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.”

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Harvin, Reed, Demps

1 » Former Florida Gators center Maurkice Pouncey had a great rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Earning the starting job from day one, Pouncey helped his team advance all the way to the Super Bowl, which he ended up missing due to injury. He had another unique opportunity this past Saturday as he and 12 of his Pittsburgh teammates worked as actors for the third installment of the new group of Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises. Pouncey and the rest of the Steelers were cast as football players and went through some motions on Heinz Field while surrounded by thousands of extras in the stands as fans. They are on the field against a Gotham team coached by Bill Cowher. “From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be like a pregame, warming-up type thing,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before the filming. “I don’t know the whole concept. There’s a Gotham team, a football game. We’ll be wearing uniforms. It will be fun.”

2 » A standout performer at Minnesota Vikings training camp thus far, wide receiver Percy Harvin is also becoming more of a leader. “I’ll tell you there is no way that I would have predicted over this lockout that Percy would have come back taking a leadership role that he has,” head coach Leslie Frazier told the Associated Press. “From the moment the lockout was lifted and we could contact players, it’s been refreshing just talking to him and just seeing his attitude about this season. The fact that he’s leading, he’s talking to other players, explaining to them what needs to be done, how things are done.” Not only is Harvin stepping up, he is also feeling much better after being plagued with migraines throughout his entire football career. Free from them for the last seven months and confident that doctors have finally found a solution, Harvin could be poised for a breakout season even though he’s already won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and scored a ton of touchdowns in his young career.

3 » Gators redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed finally feels like he is coming into his own at his new position. Moved to tight end from quarterback heading into 2010, Reed was forced to move back behind center in order to help run Florida’s offense. A year later, he is once again prepared to try his hand at blocking and catching. “I’m excited about being the tight end,” Reed told The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “It’s been a lot easier on me than last year, knowing that I’ve just got to worry about one position.” To help with his transition, he has sought out assistance from former Gators TE Aaron Hernandez. “We still talk all the time,” he said. “He tells me to watch film and learn the defense and coverages and it will be easier for me.”

4 » Florida senior running back Jeff Demps was named to the watch list for the 2011 Paul Hornung Award on Monday. The award, presented to the nation’s most versatile college football player at the end of the year, was given for the first time in 2010. Demps and redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey were on last season’s watch list but neither ended up being one of the three finalists. The former has also been named to the 2011 Doak Walker Award watch list for the country’s top running back.

DE Carter (2/2): “I walked away on my terms.”

In part one of our interview with Carter (published on Friday), he discussed deciding to attend Florida, his immense success playing for the Gators, being a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft and winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent six years with St. Louis before being traded to the team that you beat in the Super Bowl, Tennessee, after three-straight seasons of at least 10 sacks. Was a change of scenery something you were looking forward to?
KEVIN CARTER: “I was looking forward to a change at that point. The year where we won the Super Bowl, we were at the Pro Bowl and I got a call from Coach [Dick] Vermeil and he was stepping down as the coach. There was a little bit of controversy over him leaving and the timing with Mike Martz taking over the head coach, and there was a little bit of pressure there. Looking back on it, I wish that it had been handled a little bit classier in a better way just for respect for Coach Vermeil. He walked in, in his opening press conference, and told us, ‘In three years, we’ll be world champs.’ And we were. Call it what you will, the man is wonderful and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had the honor and privilege of playing for. Things kind of changed at that point. The next year we lost in the first round of the playoffs and things were a little rocky with my status with the team. At the time I was going through contract negotiations, and I had played six years for the same team and kind of outplayed my contract. The team you’re on usually isn’t going to give you that kind of free agent money, love. I was thankful and glad to get out of there and get to Tennessee. Tennessee gave up a first-round pick to get me there. It was a match made in heaven. Coach [Jeff] Fisher was awesome. At that point I needed a change, wanted a change, and was grateful to go to Tennessee.”

AS: Let’s skip ahead a bit and talk about when you moved over to the Miami Dolphins for two years and got to play on a pretty dominant defense with guys like Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Vonnie Holliday, Junior Seau, Sam Madison, Keith Traylor and David Bowens. What was that experience like?
KC: “It was actually amazing. It was a great team; it was a great defense to be a part of. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t have, I guess, the balance and the tools offensively or the experience, but on defense… Our defense was, like you said, it was an all-star defense. It was so awesome. And we killed people. We had a great defense those couple of years that I was there. We didn’t have quite the balance [on offense]; Miami’s is forever trying to find another quarterback that can be half the man Dan Marino was…still an on-going search for a quarterback. It was a really cool experience. For me, I grew up in Tallahassee [and thought] the Dolphins had the sweetest uniforms. I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to wear all white.’ It was so cool. I had a great time just, as I look back in my football chronological history, being a part of the Miami Dolphins organization – such a historically great organization. Don Shula was and still is the man. I had an opportunity to meet him a couple times. It was cool paying down there. I wish timing had dictated differently the circumstances, especially getting our offense and from a head coaching standpoint. Nick Saban is probably one of the best college coaches to ever live. But in those two years, you know, he obviously decided to make the adjustment and go back to college and not make the adjustment to stay there in the NFL. Timing was bad.”

Read the rest of part two of our interview with Kevin Carter…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Carter (2/2): “I walked away on my terms.”

8/8: Wenger, Robey, McCray, Powell speak

With the Florida Gators heading into their first full contact practice ahead of the 2011 season, redshirt senior center Dan Wenger, redshirt junior C Sam Robey, redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray and sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell met with the media to discuss how they are adjusting under the new coaches.


No matter who was asked, it is quite obvious that there are plenty of differences between the old coaching staff and new coaching staff – not necessarily in a good or bad way.

Asked how head coach Will Muschamp differs from Urban Meyer, McCray had some poignant thoughts. “He treats us like adults. He give us standards and then we’ve got to be held to those standards,” he said*. “If we mess up, that’s our fault. He doesn’t baby us and treat us like kids. He treats us like adults.”

Robey said the techniques of new offensive line coach Frank Verducci differ from the philosophy employed by Steve Addazio. “Coach Verducci’s great. It’s a whole different pace than Addazio,” he said. “It’s just more emphasis on our hands – a different type of coaching style.”

Perhaps no one can speak about the coaching style (at least offensively) better than Wenger, who transferred to Florida this year because of Verducci and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. He said that players need to be aware of one thing in order to stay on their good side. “We’re taught to just be always focused – always zeroed in on what we’re doing at the time,” he said. “There’s no room for slacking off – mentally or physically – whether it be in the classroom or on the field. Just be on top of everything and make sure you have your notebook out.”


From nearly never playing again to having a legitimate opportunity to see plenty of field time in 2011, Wenger could not be happier about his transition to playing for the Gators. After suffering two concussions while playing for Notre Dame, Wenger could not get clearance from doctors to return to the field. After visiting Florida and undergoing a battery of tests, he is finally good to go. “I went through probably seven hours of testing just for the concussions,” he said. “Then I had to drive back up here to Gainesville myself to do more testing.”

It was Wenger who reached out to Verducci when the NCAA gave him his clearance to play, and he is thrilled that Muschamp gave him an opportunity to play football once again. “I actually reached out to them. I had gotten the clearance from the NCAA; they had granted me a sixth year of eligibility,” he explained. “I received all my release papers. Once I told coach Verducci the situation, he brought it up to Coach Weis and Coach Muschamp, and they were all for it.”

After just a few weeks in Gainesville, Wenger already feels like a part of the team thanks to how inviting his teammates have been and how much they have looked to him for advice and help in learning the system. “It was pretty weird initially,” he admitted. “It was very surprising to me how welcoming the guys were. It wasn’t that awkwardness of, ‘Oh, here’s the new guy. He’s going to try to steal my position.’ I’m going to be a team guy – whatever needs to be done, whatever I can do to help us win I’m going to do. I’m not holding anything back, not holding any secrets. I played in this system under Coach Weis for four years, so any help I can give to anyone, I’m going to give it to them.”


Wenger on competing with redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison: “We’re pushing each other to our best abilities. He knows that I’m right behind him. […] It’s that good team competition that is going to build us stronger and make us better football players and a better team in general.”

McCray on the tone of practices: “The first couple of days, we’ve been going hard. We have to get in the groove of things and get back to football speed. We’ve been training for the whole summer, so we’ve got to get back into football shape right now.”

McCray on what has been accomplished so far: “Just getting the reads down, working on our technique and fundamentals, staying low, playing with pad level, DBs getting their coverages down, things like that, communication.”

McCray on also playing some linebacker: “It’s going pretty good right now. It’s a mental lapse sometimes, but I have to do it to help the team win.”

Powell on how he approached fall practice: “I definitely wanted to really understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. Really start working with my hands. I did a lot of footwork stuff, because I knew I was going to be asked to do a lot of coverage on the tight end and stuff like that.”

Powell on if he didn’t understand everything last year: “Coming in as a freshman, the game is so fast that really you’re just trying to get the play down. Now not only understanding the play but…Why do I have to use the blood technique on this? Why do I have to be back-and-forth? Stuff like that.”

Powell on how he has matured in the offseason: “To be honest, I was the type of guy that stayed to myself. If a guy wanted to talk to me, I wouldn’t talk to him. Now I have to step in and be a leader. I got to still be me – be friendly, ‘How’s your day going?’ Get to know guys and what they’re going through.”

Redshirt senior G James Wilson on how long he’s been healthy since joining the team: “I made it through my sophomore year halfway through…so I’ve probably made it through a full season [combined].”

Wilson on how he feels now: “The last time I really had any problem was spring ball. Ever since then it’s been nothing but good news.”

* Quote courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

SI: Inside the Private World of Urban Meyer

Former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer sat down with Sports Illustrated for a series of exclusive looks at his life and career. The four videos touch on being raised to coach, winding up at Florida, the 911 call and his resignation as coach of the Gators.

Born to Coach Football:

View the other three videos…after the break.
Continue Reading » SI: Inside the Private World of Urban Meyer


ESPN’s Inside the Program: Live with the Gators

*NOTE: Videos below are on “autoplay” so pause each to play one at a time.

On Monday, ESPN took a special look inside the Florida Gators football program with complete coverage on their television shows, radio station and website. OGGOA is following the coverage step-by-step throughout the day. Stay tuned.

Interview on Mike and Mike in the Morning:

Though ESPN‘s All-Access piece did not technically begin until 9 a.m., head coach Will Muschamp did a little promotional work in the morning by jumping on the radio (listen here) at 7:20 a.m. Asked by the hosts about redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Muschamp once again reiterated his confidence. “I don’t have a whole lot of concern,” he said. “The first two days he has been really on. I think he is much more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do maybe as opposed to last year.”

Jesse Palmer says “good morning” to the team:

Opening up SportsCenter at 9 a.m. was a video of Palmer in the hallway of Florida’s team hotel at 7:30 a.m. in the morning. He proceeded to introduce the Inside the Program feature before blowing an air horn and subsequently waking up the team.

View this post in its entirety by clicking the link below.
Continue Reading » ESPN’s Inside the Program: Live with the Gators

8/6: Muschamp’s first practice in the books

The Florida Gators took the field for the team’s first fall practice under new head coach Will Muschamp, and the man himself provided an update afterwards touching on how certain players looked and some of his philosophies going forward. Florida will be stuck with wearing helmets only (no pads) for the first few practices due to NCAA rules. The Gators will be operating in split squads for the time being with the older players practicing early and the younger one later in the day.


Four 2010 freshmen – wide receiver Quinton Dunbar, running back Mack Brown, safety Josh Shaw and offensive lineman Ian Silberman – received medical hardship waivers from the NCAA last week, allowing them to keep four years of eligibility and enter the 2011 season as redshirt freshmen rather than sophomores.


Though not as big of a question mark going into the season like some of the other positions (namely the offensive line and linebackers), the Gators’ wide receivers have a unique opportunity to impress and either steal or solidify their rolls on the offense. Muschamp noted Saturday that three in particular have emerged from the group.

He labeled redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. as the team’s “most consistent receiver” overall. “Frankie really consistently has been our best receiver as far as catching the ball, finishing plays, [and] blocking,” Muschamp said.

The other duo – Dunbar and redshirt senior Deonte Thompson – have provided the explosion. “Quinton and Deonte have been our most vertical threats down the field, big-play receivers. [They] have created some more explosive plays for our offense.”


With so many young faces on the field from Florida’s newest signing class, each has a unique opportunity to impress early and earn playing time during their first year. Muschamp pointed out a few in a short statement (annotations added for clarification).

“[Tight end] A.C. Leonard is a guy we’re excited about. [WR] Ja’Juan Story looks like a guy that eventually can help us. How quick that will happen, I don’t know. [Fullback] Hunter Joyer did some nice things for us. Both quarterbacks looked very good. [Offensive lineman] Trip Thurman has done some nice things for us in the offseason. We’re pleased with his flexibility, power and where he is as an athlete. Both corners – [Marcus] Roberson and [Louchiez] Purifoy – we think can be good players. They’re both athletic; they both looked good tonight. The safeties were solid. [Linebacker] Graham Stewart flashed, doing some things instinctively. Making some plays in space. He’s got some command and leadership to him.”

He also spoke about how freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett looked on his first day. “Jacoby is very bright. Just after one day, I’m very pleased with where he is,” he said. “He’s certainly got a certain command about him. He’s a guy that is very well respected by his teammates. He’s an outstanding athlete, but he really can throw the football.”


In addition to strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti working the players hard and forcing them to bond over the summer, Muschamp explained that additional initiatives have been undertaken in hopes of bringing the team closer together.

“We took the locker room and we didn’t really do it by position or by class, we kind of separated it – young, old, offense, defense, guys that would never interact with each other unless they had to,” he said. “We put a players’ lounge back in the locker room. We built that and think that’s important. Terry Jackson, he’s our life skills director and spiritual development director, he’s going to have a lounge upstairs so the players have two different places to go and relax.”

Muschamp noted that the NCAA taking away athletic dormitories was a blow to creating team chemistry because players instinctively stick with guys from their own class and don’t venture outside of that comfort zone. ”You don’t get to know the other guys as well – especially if they’re on the other side of the ball,” he said. “We [also] tried to create some leadership groups this summer, they were made up of teams and it was a competition that Mickey created for them.”


Earning a starting role as a freshman but falling off slightly as a sophomore, tackle Xavier Nixon’s main goal over the summer was gaining weight. Suffering through a sickness that actually caused him to drop some lbs., Nixon ended up succeeding his goal and is now up to 290 lbs. heading into fall camp. Muschamp said that getting bigger and stronger was a necessity for not only his success but also the entire unit’s.

“He’s an important player for us to have a good year offensively. As a football team, we needed him to have some girth [to play] in this league,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to run the ball, and you’ve got to be able to anchor and set edges. He’s certainly athletically has got all the tools to be successful. Him adding that girth and that strength and being able to sustain through our season is going to be critical for us.”


On the first day of practice: “It went OK. Everybody’s excited. We had some very good retention – especially with the older players. Some decent retention with some of the younger players.”

On if senior running back Jeff Demps looked a little lost coming back: “Looked great actually. Really good. I thought he looked great this morning. He and Chris [Rainey] both.”

On where the leadership will come from: “We have some younger guys that are going to be playing a lot, start. Those guys need to step into that role.”

On not being able to fully practice pass rush until later in the fall: “We’ll have three full scrimmages in the fall where we will have good tackling, crisp tackling, so we ought to be solid coming into the first game.”

On what stood out about the Gators’ pass rush in 2010: “I don’t know that we didn’t pressure the quarterback well; we didn’t sack the quarterback well.”

On Brown’s first day: “He was good. It’s hard on a running back when we’re [just] in helmets. He went and did everything.”

On redshirt junior T Matt Patchan’s return: “He can move around good, got his hands out there and on people. He was fine as far as all that. It’s hard to determine until they are truly able to put their pads on, play with pad level and strike. It’s very frustrating to be in helmets sometimes.”

On Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s misinformation rant: “If he wants to put something on a message board, somebody will have to put the computer on for him, show him how to use the mouse and probably keyboard it as well. He’s not very advanced as far as technology is concerned.”

On his own injury information policy: “Our policy really is we’re going to be as honest as we can. But it’s not the NFL; we don’t have to disclose anything. So that’s going to be my policy.”

Florida football’s 2011 media day – Players

With the Florida Gators finally beginning 2011 fall practice on Saturday, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and a handful other players met with the media to discuss the upcoming season. The Gators took the field for the first time on Saturday but all practices will be closed to both fans and the media.


There is no question that the 2010 season was tumultuous for Brantley, but with a new coaching staff and a renewed sense of trust in his abilities, he is more focused than ever heading into 2011. “My confidence is a lot higher now since when the new coaches arrived,” he said Friday. “When the new coaching staff got here, it was all new to me. Now that I have spring football under my belt and have had all summer to study the playbook, I think as a team we’re ready to go. We’re excited about this camp and this season.”

Part of Brantley’s learning curve was learning how to overcome adversity – something he faced plenty of one year ago. “I definitely learned last year, that when things aren’t going right or when things did go wrong to just forget about it and move on,” he said. “Keep my head up and keep looking forward. If your head is down, other people’s heads are going to go down. You just have to keep moving.“

The other portion of his newfound confidence has to do with the brand new offense being installed by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. “During spring ball he tried to get our offense down and pound that in our heads,” Brantley said. “I think during this camp and during this upcoming season he’s going to teach me a lot more about watching film and preparing for games.”

He also realizes that it is up to the entire team to embrace the pro-style offense and move forward with the new system. “In the spring, that new offense was a challenge for us. It was a new challenge that we had to face, and we all took it on,” Brantley noted. “We’re excited about it now that we’ve gotten a little deeper into it. We know it better and are just more excited to get going again. Summer is over now, and we’re excited finally to get back on the field and actually play football.”


Senior running back Jeff Demps, in Italy running with the U.S. National Team, admitted Friday that he did give serious consideration to not returning to the football team this season. “It was close, but maybe not as close as some people thought,” Demps said. “There were people saying I wasn’t going to play football this year. Once I got back, I talked to my parents and talked to my coaches and decided to come back and play football for my senior year.”

Though he does have designs on running track professionally, Demps still believes he can succeed at his first dream, playing in the NFL. “Hopefully, I can play at the next level,” he said. “Hopefully, I have options.”

Another notable occurrence Friday was the new Gators roster, in which it is noted that Demps changed his jersey number from two to 28. “I just felt like No. 2 was more of an all-purpose back’s number,” he told The Gainesville Sun. “I wanted to wear a tailback’s number this year.”


Ranked No. 23 in the USA Today coaches preseason poll, Florida is certainly facing lowered expectations in 2011 compared to 2010, something Brantley certainly does not mind. “We’re going to go out there like we have every season and just try to be our best. That is all we can do,” he said. “We can go out there every day, try to win that day, try to get better each practice and if that happens, we’ll be able to get back to where we were.”

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, from a defensive perspective, is also looking forward to learning under a staff with plenty of NFL experience under their belt. “I’m trying to take as much knowledge as I can from them and prepare for this season and eventually for the NFL. That’s really a goal I set for myself and where I want to be,” he said. “Everything they’re giving us is new; it’s like a clean slate. I’m really looking forward to the season and what’s next. I’m ready to be out there, going hard and giving it everything I’ve got.”

Like Jenkins, junior LB Jon Bostic is pleased with the new staff and believes one mantra in particular has really stuck with the team. “One philosophy is to play together as a team. That’s what I saw. They were trying to get everyone back together,” he said. “A lot of the stuff that we did in the offseason, weightlifting and everything, brought the team a lot closer together.”


One of the criticisms of redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose a year ago was that he had difficulties learning the playbook and committing fully to improving for the team. On Friday, Debose said all of that has changed and he is finally comfortable with himself as a football player and his role with the squad.

“It’s something that happened over the summer. I really just took football to another level. I have really made football a priority of mine,” he said. “I’ve studied a lot more. I’ve really dove into the playbook, so I feel like I have a nice grasp of it. We’ll know the truth once we get on the field and practice what you’ve been studying the whole time.”

Now what he describes as “under the radar” Debose no longer has to worry about “being ‘the man’ and always having everybody with their eye on [me],” instead he can concentrate on simpy being the best he can be. “Mentally, I’m 100 percent more prepared than I was last year. Last year I still had a lot of doubts in my mind about my injury and everything,” he explained. “Every year [since] I came to Florida I’ve always had something on my mind coming into the season.”


Stepping into a leadership role himself, sophomore safety Matt Elam knows his team no longer has the hype surrounding it that it did one year ago. Nevertheless, he is quite sure that the underdog role will suit him and his teammates quite well.

“I love being an underdog. It pushes me harder. The whole team knows we’re underdogs, and it makes us practice harder and stick together. Being an underdog is very important to us,” he said. “People don’t know what goes on around here. The coaches are great. We’re more as a team. We’re closer. And we’re the underdogs, so we’re working harder.”

Being an underdog will not be enough for the Gators to succeed right away. However, the team’s youth and athleticism could go a long way to helping them reach their goals. “We’re young, but we’re fast. I think we’re the fastest team in the country,” he said. “We’re learning a lot from each other. We’re learning what everybody does best, so if we put all that together we can become great. It’s all about confidence. If you have confidence, you’ll do great things.”


» Brantley on redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed: “Jordan Reed is probably one of our best athletes on the team. Having him at tight end creates mismatches on linebackers, and we’re excited about that. He has bought into that position, and I’m excited for him to be playing at tight end.”

» Brantley on redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar: “Quinton made a lot of plays during the spring, and that definitely boosted my confidence with him. He can run any route, catch any ball. We’re hoping for big things out of him, and I think that he will be able to prevail.”

» Brantley on redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey: “Chris was definitely a little different this summer. He was kind of quiet; he was a leader, but quiet. He just worked hard every day, went out there with a great attitude and that definitely showed with him. It spreads throughout the team, that kind of confidence.”

» Brantley on his offensive line: “I have a lot of confidence with my O- line. I’ve been with them for a couple of years now – they’re a real close bunch, and I’m close with all of them. They are all fairly new to playing, but I think they’re going to be very hungry and ready to learn.”

» Brantley on the team being underrated entering the season: “We’re never relaxed. We are trying to compete every day to win. The next two weeks during camp, we’re going to try and get better every day. It doesn’t matter if we’re 80th or first in the polls – we’re going to keep doing the same thing and keep getting better each day.”

» Brantley on Muschamp’s all-around energy and intensity: “He’s just not intense on the field; he’s very intense in the meeting room. I’ve heard him through the doors sometimes coaching. It’s awesome. That keeps everyone awake and in tune. Everyone is listening to him.”

» Brantley on sophomore TE Gerald Christian: “He brings a lot. When people see Gerald in there they might think run, but he’s a great athlete. He has great hands and he’s very able to go out for passes. That helps you out because you never know what could happen when he’s in.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. on emerging as a big play guy: “It’s on all of our minds because everybody wants to be that go-to guy and right now all of us are out there working and grinding. We’re going into camp and nothing is set in stone.”

» Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio on the hardest part of camp: “Just staying healthy. We need everybody to stay healthy on the offensive and defensive lines. We just want to be healthy on both sides. […] We definitely have something to prove. We have a lot of young guys on the offensive line that need to step up this season. We need to stay healthy. We’re excited that we have Matt Patchan back, he’s a real good football player right now. We just need to stay healthy and have everybody step up.”

» Sophomore running back Trey Burton on if he is used to succeeding in short-yardage situations: “I had 30 rushing touchdowns my junior year and more than half of them were from the goal-line. So, I was used in short-yardage.”

» Burton on what the coaches are telling him about play time: “They’re telling me they will line me up at a bunch of different positions and they are going to try to get me the ball as much as possible.”

» Redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray on his goals: “Taking advantage of every opportunity I get to step on the field and helping this team win. Helping the team win is the main goal.”

» McCray on giving advice to underclassmen: “The most advice I give my teammates is to come in and work hard. Don’t let me down. I won’t let you down. It’s a brotherhood-type thing, I’ve got your back, and you’ve got my back. That’s the main thing we’ve been working on this offseason.”

» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis on how he improved recently: “One thing we did this offseason was work with the snappers and holders. I worked a lot with John Crofoot, he’s my holder, and just try to go out there every day that way you get muscle memory and comfortable and next thing you know you’re in games and it doesn’t feel any different. That’s been good. I felt like I had to start over this year because I missed so much time but I think that was a good thing because you can develop some bad habits over time and I think that allowed me to fix some of those.”

» Bostic on becoming a leader: “I’ll probably be taking on more of a leadership role. Me and Jelani coming in we were both quiet players. We let our talk be our play but this year we’ve been trying to be leaders on the defense.”

» Bostic on helping the younger players: “Just bring them along. They’re part of this too. We’re one team. We can’t leave anyone behind. We have a goal to get to Atlanta and we have to make sure that everybody is there. We can’t leave one person behind. We have to bring them along because if someone goes down they have to get in the game.”

» Bostic on Elam becoming a leader, too: “This offseason, how much he’s stepped up. Once he realized Ahmad Balck, Will Hill, they’re gone. It’s his turn. He’s just taking that big step, taking that leadership role. He wasn’t one of those big vocal guys in the back of the defense, but now he’s taking that on.”

» Senior defensive end William Green on his leadership role: “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been telling the underclassmen to take advantage of every opportunity. When you meet with your coaches actually do that and embrace it.”

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