Friday Final: Florida preparing for Maty Mauk, Alex McCalister stepping up for Gators

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) as they prepare to host the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Missouri prep begins with Florida playing two quarterbacks
Notebook: Kurt Roper talks Gators’ offense and rushing attack
Story: Jeff Driskel will start as Florida readies Treon Harris
Notebook: Will Muschamp updates team injuries, quarterback situation

GATORS LOOK TO AVOID BEING MAUK-ED UP

One year ago, while making his first career start against a reeling Florida team, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk looked like a seasoned veteran, throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown and hitting the ground for another score. Sixty-one of those 295 yards came on two passes within the first 22 seconds of the game, as Mauk completed a 41-yard toss and then a 20-yard touchdown throw on consecutive plays. Suffice to say, the Gators have no plans to underestimate him this time around.

“I think he’s a very good player. He’s a guy that can make all the throws. He’s got extreme arm talent. He’s got good touch; he can zip it when he needs to. He’s got great legs,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp. “He’s a guy that throws it extremely well. He has great command of their offense and what they do and how they’re doing it. I think he needs to get a little more help around him.”

Mauk threw four interceptions this week, though like many committed by the Gators this season, his Tigers playmakers have been partly responsible for some of his miscues by either running wrong routes or tipping decently-to-well-thrown passes. Prior to that game, he had a 14-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Continue Reading » Friday Final: Florida preparing for Maty Mauk, Alex McCalister stepping up for Gators

Billy Horschel: ‘I love representing Gator Nation.’

Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel capped the best three weeks of his young career – and life – last month when he won the 2014 Tour Championship, brought home a total of $11.44 million by clinching the 2014 FedExCup title and, most importantly, was in the delivery room when his wife gave birth to their first child.

Playing the three best weeks of golf as a professional, Horschel first pocketed $2.03 million by winning the 2014 BMW Championship and finishing second in the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship. Adding his Tour crown and FedExCup bonus, Horschel boosted his payday to $13.47 million in a three-week span and $14.8 million for the PGA Tour season.

Despite his hot streak, Horschel was not chosen to play for the United States in the 2014 Ryder Cup due to his success occurring too late in the process. Instead, he was able to spend more time at home at his recently-expanded family.

Two days after Horschel set up his family for life, his wife and fellow former Florida golfer, Brittany Horschel, gave birth to baby Skyler on Sept. 16.

Quite a month, huh?

OnlyGators.com got a unique opportunity to speak with Horschel this week as he prepares for the 2014-15 golf season. One of the hottest names in the sport, Horschel was not an easy get considering he is one of the hottest names in the sport. Nevertheless, the PGA Tour was more than accommodating.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start with what’s important: how are the wife and baby?
BILLY HORSCHEL: “Skyler and Brittany are doing really great. They’re both healthy. Brittany is loving being a mom. She’s doing a heck of a job. We’ve been very blessed in the sense that Skyler has been a very, very easy baby. She sleeps well, doesn’t fuss a lot. If you could sort draw up the ideal baby – in the way for her to act for the parents to not go crazy – in my opinion, this would be it. We’ve been very blessed and very lucky.”

Continue Reading » Billy Horschel: ‘I love representing Gator Nation.’

Micahel Frazier II must step up game, leadership

Just like Florida Gators basketball’s mantra was once “layups, dunks and Lee Humphrey,” the 2013-14 season was very much “layups, dunks and Michael Frazier II.”

Then a sophomore, Frazier took 38 percent of Florida’s three-point attempts and was the Gators’ second-leading scorer with 482 points (18 percent of the team’s total) despite only taking 79 shots inside the arc.

Frazier also made 11 threes in a single game, breaking a 17-year school mark for most in a single game while draining the third-most in a single contest by an SEC player and the most ever in an SEC league game.

However, he was also sixth in assists and seventh in free throw attempts, despite being the team’s best shooter at .842 in 39 games.

If Frazier wants to continue being a productive player for Florida in 2014-15, he’s going to have to step up his all-around game. That means driving the lane, helping facilitate by passing the ball, and taking his already-improved defense to another level.

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The Silver Lining for Thursday, October 16, 2014: Will Muschamp, Dan Mullen, Florida State

The Silver Lining will return to its regular Wednesday afternoon slot next week. Extenuating circumstances, most recently the men’s basketball media day, have delayed this column the last two weeks. Thank you for your patience.

Will Muschamp’s Leash

What is it going to take for Will Muschamp to get fired as head coach of the Florida Gators? According to athletic director Jeremy Foley, there is neither a set number of games Muschamp needs to win nor particular set of goals he must achieve this season.

I used to believe Foley. I believed Foley was being honest when he made that statement before the season. Now, I cannot see how he could possibly maintain that mindset five games into the 2014 campaign.

Foley had to expect better than this. He may have believed Florida would be 4-2 now (adding in the canceled Idaho game), but there is no way he thought the Gators’ offense would have made this little progress or their defense taken as deep of a step backward.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for Thursday, October 16, 2014: Will Muschamp, Dan Mullen, Florida State

Florida basketball opens at No. 7 in Coaches Poll

Florida Gators basketball will open the 2014-15 campaign ranked No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, which released its preseason edition on Thursday.

After falling to UConn in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Touranment, Florida finished No. 3 in the final 2013-14 poll with Kentucky – the team it defeated thrice during the regular season – one spot ahead of it at No. 2.

UK is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today presesaon poll, garnering 24-of-32 first-place votes. Arizona (3), Duke (2), Wisconsin (3) and Kansas round out the top five.

Florida will face Kentucky (No. 1) twice during league play and take on both Kansas (No. 5) and UConn (No. 15) in non-conference action.

UF could also face Wisconsin (No. 4), North Carolina (No. 6) and/or Oklahoma (No. 19) as part of the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.


Preseason 1-5: Kentucky (24), Arizona (3), Duke (2), Wisconsin (3), Kansas
6-10: North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Louisville, Texas
11-15: Wichita State, Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, UConn
16-20: VCU, San Diego State, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ohio State
21-25: Nebraska, SMU, Michigan, Syracuse, Iowa

Among the 32 coaches voting in the 2014-15 poll are VCU’s Shaka Smart (a former Florida assistant) and Georgia head coach Mark Fox.

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10/15: Muschamp updates injuries, quarterbacks

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp participated in the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday, looking to his team’s next game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) and junior wide receiver Latroy Pittman are both expected to be practicing with the team on Wednesday. Orr is expected to be available for Saturday’s game, while Pittman’s status is a bit more up in the air as he will only be taken limited practice repetitions.

QUARTERBACK DECISION

Outside of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper declaring Tuesday that redshirt junior Jeff Driskel would get the start, Muschamp said there has been no solid decision made about how the quarterback rotation will go on Saturday.

“We’re going to see who has the hot hand and see who’s helping move our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win. We’ll make that decision as we go through the game,” he said. “Both guys deserve and have earned the opportunity to play. We’re still kind of going through that through [Wednesday]‘s practice into the game. Kurt and I will sit down Friday morning and make a decision on what we need to do.”

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Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Florida Gators colleague Will Muschamp

During his team’s media day on Wednesday, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan threw his support behind an embattled colleague, head football coach Will Muschamp, noting that the entire athletic program is “all in this together” and hoping for a positive outcome to the football season.

“I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for Will,” Donovan began.

“Obviously for him, I look at things a little bit differently. Certainly he took over a situation that was really, really challenging, in my opinion. I thought he imposed his style of play on his team. I thought the year before, I saw an unbelievable change inside of his team from a physical standpoint from year one to year two.

“The way they had to handle all the injuries last year was something, to me, that was just totally insurmountable to ever overcome. You can’t lose the level of players – and I respected the way Will handled it because he never used that as an excuse – but the truth is you can’t lose that many good players and be good. You just can’t.

“I look at their team, even this year, there were times last year where I watched and you saw them kind of – I think Will talked about this, ‘Woe is me,’ all that stuff – their team is not that way at all. I think the guy has done an incredible job of changing the culture in terms of his team from one year to the next in a very positive way.”

Donovan respects Muschamp so much, in fact, that he invited him to speak in front of the Florida men’s basketball team this summer. Donovan hoped bringing Muschamp in would help enlighten his players on how quickly things can turn from success to struggle simply from the loss of personnel – whether due to graduation or injuries.

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan stands behind embattled Florida Gators colleague Will Muschamp

Florida F/C Chris Walker suspended three games; G Brandone Francis will not play in 2014-15

Florida Gators sophomore forward Chris Walker will miss the first three games of the season, including two regular-season contests, while serving a suspension for violation of team rules, head coach Billy Donovan announced on Wednesday.

Donovan also noted that four-star freshman guard Brandone Francis, who OnlyGators.com first reported was cleared academically to enroll at Florida, will sit out the 2014-15 season while he works to improve his grades in order to get approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Walker, who missed the first half of his freshman campaign while working to become academically eligible to compete, is projected to start in the frontcourt for the Gators once he is able to play in his first game. He decided to return for his sophomore campaign rather than try his hand at the NBA Draft a year ago.

“He has worked very, very hard in the weight room. I think the biggest thing, his biggest challenge this year, in my opinion, is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” Donovan said.

“The one thing I admired about him a year ago is here comes a highly-profiled kid coming into our season in the middle of January. … He was an unbelievable teammate last year in terms of understanding the fact that he had missed so much of the summer, non-conference [games], and when he came here, he never once complained about playing time. He wanted to do whatever he could to help. …

“You hear all these expectations and people look at the fact that he has gotten physical stronger and everything else, [yet] he has such a long way to go in terms of being reliable, accountable and disciplined. Those would be the three things that I would say I don’t have a real good grasp on right now, but we’re going to find out.

“Him being reliable on the court to be able to do his job, him being responsible as it relates to his work ethic each and every day and understanding his role. Those are going to be some things where I think he’s going to have to battle some of those expectations because certainly he’s been built and hyped up. …

“I don’t know what kind of impact he’s going to make. I think that he’s going to have to be able to be able to handle that where maybe he’s got his own personal expectation of where he thinks he should be and if he’s not at that level, how is he going to handle that? I think that’s one of the most difficult things to deal with as a coach, when you have players with individual expectations that don’t’ get met with how they’re performing. He’s got to have a realistic expectation. He’s got a long way to go.”

Francis was expected to serve a reserve role at guard.

Florida opens up the 2014-15 campaign at home against William & Mary on Friday, Nov. 14. UF then hosts Miami on Monday, Nov. 17 and Louisiana-Monroe on Friday, Nov. 21.

Walker will be eligible to return for the Louisiana-Monroe contest as he will serve one part of his three-game suspension during UF’s exhibition game against Barry University on Thursday, Nov. 6.

He averaged 1.9 points, 1.3 boards and 0.4 blocks in just 4.8 minutes per game during his freshman season but should see a huge uptick in minutes and opportunity during his sophomore campaign.

“I think, offensively right now, he’s got a long way to go. I don’t necessarily know if he has an offensive go-to game, so to speak,” Donovan said. “He’s a terrific athlete. He’s got a really good motor. He tries to go rebound and chase balls on the glass. He’s a good shot blocker. I think he’s very quick off the dribble, he actually can dive the ball some from the perimeter. But he’s not a great jump shooter, he’s not a great back-to-the-basket player; he’s not a guy you can just throw the ball to and he can go get you a bucket. But I do think there’s a lot of value he can bring into our team.”

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