Punter Chas Henry: “I felt very, very fortunate.”

It is not common for a punter to be one of the best-known players on a football team – unless they make a colossal mistake that costs his squad a game or title. That was not the case for the Florida Gators in 2010 as Chas Henry stood out as a saving grace during the season, saving stalled offensive drives from disaster and (later in the year) doing his part as a kicker to score some points in dire situations.

The 2010 Ray Guy Award winner and one of the team’s most valuable players last season, Henry was not selected in the 2011 NFL Draft but was quite popular as an undrafted free agent when the lockout was lifted. Now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Henry sat down with OGGOA to discuss his new surroundings and look back on an interesting senior year in the Orange & Blue.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start off by talking about what has been going on with you recently the lockout is finally lifted and teams start calling – how did that go down and what was that situation like for you?
CHAS HENRY: “It happened all of a sudden. I was actually at my girlfriend’s house with her just sitting watching TV and all of a sudden I started getting all of these phone calls. I knew that free agency was supposed to start up at 10 a.m. the following morning, so I was just trying to figure out my plans for the week before I had to report off to camp. I’m sitting on the couch and all of a sudden my phone starts blowing up with the different area codes and everything, so I’m thinking, ‘Something must be going on.’

“First call I got was at 7:04 p.m. from a Houston Texans coach. A few minutes after that I got another call from another team, and a few minutes after that… Within about two hours I had about five different teams contact me. […] We started narrowing down choices, and I spoke to Coach [Andy] Reid and the general manager up here Howie Roseman – a Florida guy, a great Florida guy up here in Philadelphia. I spoke with them and just really liked everything that they had to offer. I was very excited about the possibility of coming up here to play. There’s a couple Florida guys up here with [Cornelius Ingram] and Riley Cooper, and they just told me how much of a great time they’ve had up here and how they really enjoy the coaching staff and players and everything. I felt like it was the best opportunity for me to come in and be a part of.”

AS: I spoke with Duke Lemmens about how the process was for him and he compared it to a mini version of recruiting. Is that how it went for you?
CH: “Exactly. This is the first time I’ve ever been recruited and I’ve had to make a decision like this. When I was recruited to Florida, Coach [Urban] Meyer recruited me and he offered me and I committed right there on the spot. I figured there was no other better place I could go than the University of Florida. I couldn’t pick a better school than the University of Florida. That was the best opportunity I could have ever imagined putting myself into. I told the coaches this time, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been recruited, so you have to bear with me a little bit.’”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chas Henry…after the break!
Continue Reading » Punter Chas Henry: “I felt very, very fortunate.”

8/11: Christian, Sturgis, Jenkins, Bostic speak

With the Florida Gators having completed their first two-a-day practice of the 2011 season, a number of prominent players from all three units met with the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is progressing early on in camp.


With freshman tight end A.C. Leonard going down with a torn meniscus and set to miss up to the entire season due to the injury, the onus is on sophomore Gerald Christian to play at an even higher level now that he will permanently play across from or in relief of starter redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed. Christian is unfazed by the increased responsibility. “Any time a man goes down, it puts pressure on the other players to step up,” he said. “I feel good. I like this offense a lot better than last year. It fits me and what I do. Out of high school I did the H-back and was a motion-type man.”

He also believes that the new offense gives the team a wide variety of options that may not have always been available last year. “Since we have two speedsters – Chris Rainey and [Jeff] Demps – we can spread the field like we’re running the ball and then we can also fake the play action and do play action passes; me and Jordan running routes; [Quinton] Dunbar, Frankie Hammond and Deonte Thompson – they’re fast too, can thrown the ball to them.” Hammond has impressed him in particular. “[He] has been looking really, really good,” Christian said. “He’s been consistent every day catching balls.”


After missing most of 2010 due to multiple back injuries, redshirt junior kicker Caleb Strugis is healthy once again and not limited “at all” in his range of motion. “A lot has healed, and I’ve been taking better care of [my back],” he said. “Every day I go in and see AP, our athletic trainer, and he just has a routine for me everything I need to do – stretching, cold tank, massages.”

Sturgis explained Thursday that his back was so bad last year that it eventually “got to the point where I couldn’t [sleep].” He continued, “At the beginning of the season it was bearable and then it got worse and worse. […] I noticed it midway through camp, but I think it was one of those things that I progressively made it worse.” He said he is hitting field goals fine from upwards of 50 yards and is anxious to begin playing football again.


Aside from junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins holding down the fort on the inside, Florida’s starting linebacker situation remains very much up in the air. One thing Gators fans can be sure of is that Bostic and Jenkins communicate well both on and off the field, a quality that will certainly help the unit going forward.

Both players mentioned Thursday that redshirt junior Lerentee McCray (a defensive end who is also playing SAM linebacker) is spending a good amount of time playing with the starting unit at the latter position. Others rotating in and out of the outside roles include redshirt freshman Michael Taylor, redshirt sophomore Dee Finely, sophomore Darrin KitchensGideon Ajagbe and freshman Graham Stewart. “We’re all learning at the same pace; we’re all stepping up,” Jenkins said. “They have a lot of talent. Most of the stuff that they have to work on is just the mental aspect because they don’t have the most experience. As soon as they get it down so they can play fast, I think they’ll be fine.”


Christian on how Leonard is holding up: “He’s doing fine. I talked to him – he’s fine.”

Christian on sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark: “They don’t have him with the first team and stuff, but every time Robert gets reps he makes the most of it. He’s not a starter, but I think he’ll get time as an inside guy.”

Christian on Clark’s mentality: “One thing about Robert – he doesn’t whine or anything, he just goes hard and gives whatever he has all the time. That’s why I think he makes a big impression on coaches.”

Christian on what running two tight end sets allows: “We can run the ball – we have two points on either side so we can run the ball to either side. We have a H-back tight end, which is me, so I can always come off the ball and move into the fullback position and block off the edge.”

Sturgis on watching the Mississippi State game from the sideline:
“Any time your team loses, it’s tough to watch. That was pretty hard. It was hard putting Chas [Henry] through that – he hadn’t kicked since high school. He turned around after that though.”

Sturgis on losing Henry: “There’s no replacing Chas, he was the best punter in the country I think for a few years. There’s no replacing him, but Kyle [Christy] is a good freshman, and I think if he matures a little bit he’ll be good.”

Bostic on if Florida is a “young” team: “Somewhat, but a lot of the guys are really stepping up. Some of the sophomores are taking that leadership role.”

Bostic on how comfortable he is with the defense now in the fall: “Throughout the spring, I picked up the defense very easily. Even these two-a-days I still have a little rust on me where there is some stuff I have to work on.”

Jenkins on the defensive transition: “It’s a completely different system. It’s completely new, but we’re still able to run a lot of different pressures off of it.”

Jenkins on the percent of time the defense will be in the 3-4: “I think we’re going to be mainly in the 3-4 for running situations but I’m not too sure. The way we’re practicing, you can’t really tell what we’re going to be doing during the season.”

Jenkins noted that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson has “been doing a good job” while others like freshman Jabari Gorman “have been coming through.” He also commented on a few second- and third-year players. “They’re just ballers from the get-go. Matt Elam and Cody Riggs and Josh Evans, they’re all guys that have a little bit more experience but are holding it down in the secondary.”

Schnellenberger begins swan song in The Swamp

A 52-year coaching career will come to an end at the conclusion of the 2011 season as Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Howard Schnellenberger is set to officially announce his retirement from football on Thursday.

After resurrecting the program and eventually winning a national championship with the Miami Hurricanes in 1983, Schnellenberger was tasked with starting a Florida Atlantic football team from scratch when he was hired by the school as director of football operations and eventual head coach in 1998.

The Owls began playing football in 2001 and have been coached by Schellenberger ever since. Now at 77-years-old, he will take his 57-63 all-time record at the school into his final season, which begins with a road game against the Florida Gators on Sept. 3.

Though Schellenberger has never beat Florida with his FAU team, a defeat he handed the Gators as coach of the Hurricanes in 1980 stays with him to this day.

In the final game of the 1980 season, Miami traveled to Florida and upended the Gators 31-7. However, a notable occurrence during the contest keeps the game in the minds of fans and football historians.

With a 21-7 lead, the Hurricanes tacked on a late touchdown to go ahead 28-7. Florida fans, who were incensed throughout the game, responded by throwing oranges and ice at Miami’s players, cheerleaders and coaches. Ticked off at the actions of the fans, Schellenberger (whose team had regained possession of the ball) called a timeout and kicked a field goal on the game’s last play, rubbing the loss in even more.

He has not had much luck playing in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since then. The Hurricanes were topped 17-14 in 1982 and routed 28-3 the following year. He returned to Florida with his Louisville team in 1992 and lost 31-17 before dropping a 59-20 final to the Gators with his Owls squad in 2007.

Schnellenberger has had a storied college coaching career and also spent some time in the NFL and USFL. He’s won a national championship, credited for recruiting Joe Namath to Alabama, and been honored by Louisville with a football complex that bears his name. Florida Atlantic will open a brand new on-campus football stadium in 2011, a goal of his from the first day he took the job.

While 2011 will be a year of celebrating Schnellenberger’s career – a time filled with honors and gifts and speeches – the one thing he is unlikely to earn is another victory at The Swamp, a venue that has had his number for the past 29 years.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

8/10: More from Muschamp on Wednesday

With the Florida Gators fully entrenched in fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday and provided updates on how the team is progressing going into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3.


One of the team’s most impressive freshmen a year ago, sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell has already had a rebirth with a new defense and a new position. Not only has he been impressing his teammates and coaches on the field, Powell has stood out as a leader off of it as well. “I think Ronald has done a nice job. He’s a power rusher, a very physical young man, a tough player, a tough young man,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy I think has progressed well in what we’re doing. He practices hard; he practices with toughness. He plays the game the way it should be played.”

A five-star recruit and one of the top prospects coming out of high school in 2010, Powell has always been burdened with high expectations. He continues to take them in stride, and Muschamp believes his ability to do so is part of the reason why he is doing so well at such a young age. “We’ve created an interesting phenomenon with this recruiting business – these stars and all of these expectations. Some guys handle it better than others,” he said. “Ronald’s very bright, very intelligent. He’s a guy that football is very important to him. When you come in and you have all these accolades, it’s hard not to listen. You listen to some of it.

“I always tell the guys – that’s why you need to remove all the external stuff. It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems either. It’s somewhere in-between. Unfortunately, some guys listen to a lot of that stuff and all of a sudden they think they’re a little better than they really are. Transitioning from high school to college is hard – especially on the line of scrimmage. The game is a lot faster. It’s a lot bigger and a lot more complex.”


Though redshirt senior John Brantley has been named the team’s starting quarterback over and over again, the development of the three players behind him on the depth chart is important, especially if he struggles once again in 2011. To that end, Muschamp is very pleased with what he has seen from some of the younger signal callers.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy: Brantley’s back-up, Murphy is a year older than the other two but has taken just as many snaps – none. “Tyler Murphy has done a really nice job of managing the offense. We did a move the field today where the coaches got off the field and let the players play. Tyler took us on a nice drive down the field.”

Freshman Jeff Driskel: Muschamp said the game is slowing down for him and he is beginning to read coverages better. “Jeff Driskel, the first five days have been very solid [for him]. [There has been] a lot of carryover from spring. He’s a lot more comfortable.”

Freshman Jacoby Brissett: Enrolling in the summer, Brissett is a little behind the eight ball but is catching up quickly. “Jacoby is doing an outstanding…the guy has got a big-time arm talent and great leadership ability. He’s going to be a really football player for the Gators. Obviously not going through spring and him just coming in the summer, he’s a little further behind just from the amount of being exposed to everything. He will catch up because he’s extremely intelligent.”


Florida has had its share of successful freshman cornerbacks in recent years and if the opinions of his teammates and coaches mean anything (they do), Roberson may very well be seeing plenty of playing time in 2011.

“Marcus comes from a great high school program – he’s been very well-coached,” Muschamp explained. “Football is very important to him. He spends an awful lot of time studying the game, spending extra time in the meeting room. He’s always early to the meting room and gives great effort on the field.

“God’s blessed him. He’s got legnth, top-end speed and great ball skills. All the critical factors you’re looking for in a defensive back, he’s got. I’ve been very pleased in five practices; he’s got to continue to do it.”


On redshirt senior transfer center Dan Wenger: “It’s been very beneficial for, especially in the summertime we can’t have any contact as far as football is concerned, so in essence he has been a coach on the field. He’s a guy who has been in this system for 3-4 years, understands it, very smart, wants to be a coach, wants to be a strength coach. His brother is a defensive coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas. He’s got that blood in him, so that’s what he wants to do. You take all of those factors, and football is very important to Dan, and he’s been a very valuable part of what we’re trying to do in helping some of the young guys.”

On the team’s starting cornerbacks: “We’ve adjusted every day at corner so far right now. We’ve had combinations of Jeremy [Brown] and Cody Riggs, Jeremy and Moses [Jenkins], Moses and Jermey, all of those guys have repped. [De’Ante] “Pop” Saudners has repped with the first team. I’ve been very pleased with Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy and what they can do. They’re very good athletes; they’re learning our system. They did a good job studying this summer. I’m pleased with our athleticism, the experience is what concerns me, but I’ll take athleticism over that.”

For Will Muschamp, honesty is the best policy

Whether you want to call it tough love or the mark of a players’ coach, head coach Will Muschamp believes in one quality above all else: honesty.

So when he was asked Wednesday if he felt any pressure to make his players like him upon taking over the team, he dismissed the idea and instead explained how his policy of truthfulness is mutually beneficial in the long run.

“I am who I am. I don’t really change for anybody,” he said. “My whole deal in coaching is, if [the players] respect you and they trust you, eventually they’ll like you because they’ll understand what you stand for.”

Whether Muschamp is delivering good news or bad news, he does so in the same manner and expects his players to respond and act accordingly.

“I’m about being honest with the players and sometimes they won’t like what I tell them, but I’m going to be honest with them and tell them the way it is,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t like the way I tell them either. I’m going to be honest with you, I’m going to tell you the way it is. When you do it right, I’m going to tell you. When you do it wrong, I’m going to tell you.

“We’re going to do things a certain way. I think they respect that, and I think they understand that when I tell them something, they can trust me.”

Muschamp’s philosophy and methodology extends to every coach on the staff – whether veteran offensive coordinator Charlie Weis or rookie defensive line coach Bryant Young. The way each interacts with players should foster a mutual understanding.

“I think over a period of time, when [the players] see respect and they see trust and they see a staff that has a track record of being successful where they’ve been in what they’ve done and winning and all of those things, I think that builds a little credibility,” Muschamp explains.

“At the end of the day, coaching is a peoples game. You’ve got to relate to people. They’re all different, and they’re all motivated different ways. I think it’s our job as coaches to find what keys they have individually. It’s not the old saying of treating everybody the same way. You really don’t to be honest. We’ve got to figure out what makes them tick – each individual.”

With that in mind, Muschamp made a point to get input and feedback from his players when he met with them one-on-one in the spring. After discussing their respective strength training, academic standing and place on the team, he asked each player about his opinions on the program and how things could be adjusted to suit him better.

“The guys you can listen to, they’re going to be honest with you and generally tell you this will be nice for this, this will be nice for that,” he said. “It goes back to one of the base things I talked about in this program – communication. Communication takes two. Respect and trust takes two. You got to be able to do that with people.

“I tell them all the time, ‘I love suggestions. We may not do them all, but certainly I want your input because this is your program.’ I always tell the staff, ‘We’re here to serve the players. We got to hold them accountable, make them responsible and dependable in what they’re supposed to do.’”

While he may not necessarily believe in one old saying, Muschamp certainly holds another in high esteem.

Honesty is the best policy.

8/10: Muschamp evaluates team, says Leonard out 6-8 weeks, Burton moving to tight end

With the Florida Gators fully entrenched in fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday and provided updates on how the team is progressing going into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3.


Though the word had been going around for a few days, Muschamp confirmed that freshman tight end A.C. Leonard, who enrolled early and impressed during the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut, will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus he suffered on Saturday. That time frame would likely keep him off the field for 3-5 games and may result in a medical redshirt for him this year if the team decides he is not healthy enough to return until even later in the season.

“It’s a noncontact injury — [he] planted on it wrong,” Muschamp said. “Nobody was near him or around him. We’re very disappointed. It’s going to be a 6-8 week process. We’ll make a decision on his playing this year at that time. He’s up to speed on everything we’re doing. He’ll be involved in the meetings and will start the rehab immediately. It’s a scope procedure. We feel like we can get him back if he heals quickly like a lot of guys do nowadays. We’ll make a determination on his playing status at that time.”

Leonard, who had surgery Wednesday morning, was listed as the team’s No. 2 tight end on the spring depth chart behind redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed. Sophomore Gerald Christian, who worked mostly at linebacker in the spring but was moved back in April, was ahead of Leonard anyway when fall camp began.

In order to increase depth at the position, Muschamp also announced that freshman defensive end Clay Burton would be switching over to offense (for at least this year) and redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (who played some tight end in 2010) will see time at the position in certain situations. Burton spent time at tight end in high school and has experience playing the position.

Burton switched his number from 86 to 88 as a result of his position change seeing as redshirt junior TE Josh Postell is already wearing No. 86 on offense.


It should come as no surprise that the team’s oldest running backs, senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey are leading the way for the unit in fall practice. Nevertheless, Muschamp made it a point to compliment how well they are doing through the first five practices.

“Both Jeff and Chris have been very impressive,” he said. “We do a nice job on the perimeter blocking with our wideouts. We create some one-on-ones with people who aren’t used to tackling as much as far as corners and secondary people. When those guys get the ball on the edge, they’re fun to watch.”

Muschamp wants his tailbacks to “score touchdowns” and “protect well,” noting that the team will have a lot of different one-back and two-back formations this year. With that being said, as of now, it looks like Demps and Rainey will be the ones primarily playing the position as the other two running backs are a bit behind.

“Right now Chris and Jeff certainly have distanced themselves from the pack,” he said. “Mike [Gillislee] and Mack [Brown] got some making up to do as far as Mack missed most of spring, Mike missed all of spring. Mentally, as far as getting back into it, and also physically. It’s been a long time since they’ve had contact. I think they’re progressing well, but certainly Jeff and Chris have distanced themselves.”


» Muschamp thanked lacrosse head coach Amanda O’Leary for the temporary use of their practice field for a change of scenery. He expects to practice 12-14 times there before returning to the football practice fields and The Swamp for a few scrimmages.

» On redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard: “It has been good to get him back in the fold. He’s a load inside; got to get him to consistently give good effort all the time.”

» On redshirt freshman right tackle Chaz Green: “Chaz Green is a guy who has really stepped forward. [He] gets a lot of movement up front and does a nice job at the tackle position.”

» On redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose: “Andre Debose made a very nice play in the back of the end zone today. We had a red zone period. [He] really went up and got the ball, a well-thrown ball.”

» On how he is managing the depth chart: “We change the depth chart everyday based on your last performance. We’re trying to promote consistency in your performance – it’s got to be an everyday thing in this league.”

» On the depth of the offensive line: “We just don’t have the numbers. I think we have 13 scholarship offensive linemen; you need 18. You’re missing a whole unit.”

» On redshirt junior Caleb Sturgis’s progression from a back injury: “He didn’t do any kickoffs in the spring. He kicked field goals and PATs. We haven’t really done a full kickoff unit. He has been kicking some kickoffs but not at the tempo we’re going to have him. He is strong; he had no issues in the summer as far as his workouts. We changed his routine a little bit [he’s not doing squats anymore] as far as the things he did, but he’s been kicking the ball extremely well thus far in camp.”

» On linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins: “The two inside backers defensively are outstanding. They’re very intelligent, very smart, great communicators.”

» Other players Muschamp singled out as being pleased with include redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley; wide receivers redshirt senior Deonte Thompson, redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar; safeties sophomore Matt Elam, junior Josh Evans, redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw and sophomore Jaylen Watkins; and defensive ends redshirt junior Lerentee McCray and redshirt sophomore Kendric Johnson.

» On the freshman wall: “Freshmen hit a wall sometimes. We’ll get to that 12th, 14th, 16th practice. To consistently do it over and over again, for some guys, is hard. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened That generally is something you’re looking for – when they hit that wall. We have to just push them through that and hopefully they continue to get better.”

» On if the team has had any heat issues: “No, we have not. [Knocks on desk] We had a couple coaches who might have had a heat issue.” Muschamp added that there are tents on the practice field to keep players on the shade when they’re not active.

» On if two-a-days are necessary for college football: “That’s a personal preference. I feel like you do to push them through some things.”

» Muschamp said bringing in older players as walk-ons (considering the team is under the scholarship limit) is certainly a possibility, but those players would have to be hard workers and effective in their role.

This post will be updated in the near future.

Former Gators, Dolphins LB Crowder retires

Former Florida Gators linebacker Channing Crowder, who spent his entire six-year NFL career as a member of the Miami Dolphins, announced his retirement from pro football during a radio interview Tuesday on 560 WQAM in South Florida.

“I’m hanging it up,” he said. “I woke up, saw my pregnant wife, and all the teams that were talking to me were way up north in the northeast, and I said, ‘I don’t want to do it.’”

Channing Crowder on WQAM

Crowder, cut by the Dolphins less than two weeks ago, was appearing on the Sid Rosenberg Show when he went public with his decision to call it quits.

“It’s just not worth it. People say it all the time about retirement. I’m not hurting for money. I’ve saved all of my money. I’ve got plenty of money saved. Me and my wife will live great,” he said. “I looked at my wife and I was like, ‘I’m going to be a family man now.’”

Only 27-years-old, he was selected with the No. 70 overall pick in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and was a starting inside linebacker all six years he played in Miami. Crowder failed to make the “big plays” that are expected of NFL starters and amassed just 469 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception in 82 career games.

A protege of former Dolphins MLB Zach Thomas, Crowder began his career on the outside but eventually replaced Thomas as the middle linebacker when he was cut from the team. He missed more than 14 games due to a number of injuries which usually had to do with his knee, something he first weakened during his senior year of high school.

Crowder delayed his enrollment at the University of Florida by a semester while rehabbing his knee after surgery and only played for the Gators for two seasons (2003-04) before deciding to turn pro after his sophomore year.

Former LSU head coach Nick Saban, who took the top job in Miami that year, was familiar with Crowder from his SEC days and selected him even though there were concerns about the health of his knee. Crowder ended up outlasting Saban, who returned to college in dramatic fashion after just two years with the Dolphins.

A true locker room guy who was a leader both on and off the field, Crowder is infamous for his quick wit, engaging personality and quotable answers to the media’s questions. He joked in 2007 that he “couldn’t find London on a map” when Miami faced the New York Giants during the NFL’s first-ever regular season game outside of the United States.

“I know Italy looks like a boot,” he said. “I know London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That’s the closest thing I know to London. He’s black, so I’m sure he’s not from London. I’m sure that’s a coincidental name.”

He also got into an on-the-field altercation with New England tackle Matt Light, traded verbal barbs in 2010 with New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, and had plenty of other quotable lines during his NFL career.

Crowder made waves this past offseason when he insinuated on his radio program that he had sold his jerseys while at Florida. He later revised that statement, noting that he and his mother still have all of his jerseys in their possession.

8/9: Howard, Hunter, Evans, Shaw, Watkins

With the Florida Gators having completed their second full contact practice of the 2011 season, defensive tackles redshirt senior Jaye Howard and redshirt junior Omar Hunter as well as safeties junior Josh Evans, redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw and sophomore Jaylen Watkins met with the media to discuss how the team is progressing.


Considering three safeties spoke on Tuesday, a much clearer picture emerged on how Florida will fill at least half of its secondary in 2011. According to Evans and Shaw, the coaching staff is not currently using “strong” and “free” to denote safety positions but rather “left” and “right.” At this point, Evans has been starting on the left side, while sophomore Matt Elam has been starting on the right. Backing them up at their respective position are Shaw and Watkins.

Evans also paid a compliment to Elam for accepting a leadership role and playing well. “He’s taking it on pretty good,” he said. “He actually reminds me a lot of Ahmad Black – they kind of fit the same personality a little bit, the same shape and everything. He’s doing pretty good as far as reading his gaps and everything.”

Paying Evans the same compliment was Watkins, who thinks the young unit is progressing nicely. “Matt Elam and Josh Evans [are standing out as leaders],” he said. “They both pretty much know everything on defense so far, so they’re helping up all the young kids, me, Shaw and the corners.”


Howard and Hunter gushed about how nice it is to have both defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and defensive line coach Bryant Young on staff this year. The former started off by explaining how much they have impacted his game. “I’ve never been around such professionals like those guys,” Howard said. “They’re really into it technique-wise. If you don’t get it, they’re going to stay until you get it. I’ve never had that since I’ve been here.”

He also said that, even though he is in his fifth year, he continues to pick up new things from Quinn and Young. “I learn something [new] everyday. Just sitting in the meetings I’ll learn something – small things,” he said. “They taught us how to get off of blockers – shed blockers. In the past years we weren’t able to make as much plays as we could as a unit, so now they’re putting an emphasis on shedding blocks.”

For Hunter, who grew up a San Francisco fan because his first cousin is Garrison Hearst, being coached by one of his favorite players is a dream come true. “I used to always go to the games to watch [my cousin],” he said. “To have Bryant Young here coaching me is just awesome.”


Though there are plenty of bodies to play on the defensive line this fall, head coach Will Muschamp wants his players to be “multiple” and has a goal of putting the 11 most talented players on the field at any given time regardless of age or position. For that reason, Howard has been playing all three positions on the line, a role he is sharing with Hunter and sophomore Sharrif Floyd.

Finally healthy after overcoming a spring ankle injury, Howard is concentrating on his technique and hopes to be a big-time contributor this season even though the thought of getting injured again lingers in the back of his mind. Sharing a similar concern is Shaw, who is back healthy after suffering a knee injury but would not say otherwise anyway. “I’m doing perfectly fine right now, but I know Coach Muschamp talks about all the injuries.”


For really the first time this season, one of former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins’s teammates in the secondary opened up about not having him on the squad in 2011. Evans knows that replacing Jenkins will be an issue but is confident that the younger players tasked with the endeavor will succeed.

“It’s pretty tough because you’re expecting a lot out of them because that’s a big load on that side,” he said. “We ain’t putting too much pressure on them, don’t want to make it seem like it’s the end of the world. Just want them to get in the playbook, learn the plays and cover real well.”

He also said the defense is prepared for opposing offenses to go after Jenkins’s replacement. “[Losing him] hurt us because I know teams are going to try to attack us that way and try to think that we’re kind of low on that side, but we got confidence in the guys that’s here and we’re going to go with them,” Evans said.


Howard on how the defensive line is doing: “We really have to work on our technique and clean up things, but the depth is there.”

Howard on the line being the strength of the defense: “It starts up front with us. Every day we have to come out and get better as a unit. The linebackers are depending on us to keep guys off of them in the 3-4 scheme, so we’ll have to do that.”

Howard on fighting for the starting job: “It’s the University of Florida – everyone is trying to battle for a spot. This year is nothing different.”

Hunter on how practice is going: “Everyone is just getting used to having the pads back on and is getting familiar with these coaches once again. Everybody’s doing pretty good right now.”

Hunter on Young’s impact as a coach: “A huge impact as far as [teaching] different techniques.”

Hunter on what is being emphasized: “Playing last year, I think we always got to the ball pretty good. This coaching staff put a huge emphasis on that also. We’re definitely getting to the ball.”

Evans on freshman CB Marcus Roberson: “He’s got great hips for a corner. That’s one thing you look for in them guys – their hip movement and how they get their hands up on the jam and everything. You can just tell from how he’s covering he’s going to be a great player for some time to come.”

Evans on the secondary as a whole: “We’re young, but I feel like we’re very athletic and physical. One thing about these guys – they’re going to work. Nobody big-headed, nobody feeling himself too much.”

Shaw on practice: “Camp has actually been going pretty well this year. I have high expectations for the team, first of all, and then for myself [too].”

Shaw on switching to safety: “I love it. Actually in last year’s defense, playing safety was a lot easier. Now it’s a lot different. Coach Muschamp always tells us if we can play in this secondary and get the concepts of everything than we’ll do fine in the league. Because everybody has aspirations of going to the NFL.”

Watkins on Muschamp’s involvement: “He’s pretty much hands-on with the safeties – everyday, individual.”

Watkins on Muschamp’s advice: “[He tells me] just to be a football player. Everything is not going to be what it is on paper – just be an athlete out there.”

Watkins on the whole secondary: “We’re all pretty young, but that just helps us know that we got to become closer. In our defense, we have to communicate a lot, so that’s what we’ve been working on this spring and in camp.”

Watkins on who is surprising him: “The freshmen are doing pretty good. With this type of defense, you have to make a lot of calls and the freshmen are trying to learn and do whatever they can to help the team.”

 Page 478 of 770  « First  ... « 476  477  478  479  480 » ...  Last »