11/14: Muschamp speaks after Florida’s fifth loss

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent. Florida fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 17-12 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a home game against the Furman Paladins on Nov. 19. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from Saturday and Monday.

INJURY UPDATES

In addition to announcing that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) will be out for the season, Muschamp said redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (“banged up”) should all be able to play on Saturday. Green and McCray were tested pre-game on Saturday and could not play; both are expected to return to practice early in the week and try to give it a go again versus Furman.

COSTLY ERRORS AT CRITICAL JUNCTURES

The Gators once again failed to impress on Saturday and continued to make major mistakes after being put in a position to succeed. Florida was inside the five-yard-line twice against South Carolina and came out of the situations with a total of six points rather than the 14 they should have posted. UF also committed a costly offsides penalty continuing what wound up being USC’s final offensive drive. Muschamp said Saturday after the game that Florida’s miscues continue to disappoint him.

“We’ve had three ballgames where we had our opportunities. It comes back to turnovers, critical errors when you got to make plays, you got to make a play on the ball down the field,” he said. “You’re in a situation where it’s a field goal game, and you have to execute in those situations. It comes back on me. [I’ve] got to do a better job coaching, a better job in those critical downs and critical situations. In four of our last games, three of them have come down to the last drive of the game. We have got to win in those situations and we haven’t.”

He expanded on those comments on Monday, explaining what he and the players spoke about during their meeting earlier in the day.

“I told the team this morning at 6:00 a.m. Every football game you play in or you coach in, there are 8-10-12 plays in the game that really determine the outcome. It isn’t one play but generally those collective plays and you never know when those plays are going to happen,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to make plays in those situations. We’ve been very inconsistent obviously in our play, and that falls back on my shoulders, doing a better job putting our guys in situations to be successful.

“We watched plays from the game as an entire team this morning to show them when those situations arrive and how we’re hurting ourselves in a lot of those situations. We’ve got to eliminate that from our game if you expect to win those games. Those critical plays we’ve got to do a better job [on].”

A SILVER LINING TO THE STRUGGLES

Muschamp is not using 2011 as an evaluation season per se but while the team is struggling to get into the W column on a consistent basis, he is noticing some qualities about the players that give him a sense of promise for the future.

“I see a lot of improvement regardless of the results,” he said Saturday. “In the big picture of things, we’ve made tremendous improvements. We play blocks much better up front at times. We do a better job in the run game against a quality defensive football team. […] We ran the ball in the second half. Is there improvement? Yes. Is it what we want? No. Is it where it needs to be? No. Are we going to get there? Yes, it’s going to get there. You play three quality teams that you feel like you had opportunities to win the games. Is it frustrating? Yeah. But it’s frustrating to lose one when you don’t play very well, too.”

He went into further detail on Monday, discussing specifically the improvements he is seeing game-in and game-out. “We all look at the result at the end of the game and feel like nothing good is happening. That’s not the case. We have a lot of positive things happening, just not enough to get us over the hump to win those games,” Muschamp said.

“The effort. Guys are playing hard with great effort. Individually guys that are doing nice things, as a team doing nice things. We’re just very inconsistent. You can attribute it to a lot of different things, but the bottom line is that it’s inconsistent. I see things that are very promising as far as where we are and what we’re trying to do. It’s not what we want right now, but we’ll certainly get there.

“We improved our tackling defensively. Both linebackers have played extremely well this season. We’re a little inconsistent in some situations Saturday, but we’ve played blocks better up front. We’ve improved in the secondary. Jordan Reed is playing really well. A.C. Leonard is coming along and playing really well. The running backs have played well all season. I think John [Brantley] continues to play well, and I think we’ve got a bright future with Jacoby [Brissett] and Jeff Driskel. Matt Patchan is playing his best football, and Jon Halapio is playing very well. We’re not consistent enough across the board, but there are some guys who are playing good football. Jon Bostic is having an outstanding season.

“There’s a fine line in winning and losing. It’s a really fine line from being 5-5 and possibly 8-2. There’s really fine line, and it goes back to those 8-10-12 plays in a game – you got to make those plays. You got to put your guys in situations to be successful and that’s my job.”

BOWL ELIGIBILITY NOT A CARROT TO BE DANGLED

As a coach who expects much from his players, Muschamp said he has never considered and certainly is not now using bowl eligibility as any type of motivator for his team going into the Furman game.

“For me it’s about playing better. It’s about coaching better. If you do that, things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’ve had our opportunities in the last four weeks to do that. We haven’t exactly closed it out. I don’t know that bowl eligibility should be a motivating factor for you as a competitor.

“When you step on the field, you compete. You can do it every day in practice, you can do it every day in meetings, and you do it every day during game day regardless of who is lined up on the other side. That’s the mental attitude you want to have as a competitor. It’s to go out and compete. You don’t need to be motivated by external factors, in my opinion.”

One positive result of becoming bowl eligible, something that the Gators will be on Saturday after their likely victory over the Paladins, is that Florida will get nearly three additional weeks of practice before playing in the game. Those can be used not only to prepare for the upcoming opponent but to set the tone for spring practice in 2012.

“They’re very important,” Muschamp said of the additional practices. “You got a great opportunity to scrimmage your young players. Our young players have been scrimmaging all year. It’s an opportunity to go out and rep, get better, familiarize with your scheme a little more, get guys turns and reps in what they’re doing. There’s no question – generally you try to get 4-5 fundamental practices and then 4-5 practices on your opponent. And then you break for Christmas, come back to the bowl site and get 4-5 more practices. It’s in essence another spring ball. There is no question it is very beneficial for your program.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what adjustments he made at halftime: “Execute. Execute.”

» On playing a tough SEC slate of games: “We have two really good teams in our league in Alabama and LSU. The rest of us you could throw us in a sack and shake us up.”

» On his players fumbling the ball: “We just got to play different guys.”

» On deciding to kick the field goals and not go for touchdowns on fourth down: “The game is all about points. Neither offense was doing a whole lot. It was all about getting points early in the game to me. Get as many points as you can, don’t squelch opportunities in the red zone, which we did. You got to score touchdowns in there.”

» On Brantley’s mental makeup: “John’s a guy that, I’ll tell you, I’m very impressed with him as a person and what he’s all about. He’s all about the right things.”

» On the wide receivers not getting separation: “We got to play better. We got to coach better.”

» On the offensive and defensive lines: “Not very good. Real simple. We’re not deep enough. We don’t have enough numbers. It’s real simple. Just look at the roster. We’ve got good talent. We don’t have enough numbers.”

» On if it will take long to develop depth on the lines: “We’ll recruit well up front. I feel very excited about where we are from that standpoint. We’ll continue to improve and gain depth as far as the recruiting is concerned and do a better job coaching the guys here on campus.”

» On if the 5-5 season has affected recruiting: “None.”

» On why redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has not done more this year: “Given his opportunities, he has played well. A little bit is Andre has made some big plays for us, especially in the middle of the season as we’ve moved forward. They play the same position in most situations, so Andre [Debose]’s made a little bit more vertical plays down the field. Very pleased with Quinton recognized this morning for his effort on the field, his blocking in the game. I look for him to continue getting some opportunities.”

» On if Florida is getting enough out of the freshman class: “I’d have to individually think through in my head. Both quarterbacks are going to be outstanding; I’m pleased with where both of them are. Offensively right now A.C. Leonard has really come on. It really put him behind when he had the knee injury there in camp he missed a lot of time. For a freshman that’s very difficult when you miss that many turns and that many reps. I’m very pleased with the secondary players that have played extremely well for us. Graham Stewart has done some nice things at linebacker. Chris Johnson on special teams has been outstanding, Louchiez Purifoy. For a freshman class, there are a bunch of them playing and probably only three guys who will be redshirted in the class.”

» On why penalty numbers being down overall: “We’ve emphasized it as much as we can go over it. We have crowd noise at every practice. We hard count on defense probably once every 2-3 snaps. In critical situations we talk about it. We text the players about it. We’re exhausting every measure we can of jumping offsides and having false starts offensively. We’re going to continue to do a better job because we’re not doing a good job obviously. We’ve been doing that all along. That’s something that we’ve practiced and we do. That’s just what we do. […] We’ve talked about it. We text them. We had a t-shirt made [that reads] ‘hard count.’ We’ve done everything. We’re exhausting all measures.”

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11/7: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a tough road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

INJURY UPDATES AND PLAYER AWARDS

The following players will return to practice Monday:
Redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)

The following players will return to practice Tuesday:
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (foot)

“He’s fine,” Muschamp said of Brantley. “He got a funny hit on [his arm]. He probably could have gone back in, but I told him to sit down and let Jacoby [Brissett] finish it. It was one of those things that was a funny injury. There is nothing serious at all.”

Additional injury notes:
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remain out of action this week. Freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan had surgery Monday morning and will take a redshirt for 2011. Fellow freshman OL Trip Thurman had shoulder surgery earlier this year and will also be redshirted.

Player awards from the Vanderbilt game:
Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan
Big Play Award: Jeff Demps (52-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Hard Hat Award: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (55-yard field goal), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (blocked field goal), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (onside recover)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Ryan Parrish, Hygens Succes, Tim Clark

Demps was also named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

GAME AND FUTURE OPPONENT STATEMENTS

Muschamp first provided his general thoughts about Saturday’s victory.

“You go back and look at the game and we were balanced on offense. Being able to run the ball helped us with our play actions down the field. It slows the defensive linemen down a good bit up front. We converted on third down about 50 percent and had some big plays. We were able to get some chuck plays. Defensively we really needed to stop the run game and for the most part we did a decent job of that. We have to finish the game better and cover better – on the back end especially. We had some breakdowns [in the secondary] and obviously had some pass rush issues with Rodgers being able to scramble, create and extend plays. Those are the things we’ve really talked to the kids about.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 12, South Carolina.

“They’re very balanced on offense – 188 yards rushing per game, 180 passing. Offensively Alshon Jeffrey is an outstanding wide receiver. A guy that is 6’4″ or 6’5″ with great ball skills down the field. He’s a tremendous match-up issue in all situations. […] Defensively Ellis Johnson does a great job. [The unit has] 27 turnovers this year and is led by Melvin Ingram, a guy from a fake punt against Georgia to sacking the quarterback to playing the runs well inside is a really good athlete, a big guy that plays hard with a great motor. I’m really impressed watching him on film. Defense and special teams for them have scored seven touchdowns, so that’s impressive.”

Muschamp also commented on USC head coach Steve Spurrier:

I got great respect for Coach Spurrier, first of all as a player winning the Heisman Trophy here in 1966 and then the job he did as a head coach here for 12 years was outstanding. You look at the championship run and establishing the tradition of what Florida football is as far as winning championships. […] I think he changed the SEC as far as the passing game is concerned. When he took over in 1990, the SEC was a running league. It was a ground-and-pound league. He came to Florida and did a great job in the throwing game, changing the perception of the SEC to an offensive league but still remained balanced in everything he did.”

PISTOL SET GIVES GATORS A RUN GAME

Between Brantley’s ankle injury and the numerous other problems the Gators have had running the ball, employing the pistol set on Saturday helped get the run game going again and keep the Commodores’ defense honest. In fact, Florida ran at a near two-to-one clip, though UF was also successful through the air.

Muschamp said Monday that employing the pistol helped in protection and opening up throwing seams down the field while also allowing the Gators to call play actions and run the ball inside. He said Florida plans to keep using the set because it assists in keeping defenses off balance.

Brantley is expected to be back under center at South Carolina but calling some runs from the pistol could still be smart in order to keep the turns he has to make on his ankle to a minimum. Muschamp also explained that UF’s pistol set is not the same as the pistol offense first run at Nevada and now UCLA.

“We were running from a set to be able to get to a downhill running game. What they run is a misdirection running game. It’s a different theory. What they run is a package; what we run is a set to be able to get to some downhill run game. What they do is a total package – they run a total offense that is called the pistol offense. We ran a set to get to our downhill running game. We ran it from a different set to enable John to run our downhill running game. We didn’t change what we were doing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on how the secondary needs to improve: “As far as playing the ball, we’re in situations and we’re in position. You got to play the football. When you’re in position to cover the receiver, you got to play the ball. We just need to finish some plays. […] Those things are all correctable. Those are all things that we can work on. We’re going to spend a lot time today working on perimeter drill where we work on our eye control, covering and leveraging formations. They just need to improve, and I need to do a better job coaching from my spot.”

» Muschamp on how long he plans on coaching: “I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it. I enjoy coming to work every day regardless of the situation. I can’t picture myself not coaching.”

» Muschamp on if Spurrier called him when he took the Florida job: “I called him to tell him that our doors were always open unless we’re playing South Carolina.”

» Muschamp on redshirt junior DE Earl Okine: “He’s done a nice job. He’s done a better job preparing himself throughout the week as far as practice is concerned and that gives him other opportunities to play.”

» Muschamp on if he is seeing he team mature: “From a competitive standpoint and how we’re practicing, how we’re approaching things, as far as the team is concerned, I do think we’ve made some positive strides.”

» Muschamp on not walking on with the Gators: “Not that Florida missed anything [with me] as a player. I can tell you that.”

» Muschamp on the strides redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard has made: “I think Jaye has played really well. I thought he played well Saturday. He’s a guy that we really challenged him as far as playing hard every snap, giving great effort all the time. Jaye is very talented. He’s strong. He’s a very good athlete. He can bend his lower body, play blocks. A lot of Jaye needs to play hard all the time and do it all the time and be a guy that really shines. I’ve been really proud of his performance and how he’s played this year. I think he’s been very consistent this year.”

» Muschamp on how sophomore safety Matt Elam has stepped up: “He is communicating very well. He was not a very vocal player when I came in here from a standpoint of communicating. He was more worried about getting himself lined up and with what he was doing. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing schematically to understand what the other safety needs to do, what the nickel needs to do. He’s got very good playmaking skills and ability. He’s got natural instincts as a football player. He sees the play before it happens a lot. He anticipates the route breaking off. He anticipates where the runner is going to break. He anticipates where the ball is going.”

» Muschamp on freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “Wow. He’s had an outstanding year. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for us. He’s smart, understands football. He gets it. It’s important to him. He’s very intelligent and tough. He’s a guy who we like giving the ball too as he gets a lot of positive yards after contact. He’s a really good blocker and picks up the game very well. I think he’s had an outstanding freshman season. He’s basically been the starter for us all year.”

» Muschamp on if he watched Alabama-LSU: “I got through about halftime and then fell asleep [out of exhaustion].”

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11/1: Weis on the Gators’ roster, miscues, Brantley, Rainey, tight ends, Nixon, Burton

As the Florida Gators prepare for their next home game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 5 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the bye week and his team’s upcoming contest.

WORKING OUT THE ROSTER’S KINKS

Following Saturday’s loss, head coach Will Muschamp admitted that Florida is struggling with its running game because the team does not have the type of players on the roster to run a power system. Asked to elaborate on those comments Muschamp made, Weis agreed but said it is his job to make due with what the Gators do have.

“When you come in to any new circumstance, what you have to do is see what you do have and work around that,” he said. “Obviously the resource at this level is recruiting. As you bring in recruits that are different types of players, you do different types of things. That doesn’t mean you don’t like the players you have and don’t try to utilize what they do. You don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole.

“If somebody’s a certain type of player, that’s what you have to do. In college football it’s an evolution. It’s all based on when you bring in recruits and what they can do and then you adjust and tweak what you do based on who you have then.”

This is a stance contrary to what Weis’s replacement at Notre Dame – head coach Brian Kelly – said in October about the players he inherited before being forced to apologized.

“You got to be careful not to be disrespectful to the guys that are already here. Alls I know is, every year we’re going to try to recruit one of the best classes in the country. Hopefully some of those guys can challenge to get on the field early,” Weis said. “That’s all you can do. It might be a little bit general, but I think it’s really important not to sell out the guys that are currently on your own roster because then you’re placing the blame on them or placing the blame on the last coaching staff.”

Read more about the Gators offense…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11/1: Weis on the Gators’ roster, miscues, Brantley, Rainey, tight ends, Nixon, Burton

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10/31: Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida fell 24-20 to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a homecoming game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 5. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Muschamp said Monday that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley felt “fine” after the game and much better than the training staff would have thought. The plan is to get him back under center this week, something the team will probably wait until midweek to begin testing. “Sometimes when you come off of being inactive, rehabbing an ankle when having an injury, and you come out and you’re on it for 60 minutes in a ballgame, sometimes you would expect some lingering effects from it,” he explained. “We don’t feel like he had any.”

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remains sidelined and has not done any practicing with the team – just rehab. “We’re still holding out hope,” Muschamp said. “he has kind of shut it down at this point. He’s in there with our medical, which is doing an outstanding job. he’s trying to work through that at this time right now.”

Junior running back Mike Gillislee (ankle), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (leg), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) and sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs (wrist) will all hopefully be back in action on Wednesday, he added. “We feel like most or all of these guys will be available for the game unless something happens this week,” Muschamp noted. Sturgis in particular was planning to kick for Florida on Saturday but felt a “twinge” in his leg during warm-ups and was therefore held out with sophomore Brad Phillips taking his place and doing quite well.

GAME AND OPPONENT STATEMENTS

“You have a hard time winning against good football teams in this league when you don’t capitalize on your opportunities and you give them more opportunities in the game. That was very disappointing. Offensively we moved the ball well in the first half, but our inability to run the football became a one-dimensional game. They have some decent pass rushers on the edge and they were able to affect the quarterback in the game and really disrupt some things we were trying to do in the throwing game. We’ve got to find ways to run the football. We’re continuing to look at that. Some things we had planned in the game, we didn’t do. The first two series of the second half we were backed up coming off of our goal line there. We had some success in the first half. We have to go back and look at the things we did well; we have to identify those and move forward.

Defensively I thought we played solid. We had some opportunities to make some stops there at the end and didn’t get it done. The two fourth-down passes, we were in position to make the plays and Georgia won because they made those plays and we didn’t. We’ve got to finish those plays and those things. As a staff, we’ll continue to work and put those kids in those situations in practice and continue to improve. That falls on my shoulders. Special teams, I was very proud of Brad Philips and the job he did stepping in for Caleb. Brad is a guy that has worked extremely hard and certainly taken advantage of his opportunities. I’m very proud of the job he did in the game. […] Our kickoff coverage and our kickoff return units were outstanding. D.J. Durkin continues to do a nice job with our special teams.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 5, Vanderbilt.

“James Franklin is doing an outstanding job with his football team. You watch these guys on tape and they play hard. They’re very well coached. They’re multiple offensively in what they do; they give you a lot of different looks. They have gone with Jordan Rodgers, as a quarterback is a guy who runs extremely well, is a good athlete and throws the ball well. […] Defensively they’re leading or second in the SEC in interceptions with 15. They’re a pressure outfit. They come after you a pretty good bit. They do a nice job of mixing things up as far as the different ways they try and pressure you. And they attack you in special teams.”

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

Why is the team reluctant to run between the tackles?
“We did a little bit but we weren’t very effective. When we ran more lateral run game, we weren’t very effective. We got a lot of vertical penetration inside. Some things we went into the game and felt good about they did a nice job of taking away. When we ran it inside, we weren’t very productive with it. That’s what led us to throwing the ball a good bit.” Muschamp added that without Brantley for a few games, Florida could not stretch the field vertically. The Gators have also played much better defense recently and, on Saturday, Brantley not playing from under center also inhibited their ability to run.

Are you concerned about the play of junior tackle Xavier Nixon:
“Xavier has played well for us; he played well for us before we got here. You look at the positives. He’s done some positive things, too. We all want to focus on everything that’s negative. You look at the positive things and build off those and you try to be technical in your corrections. Is it a technique issue? Is it a set issue? Is it an alignment issue? Did the quarterback hold the ball too long? Not everything is on the offensive line. Anytime a sack happens, everybody wants to point the finger at the offensive line and that wasn’t the case Saturday” Muschamp said a number of other things happen in the game – a running back could miss a chip block, wrong formations and sets can be chosen, etc.

Was there a consideration not to go with Brantley on Saturday?
“We discussed it but we felt like John gives us the best opportunity to win the football game. We talked to John every series about his ankle, where he was with it and how he felt as far as his mobility was concerned, different things we could try in the run game, different things we could try formation wise to help us out as far as giving us a different look. As we continued to push through the game, we felt like John gave us the best opportunity. There is no question in my mind about that.”

Why was Florida unable to get off the field on fourth down?
“You create some situations in practice – jump ball situations – and you try to get the ball off the guy. You work a little more red zone cover routes. Again, as a coach, there’s a lot of different things you can approach as far as working at it. When you get that opportunity again – when you’re sitting out there in front of 90,000 people – you make the play. I have confidence in both players that they will make the play.”

Does the impatience of Gators fans bother you?
“Not at all. Not at all. No. Not at all.”

Will offensive coordinator Charlie Weis remain in the booth?
“We had some procedural issues obviously as far as communication was concerned. That’s something we’re working through right now to see if we benefit by still doing that. We’re in discussions about that right now.”

How do you punish players for committing penalties?
“We have different forms of punishment. A lot of situations we take the guy off the field. Some situations in our football team right now we’re a little bit thin, quite frankly. So we’re doing the best we can do.” Muschamp is insinuating that normally a player who commits a penalty would be pulled from the game for at least a few plays, but their lack of depth roster-wise inhibits that type of punishment.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the mood of the team: “We had a good meeting this morning. I told them we’re going to saddle up and continue to work and continue to press forward and be technical in our approach about the things we did well, the things we didn’t do well, and understand and learn from the film and continue to move forward. We’ve got an experience staff. We’ve got a staff that has been through tough times before and understands that part of it. It’s our job to bring a young team through this and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’ll stay upbeat and be technical about the situation – what you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well.”

» Muschamp on if freshman Jacoby Brissett remains the backup quarterback: “Right now Jacoby would be the No. 2 quarterback. We’ll continue to move forward with that. We create situations within practice where they all are getting reps. We’ll continue to evaluate that. It’s no different than any other position. The guy that plays the best and performs the best in practice deserves the chance to play, and Jeff’s a part of that.”

» Muschamp on why he cannot run the ball like he wants to: “It’s not about what you want to do. It’s about what you can do. We got to do a better job figuring out what we can do. We haven’t done a very good job of that the last couple of weeks.”

» Muschamp on freshman tight end A.C. Leonard being absent on Saturday: “He had a personal issue to handle. He’s fine. He was here this morning and we’re good to go.”

» Muschamp on if he takes losing hard: “There’s nothing good about it. There’s no moral victories. There’s nothing. You deal with it. You watch the film, you’re technical in your approach, you don’t get emotional with the players with it. You show what you did well, what you didn’t do well, what you got to do to improve yourself as a player, as a coach and a football team. The first person you look at is yourself. Too many people in our society want to point a finger at somebody else or blame somebody else for why something happened. I tell the players, ‘When we play well, it’s because you guys did a good job preparing yourself. When you didn’t, it’s my fault.’ That’s the way we do things around here. I don’t ever get over a loss. You live with them for a long time. I learned in this league you better move to the next week. We have another quality opponent on the horizon. You move on with it. When the season is over with it, you sit down, but you don’t ever get over a loss. I don’t.”

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9/20: Weis “not very happy” with offense’s miscues, loves his job, evaluates Gators

As the Florida Gators prepare for their first road test of the 2011 season on Sept. 24 against Kentucky, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s 33-23 victory over Tennessee as well as the upcoming contest.

WEIS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER…OFFENSIVELY

Florida’s offense may be much improved from a year ago, but don’t tell that to Weis, who has found plenty of ways in which to pick apart the Gators heading into their first road game of the season. “Actually I’m pretty disappointed. Am I content that we’ve been able to move the ball pretty consistently the first three games? Yes. I think that anyone who really is meticulous in their preparation at this stage of the season finds a lot of faults in things we’ve done,” he explained. “I think we can get a lot better on offense than we are right now. I think we can get a lot better.”

What is it exactly that perturbs Weis? A number of things. He explains:

“[On] third down we’re 31 percent. I had to throw a play action pass on the goal line to get it in, then we had to go for it on fourth down to get it in. I’m not too fired up about that. I said 31 percent on third down – that makes me miserable.

“We fumbled the ball one time. Turnovers, I’m not very happy about that.

“Got the ball back with four-and-a-half minutes to go in the game with a chance to run it out, we didn’t do that. Not very happy about that. We get the ball at the end of the game and we have to be smarter situationally to make sure we don’t run out of bounds.

“Seven penalties, sign me up for not being happy about that, too. Three line of scrimmage penalties at home, that doesn’t cut any water.

“And then throw on top of that the missed calls that I might make during the game and the number of mental errors you have during the game, trust me, there are plenty of things for me to be miserable about.”

Some of those other things?

Inefficiency in the red zone: “What really killed us in the red zone were penalties. Any time you have penalties in the red zone, it almost always prevents you from scoring touchdowns and you end up kicking field goals.”

A big blocking mistake: “We gave up a sack on a mental error on a +13 after a turnover. We had the ball first-and-10 on the 13 yard line, and the quarterback – he had no chance on the play because we turned a guy free. Now we don’t turn them free, somebody might get beat but we don’t turn them free. Add that to the list of things I’m not very happy about.”

…BUT HE LOVES HIS NEW JOB

Piggybacking on comments he made last week about working for Florida, Weis discussed on Tuesday how nice it is to work with his son every day. “I get a few fist bumps a day,” Weis said of interactions with his son. “He doesn’t want to give me the time of day. It’s like that commercial they say, ‘Priceless,’ it’s kind of been that way. Think about it, how many dads get to walk into work every day and share an office with your kid? It doesn’t get any better than that. Really, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

He also talked about being able to come home at night and spend time with his wife and daughter, even if only for a few minutes. “Football season is always tough because when I’m here…Nora [his wife] is probably buying something right now. I’ll see it on the credit card here in about 30 days,” Weis joked. “You still don’t give your family the fair amount of time, but that’s just the nature of the beast. But it is nice being able to go home and give my daughter a kiss goodnight, talk to my wife for a few minutes before we go to bed. It’s been fun. As I said before, Nora – besides her love for people with special needs – she’s a horse person. Living in the area where we’re living, I think she feels like she’s died and gone to heaven.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley: “John’s done a nice job. He deserves a lot of credit for going from where he was at the end of the year to where he is now. You know how it goes: Any time a season doesn’t go as planned, there’s certain guys – whether they be coaches or players – that are pegged as sacrificial lambs. He was one of them. Everything’s the quarterback’s fault. Certainly the quarterback will always get too much blame and too much credit; it’s the nature of the position. He’s clearly the leader of the offense. You don’t have to worry about who the players are turning to; everyone turns to him. That’s half the battle. When the players look in your eyes and say, “OK, talk to me,” I think that’s a very good thing.”

Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey: “I’ve been telling every pro scout that’s been coming in since the spring time the same thing. I said, ‘If [Jeff] Demps is better than him, you better draft him really high.’ From watching in the spring, this is how the kid was the entire spring. Having the fact that Jeff’s here too, having that combination of that type of athleticism at that position – kids that can play and like to play the game and know how to play the game – they’ve been fun to be around. [Pro scouts didn’t] know too much about [Rainey] but they know about him now. It’s tough not to know about him. You can make a highlight film from his first three games. We’ll worry about that in January. Chris is fun to be around.”

Redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison: “He easily played the best game he’s played for us since he’s been here. He was very, very good. There was maybe one time where he got knocked back, and I think he got surprised a little bit on the play. If he can play with that physicality that he played in that game against a good team, if he can play with that type of physicality, that bodes well for our strength up the middle.”

Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard: “He was very disappointed that he had got banged up because he was definitely high in the mix to get out there and be playing a whole bunch. Once things calmed down and he got settled, he’s got tons of talent. […] He has a very high ceiling. Last week I think first game out there, he got in there about 15-20 plays. I think it was a good start for him.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On his confidence level in throwing the ball downfield: “I think that wouldn’t be a problem. Years ago I learned from [Bill] Parcells, ‘You are who you are.’ Everyone wants you to do something that is not within the personality of your team. We’ve established the personality of our team. […] There will be games that come up that way, but for now you just take it one game at a time. We’re just trying to worry about how to attack Kentucky?”

» On the importance of going through reads and checking down: “When I was a relatively young coach, I had this quarterback with the Giants who used to wear No. 11 [Phil Simms]. He told me the difference between throwing for 3,000 yards in the NFL and throwing for 4,000 yards was check down and flare control. And that always stuck with me. Everywhere I’ve always gone, I always try to get these quarterback to have a clock in their head. Read it downfield, but when that clock ticks, dump the ball off. There’s a lot of times a receiver will come open just after he dumped the ball off and everyone will say, ‘I was wide open.’ That’s OK with me because [you] have that clock in your head. ‘Boom – boom – boom – gone.’ That’s one of the ways you avoid having a whole bunch of sacks.”

» On working off of a script to start the game:“I do think when players get into the game and know what you’re going to call, it’s easier when they first walk out there. When I tell them what’s coming, that’s what’s coming. I don’t say it’s coming and then all of a sudden it’s not. Unless a situation comes up like a third-and-one comes up where you didn’t script the third play might not be a third-and-one on your script, but now it’s third-and-one so you also go to, ‘The first call on third-and-one is going to be this.’ At least early in the game, the players already have a good idea for what you’re going to call. To be honest with you, I try to do it as best I can to start the second half, too. There’s a big difference between a college halftime and a pro halftime. There’s a lot of time. It gives you time to not only to talk to the players but to collect your thoughts and give you a pretty good idea how you’re going to start both halves. Starting both halves are critical, not just starting the first one.”

» On Kentucky’s defense: “They’re giving up 13 points for a reason. I think they have a pretty good idea of what they want to do on defense.”

» On lessening tackling for Rainey and Demps in practice: “We try to keep those guys from getting hit too much as best we can. That doesn’t mean they don’t get hit, but you can’t be stupid. You want them fresh on Saturdays. You always have to get enough contact to have you ready to go.”

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9/20: Gators LB Powell stepping up at buck

With the Florida Gators in the middle of preparing for their first road game of the 2011 season, two prominent players were made available to the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats on Sept. 24 at 7:00 p.m. in Lexington, KY.

THE BUCK STOPS HERE FOR POWELL

A player that head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn singled out in the spring to be their primary disrupter on defense, sophomore Ronald Powell found himself at the unique buck linebacker position, a hybrid spot held by such players as Jason Taylor and Sergio Kindle in previous versions of Muschamp’s defense.

Though he played well enough in the first two games of the season, Powell was not living up to the expectations Muschamp and Quinn had set for him long ago. They both said as much last week, perhaps partially as a motivational ploy to help Powell improve his game.

On Tuesday, Powell explained that he understood what the coaches wanted and explained why it took him a little bit to get going. “Just the position that I play, they want to see more coming from that position – playing faster, playing more physical,” he said. “[I was] just thinking, doing a lot of things, thinking before I react to things and stuff like that. It was just taking it from the classroom to the field and just going without thinking.”

That’s exactly what he did Saturday. Powell’s pass rushes on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray forced two key interceptions for Florida. He hit the signal caller twice and also shared a sack with redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard. Now all he has to do is carry what he has learned forward throughout the rest of the season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Powell on if sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd’s return helped him: “It’s always good to have my boy back. We all are close, and we was missing him.”

» Powell on Muschamp’s excitable nature during games: “Muschamp is a real good coach, a lot of juice he brings to the table, and we expect that from him. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”

» Powell on if sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley talks trash when he dances: “Easley’s a special character. Easley – you don’t know what he’s doing out there. He’s dancing, he’s talking, that’s just the kind of player he is. I don’t even know if he’s talking trash, I don’t know what he’s doing, honestly.”

» Powell on his on-field personality: “It varies. I’m real focused, and I like to joke around and talk to my teammates and have fun.”

» Powell on his first impression of junior LB Jon Bostic: “When I first got here, he was real big and real fast and athletic. He was doing things that I never seen a dude like him do as far as size and stuff, the type of moments he can do.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines on his blocking ability: “I’ve improved a lot. That’s what I work on every day. I knew that was one of my weaknesses, so I had to improve that to help my team.”

» Hines on the running backs catching more passes than the receivers: “They’re two explosive guys. They’re open – give them the ball and let them work.”

» Hines on the touchdown pass he missed in the end zone: “[A.C. Leonard] tipped it and I lost track of it.”

» Hines on how much tight end he’s playing in practice: “I’ve been playing since camp started, and it’s starting to get more comfortable to me. I usually just stay straight tight end for a while and then go to run routes with the receivers and stuff.”

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9/12: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each Monday to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from this week’s availability.

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

Muschamp began the press conference by noting that Florida had 16 explosive plays on offense and only gave up three, resulting in a great ratio of +13. In change of possession plays, the Gators were +3 due to the one turnover and two fourth down stops.

“The defense got a shutout – a lot of that is attributed to our offense possessing the ball in the second half,” he said, noting that Florida was also 91 percent on third down and did a great job running the ball for more than 300 yards.

However, he was very unhappy about the team’s nine penalties including the “six undisciplined penalties” that were caused due to alignment issues like jumping offsides on defense. “Some things that we just need to get cleared up and that’s something we just can’t tolerate,” he said.

Offensive Players of the Game: Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey
Scrap Iron Award (best offensive lineman): Redshirt senior transfer guard Dan Wenger
Big Play Award: Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose
Extra Effort Award: Junior RB Mike Gillislee
Defensive Player of the Game: Redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray
Ball Hawk Award: Sophomore safety Matt Elam
(also credited were Jabari Gorman and Marcus Roberson)
Special Teams Player of the Week: Sophomore LB Darrin Kitchens
Scout Team Players of the Week: Offense-Jason Traylor (fr.); Defense-Tim Clark (redshirt soph.); Special Teams-Louchiez Purifoy (fr.)

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) has been trying to give it a go each week, but Muschamp noted that the “injury [was] obviously much more severe than we had first thought.” Nevertheless, he said Brown practiced well last week and had good movement straight-ahead just struggled laterally. “He worked extremely hard through the week and we feel like he can give it a go this weekend.”

He added that senior RB Jeff Demps (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) are fine and the team will be a full-go otherwise. He also expects freshman TE A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus) to get back to practice and work a little bit.

Muschamp also discussed why redshirt sophomore WR Stephen Alli and redshirt freshman defensive end Lynden Trail did not dress for the game on Saturday. He said Alli “has a little bit of a hamstring. He went to the hotel and wasn’t going to participate,” while “Lynden just needs to play better.”

A TAKE ON TENNESSEE

Muschamp provided his perspective on Saturday’s opponent, Tennessee, from all three facets of the game.

“Tyler Bray has played really good football, is completing close to 80 percent of his passes. They went to him latter part of last year, really turned around their offense as far as production is concerned. Both explosive playmakers outside – Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers – both guys who can stretch the field vertically, very good with the ball after the catch, both guys you got to account for. They’re going to run the football. They’re going to be balanced in what they do – the play actions and things.

“Defensively I’ve got a lot of respect for Justin Wilcox and what he’s done defensively. The guy’s a really good football coach and he’s got his guys playing hard, playing fast, playing physical. They’re in the right spots as far as what they’re doing defensively. Derek [Dooley]’s background is in special teams and offense, but special teams are very good.”

EASLEY CAN DANCE IF HE WANTS TO

Anyone watching the game on television (or with a good look from the stands) has undoubtedly noticed that sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley like to dance – throughout the entire game. Whether waiting for the ball to be placed on the field or waiting to get on the field while the offense is playing, Easley appears to be light on his toes and has a big smile on his face while doing so. Muschamp said Monday that he had no problem with his player’s antics.

“I think every player is different. Obviously as long as it’s within the rules and our officiating crew does an outstanding job. As long as he’s not doing anything to taunt the opponent, I’m fine with that. I want guys to be who they are,” he said.

Redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter, one of Easley’s linemates, enjoys the show. “That’s just him. That’s Dominique Easley. He always wants to have fun while he’s playing and we enjoy that,” he explained earlier on Monday. “He brings a lot of excitement to our team, a lot of energy, and we definitely use that and it motivates us. I think the dancing helps him focus even more.”

WEIS RUNS THE SHOW OFFENSIVELY

Asked how much input he has on the team’s offense, Muschamp explained Monday that he does have plenty of control from a philosophical standpoint but makes sure that offensive coordinator Charlie Weis handles most of that unit’s operations because, simply, it is not his specialty.

“As far as the personnel is concerned and philosophically what I want to be offensively – 100 percent. As far as what we’re doing, as far as what Charlie’s calling the plays and what he feels we need to do to be successful – he’s running it,” Muschamp said. “The worst thing you can do in a leadership position is be something you’re not. I’ve never called plays before and I haven’t coached quarterbacks either. I hired those guys with the idea that they were going to run the offense.”

He also discussed how the team has transitioned from a spread to pro-style offense under Weis. “You see some elements here and there that they’re very familiar with in the run game – especially last Saturday,” he said. “That’s one thing that Charlie and our offensive staff have done a really nice job of – identifying what we do well and make sure we accentuate the things we do well as opposed to plugging them into our system and saying, ‘This is what we are,’ and running it. I think that’s Charlie’s experience. He understands the playmakers – to get those guys the ball in the situations we need to do that.”

NOTES & QUOTES

» On sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell needing to improve: “We’d like to have some more production. As far as affecting the quarterback, he had a couple nice hits the other night pressuring the quarterback. It was more of a timing passing game; they got the ball out pretty quick. I think he’s playing well at the point of attack in the run game, but we need a little more production. I talked to him about it yesterday as far as being a more productive player as far as some of those things – sacks, hits and those things need to be a little bit more.”

» On if he’s excited to coach his first SEC game (sarcastic reply): “Yeah. That was a heck of a question. I’m really, really, really excited.”

» On not getting any sacks last week: “We need to get pressure with four guys rushing. That’s the best pass defense in America. You need to be able to rush four guys and we need to do a better job of that.”

» On if he sees a difference between facing UAB and SEC teams unlike his players: “From an approach standpoint, I don’t like to treat any other game more important than another one. It’s the next one, that’s why it’s the most important one. It’s a great rivalry and it’s in the SEC East and it’s a game we need to play well and win. From that standpoint, sure, it’s a really important game and I don’t think you need to tell our players that. They come to a place like Florida to play in a game like this. We don’t treat other teams more important than other teams. I think that’s when you start to get an ebb-and-flow of play and how you approach the game. So that’s why we approach it that way.”

» On Rainey’s mindset each day being a catalyst for the team: “When you walk on the practice field there are certain guys every single day that you see football is really important to them. Football is really important to Chris. You see how he competes, how he handles himself, how he approaches the meetings and how he goes on the field and works at practice. You could walk out and not know anything and not know any names and pick out certain guys and pick them by number and understand, ‘Hey, football is important to this guy.’ It’s a day-in, day-out deal. It’s not just a one-day deal. He works extremely hard every day.”

» On if Rainey going what he went through made football more of a priority: “I think so. I think anytime you have something taken away from you that’s important to you, you find out a lot about yourself and about how important it is to you. There’s no question.”

» On not asking too much of his young players: “You’re always mindful about the situations you’re going to put your players in. that certainly affects how you call the game, how you prepare in the game and understanding the situations that some of these young men are going to be in for the first time in a big-time atmosphere.”

» On not installing stuff late in the week: “The hay is in the barn after Thursday. We’re not adding stuff on Friday. Especially [not] with a young team. You can certainly do that with a veteran group.”

» On if he minds playing a friend in Dooley: “You’d rather not but, bottom line on Saturday, he’s going to do the best job he can for his team and I am for mine.” Does he still speak to him a lot? “Not much now.” What if they coached in different conferences? “Maybe.”

» On if he is impressed of the top-flight LSU coaching staff he was a part of (including himself, Dooley, Jimbo Fisher, etc.): “We had a really good staff. We had some really good coaches. Credit Nick [Saban] in the interview process in hiring the right guys and hiring the right fit. We were very fortunate. We had some really good players – that’s a huge part of it. We recruited well and coached well.”

» On sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd returning from suspension: “Looking forward to seeing him play. First of all, he’s a good young man, and second of all he’s a good football player. We’re excited to have him back.”

» On telling the team to stop running its mouths during the game: “You see some things obviously that you don’t like and then the official comes and says, ‘We’ve got a lot of chatter going on.’ So that’s my job to handle that. I walked in at halftime and told them, ‘Do the talking with your helmet. Shut up and play the game.’ That’s really all it is. Guys who want to run their mouth all the time generally aren’t playing very good in my opinion.”

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9/7: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

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

PLAYER UPDATES

Aside from his opening statement, Muschamp did not have an opportunity to discuss the Gators specifically because all questions surrounded the Texas A&M Aggies joining the SEC any day now. At the start of the call, he said freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus) was the only player ruled out this week but did not provide updates on some other injured players including sophomore running back Trey Burton (bruise), redshirt senior wide recevier Deonte Thompson (head), redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) and sophomore WR Robert Clark (hamstring). He said earlier in the week that Burton, Thompson and Hines were all expected to be healthy, while Brown and Clark would be either probable or questionable depending how they performed in practice and the training room.

Muschamp was not asked about the status of sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, though he likely would have avoided that question and provided a “no comment” reply anyway as the NCAA inquiry is ongoing.

SEC/TEXAS A&M THOUGHTS

On the future of the SEC and other conferences: “I really think we’re heading toward the 16-team leagues eventually. I think there will be four of them at some point, if you ask me personally.”

On if Texas A&M is good fit for SEC: “Their game day atmosphere is very much like the SEC. They’ve got a great backing and tradition and recruiting base is somewhat similar from the standpoint that they do go into Louisiana. When I was at LSU, we recruited against A&M a lot, especially in the southern region. I know they still continue to recruit in Louisiana, so certainly I think it’s a good fit.”

On if Texas A&M joining the SEC helps recruit Texas: “We recruit the state of Florida first of all, and then obviously our region, and if it were to happen, it would certainly help open up some things. […] We do recruit nationally from the standpoint of we’ve got a great, outstanding academic institution, we got a great tradition, and we do attract some kids maybe outside of the state of Florida who want to be Florida Gators.”

On how the SEC could be affected recruiting-wise: “If you look at LSU and Arkansas, and you think back to when Arkansas was in the Southwest Conference and the number of great players they had from the Dallas area, just because that’s where their games were played. The exposure – you’re constantly on television, you’re playing in the state, you’re getting closer to home – all of those things would certainly help those two schools and the Mississippi schools. After that, I can’t really comment on the schools on the eastern side because we really focus our recruiting closer to home here unless there’s a national kid here or there.”

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