The Silver Lining for Thursday, October 30, 2014: Gators confident, debunking Foley-Meyer myths

Yes, The Silver Lining is once again out on Thursday. It will return to its regular Wednesday afternoon slot…eventually.

Gators won’t stop believin’

This time last year, Florida was down in the dumps, sporting a 4-3 record after consecutive road losses to LSU (17-6) and Missouri (36-17). The Gators have one fewer win (due to the canceled Idaho game) but those same losses to the two groups of Tigers (30-27 and 42-13, respectively), despite the fact that UF was supposed to be improved in 2014 and played both of those contests at home.

Nevertheless, facing it’s last possible chance to salvage the season and somehow remain in the SEC East race, Florida is putting on a strong, confident face entering its rivalry game against the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs.

Numerous Gators expressed pure determination while meeting with the media this week. While they obviously chose not to guarantee a win against a program that has beat them three-straight years and proved to be the better team at the season’s halfway point, there were no heads down or shoulders slouched.

Here’s what a number of players had to say about the team’s current mindset…

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10/27: Muschamp previews Florida-Georgia, talks Harris starting, Gators offensive issues

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from consecutive losses while preparing for the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon. Florida-Georgia will play in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. with the game once again airing live on CBS.

MOVING ON

Set to be the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Gators in the Florida-Georgia game since Chris Leak in 2003, Treon Harris took nearly all the first-team reps with the offense during the bye week and will get the majority of them this week as UF prepares to take on UGA in Jacksonville.

Muschamp, to this point, has been impressed with what he’s seen from the signal caller.

“Treon will be getting his first start, excited for him and what he’s going to be able to do,” he said. “[Harris is] a guy that has a knack for making plays, certainly has got a calm, cool, collected [way] about himself and how he carries himself. I think we’ll play well. Identify some things he feels comfortable with as well as we continue to move forward offensively. As much as anything, we’ve struggled with an identity because of the turnovers. That’s been a major issue.”

He also believes Harris will be able to carry a full workload, without a limited playbook, considering all of the extra action he’s seen through the bye week.

“I think in the open week our offensive staff did a pretty good job of identifying some things that Treon does extremely well, so we won’t pare things down as much as you might think with a freshman quarterback,” he said. “He’s an extremely bright young man. He’s able to handle a lot of things on his plate. I think the [extra] repetition … will help him moving forward.”

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10/14: Roper explains Florida’s rushing approach

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s second loss (at home against LSU) and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Missouri Tigers, which is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

RUNNING THINGS

To say that Florida’s approach to running the football last Saturday was questionable is an understatement. The Gators entered the game with their starter, junior running back Matt Jones, injured (ankle) and questionable. UF planned to run redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel a lot in the contest, too.

Despite Jones’s health and the prospect of overworking a quarterback who had not carried the ball that much in any other game this season as very real concerns, Florida did not appear to have a power rushing backup plan.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor and redshirt senior Mack Brown, who combined to tote the rock 259 times for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, touched the ball early in the contest but were not used late when it mattered the most – on 1st and Goal at the 2-yard line, 2nd and Goal at the 1-yard line, and 3rd and Goal at the 1-yard line.

Instead, the Gators ran 5-foot-9, 177-pound freshman tailback Brandon Powell on first down, gave Driskel a chance to run it in out of the shotgun on second down, and ran a triple option on third down (that would have succeeded had the pass not been dropped).

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10/13: Muschamp says Gators will play two quarterbacks – Driskel and Harris – on Saturday

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from its latest loss while preparing for the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening. Florida will host Mizzou at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida; kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the agme will air live nationally on ESPN2.

INTRODUCING THE TWO-QUARTERBACK SYSTEM

In what was likely to be the original plan last week against LSU, Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida will employ a two-quarterback system this week against Missouri with redshirt junior Jeff Driskel likely to take the first snaps in the contest.

“They both will play this week. We’ll work through the week and see how things go. We’ll see how it goes there,” he said. “Right now, Jeff would probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

Driskel, who learned of his demotion to part-time player when Muschamp made the announcement, said he has no qualms with the decision because he knows he needs to pick up his play going forward. Freshman Treon Harris, of course, will be the other signal caller taking reps with Driskel.

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Coaches want Gators’ playmakers to step it up

For weeks now, the Florida Gators coaching staff has claimed that redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel is only part of the problem when it comes to the offense’s ineptitude. Last Saturday, the Gators proved head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper right as drops, protection and other miscues – plus Driskel’s mistakes – seriously limited how effective Florida’s offense was through the first three quarters of the Tennessee game.

On Wednesday, Muschamp made it quite clear that the onus will not solely be on Driskel to play better in Saturday night’s showdown with the LSU Tigers. The skill players in particular must drastically improve, too.

“Fifteen drops at the [wide receiver] position, which is, you know…” said an exasperated Muschamp. “I look at the situation with the receivers, we’re trying to get some things going in the throwing game and we drop a slant on the first drive. And it’s like the air comes out of it a little bit. We’ve got to overcome those situations. We’ve got to finish on some plays; we’ve got to be able to place the ball on 3rd and 6 to an out route to a tight end on the money. There’s a lot of things involved in it. I think from the standpoint of us making some plays, creating some confidence for our guys is critical.”

In an effort to show the Gators’ playmakers how their minor mistakes – jumping too early for a pass, running the wrong route, failing to block effectively or altogether – are affecting Driskel and the offense as a whole, Muschamp addressed the unit Monday and stressed that the players need to take ownership of their roles on the team.

By doing so, he also attempted to take some pressure off of Driskel by pointing out to his teammates how the signal caller is not the only one causing the offense to appear as if it is stuck in the mud during games.

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Friday Final: Florida confident, prepared for UT

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles the team’s confidence entering its third Southeastern Conference game, the emergence of a young offensive lineman and a look at the unofficial depth chart ahead of the contest.

The Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hit the road for the second time this season when they face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game kicks off at noon and will air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Tennessee, talks injuries and support
Notebook: Kurt Roper keeping Florida offense calm, focused
Story: With support, QB Jeff Driskel focused on improvement not criticism
The Silver Lining: QB Treon Harris not ready for prime time
Notebook: Muschamp, D.J. Durkin looking to fix Gators secondary

GOOD TIMING

According to players on both sides of the ball, Florida’s off week came at an opportune time for the program, just as it was coming off a devastating loss on the road to Alabama. It’s not that the Crimson Tide simply defeated the Gators while hosting them in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but rather that the victory was a dominant one which appeared to show that UF still has a long way to go to truly be competitive this season.

Simply put, not all of Florida’s players saw the gap as that wide.

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To be the best, Gators gotta beat the best

Faced with one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season, the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) will not be short on obstacles to overcome in 2014.

But before Florida can get to its cross-division rivalry game, annual neutral-site contest with its border rival or season finale against the defending national champions, it has to hit the road and go head-to-head with arguably the best team in college football over the last five seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC).

As the home team, the Tide are -14.5 favorites over the Gators as the teams prepare to square off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. UF, however, does not feel like an underdog entering the contest.

“We’re not really looking at ourselves as underdogs. I mean, we never have,” said sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III this week. “We’re looking at it as Florida against Bama. It’s a big game, we all know it, that’s not a secret. There’s no doubt that those guys are going to play hard and the results will be the results.”

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Andre Debose flashed talent, potential for Gators

It may have taken six years and 32 games, but on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators redshirt senior Andre Debose finally broke out.

Sure, Debose entered Saturday’s game tied for the Southeastern Conference record (while simultaneously holding the school record) in kickoffs returned for touchdowns with four. And yes, back on Nov. 19, 2011, Debose did have 151 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a one game against FCS opponent Furman.

However, to this point, Debose has achieved his modest success at Florida strictly through his speed. Saturday, he also displayed his burst, change-of-direction skills, elusiveness and field vision – and he did it on more than one occasion.

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