. Because I’m in a different role, there’s a whole set of problems that I don’t have to deal with. That’s why Coach [Will] Muschamp’s the head coach. There’s a whole slew of issues that you don’t deal with [as a coordinator].

“As far as the kids go, I loved the kids [at Notre Dame], and I love the kids here. I love being around kids that age. My kid is 18-years-old; I’ve been around him and his friends for quite some time. Probably one of the most rewarding things is watching one of these kids come in as an 18-year-old and then leaving as a 22- or 23-year-old young man and watching how they evolved and matured and all that stuff. It’s really kind of fun to see.”

Weis is comfortable in his role with the Gators – rejuvenating an offense that had its share of troubles just one year ago. Even though he’s back to being a college coordinator after leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for four years as a head coach (2005-09), he said moving on to that top job is not on his mind whatsoever right now.

“I’m just trying to beat Tennessee. Really, that’s the only thing. The only thing on my mind is trying to beat Tennessee. And if you ask me next week, I’ll be talking about trying to beat Kentucky,” Weis said. “That’s the way I was brought up – the way I was groomed. I was groomed [to believe that] you never worry about what’s happening down the road. Alls you worry about is your next game, and Tennessee is the one that’s up.”

Should anyone think money is an issue for him going forward, Weis joked that it is not at all in his mind. In actuality, his three-year, $2.625 million contract should suffice. However, if money was a serious consideration, he said he could be paid better elsewhere.

“Look it, I can make a lot more money in the pros than I can in college. If you’re making your decision just based off of money [there is no comparison],” he said with a smile. “A lot of guys have talked to me about going to the pros. I said, ‘Heck yeah, you’ll make more money, and then you can be miserable.’ There’s some give-and-take in that now. Money in college is going up a whole bunch from where it was a decade ago right there. Although I wouldn’t call it exactly competitive, it’s a way better situation than it was 10 years ago.”

With his family by his side, a job he is excited about, players that are enthusiastic about learning his offense and a fan base that is excited to see what he brings to the table, Weis’s situation is pretty good right now by any number of standards.

Photo Credit: Allen Eyestone/Palm Beach Post

9/13: Weis evaluates players, whole offense, Brantley’s progress and pro-style system

As the Florida Gators prepare for their first Southeastern Conference game on Sept. 17 vs. Tennessee, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s 39-0 victory over UAB as well as the upcoming contest.

RECAPPING THE OFFENSE’s PERFORMANCES

Suffice to say, Weis has been pleased with the production of the Gators offense up to this point. However, rather than look at how many touchdowns were scored or how many yards were put up, Weis was more concerned with exposing holes that he can close before the team enters SEC play.

“Stats a lot of times are misleading. We’ve matched up with two teams that we should have had good numbers against that we did. It still comes down to, I think when you start off with games like that, you want to make sure you’re very critical of the areas that would get you beat against a team that is at the same level or a little bit better than you,” he said. “It’s really important that, in those critical areas, you don’t falter. For example, last week when the first guys were in there, they had five first down situations. They ended up going 3/5 on third down when the first guys were in there. And the two times they didn’t convert were communication errors not really mental errors. So instead of potentially being 5/5 on third-down conversions, you end up going 3-5. In a big game, those are the types of things that can be the difference between winning and losing.”

Weis said the team is certainly taking a close look at the team’s mistakes in the red zone (any red zone possession that does not result in a touchdown is considered a failure). He would not go into detail but explained that all were correctable issues. “They were just things that, if we did the right thing or something better, they would’ve been all touchdowns instead of settling for three field goals.”

He also discussed how proud he was that, when he changed the game plan at halftime due to some minor injuries (from up-tempo to grind-it-out running), the team succeeded with flying colors. “I told them that I wanted to just get in there and pound them for the rest of the game. I said it’ll pay dividends down the road when you just want to be able to get to the line of scrimmage and say, ‘We’re running it, you know we’re running it, but we’re running it anyway,’” Weis explained. “We threw two passes in the second half, and I thought that it was good on our part to do it that way. When we went in, we were going to go huddle, we’re not going to up the tempo and we’re just going to come out there and run it, run it and run it again. That will definitely pay dividends.”

BRANTLEY AND WEIS TRULY ON THE SAME PAGE

If it was not already obvious that Weis’s mottos, sayings and philosophies have rubbed off on redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, comments the offensive coordinator made on Tuesday highlighted that fact even further. Brantley has often discussed two particulars about his game recently – taking what the defense gives him from a passing standpoint and forgetting about bad plays and focusing on the next one no matter the situation. Weis touched on both topics and provided some background as to why Brantley is performing the way he has been recently.

“I’ll give you analogy, OK? You probably watched the Patriots and that quarterback [Tom Brady]. Did you notice that Ochocinco only had one ball thrown to him? Because the philosophy of the offense is that you throw to what the coverage dictates you throw it to,” he explained. “We never believed that you take one guy and say, ‘We’re going to throw it to him 15 times in a game.’ Sometimes the way they play and what you’re calling, that’s what ends up happening, but you don’t go into a game saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to throw it to him this many times.’ We’ll play that first game and they’re playing a soft cover four and [Brady’s] looking down the field for reads and their [coverage] says, ‘Go ahead, throw it to Randy [Moss] in the flat,’ so we threw it to Randy in the flat. That’s a better sign than anything else anyone can say. All quarterbacks want to throw the ball down the field, but to have the patience to not throw it down the field when the defense is saying, ‘Go ahead, we’ll give you this but we won’t give you that,’ that’s a very strong positive.”

He also touched on Brantley’s progress in concentrating on the next play and not worrying about anything else that happened previously. “He’s night and day. I don’t have all the answers now. Let me not say that his progress is solely based off of me,” Weis said. “Philosophy and mentally and psychologically, if you can just say, ‘OK, here’s what happened on that play.’ I coach him harder during the week than I do on game days now. On game days I’m very, very, very calm. During the week when they make mistakes, I let nothing go. I let nothing go. I don’t let it go on the field and I don’t let it go when we watch tape. But as the week goes on, my feeling is, they’re not paying money to come watch the coach. They’re paying money to go watch the players. When you realize that as a coach, that game days are supposed to be for the players, you’re supposed to have done your job already and then you just kind of help orchestrate it, I think that’s a proper approach.”

EXCITEMENT NOT AN INDICTMENT

Weis is quite pleased that his offensive players are buying into the Gators’ new pro-style system. However, he wanted to make it quite apparent on Tuesday that the excitement from Florida’s student-athletes is not because of negativity about the spread offense but rather positivity about what his system can do for them going forward.

“Let’s not slight all of the good things that happened here offensively in the past. It wasn’t like they had a bunch of garbage they had done here. The last time I checked, they won a couple of national championships,” he said emphatically. “I think all these guys want an opportunity to play on Sunday, and they see this offense as an offense that, once you learn the offense, it’s not easy when you’re first learning it, but once you learn it, it becomes pretty simple.

“They sat there and watched the game [Monday] night and they’re hearing the same calls. The quarterback’s sitting there watching the game and listening to Tommy saying the same thing they’re saying. They kinda like that. And there’s a bunch of other teams doing it too. I think that they just see…change is always something where everyone gets a new chance to go ahead and make their mark. This is what a lot of them are doing. For a lot of them, it’s working. So far so good.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS, NOTES AND QUOTES

» Freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “He’s really done a nice job. His first game, those eyes were wide open. They haven’t closed too much yet now. The good news for everyone is he hasn’t really let it loose yet. He’s going from being tentative to now he’s fitting on everyone. And because he’s so strong, it just looks like he’s dominating them, where if you realize he really hasn’t played to his full strength yet. When he lowers the boom, it’s pretty vicious. This kid…he’s got a lot of ability. He’s going to help us. He’s one of the stronger kids on the team probably as a freshman. I’d say he’s way up there.”

» Sophomore running back Trey Burton: “A lot of years I’ve gone in and out of personnel groups. I’ve gone from what we call 11 to 12 to 21 to 10 to 20 to go in and out of personnel groups to try to disguise running the same plays over and over. What Trey allows you to do is, a lot of those formations that you get into with those multiple wide receivers, now you can get into with him. To take on personnel group and be able to adjust it with multiple formations puts a lot of pressure on the defense and usually gives you a good tip for what they’re going to end up doing.”

» Redshirt senior transfer left guard Dan Wenger: “If he couldn’t play a down, he would’ve still helped us tremendously because he knows the offense better than all the rest of them. When you’re in the offense for multiple years – starting at center and started I believe at both guards – he’s got very high football IQ. Even if he physically couldn’t hold up, what he was going to bring. His intangibles are through the roof.”

» Junior RB Mike Gillislee: “Michael has always been able to run it with power. [It’s not that we] don’t like Michael as a runner, it’s just that when you have 1 and you have 28, there’s not very many carries left over the way those guys run. That’s no slight on Michael. The best thing for Michael was, he wasn’t expecting as many carries as he got, and when he got that many carries, it was as if he was not only prepared but he was chomping at the bit. That was a good thing to see.”

» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey: “I think talking to him this is as happy as he’s ever been. He loves being part of the team. He’s about ready to graduate. Things are going well in football. I wasn’t here for the whole Chris Rainey Show, I just know what I’ve had since I’ve been here, and I love being around the kid.”

» On Burton’s future in the NFL: “Let’s worry about Tennessee right now. He’s a second-year player. Position flexibility and versatility are always things that intrigue people at the next level, but I think that he’ll have plenty of time to get things on tape that – whether it be catching the ball or running the ball or blocking – he’ll have plenty of time over the next bunch of years to sell his wares. I think now let’s be a little more short-sighted than that.”

» On what type of defense Tennessee will be presenting: “They’re playing multiple fronts and multiple coverages. They don’t just line up and play. They’ve obviously been very energetic in the first two games, but they’ll play over, they’ll play under, they’ll play odd, they’ll play diamond and then they’ll throw a slew of different blitzes and coverages at you. They really try to not only just line up to play against you, they try to confuse you, too. We’re going to have to be not only physically at the top of our game, but we’re going to have to be mentally on top of our game or else we’ll have some problems.”

» In light of Bobby Bowden announcing he hid his prostate cancer diagnosis in 2007, if he is comfortable sharing personal information while recruiting players: “When I talk to players, I can just go upon my frame of mind, I tell them anything and everything they want to know – football or family. I let them know about my wife, my kids. I let them know about everything. There are very few things that I would ever hold back from anyone. Honesty – put it like this – if people don’t like something you say and what you told them was the truth, then so be it. I’ve had that happen a few times in my life, in case you’re wondering. I’d rather do it that way. I’d rather just tell the truth and deal with the consequences.”

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