8/29: Muschamp on injuries, coaches, position separation and standouts before opener

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss a number of topics relating to the team and their opening game.


“I’m excited for the first game; I’m excited for game week. I know that the players are and we are as a staff. Starting off with Florida Atlantic, offensively they are a pro-style attack with multiple formations. I think that Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger does an outstanding job of teaching the quarterback and what they want to do offensively. That obviously is their success and defensively they have more of a four-down team and now they have changed their personnel listing the possible three down, so we’ll prepare for both of those as we work through the week here.

“Obviously, anytime there is a first game there is some unknown on both sides of the ball and I think we’ve got some ourselves but I’m very pleased with our preparation at this point. Last Thursday and Friday, we came back and had a little better day from Wednesday. We had good meetings last night, very attentive and I thought the guys were bouncing around a little bit as far as the walkthroughs and things that we were doing. I’m real pleased at where we are at this point.”

OUT: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonoard (torn meniscus)

QUESTIONABLE: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder)

ACTIVE: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back)


Though many offensive coordinators spend their game days up in a box overlooking the field, Charlie Weis will be stationed on the sidelines this year along with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and most of the other position coaches. “I feel that it’s important to have Charlie on the field from the standpoint of the first year on offense,” Muschamp explained. “John is a senior but it’s the first year of going through the adjustments that happen in the first year. I’ve been through it before, the growing pains of something happens on game days that you’re not prepared for. We’ve got to get them up, we’ve got to get them calmed down. We’ve got to say this is what’s happening.”

Defensively, Muschamp reiterated that Quinn will be making the calls on defense though he will “be on the headsets and I’ll certainly make suggestions when I feel I have to look at some things.” Filling up the box upstairs will be running backs coach Brian White and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson Of White, Muschamp said he has experience of watching a game from that vantage point and “does an outstanding job of communicating what is happening with the other team’s defense. In regards to Robinson, Muschamp said he “is the same with knowing our defense very well” and that he needs his eyes up in the box.

As a whole, he reiterated that there is not much more he could have asked for from his staff after their first offseason together. “I’ve been very pleased with how we’ve come together and understanding where we are headed with this thing. First of all, philosophically being on the same page and that starts with offensively and defensively, special teams, recruiting and public relations. It’s everything,” he said. “I think that they understand and they know what I want done in the program and how we want things done in the program as far as discipline is concerned, how we approach practice, how we approach our players, how we handle the situations. I’ve been very pleased with the results to this point, but again, we are measured on game day.”


The team may not be there yet, according to Muschamp, but they will be. He said it all starts “with today and finish[es] through Thursday and having a good walk-through on Friday.” To his dismay, the Gators will be playing an evening game rather than an early afternoon game, something that he would prefer. “We’re going to get ready and try to play the game and unfortunately it’s at 7 p.m. I wish we were playing at 1 p.m., but that’s the way it is and we’re looking forward to doing that,” he said. Asked why the game time matters, Muschamp indicated he preferred earlier contests because of the motiviation players have in the morning. “You wake up and you’re ready to play and that’s kind of the way you feel but once you get out there at night with the great atmosphere – we’re going to have we’ve got the best fans in the country so I’m excited about that, they are going to be excited about that,” he said. “They’re going to be excited at 7:00; they’re going to be excited 1:00. They’d be excited at 11:30 a.m. if we played then so I will be fine.”

In the long run though, Muschamp just wants to get out on the field and relieve some of the light anxiety he is facing as a first-hear head coach. “I’m emotional every day. I’m excited about it, but more than anything is to just focus on the task at hand. It’s coaching well, it’s making good decisions for your football team, preparing well during the week,” he said. “Come Friday, the preparation is done, it’s just a mental game from that standpoint moving on to game day and going out and winning the football game. That’s what we’re looking forward to doing. I’m not nervous. ‘Anxious’ would probably be a better word.”


During his introductory press conference and before each semester so far this year, Muschamp has repeated that the offensive line and secondary are the two units that need the most cohesion in order for a team to be successful. Unfortunately for Florida, those are the two areas that the team is having the greatest difficulty finding players to separate themselves from the pack. “The bottom line with me is that you have to earn the right to start, so if a guy doesn’t practice, he’s not going to start,” Muschamp said Monday. “A guy has got to get out there and practice and compete and play the right way when we start our football game.”

In the depth chart released a few hours after his press conference concluded, Muschamp outlines exactly where certain players fall as of right now. He said he is pleased with junior Xavier Nixon, redshirt junior Matt Patchan and redshirt freshman Chaz Green at the tackle position and considers all three of them to be starters even though Nixon and Patchan will likely earn that title. The left guard and center position, however, remain up for grabs even though redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger and redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison currently hold those respective positions. Muschamp said Wenger is pushing Harrison for the center job but redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne is also making a case for Wenger’s left guard position, leaving both up in the air right now.

He is similarly concerned with the starting positions in the secondary, noting that every spot (left vs. right cornerback, left vs. right safety) is interchangeable. “all of those positions are a little bit up for grabs as far as who practices the best,” he said, except for sophomore Matt Elam who has locked down a starting job at safety. Take a look at the depth chart released today for a closer look at the alignment of the secondary.

In the end, his main goal is to see players finally separate themselves and claim a starting job rather than be just another good player who is not consistently leading the pack at their respective position. “We’ve got certain guys and I’d like to think they are competing very well and they’re competing to be the star. They all will play, and I can tell you that. So, who deserves to be the starter and jog out there to start the game? We’ll see what happens and how they progress through the week,” he said. “You can look at it as motivation, you can look at it as a lot of different things, but the bottom line is them understanding it is how you prepare is how you play. I’m young, but I’m old-fashioned and generally how you play is how you practice, too. That’s the way I view it and nobody, in my opinion, has separated themselves to be named the starter here Monday before our first game. Does that mean that we’re playing poorly? I don’t think so, that means we have not created a separation at the position as we have at other positions.”


» On freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders: “He would be the front-runner today [to start at safety], but it’s about consistency and that’s the hardest thing for young players. It’s hard for them day-in and day-out to go out and consistently do it but I’m very pleased with him. I think he has in the intangibles as far as the instinct to play in the deep part of the field, tackling ability, coverage ability, playing the ball and a guy that I’m excited about playing for the Gators.”

» On restoring Brantley’s confidence this season: “I don’t know about restoring…I think that if more than anything when you have some sort of change you grow with that change and that’s what John has done. I’ve been very pleased through the off-season and his work ethic and his approach through spring practice and it’s catching on onto what we are trying to do. I think he feels more comfortable in the things that we’re doing and I’ve been very pleased in his progress. I think that John has built his confidence himself and I think that when you have a quarterback coach and an offensive coordinator like Charlie Weis, the track record speaks for itself and Charlie has confidence in a guy like John and that should bring confidence to John. I think that’s what is happening and I feel very comfortable for where we are right now.”

» On if the reserve quarterbacks, specifically freshman Jeff Driskel, will see the field: “We’ll cross that bridge we come to it. As far as the game is concerned, we’ll work through that but John is our starting quarterback and if it presents itself that somebody else plays then that will be fine and if it’s Jeff, it’s Jeff. At this point, it would be Jeff being the backup but certainly through the week we’re going to see the guys who are practicing best and who deserves to play. John Brantley is our starting quarterback.”

» On where fans can expect to see sophomore Trey Burton on the field: “At a bunch [of positions]. You better track him. He’s a guy that can line up in a fullback position, he can line up in the tailback position, he’ll line up in the slot, he’ll line up at tight end, he can be split out wide. He brings an awful lot of variety to your playing call because he’s smart and he gets football, he understands it. When you want to change something with him, you can say, ‘This is what we did yesterday, we’re just doing it from a different spot,’ and he understands that. Some guys have a harder time with that and he does not. We’re going to use him in a lot of different ways, he’s a very valuable member of our football team and on special teams he does a very good job.”

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8/24: Muschamp maddened by lack of execution

With the Florida Gators now having completed training camp and headed into fall practice, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media after Wednesday’s scrimmage and went off how the team is failing to progress on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3 at home against Florida Atlantic.


Entering his media availability 30 minutes early, Muschamp sat down and went on a rant that lasted just over three-and-a-half minutes and was interrupted with only a few questions interjected between his statements. Here it is uncut:

Asked how scrimmage went Wednesday evening: “Not very well. We tried to do it just like a game with preparation as far as pre-game procedure – I thought that was fine. As far as the scrimmage was concerned, we did not execute very well. The mental toughness was not there. A very immature football team at this point. [We’re] not consistently performing at the level we need to perform at. I was just disappointed overall with the mental effort tonight. There were some procedure issues we should not be having at this point, defense, some mental mistakes we should not be having at this point. Just overall pretty displeased. […] Not what we were looking for tonight, that’s for sure.”

Asked if the team took a step backward: “Well it dang sure wasn’t a step forward. We just got to get on the film. We’re going to go out and have a good practice Thursday and Friday, get back Sunday night and get after it again. That’s all we can do – coach better and play better. It’s not a lack of effort, in my opinion, in those situations. It’s just a lack of focus on what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it. We have no sense of urgency about what we do and how we do it and how we approach it. [It’s] very frustrating. And it’s not everybody. We’ve got a bunch of guys who do it the right way but not enough and not collectively enough guys doing it that way right at this point. We just got to find the guys who do it. I told the coaches, ‘We’re staying here tonight and we’re going to figure it out. We’re going to stay here as long as it’s going to take to figure out the guys who are going to play hard for the Gators, and the ones who don’t we’ll weed them out and go to the next guy.”

Asked if players will lose their current positions: “There ain’t no doubt. We’re going to figure it out. Tonight we’re going to look at the tape and get the guys that want to compete and play hard and the ones that don’t, we’ll go to the next guy.”

Asked if it is concerning to have these issues so close to the first game: “You just try to put people in situations, and it was frustrating that we didn’t execute the situations we needed to execute. Whether it was coming off the goal line, red zone, third down, 45 seconds to win the game – whatever it was we just didn’t do what we needed to do on either side of the ball. It was just disappointing. Coaches can’t play; the players got to play. We just need better effort, need to do a better job I guess from our standpoint as coaches evaluating what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with.”


Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was “not totally” healthy when participating in Wednesday’s scrimmage as he is still nursing a sore back and the coaching staff “went out there with the idea that we were going to [pull him early],” according to Muschamp. “He’s still a little sore,” he said. “Had a good day Tuesday. He repped a little bit early and then we had some of the other guys rep in there. He’s still sore in the back, but we feel like he’ll be fine. […] Based on the information I have, based on his Tuesday practice, a little soreness here and there. I just don’t have a whole lot to be concerned about at this point.”

Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus): Out for the opener, a 6-8 week injury

Redshirt junior TE/wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring): Questionable for opener

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (sprained knee): Held out recently but should be available for opener. “I’m hoping to get him back tomorrow or Friday or if not that definitely Sunday night.”


Muschamp said Wednesday’s effort at scrimmage “needs to be” a wake up call for some of the players on the team. Though he cautioned on multiple occasions that many of the players did show flashes and perform admirably, those who faltered or failed to impress him were also plentiful. “To me, any time you step on the field and you’re a competitor you compete. I hate to paint the brush that there was a lot of guys – there was a select few – because we had a bunch of guys compete and play hard. Proud of those guys; proud of their efforts,” he said. “You see things a as coach you don’t want to see. We didn’t finish very well, play very well at the point of attack, played too high on both lines of scrimmage. You just see things that displease you. And that’s what I saw coming from what I saw, and I told them that’s what I thought after.”

Faced with a tough decision – whether to cut the scrimmage short due to his displeasure or force his players to grind through it – Muschamp chose the latter method because he wanted to see what the Gators were made of at this juncture. “There are a couple different ways to do it. You can [stop it] or you can hope that your leadership takes over and realizes it is not going as well as you would like,” he explained. “Tonight we were doing a lot of situational work, so you’re working different groups. It’s not like the whole offense is over there together or the whole defense is over there together – and a lot of special teams work. You’ve got to work through it and you’ve got to let the players play.”

When it all comes down to it though, Muschamp wants Florida’s student-athletes to know the buck stops with them – not the coaching staff.

“Players need to lead. It’s their football team, not mine,” he said, “[but] I wasn’t questioning leadership tonight. We should have enough guys mentally tough enough to battle through what we needed to do and play smart football.”

Then he made a foreboding statement:

“We’re going to be in full gear and we’re going to strap it up and we’re going to get after it. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I cannot wait for practice tomorrow.”


Muschamp refused to say specifically that any one player excelled or shined on Wednesday, but he did provide some comments on a few who “flashed” on a play here or there or have been impressing him recently. (He likes to go back and watch the tape before dishing out praise because while one play may stick out, that player could theoretically perform poorly the rest of the practice.)

“[Dominique] Easley plays hard inside. Sharrif Floyd plays hard. Those guys showed up to me,” he said specifically about Wednesday evening. “Andre Debose made a nice play across the middle today.”

On Easley, the sophomore defensive tackle: “Dominique’s a hard-playing guy, likes the game, plays hard, practices hard, takes a lot of pride in his performance. […] He’s got a very good first step, he certainly does. He’s got a very good anticipation. I tell Charlie [Weis], ‘Every snap, hard count him.’ We work on that an awful lot, and he’s doing a better job of holding in there on those sort of things. But he certainly has a great first step.”

Redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan: “Matt’s got some toughness to him. He likes playing the game. Certainly good to get him back and throw his hand in there. He’s a really good football player. He certainly brings some toughness to our team, so we got to continue to develop that with other guys around him and him to consistently do that all the time.”

Sophomore safety Matt Elam: “Matt’s just a really instinctive football player. He sees things on the back end. He’s able to get a good jump on the ball where other guys may not see it as quickly – it doesn’t naturally come to some guys as quickly. To me on the back end you’ve got to have some natural instincts. You’ve got to have natural instincts to play the ball, to understand about reception area – where the receiver is going to be, where the ball is being thrown, understand about angles. We can talk about coaching that all the time. Some guys get it, some guys don’t. That’s something that certainly comes very easy to him. […] I think he’s got great acceleration to the ball. When he sees it and he goes and gets it, he’s got that ‘umph’ He’s got that extra gear. He has some things that, from a coaching standpoint, you like to take credit for but are really just natural ability.”

Sophomore running back Trey Burton: “Trey’s lining up in a lot of different positions. He gives so much to our football team from a blocking standpoint in the run game and protections, catching the football and running the football. He’s been very effective in doing all of those things. We certainly use him as far as in the slot, mismatches outside, get him on a linebacker, slip him on the flat and wheel routes and the different stuff we do with him. We do an awful lot with him. He gets the game very well; it comes easy to him. I think he’s had a great camp.”

Redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray: “At this point he’s played the best at the SAM, I’d say he’s been the most consistent guy. He also gives us some good pass rush. He does a nice job rushing the edge so he can give us some juice on the edge there.”


» On what he told Easley to “straighten him out” in the offseason: “I just told him it was going to be a certain way [and] if he didn’t like it, he could leave.”

» Muschamp said the Gators have been pumping crowd noise into camp since the fifth practice in order to help the team work on communication, signals, snap counts and general focus. He plans to do it for every single practice up until the first game.

» On if the team is ready to play a full game: “Well we need to be ready next Saturday night, so we’ll be ready.”

» On if he has already game planned for some teams: “We installed for the season during camp, so once we get through our base package, then we install for maybe some things that we don’t see our offense give us. Some of the different stuff maybe our offense doesn’t give us formation-wise, play-wise, route concept-wise for the team’s we’ve got to beat because we scout all of our opponents in the offseason. We’ve taken some time the last part of camp and into Tuesday and even into tonight to work on some opponent stuff.”

» On why he game plans so early: “You try to expose it to them so when you get into week one or week four or week eight or week 10 or whatever and you’ve practiced some of the looks. I don’t like to introduce something totally new concept-wise and learn it in a week and execute it on game day.”

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (19-10)

With just 10 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the ninth 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 19-10.

19 – Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, FL)
Redshirt junior kicker
5’11” 183 lbs.

Quick Bio: An Under Armour High School All-American entering his fourth year at Florida, Sturgis majors in sport management and hopes to continue leading the Gators special teams unit as the starting kicker. A kickoff specialist during his freshman year, he became the primary place kicker in 2009 and hit 73.3 percent of his field goals (long: 56) and 44-of-47 extra points to score 110 points for Florida.

2010 Season: Sturgis did not get an opportunity to flourish like he wanted in his second season as the Gators’ starter. Suffering through back pain early in the season, he was forced to undergo surgery after just four games and was eventually awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA. Sturgis hit just 2-of-4 field goal attempts and 19-of-21 extra points before being sidelined for the remainder of the year.

2011 Outlook: With an extra year of eligibility in his back pocket, Sturgis feels like his back is 100 percent healthy and enters the season as the team’s only scholarship kicker. Head coach Will Muschamp confirmed that he was doing well in camp two weeks ago. “He is strong; he had no issues in the summer as far as his workouts,” he said. “We changed his routine a little bit [he’s not doing squats anymore] as far as the things he did, but he’s been kicking the ball extremely well thus far in camp.”

17 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL)
Freshman quarterback
6’3” 239 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit coming out of high school who was considered one of the best players at his position nationally, Brissett participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and enrolled at Florida over the summer after deciding to play high school basketball in the spring. A graduate of Dwyer High School, he is good friends with sophomore safety Matt Elam and was also teammates with redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian and sophomore wide receiver Robert Clark in high school.

2011 Outlook: A bit behind the eight ball considering fellow freshman QB Jeff Driskel enrolled early and got a handle on the offense months before him, Brissett is currently competing with redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy to be the No. 3 quarterback. Praised for his mobility and quick grasp of the playbook, he will probably be competing with Driskel throughout his entire career with the Gators but is unlikely to pass him for the back-up quarterback job this season.

16 – Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL)
Freshman quarterback
6’4” 235 lbs.

Quick Bio: An early enrollee who joined Florida in January, Driskel is a former five-star recruit who was the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and considered by most to be the No. 1 quarterback in the country in 2011.He threw for 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 1,333 yards and 20 touchdowns during his senior season and earned an Under Armour All-American nod for his efforts.

2011 Outlook: With redshirt senior QB John Brantley firmly implanted as the team’s starting signal caller, Driskel’s goal this offseason was to earn the back-up quarterback job. Though he started fall camp behind Murphy, he recently supplanted him as Brantley’s back-up and is beginning to pull away from the pack. “His growth process from spring, obviously he has worked extremely hard through the summer dedicating himself to the playbook and learning what to do and how to do it and why we’re doing it that way,” Muschamp said. “He’s had a very good camp at this point.”

15 – Loucheiz Purifoy (Pensacola, FL)
Freshman cornerback
6’1” 183 lbs.

Quick Bio: It’s a pretty gutsy move to don the No. 15 in the orange and blue, especially as a freshman, but the former four-star recruit hopes he can be just as impressive as his predecessor in that jersey. Purifoy was one of the best players at his position coming out of high school and chose to play for Florida over Alabama, Auburn and Miami (among others).

2011 Outlook: Though he is not likely to contend for a starting role this season, Purifoy has been impressing Muschamp during practice and is making a case to get some legitimate playing time during his first season. “I’ve been very pleased with Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy and what they can do. They’re very good athletes; they’re learning our system,” he said. “They did a good job studying this summer.”

14 – Jaylen Watkins (Cape Coral, FL)
Sophomore safety
6’0” 187 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A U.S. Army All-American and four-star recruit, Watkins is a social and behavioral sciences major who played in 10 games last year and had a career-high three tackles in the last contest of the season. Watkins worked primarily on special teams in 2010 but also saw some time in the secondary.

2011 Outlook: With Elam and junior Josh Evans pretty much set as the Gators’ starters at safety, Watkins will begin the 2011 season in a reserve role alongside redshirt freshman Joshua Shaw. He is enjoying Muschamp’s defense and hopes to continue following his instructions on how he can succeed in it. “[He tells me] just to be a football player. Everything is not going to be what it is on paper – just be an athlete out there,” Watkins said.

13 – Dee Finely (Auburn, AL)
Redshirt sophomore linebacker
6’2” 203 lbs.

Quick Bio: Originally a commitment in the 2008 recruiting class, Finley chose to attend prep school for a year in order to get his grades up so he could enroll. The Under Armour All-American and four-star recruit, who signed as a safety, joined the team in 2009 and notched seven tackles (five solo) in 10 games.

2010 Season: Moved from safety to linebacker, Finley saw the field the vast majority of the time on special teams. He was a primary fixture on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units and accumulated seven tackles (five solo) over the course of four games. Finely missed the final seven contests of the season after fracturing his collarbone against LSU and was awarded a medical redshirt by the NCAA.

2011 Outlook: Called “solid” as a linebacker but “outstanding” as a special teamer by Muschamp, Finley will play a reserve role at the latter position in 2011 but should get plenty of playtime at a very shallow position. He missed a few days of training camp due to an undisclosed injury but has returned to action and is even drawing praise from his teammates. “He’s done very well,” junior LB Jon Bostic said. “He’s picked up a lot of things in these two-a-days.”

12 – John Brantley (Ocala, FL)
Redshirt senior quarterback
6’3” 219 lbs.

Quick Bio: A five-star quarterback, U.S. Army All-American and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2006, Brantley was one of the most highly recruited players currently on Florida’s roster. The humanities and letters major redshirted as a true freshman but played quite well as a reserve during his second and third seasons. Combined, Brantley completed 54-of-76 pass attempts for 645 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception as Tim Tebow’s back-up.

2010 Season: Stepping into a starting role for the first time in his career, Brantley hoped the offense would be tailored to better suit his talents. Instead, the pro-style quarterback was asked to run a spread offense and struggled mightily. He completed only 60.8 percent of his passes (200-of-329) for 2,061 yards with nine TDs and 10 INTs over the course of the season. While Brantley remained the “starter” throughout the year, he ended up becoming part of a three-quarterback rotation halfway through the season and played mostly on third down, when the team was behind or in obvious passing situations.

2011 Outlook: After seriously considering transferring in the offseason, Brantley decided to stick with the Gators and (according to those who actually get to see him daily) has had a resurgence under new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Coaches and players have unanimously lauded his ability, consistency, improvement, leadership, arm strength and overall understanding of Weis’s offense. Muschamp has noted on numerous occasions that Brantley is not only his starter but significantly ahead (in terms of development) of the other passers. He has added that the offseason goal is to improve the protection in front of him and playmakers around him, insinuating that he is as solid a player as the offense has on its roster.

11 – Jordan Reed (New London, CT)
Redshirt sophomore tight end
6’3” 239 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A four-star quarterback coming out of high school, Reed dressed for five games in 2009 but did not see any action. The social and behavioral sciences major officially transitioned over to tight end in 2010 but wound up only starting four games at that position as he instead played more of a hybrid role and saw plenty of time at quarterback. Reed caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown last year but also rushed 77 times for 328 yards and five scores and completed 26-of-46 passes for 252 yards with three TDs an interception.

2011 Outlook: With Brantley (again) taking over at quarterback and two incoming freshman filling in the depth at that position, Reed has officially moved to tight end full-time and will start at that position for Florida in 2011. He recently missed a few days of practice with a sore hamstring but has been impressive on the field. With freshman A.C. Leonard missing 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus in early August, Reed will be counted on even more to be a receiving threat from the tight end position. “I’m excited about being the tight end,” Reed told The Gainesville Sun. “It’s been a lot easier on me than last year, knowing that I’ve just got to worry about one position.”

10 – Tyler Murphy (Wethersfield, CT)
Redshirt freshman quarterback
6’2” 209 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A two-star recruit , Murphy spent last year as a member of the scout team that helped the Gators prepare for their opponents. One of four quarterbacks on scholarship in 2010, the social and behavioral sciences major was the only one who did not end up seeing some game action.

2011 Outlook: Murphy is once again one of four quarterbacks on scholarship this year; however, the other two he is competing with for the back-up job have changed. With Reed now at tight end and sophomore Trey Burton listed as a running back, Murphy is the second most experienced passer on the Florida roster. Unfortunately for him, Driskel was recently promoted to be Brantley’s back-up ahead of him and he is now competing with Brissett for the No. 3 job. “Tyler Murphy has done a really nice job of managing the offense,” Muschamp said on Aug. 10. “We did a move the field today where the coaches got off the field and let the players play. Tyler took us on a nice drive down the field.”

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post will be updated in the near future.

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (39-30)

With just 30 days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 football season gets underway, the seventh 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 39-30.

36 – Moses Jenkins (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Redshirt senior cornerback
6’2” 190 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Jenkins majors in social and behavioral sciences and is entering his fifth season with the team after being seriously injured (head) in 2009 and also missing games one year ago.

2010 Season: Earned his first career start in the season opener, but hyperextended his left elbow and sat out the following seven games. Ended up earning two more starts and playing in four more games but only amassed 15 total tackles and one interception on the season.

2011 Outlook: Granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA in 2010, Jenkins hopes to win a starting cornerback job opposite redshirt junior Jeremy Brown but will be competing with sophomore Cody Riggs among others for the opportunity.

34 – Lerentee McCray (Ocala, FL)
Redshirt junior defensive end
6’4” 250 lbs.

Quick Bio: A highly-ranked four-star linebacker in high school, McCray is a social and behavioral sciences major who has since shifted to defensive end. He played in 11 games over his first two seasons with the team but received a medical redshirt in 2009.

2010 Season: Back from injury, McCray played in 10 contests last year, missing three because of a sprained right ankle. His season highlight came in the Outback Bowl when he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, but he also shined against Vanderbilt by registering a tackle, forced fumble and two hurries.

2011 Outlook: McCray will be competing to be one of the team’s primary starters at defensive end this fall. Senior William Green has one side locked up, and McCray that his athleticism and tenacity help him stand out from the pack for the other available spot. Head coach Will Muschamp, who put McCray at SAM linebacker at time during spring, also praised him for his leadership. “I love the new defense. You’ve just got to see it on the field. It’s a different concept, a different style of defense,” McCray said on March 21.

33 – Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL)
Freshman safety
5’10” 198 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit who attended the same high school as redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Johnson enters the season as a versatile defensive back who gives Florida plenty of options.

2011 Outlook: “Chris Johnson from Trinity is a very physical player, in the box safety,” Muschamp said on National Signing Day. “He’s shown skills to play outside in the deep part of the field.” Johnson may not make much of an impact in 2011 beyond playing on special teams and is a candidate for a redshirt.

33 – Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA)
Sophomore running back
5’10” 205 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: One of the top running backs in the country coming out of high school, he was a four-star recruit who currently majors in social and behavioral sciences. He appeared in two games as a true freshman in 2010, carrying the ball three times for 23 yards.

2011 Outlook: One of five scholarship rushers on the roster, Brown has a pair of seniors (Jeff Demps and redshirt Chris Rainey) in front of him as well as junior Mike Gillislee. He was broke his fibula during the spring but had successful surgery and was supposed to return to working out in July. Between the injury and the stacked depth chart, his potential impact in 2011 is up in the air.

32 – Gerald Christian (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Sophomore tight end
6’3” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: An early enrollee last January, Christian was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, where he was teammates with fellow Gators safety Matt Elam and wide receiver Robert Clark. The social and behavioral sciences major played in eight games as a freshman on the field goal unit and in goal-line formations.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp worked Christian out extensively at linebacker in the spring (also giving him some time at tight end) but ultimately decided that offense was where he belonged. He said on April 21 that Christian had returned to playing tight end and fullback and would likely stick with that role. “He’s working awful hard. I’m very proud of his effort and what he’s trying to do,” Muschamp said. “He’s done some nice things for us at tight end.” Christian will have to compete with redshirt sophomore Jordan Reed (the likely starter) and four-star commit and early enrollee A.C. Leonard for playing time.

31 – Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Sophomore cornerback
5’9” 180 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010 Season: A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Riggs is a social and behavioral sciences major who is one of only six true freshman to play in all 13 games in 2010. He earned three starts (one in the Outback Bowl) and registered 18 tackles, three pass breakups and one interception. In addition to seeing plenty of time on defense, Riggs played as a gunner on the kickoff and punt coverage teams and had a solid first season in the Orange and Blue.

2011 Outlook: Muschamp said Riggs “had a great spring playing both corner and nickel” during a speaking engagement in April and said in March that he is the team’s most versatile defensive back. “Cody’s a good football player. He’s got a tremendous heart [and] all the ability as far as playing hard and playing fast and doing the things you got to do to be a good football player,” he added. With the loss of senior Janoris Jenkins, Muschamp may count on Riggs to start opposite Brown but could also use him in a variety of other ways.

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

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Gators’ 2011 freshmen pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida Gators football is preparing to begin practice for the 2011-12 season in just about a month, it was time for the team’s newest members to choose theirs. The freshman roster as of May 2011, according to the University of Florida‘s media guide, is as follows:

» No. 5 – Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 15Louchiez Purifoy (Pensacola, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 16 – Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), five-star quarterback
» No. 17 – Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), four-star quarterback
» No. 20 – Valdez Showers (Madison Heights, MI), three-star cornerback
» No. 21 – Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), four-star safety
» No. 26 – De’Ante Saunders (Deland, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 33 – Chris Johnson (Ocala, FL), three-star safety
» No. 41 – Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel, FL), three-star fullback
» No. 44 – Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN), three-star punter
» No. 55 – Graham Stewart (Middletown, CT), four-star linebacker
» No. 63 – Trip Thurman (Dover, DE), four-star guard
» No. 65 – Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), three-star guard
» No. 80 – Ja’Juan Story (Brooksville, FL), four-star wide receiver
» No. 81 – A.C. Leonoard (Jacksonville, FL), four-star tight end
» No. 86 – Clay Burton (Venice, FL), three-star defensive end
» No. 97 – Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), three-star defensive end

There have also been a number of uniform number changes for current Gators:

» No. 1 – Chris Rainey, redshirt senior running back (formerly No. 3)
» No. 2 – Dominique Easley, sophomore defensive tackle (formerly No. 58)
» No. 3 – Jelani Jenkins, redshirt sophomore linebacker (formerly No. 43)
» No. 4 – Sharrif Floyd, sophomore defensive tackle (formerly No. 73)
» No. 92 – Lynden Trail, redshirt freshman defensive end (formerly No. 85)

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