The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (9-1)

With just one day to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the final part of OGGOA‘s new series, The Countdown, takes a look at those players expected to contribute on the field wearing jersey numbers ranging from 9-1.

9 – Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, CA)
Redshirt freshman safety
6’3” 197 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: An early enrollee as a freshman, Shaw only saw the field against South Florida partially due to Florida’s crowded secondary. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and considered the No. 3 cornerback in the nation by Rivals. Choosing the Gators over teams like LSU and Ohio State, Shaw is now a social and behavioral sciences major looking to make an impact.

2011 Outlook: Shaw entered fall practice as a back-up safety vying for a starting job. However, the emergence of true freshmanDe’Ante Saunders and inconsistencies from the entire unit may reduce his time on the field in 2011. Shaw has as good an opportunity as any to break free from the pack by proving he can be effective and consistent in practice and could wind up with plenty of playing time as the season progresses.

84 9 – Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL)
Redshirt freshman wide receiver
6’1” 184 lbs.

Dunbar previously wore No. 84. Read his section by clicking here.

8 – Trey Burton (Venice, FL)
Sophomore running back
6’3” 229 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A three-star quarterback recruit, Burton was never expected to spend a large amount of time at that position but wound up doing so as a freshman. A social and behavioral sciences major who plans to switch to business, he was a member of the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team as a do-everything player last year. Burton spent time behind center as well as at wide receiver, tight end, fullback and as a member of special teams on kickoff coverage. He ran for a team-high 11 touchdowns and broke Tim Tebow’s school record with six touchdowns in a single game (Kentucky). Those six scores were also good for the second-most points scored in a game in SEC history. Burton also came up big against Georgia, totaling 145 all-purpose yards in an important victory.

2011 Outlook: The Gators’ most versatile offensive player, Burton is listed as running back but will also play other roles including full back, tight end and wide receiver. He will be asked to block more than he was a year ago will be used plenty by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. “What Trey gives me…I’m a formation/personnel guy as far as attacks go. Trey gives me a lot of versatility within one personnel group,” Weis said. “Sometimes people don’t understand the magnitude of what that means. He lets you do a lot of things.”

8 – Jeremy Brown (Orlando, FL)
Redshirt junior cornerback
5’10” 187 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit, Brown was sidelined by back problems for two full seasons and earned a redshirt as a freshman. The social and behavioral sciences major made it a point to rehab his back as much as possible during and after the 2009 season and sought to earn a starting role on the team when Joe Haden declared early for the NFL.

2010 Season: Entering camp with an opportunity to win the job across from Janoris Jenkins, Brown eventually wound up doing so and started 10 contests. He missed the final two regular season games with a hamstring injury but played in the Outback Bowl to end the season. He finished the year with 15 tackles and three interceptions.

2011 Outlook: Looking to begin the 2011 season as the oldest starter in the secondary, Brown has been hampered with a knee problem and may miss at least the first game of the season. He will have to fend off a number of young players to win the job outright but will likely be able to do so as coaches noted during the spring that he was impressing during camp.

7 – Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA)
Sophomore buck linebacker
6’4” 248 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: Considered the No. 1 overall prospect coming out of high school by Rivals, Powell was a five-star recruit who played defensive end and tight end in high school. The social and behavioral sciences major fit in as the strong side linebacker in 2010 and was one of just six true freshmen to appear in very game. He finished the season with 25 tackles and one sack, proving that he had a bright future as a dominant force in the SEC.

2011 Outlook: New head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be counting on Powell big-time in 2011. Named the team’s starting buck linebacker, he will play with his hand in the dirt in 4-3 formations and up as a linebacker in 3-4 sets. Powell’s combination of quickness, agility and athleticism makes him the perfect fit for a position made famous by players under Muschamp like Jason Taylor and Sergio Kindle. Though only in his second year, he is expected to be a major contributor to a unit that hopes to be one of Florida’s strengths this season.

7 – Robert Clark (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Sophomore wide receiver
5’9” 173 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A three-star pass catcher who was teammates with Matt Elam and Gerald Christian at Dwyer High School, Clark was an early enrollee and the first freshman to impress former head coach Urban Meyer one spring ago. He saw limited time on the field in 2010 but caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

2011 Outlook: Not much has been said about Clark this offseason. He was not listed as one of the receivers on the Gators’ first two-deep fall depth chart, but Christian believes he will still see time this season. “They don’t have him with the first team and stuff, but every time Robert gets reps he makes the most of it,” he said last month. “He’s not a starter, but I think he’ll get time as an inside guy. 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.”

6 – Jaye Howard (Apopka, FL)
Redshirt senior defensive tackle
6’3” 303 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star defensive end in high school who has switched to play on the inside, Howard is a social and behavioral sciences major who took a redshirt as a freshman in 2007. He played in nine games in 2008 but earned his first four starts in 2009, registering 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks as he continued to find his niche with the team.

2010 Season: Stepping into a real starting role for the first time in his career, Howard started eight contests (he missed two due to injury) during his redshirt junior campaign. He was the team’s player of the game twice (Miami-OH, Kentucky) and again nabbed 29 tackles on the season but this time grabbed 2.5 sacks including two in the season opener. Howard’s injury cut into his effectiveness during the year.

2011 Outlook: The true veteran of the defense, Howard has taken a leadership role in the offseason and feels the added responsibility to play at the top of his game. Scouts believe he has the size and strength to succeed at the next level but will be watching his 2011 campaign closely for major signs of improvement. He is Florida’s starting nose tackle heading into the season and is excited about the team’s direction on defense. “I’ve become more accustomed to playing a 3-4 now. It fits my body type and it’s working well with our team, so it’s going to look good this season,” he said.

6 – Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, FL)
Redshirt senior wide receiver
6’0” 200 lbs.

Quick Bio: A U.S. Army All-American who was considered one of the best wide receivers coming out of high school, Thompson is a humanities and letters major who redshirted as a freshman but began making strides in 2008. Used sparingly as a redshirt freshman, Thompson posted 269 yards and three touchdowns as the Gators went on to win their second national title in two years. He returned in 2009 as a 12-game starter but was plagued by drops, catching just 24 balls for 343 yards and four touchdowns in Florida’s one-loss season.

2010 Season: Looking to rid himself of the stereotype of having butterfingers, Thompson had a rough start dropping a great pass in the season opener. The Gators’ offense – especially the passing game – struggled all year but he did wind up with career highs in receptions (38) and yards (570) but only found the end zone once. He started 12 of 13 games and became a reliable third-down target and first-down maker for classmate John Brantley. In just the first two games of the season he caught nine passes for 107 yards – all for first downs.

2011 Outlook: With Brantley having apparently been rejuvenated by Weis’s pro-style offense, Thompson hopes to make the most of his final year at Florida. He is listed on the team’s first depth chart as the starting Z receiver and has also formed a strong bond with Dunbar, who many expect to have a breakout season. He has also found a role as a standout on special teams, something Muschamp praised recently. “I want to say this about Deonte: He is a senior and a guy that we really challenged in the offseason about special teams and understanding, if you want to play after college and if you’re not the lead role at your position in the National Football League, you’ve got to play special teams,” he said. “The guy has done a phenomenal job on special teams. He’s on our punt team; he’s on our kickoff coverage team. I’m very proud of his effort.”

5 – Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Freshman cornerback
6’0” 184 lbs.

Quick Bio: One of the last players to join the Gators’ 2011 recruiting class, Roberson was ranked as a four-star prospect and one of the best players at his position in the country.

2011 Outlook: Following in the footsteps of Haden and Jenkins, Roberson could very well be the third player in team history to start from day one at cornerback. Whether or not he starts on Saturday will be determined by how well he practiced this week, but he has received universal praise from his teammates and coaches throughout fall practice. “When a guy does have speed and length, sometimes it enables you to play a little different style and match up on some bigger receivers at times,” Quinn said of Roberson. “He has that, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop. He’s come into camp and he’s really had a good training camp. He’s made an impression on me.”

4 – Andre Debose (Sanford, FL)
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver
5’11” 191 lbs.

Quick Bio: Hailed as the “next Percy Harvin” (a moniker he detested) before even committing to Florida, Debose was a five-star recruit and one of the best players in the country during his time in high school. After injuring himself in track during his senior year of high school, he had surgery and redshirted the 2009 season, putting on hold the hopes of fans that he would electrify the Gators.

2010 Season: Finally healthy, Debose struggled in picking up Meyer’s offense and did not receive too much time on the field at his natural position of wide receiver. He played in certain packages and picked up 96 yards on 10 receptions but made his greatest impact in 2010 as a kick returner. Debose fielded 21 balls and brought them back for a total of 587 yards with two touchdowns including a dynamic 99-yard return at home against LSU.

2011 Outlook: Debose committed himself to the team in the offseason and has been praised by Muschamp recently as “flashing” with some dynamic touchdown catches in practices and scrimmages. “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,” Debose 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.” He is listed as the second-team X receiver and primary kick returner and could finally be in position for a breakout season. “He just continues to show the consistency in his performance, and I’m very pleased,” Muschamp said of him.

4 73 – Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia, PA)
Sophomore defensive tackle
6’3” 295 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A five-star recruit and a unanimous top-five player in the nation as a high school senior, Floyd had 23 tackles including 6.5 for loss as a freshman, impressing his teammates, coaches and opponents. He was named to the 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team by league coaches and started Florida’s final game of the season against Penn State. He played in all 13 games in 2010 and had a career-high seven tackles against Vanderbilt.

2011 Outlook: Floyd has experienced some changes this offseason. He shed No. 73 for No. 4 (hence why he was not included in The Countdown Nos. 79-70) but just recently switched back to his old number. More importantly, he moved from defensive tackle to defensive end (for at least this season) but will continue to rotate inside from time to time. As a full-time starter in just his second year, Floyd is expected to be a major contributor to the Gators’ defense and is excited about his new role. “You can’t get double-teamed at that position; I’m loving it. I’m getting a feel for it, learning everything I can get, learning the situations and everything like that. It’s a good opportunity for me, and I’m going to take advantage of it,” he said.

3 – Jelani Jenkins (Olney, MD)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’0” 230 lbs.

Quick Bio: An Under-Armour All-American, Jenkins was a five-star recruit and the No. 1 player at his position as a high schooler when he committed in 2009. He dressed for all 14 games as a true freshman but only participated in two and took a redshirt while he made the honor roll as a social and behavioral sciences major.

2010 Season: Jenkins stepped into a starting role as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 and starting 11 contests. He notched a career-high 11 tackles against South Carolina and finished with 76 on the season, good enough for second on the defense and most by a freshman. Jenkins also recovered a fumble, grabbed an interception and sacked the quarterback twice during his first full season on the field, proving that he will be an important part of Florida’s defense for the next few years.

2011 Outlook: The starting will linebacker, Jenkins talent is of little doubt but the coaching staff has asked him to be more of a leader both on- and off-the-field this year. “We have a lot of checks, we have a lot of signals as a defense that force you to be vocal,” he said. “You’re always talking out there, always communicating, so it hasn’t been that difficult. […] People count on you on the field to make a lot of calls, even off the field they’re always listening to you. The more you know the defense, the more you’re talking always helping each other out.” He has been succeeding in this regard and, along with junior Jon Bostic, is a key member of the Gators’ linebacking corps.

2 – Dominique Easley (Staten Island, NY)
Sophomore defensive tackle
6’2” 282 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: Another five-star from Florida’s amazing 2011 recruiting class, Easley struggled during his freshman season. Dealing with bouts of homesickness while also (reportedly) displaying some immaturity, the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect did not see the field much but showed flashes when he did get the opportunity to get in the game.

2011 Outlook: With a renewed attitude and mindset, Easley has been one of the most talked about players this offseason. Coaches and teammates have raved up and down about his lightning quick first step, noting that he has a penchant for getting through the offensive line almost immediately after the ball is snapped. He is set to start at defensive tackle in the opener and attributes his redemption to a decision he made in the offseason. “[Muschamp] just told me that I have a fresh start. My plan was to do a fresh start, too, start from the beginning and start the right way,” he explained. “Maturity – I matured a lot and [started] making better choices. […] I had to get used to it. I had to break myself in.”

1 – Chris Rainey (Lakeland, FL)
Redshirt senior running back
5’9” 174 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Rainey committed to the Gators alongside a number of his teammates (including the Pouncey brothers) and is the only one his age from Lakeland remaining on the squad. A humanities and letters major, Rainey took a medical redshirt as a freshman due to his shoulder injury but bounced back in a big way in 2008, rushing for a career-high 652 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He started catching some balls in 2009 as well, totaling 736 yards and six touchdowns in a solid redshirt sophomore campaign.

2010 Season: After catching six balls for 34 yards and a touchdown in the season opener and playing sparingly in the second game, Rainey was suspended five contests after being arrested but returned and finished the season as the team’s primary playmaker in the final six games. He was moved to receiver to start the season but wound up taking a lot of snaps at running back toward the end of the year due to injuries. Rainey only scored five touchdowns but totaled 582 yards of offense and brought back nine punts for 67 yards in just eight games. He also posted 148 yards as a kickoff returner against Georgia.

2011 Outlook: Moved back to running back, Rainey will be part of an explosive backfield duo with senior Jeff Demps. The pair is listed as co-starters and, according to Weis, could really do some special things for the team in 2011. Rainey recently discussed maturing in the offseason and keeping his focus on football. “I see everything like a man [now]. I do everything [more] professional,” he explained about his changed mindset. “[I] think first. I would do something before I [thought] about it [before].” He is also excited about playing in a pro-style offense again. “I feel super-good, great,” Rainey said. “You can see the whole field, so you know how the scheme works, where to cut and stuff like that.”

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

Fred Taylor retires after 13-year NFL career

Putting an end to his illustrious 13-year NFL career, former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor signed a one-day contract (picture) with the Jacksonville Jaguars and officially retired from professional football on Friday.

“A lot of times people talk about the Jacksonville market and what the possibilities could have been if I had played at a different market, but the way I see it is, God only gives you what you can handle,” Taylor said. “Me being young not really having a sense of direction, I think if that had happened I probably wouldn’t be here today. So I’m extremely thankful to have been selected to play football here in front of the Jacksonville community for those 11 years. And I say that with all sincerity from the bottom of my heart.”

Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts (2,428), yards (11,271) and touchdowns (62), Taylor is also one of just 30 NFL players to have run for more than 10,000 yards in his career. His stat sheet will conclude reading a total of 11,695 rushing yards, 66 rushing touchdowns, 2,384 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.

“Fred Taylor is a remarkable person who has had a remarkable football career. He made the extraordinary look ordinary every Sunday in the NFL performing against the world’s best players.” – Jaguars GM Gene Smith

After graduating from Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, FL (he was born in Pahokee), Taylor decided to attend the University of Florida and wound up staying for four years. His college career got off to a fast start as he scored eight touchdowns on 873 rushing yards as a true freshman but fell off a bit his second year with just 281 yards on the ground and five scores.

Taylor rebounded in 1996, when Florida went on to win its first national championship, running for 629 yards and five touchdowns in just seven games. He was named a team captain in his final season of 1997 and led by example that year, sparking the team with 1,292 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Taylor was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-Southeastern Conference player for his accomplishments and significantly enhanced his profile for the upcoming draft.

He still holds the Gators’ single-season record for yards per carry (6.0 in 1997) and led the team in rushing in both 1994 and 1997. Taylor has the sixth most attempts in school history (537) and is fourth in both career (3,075) and single-season (1,292) rushing.

Selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he would wind up staying with the team for 11 years. He ran for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie and eclipsed 1,000 yards seven times with the Jaguars. Taylor was often injured during his NFL career and only played more than 14 games in a season four times (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007). He rushed for a career-high 1,572 yards in 2002 but never scored more touchdowns than he did his rookie year.

“I remember Fred Taylor as a shy young man from the University of Florida who really grew into one of the great leaders who really helped this franchise grow into where it is today.” – Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver

However, his best year came in his 10th NFL season as Taylor led the Jaguars to the No. 5 seed in the 2007 playoffs. He started 15 games that year and ran for 1,202 yards (on a career-high 5.4 yards per carry) with five touchdowns. Taylor had five consecutive games in which he ran for 100 or more yards and earned honors as an All-Pro and Pro Bowl reserve for the first time in his career. He is also one of only three players in NFL history to average at least 4.5 yards per carry over eight seasons (Jim Brown, Barry Sanders).

“There are precious few players that leave you breathless, but you knew that Fred could take it the distance every time he touched the ball.” – “Voice of the Jaguars” Brian Sexton

Taylor was released by Jacksonville in 2009 and quickly signed with the New England Patriots, where he spent the final two years of his career. He only started once in 13 appearances with the team, totaling 424 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

A free agent in 2011, Taylor had all but decided to retire; however, he chose to keep his options open in case a team was interested in bringing him on after the lockout was over. He finally decided to hang up his cleats over the summer and made it official by signing a one-day contract on Friday with the team that originally drafted him.

“One of the good things about retiring from the NFL is it doesn’t end with a period. This is just a comma,” Taylor said. “There will be more of me to go around, and I can’t wait to get back in this community and do what’s right.”

A member of both the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame (2008 inductee) and University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame (inducted in 2010 as a “Gator Great”), Taylor will likely receive similar honors from Jacksonville in the near future. His son, Kelvin Taylor, is a high school junior who may wind up following in his father’s footsteps and playing for Florida two season from now.

Photo Credit: Unknown

4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,'” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. […] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.'”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

8/31: Quinn discusses defense before opener

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss his defense’s preparation heading into the opening game.


As head coach Will Muschamp has preached for quite some time, in the Southeastern Conference, it all starts in the trenches. According to Quinn, that is the part of his defensive unit that makes him feel the most confident heading into the season – and for good reason. Not only are the players talented but they (especially the defensive linemen) have proven to be flexible as well.

“One of the good things about the big guys inside is that all the guys are playing more than one position – some are playing nose tackle and defensive tackle, some are playing defensive tackle and defensive end,” he said of the interior linemen. “I’m pleased with the progress of those four guys. Having the ability to make them interchangeable adds value to our defense. I’m encouraged with where they’re at; we’re certainly a work in progress, but I’m encouraged with where we’re at and where we’re headed with that group.” Quinn continued, “You want to put out the best guys and sometimes it might just be for the opponent that you’re playing. Some of it would tie in to a game plan situation and other times, say you had an injury, now a guy is down and you’ve cross-trained a guy to play two spots. [Rather than] having never played there, [he] can step in and keep rolling.”

Perhaps more than any other player in that grouping, sophomore Sharrif Floyd has truly stepped up and moved from his more natural position of defensive tackle to defensive end. “He’s certainly really picked it up well,” Quinn said. “We play him both at D-end in our base package and sometimes at defensive tackle in our nickel package. He’s done a terrific job at that.”

As for the linebackers, junior Jon Bostic has been the one stepping up and making the calls defensively at the Mike position. Quinn believes he is doing a great job thus far and has high hopes for him this season. “He’ll make the checks at the line. In our system, that’s what the Mike does, and Jon has done a good job with that,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him, I really do. I think he’s got a high football IQ. You can tell he gets concepts fast. He’s done a good job through training camp leading the defense, making the calls, making the checks. He’s off to a really good start.”

Though Bostic has stood out and there are some others who have shined as well, the depth at the linebacker position is a point of contention. Nevertheless, Quinn feels confident about the starters and a few of the primary reserves. “[Redshirt junior Sam LB Lerentee McCray is] a guy that kind of plays two positions as well. We see him as an outside linebacker who can also be a rush end,” Quinn said. “As the inside linebackers go – with Jelani [Jenkins] and Jon – and we’ve had good experience with Michael Taylor and Dee Finley inside – those guys have both played both spots inside as you went through spring and now through training camp, sometimes you played one at Mike, one at Will. We felt it was the best thing to do to get balance and more experience in the system.”


With the season just days away, it is still a mystery which players besides sophomore safety Matt Elam will start in the secondary. Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) is injured, junior S Josh Evans has fallen behind some freshman and no one has truly stepped up and grabbed a hold of a starting job aside from Elam. Quinn said Wednesday that he was still evaluating tape on the cornerbacks but understands the struggles.

“When you have some guys who haven’t played a whole lot, sometimes the roles will emerge as it gets forward. It’s becoming more clear although each day we kind of assess it and say, ‘OK, who’s going to give us the best options to win depending on the package,’” he said. “We have some really talented young guys who need to play and establish some experience. I’m looking forward to seeing them pull through because I think the leadership capabilities are there. As you guys know, sometimes it’s easier to lead when you have some games under your belt.”

Elam earlier in the day noted that he was a bit uncomfortable in the secondary because he did not know who would be playing next to him. Quinn responded to his concerns. “It’s important for all the guys to be able to work together,” he said. “We have a really big emphasis on communication, not just with our secondary but with our whole defense. Sometimes it’s good for those guys to get in a rhythm together, but it’s also important for everybody to understand the rules and communicate together.”

Then he explained why Elam was the one who has been the standout back there. “One of the things you look at [defensive backs] and at safet[ies] is a guy who can make plays on the ball. That was early to me in my evaluation of Matt,” he said. “This was a guy who did a good job of – not only was a good tackler and a good player, he had football savvy – he could really take the ball away. As a defensive player, that’s a critical skill to have and it adds so much value to your team.”


One thing Quinn conveyed consistently on Wednesday was that he is very pleased with the overall effort and talent that he is seeing from his defensive players. “The cool part about these guys is they’re eager, they’re willing to learn and they’re into it. They want more information. They want to talk the technique; they want to watch the film,” he explained. “That part has been really fun. You can feel the energy of some of these young guys and they’re so anxious to get started and get playing. Now that game week is here, they even sense a heightened intensity.”

That intensity has translated to Quinn himself, who is pumped about being back in college football after spending such a long time in the NFL. “It’s been different for me for sure. We’ve had the scrimmages and, in my mind, I’ve kind of seen those as preseason games to really get a hard evaluation,” he said. “I’m so excited to get started here. The whole purpose of me coming here was working with Will and be a part of these guys and get going. Now that the season is finally here, I can’t wait.”

He also took some time to discuss both how he felt his unit has progressed as well as his overall defensive strategy. “Through training camp – it was a really good camp. There was toughness, there was finishing. It’s been a big package; we had a big playbook. Now after you install everything, you can kind of pick and choose some of the packages you like for each ball game,” he said. “I’m encouraged about the way the guys are approaching the game in practice. It’s been physical and fast; that’s how our style is, that’s how we want to play. I’m anxious to get started and get going into the season, I really am.”

He added, “[We will be] going after the ball. I’d like us to be a team that is mentally and physically tough. I hope that when you see the tape you say, ‘These guys are really physical. They play with great effort, you can see the toughness shine through on tape and they really attack the ball.’ […] Anybody would like to have that kind of pride about a defense, and certainly that’s what we’re striving for.”


On the team’s best pass rushers so far: “I certainly think the guys from the outside during training camp that’s provided [pass rush] for us have been [William] Green and McCray and [Ronald] Powell. Inside certainly [Dominique] Easley and Floyd are two that stood out to me of the interior rushers, and we’re anxious to get those guys going on third down.”

On the emergence of freshman CB Marcus Roberson: “With corners, at times when a guy has speed and length, it helps you as a cover guy. He has some of the traits to help him in coverage, but he’s still young and learning in the system and developing. But when a guy does have speed and length, sometimes it enables you to play a little different style and match up on some bigger receivers at times. He has that, and I’m really looking forward to seeing him develop. He’s come into camp and he’s really had a good training camp. He’s made an impression on me.”

On combining the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses into one playbook: “I think it may look harder at times than it is. When you combine both the 3-4 and the 4-3 packages, it adds some value in terms of how the offense will have to prepare against you. That’s one thing that Will and I have always believed in. There may not be a thousand calls in each package, but we felt like it’s enough for this game to do what’s best.”

On letting his players play but not opening the playbook too much: “As you’re going into your first game, you want to give your guys the best chance to play fast and physical, and that’s what we’ll do in this week’s game.”

On coaching on the field instead of upstairs: “Mostly on the field. I like to be able to talk to the guys and make the adjustments right there, so that’s what I’ll be doing.”

On his relationship with Muschamp: “One of the good parts about Will, even though he’s doing a terrific job as head coach, he’s still in the defensive meetings. All the calls are still there. We’re together a good bit of the day – 18 hours sometimes we’re right there side-by-side. We really see things a lot alike, and that was true even before I got here, since we had worked together before.”

On how and why he and Muschamp might disagree: “Probably something with my background defensive line and pass rushing, and his background with the secondary and coverage. He may want it a little bit different than I would see it, and vice versa from the back end. If he says it’s how we’re going to do it, that’s how we’re going to do it.”

8/31: Rainey, Elam, Harrison speak about Gators

With the Florida Gators beginning weekly preparations for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Wednesday to discuss how the team is progressing.


Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey has shown flashes of his immense talent throughout his career. After sitting out a few games last season, Rainey got the chance to rejoin he team and prove that he can be effective and dynamic. Starting the 2011 season with a more mature mindset, he is ready to contribute even more to the Gators offense. “I see everything like a man. I do everything [more] professional,” Rainey said when explaining how his mindset has changed. “[I] think first. I would do something before I [thought] about it [before].”

He is also excited about the team’s pro-style offense, which he said is similar to the one he ran in high school. “It’s been a long time since we were playing and we’re in an offense that I love and I can’t wait to perform,” he said, noting that he will spend “a lot” of time in the backfield with senior RB Jeff Demps. “Everybody going to get the ball in this offense.” Asked if he enjoys getting the ball deeper in the backfield, Rainey laughed. “I feel super-good, great,” he said. “You can see the whole field, so you know how the scheme works, where to cut and stuff like that.”


As the only sure-fire starter in the secondary at this point, sophomore safety Matt Elam has a lot of responsibilities going into the season. Not only is he being counted on to perform at a high level game-in and game-out, he is also looked to as a leader by all of the freshman playing beside him in the secondary. “I really don’t have a choice but to be comfortable with [being a leader] because we’re young in the secondary,” he said. “A lot of people look up to me, so I have to abide by the rules basically and do my job. […] It was a very difficult role because I wasn’t used to that, but every day I try to get better. I’m getting better every day. I was always the quiet guy, but something had to grow out of me.”

One of two players who will start at safety in the season opener, Elam still does not know who is going to play next to him but would certainly like to sooner than later. “It’s hard not knowing who is going to play besides you, but I just continue to push the other players so they can get better. I want to feel comfortable,” he said. “It’s basically feeling comfortable. Knowing the person next to you, knowing what kind of plays he’s used to doing and what he’s great at and things like that. […] It could be a problem because you’re not used to playing with each other. You always have to have set starters so you can be comfortable. It can also help with energy; you get more energy and more enthusiasm with more people rotating in, fresh legs and stuff like that.”


Moved over to a new position in the spring, redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison knows he will have to succeed as the man in the middle in order for Florida’s offense to work this year. The first player to start at center without the last name Pouncey in quite some time, Harrison accepts the pressure that comes with snapping the ball each play and is ready to take it head-on. “There should always be some kind of pressure to be a starter on a team, especially a team like the Florida Gators,” he said. “There is some pressure, but you just have to live up to the high expectations. To start on a team, especially in the SEC, there will always be pressure to be a starter.”

Discussing snapping the ball in particular, Harrison said that there obviously was an adjustment period for him but all of that has been worked out with time and practice and he can do it now without any miscues. “When I initially moved to center, I was having a little transition with the snaps and everything,” he explained. “Now I’m fine. We’ve got a lot of extra practice in and a lot of extra snaps after practice.”

Should he not perform, Harrison is aware that his job could be snatched up quickly. “Positions change day-by-day,” he said. “Whoever performs the best – the best five will play. Every day is a chance to get better, every day you got to perform at your best.” That mindset comes from offensive line coach Frank Verducci, who is forcing the players to play up to the level he wants on a practice-by-practice basis. “He has high expectations for all of his offensive linemen. If we meet or beat his expectations than he’s fine, but if he feels like we’re not living up to the expectations he set – that’s when he starts to get upset,” Harrison said. “If he has to, he will [get in your face]. He will do whatever he has to do to get the best offensive line.”


» Rainey on how head coach Will Muschamp has changed this week: “[He’s] more aggressive. He wants everybody to be mentally tough, focused and no putting around. It’s game week.”

» Rainey said all of the linebackers and defensive linemen hit hard but redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins is probably the hardest hitter on the team from his experience.

» Elam on freshman De’Ante “Pop” Saunders moving to safety: “Pop’s been doing great. I didn’t expect him to do so well because he’s never played the position, but Pop has been doing good.” He added that Saunders’s size is not an issue for the position.

» Elam on tackling redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed: “It’s very hard to cover and tackle Jordan Reed. He’s a very great player. He makes me better every day, and I make him better.”

» Elam on his excitement level heading into this season: “I’m way more excited because I have a lot more on the line, a bigger role and a lot of weight on my shoulders. That’s why I’m so excited.”

» Harrison on his expectations for the first game: “I would just like to see both offense and defense running as smooth as possible. I’d like to see all of us coming together and meshing as a team. We’ve been going against each other all through camp, so now it’s time to actually bring it together as a team and compete against other opponents.”

» Harrison on being ready to hit somebody: “I’m dying to. I’ve been itching to since Penn State.”

» Harrison confirmed what others have said, that the offensive line is very close both on and off the field. He said that the players being close in age has helped them communicate better and their friendship has really helped their production on the field.

» Harrison on redshirt senior transfer guard/center Dan Wenger: “He’s actually helped a lot. He’s been around the offense for five years going on his sixth year right now. He’s been able to point out little things that maybe the coach could not relate to us as well. He’s been able to help us out with that and it’s really helped the offense.”

8/31: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators just days away from their first regular season game under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Florida Atlantic Owls, he spoke with the media during the first Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference of the fall to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into the season.


“I’m excited about Saturday obviously. Florida Atlantic – I have great respect for Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger and the team that he will be in. our guys are anxious to play a game like most everybody in college football. I’m pleased with our preparation at this point as a staff has been outstanding. We’re looking forward to teeing it up and we’re judged on game day, so that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back): Active with no restrictions – “He’s really responded well to the treatments and different things that we’ve done. We have an outstanding medical staff here.”

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee): Questionable – ran yesterday

Redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring): Questionable

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder): Questionable – non-contract practice on Tuesday, meeting with doctor Wednesday


On Texas A&M going to the SEC: “If that happens, so be it. […] It’s a great state of high school football. The high school coaches are outstanding in the state of Texas. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

On if he is preparing differently for the game as a head coach: “I prepared like I always do. […] As far as the football is concerned, no, I prepared the same I did as a coordinator. I’m looking forward to making great decisions on game day and representing the University of Florida in a first-class manner.”

On his sideline manner during the game: “I plan on being emotional, that’s kind of me as far as the game is concerned and the competition. Don’t let it cloud your judgment on game day.”

8/30: Weis speaks for first time since March

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday for the first time since March to discuss his unit going into the opening game.

Rather than dissect Weis’s comments and put them in perspective as per usual, OGGOA has decided to print them in full in order for you to get a better handle on Florida’s offensive coordinator’s true thoughts about each topic.


Weis explains that, while coaching on the sideline or from the box upstairs both have their advantages, this season it is imperative that he stay on the field to help the Gators.

“I coached on the sideline ever since the day that [Drew] Bledsoe went down with a hit from Mo Lewis and Tommy [Brady] took over as the quarterback. We felt at the time with the Pats that there was a leadership void with a drop off from Drew to Tommy when we went in there. And then we won a bunch of championships and Bill wasn’t going to change it at that point.

“I’ve been upstairs and I’ve been downstairs. There are pros and cons with both of them. Upstairs you can see the field so much better and you’re away from all the distractions. Downstairs you get to finger for the pulse of the players and you know what has to be said. Sometimes they get the far away eyes where you have to go ahead and snap them back to reality. You can’t see that from upstairs. You have to count on your assistant coaches to give you that feedback. There’s pros and cons with both, but I think this year with a new system, Will and I talked about it, with a new system I think that this is the best way to go. I don’t know if we’ll keep it like this forever, but for now it makes the most sense.”


Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley has been rejuvenated in Weis’s pro-style offense, and the offense’s idea man explains that perception is not always reality.

“John Brantley had a really productive spring. A lot of times, the one showing that you guys get is the spring game, you know it’s a fire drill. Actually he had made a lot progress the whole spring. Where he is right now doesn’t surprise any of us. He’s continued to progress. It’s not in any way derogatory towards the system that he came from; it’s just a different system. Fortunately for him, this system fits his physical qualities better than the last one.”

Weis also said that what happened with Brantley before does not matter at all, especially considering how well he is doing now.

“When I started looking into the job, you do your due diligence, especially when this is a quarterback-friendly offense, you want to know who the candidates are and what the story is. My big thing is short-term memory. I think with quarterbacks, any quarterbacks who keep things with them never can be any good. You can’t worry about the last play; you got to worry about the next play.

“I’m not saying anything about what they did last year. […] I really don’t know what they did. I don’t know the spread. I’d be lying to sit there and act like I knew… I know that he’s not going to run the read option. I know that he’s not going to do that.

“A quarterback like John is better suited to be in a pure drop-back passing game that centers around runs and play actions. He has the mental capabilities to do all the things that I like to do. The more he shows me mentally, the more freedom I can give him when it comes to getting out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage.”

Check out what else Weis had to say about the offense including his thoughts on the offensive line and playmakers as well as the unit’s foundation and progress up to this point…after the break!

Continue Reading » 8/30: Weis speaks for first time since March

8/30: Riggs competing, respect for FAU, Jenkins leading, Reed blocking, Dunbar’s opening

With the Florida Gators beginning weekly preparations for their first game on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic, a number of prominent players were made available to the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is progressing.


By all accounts, sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs played well as a freshman in 2010, but that does not mean there was nothing for him to improve going into his second year. Specifically, Riggs noted Tuesday that he made it a point to gain some significant weight in order to be a tougher player for wide receivers to get open against. “I’ve gotten more physical this year. I’ve also put on some weight so I’m able to handle bigger receivers,” he said. “I put on 15 pounds since last year. I’ve gotten stronger in the weight room and on the field it’s showing.”

Citing his game experience from last season and his tenacity for trying to improve each and every practice, Riggs still believes he has a shot to earn a starting role in Saturday’s season opener against the Florida Atlantic Owls. “It’s all up for grabs,” he said. “It’s up to Coach [Will] Muschamp whoever starts this week.” He does admit, however, that some of the younger players at his position are doing well and can be relatively interchangeable when necessary. “We have a lot of talent back there,” he said. “If someone goes down, the next person comes in and we’re not going to miss a beat.”

Riggs, who prides himself “on bothering receivers up and down the field,” also believes the secondary as a whole will be making plenty of plays throughout the year. “We get after the ball a lot in practice,” he said. “We just try to make as many plays as possible. Whenever the ball is our way, we just try to make a play on it.”


Though FAU’s own head coach, Howard Schnellenberger, admitted Monday that his team is probably not going to win Saturday’s game against Florida, the players on the home team see things a bit differently. To them, the Owls are just like any other opponent that they will have to play at the top of their game to take down.

“I have a lot of respect for their team and the way they play,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “They’re a hard-nosed team and they like to run the ball. They’re not going to come in here afraid of us, so we’re going to have to play to our best to beat them.” Redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar co-signed Jenkins’s thoughts. “They got pretty good athletes,” he said. “I feel like they got nice size, nice corners, so we just got to come out and play our game. We can’t slack on them.”


With a relatively quiet demeanor off the field, Jenkins has been forced to have a loud voice on the field not only to direct his team during the game but also to help lead a defense filled with a lot of younger players. He says the transformation has not been “too difficult” for him to undergo this year. “We have a lot of checks, we have a lot of signals as a defense that force you to be vocal,” he said. “You’re always talking out there, always communicating, so it hasn’t been that difficult. […] People count on you on the field to make a lot of calls, even off the field they’re always listening to you. The more you know the defense, the more you’re talking always helping each other out.”


When redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed was finally named a full-time tight end, he envisioned catching plenty of passes, making some great plays and hauling in some receptions for touchdowns. There was one part of his duties, however, that has been the toughest for him to learn thus far. “Blocking. I was a quarterback before, so I never had to be physical,” he said. “Now I’m learning to block and everything, so that’s probably [been] the hardest. I don’t think anybody likes blocking. You got to learn to love it, but you’re never going to like it.”

It is a good thing that Reed is learning to block well because offensive coordinator Charlie Weis loves to feature the tight end in his offense, something Reed is perfectly aware of. “From what I heard from the past about his offenses, I knew that he used the tight end a lot, so I was pretty excited,” Reed said of Weis agreeing to let him play it full-time. “I just got to go out there and make plays. Hopefully he’ll try to get me the ball.”


Dunbar’s name has popped up over and over again throughout the offseason as the player who has stepped up the most during practice and training camp. He showed some flashes of his ability during the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut in the spring and is ready to contribute this year however he is needed. “Deep passes come into play,” he said, “but I’m an overall receiver – short, deep, medium – it doesn’t matter. I’ve been working on every route.”

Speaking about both the offense of himself and his personal goals, Dunbar believes the season opener can do a lot of good for the Gators. “[We just have to] come out clicking, with great timing, doing good to get ready for the season,” he said. “Personally for myself, it’s just to get one game under my belt, get game action and get used to game speed.”

He also discussed the advantages of having Weis on the field this year as opposed to up in a box watching the game from above. “He’s closer to the field so he can see some things out there that he probably can’t see from the box. That’s probably a big advantage,” Dunbar said. “This is a new offense, so [he can] continue to show us things during the game. It’s very helpful. If I see something out there that I don’t understand, I see the offensive coordinator there so I can ask him.”


» Riggs on redshirt junior CB Jeremy Brown (knee) missing time: “I’m sure it hurts him a lot. Jeremy’s a great player and we miss him a lot.”

» Riggs on Muschamp’s demeanor this week: “Still as fired up as always. He’s always trying to make us better.”

» Dunbar said that Weis is “an aggressive coach but at the same time he teaches you.” He recounted being yelled at by Weis a few times and said he usually makes a confused face that sometimes gets him even angrier.

» Reed said he was able to knock down redshirt sophomore LB Dee Finely once during spring practice. “It felt good,” he said, “but not better than catching the ball.”

» Reed said the offense is using “a lot” of two tight end sets with redshirt freshman Gerald Christian playing opposite him.

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