8/18: Muschamp on depth chart, competition heating up as season approaches

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to kick off his team’s final few days of practice before preparation finally begins for the team’s first opponent on Saturday, Aug. 30.

INJURY UPDATES

The Gators were dealt their first notable injury blow this season as Muschamp announced that freshman defensive tackle Thomas Holley, who was already dealing with scar tissue on a sports hernia he had repaired in high school, also had an undetected torn labrum in his hip and was scheduled for surgery on Monday. Holley will take a redshirt.

Senior offensive guard Trenton Brown (foot contusion), redshirt sophomore defensive back Marcus Maye (hamstring) and freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe (ankle) were all injured in practice this week, though all are expected back soon. Brown will return to practice on Tuesday, while Maye and Sharpe are scheduled to get back onto the field next Monday after a week on the sideline.

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8/15: Muschamp updates injuries, evaluations and competitions after Florida’s 15th practice

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following his team’s second-to-last open practice of the offseason. The Gators are now 15 practices deep and will spend Saturday only wearing helmets during a one-hour Fan Day showing.

INJURY UPDATES

Freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe, who worked his way into being the fourth option at his position, suffered a high-ankle sprain during practice Friday morning and is currently day-to-day.

“We need to get him back. He’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s very athletic, 6-foot-6, 330 pounds. He moves his feet extremely well. [He's] a guy that’s going to help us this year.”

The news is better for some other players. Junior running back Matt Jones (knee swelling) and redshirt junior guard Trip Thurman (shoulder) will return to action on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox, Jr. (shoulder) could already be back in practice but will instead return on Monday after spraining his AC joint.

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8/13: Fowler breakout, Leak coaching, Jones ready

A handful of Florida Gators met with the media on Tuesday to discuss both how fall practice is going and how the team is coming together ahead of the 2014 season. Others met with the media last week to discuss similar topics.

BREAKOUT TIME

Junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. had his share of moments during his sophomore campaign. He looked strong at times and explosive at others but had little help around him to stop the double teams and allow him to be truly dominant.

With 2014 now approaching, Fowler has the opportunity to step up and be the dominant name on Florida’s defense, even more so than sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. According to some of his teammates, he’s on his way to earning that type of recognition.

“He’s been relentless,” said sophomore safety Keanu Neal. “Effort, that’s what he’s bringing. He’s bringing a lot of effort and continuing to work on his technique to get better.”

Fowler has also taken over Dominique Easley’s role as a leader on the Gators’ defense. That baton was ceremoniously passed when Easley relinquished his Chucky doll and allowed Fowler to be the adoptive father. Fowler tried to fill in for his role model last year, but even with Chucky in tow, he had a ways to go. This year, it seems he is putting it together on the leadership front.

“He’s one of my best friends. Me and him were roommates last semester, so we’re pretty close. Every time I’m on the field with him it’s like playing next to one of my good friends. He pretty much brings me up, tells me to work hard. He’s definitely a good guy, definitely a good role model,” explained sophomore defensive tackle Joey Ivie.

Fowler is doing all of this without Chucky in the locker room, at least for now.

“I haven’t seen the doll yet. I don’t know if I will,” redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “I wasn’t scared of it; it was just a matter of fact that you got a little doll that kills people in movies. Besides that, no, I haven’t seen it. We might see it soon, but I don’t know. We’ll have to see at the first Gator Walk.”

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The Silver Lining for Wednesday, August 13

SEC Network debuts on Thursday

Though fall practice for the Florida Gators is in full swing and there is plenty of football to discuss, let’s start this week’s TSL with a quick look at the SEC Network, which debuts nationwide on Thursday.

The list of cable and satellite providers is long. The talent signed to broadcast games, events and studio shows is strong. And the fact that the SEC Network will air three football games every Saturday, not to mention a ton of contests from the dozen other sports played by Southeastern Conference teams, means most of the time you tune in, there will be something exciting going on.

There are some that think the channel will fail to live up to its hype but there is not much to support that assertion. The SEC Network is better positioned to succeed than any of the other conference-only channels have been at the time of their debut. It has the strongest partner possible in ESPN and enough unique programming to give it some substance at launch.

All of that, coupled with the tremendous amount of live sports programming it will carry (especially in the spring during basketball and baseball season), gives the SEC Network every chance to be a major success right out of the gate.

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Are Florida’s receivers finally ready to break out?

It has been four years since the Florida Gators have seen one of their wide receivers get drafted by an NFL team, an especially jarring statistic when one considers that the program had 19 total selected in the 17 drafts the league held from 1994-2010.

Combining poor recruiting with lackluster development, inconsistent quarterback play and overall uninspiring offenses, Florida has been unable to get the necessary production out of the position to win football games and propel players to the next level.

As the 2014 season fast approaches, it appears to be unanimous around the team that the Gators possess more firepower at the position than they have since the 2009 campaign.

Florida does, however, face a couple of obstacles on its way to having the position perform as well as head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper both expect with Roper’s newly-installed offense.

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2014 SEC Media Days – Will Muschamp pleased Florida’s roster, progress made in spring

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III represented the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Below are highlights primarily from Muschamp’s sessions with the media.

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

If anyone is to believe in the possibility of Florida turning things around in 2014, rebounding from its worst season since 1979, it is going to start on the offensive side of the ball. Muschamp knew this and brought in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to employ a spread offense and make the Gators a more dynamic playmaking team.

Not only will Roper’s offense put redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel back in the shotgun, where he is more comfortable and capable, it should give Florida more space to make plays. Muschamp is already extremely impressed with how much UF has been able to get accomplished in such a short period of time.

“I went back and looked at our numbers from 2012 when we were in the shotgun as opposed to being under center. When Jeff was in the shotgun, our yards were better, our explosive plays were better in both the run and pass game. He was recruited to Florida to be a gun quarterback,” he explained.

“In making that change, I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that’s a balanced offense. …

“In our 15 days of springs, we got a lot more done than I thought we would. He’s an outstanding fundamental football coach, very positive. It was good to see our offensive kids having fun again on the field. Really excited about that. Probably what excites me the most is this is probably the most talent we’ve had on offense in my four years at Florida.”

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FOUR BITS: Parsons, Zunino, Macklin, Fulwood

1 » The Dallas Mavericks, unlikely to land Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James in free agency, have set their sights on Houston Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Yahoo! Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski both reported Monday that Parsons is very much on the open market considering a number of options but that Dallas is the most likely team other than Houston to make a major play for the small forward. Parsons is coming off a career-best year in which he averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. The Rockets did not pick up his team option as the franchise was hoping to pursue a big-name free agent before potentially bringing him back into the fold. Houston hopes that some of the other major stars will make their decisions before July 10, which is when Dallas will likely make Parsons a serious offer; the Rockets would then have just three days to match the Mavericks’ term sheet.

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4/8: Muschamp pleased with Driskel, special teams & scrimmage, but lines, secondary need work

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday, four days before the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game to provide updates on individual players and how the team as a whole is progressing heading into its final practices.

HE LOVES LONG KICKS, THAT (WAS) A PUNTING PROBLEM

Just one season after averaging 45.8 yards per punt and being a finalist for the Ray Guy award, punter Kyle Christy fell off in a major way. He was only able to average 39.6 yards on 21 attempts before losing his job to freshman Johnny Townsend, who was supposed to take a redshirt and not play during his first season.

Now a senior entering his last season with the Gators, Christy appears to have turned things around and was praised accordingly by Muschamp on Tuesday for his performance in the team’s last scrimmage. “Kyle Christy punted the ball extremely well, really hit the ball well,” he said.

With Townsend (wrist surgery) out for the remainder of spring and expected to miss 8-10 weeks, Christy has every possible opportunity to win his job back entering summer workouts and fall camp. He seems to be making the most of it.

“I think he’s had a good spring, I really do,” Muschamp added. “I think he’s punted well. He’s done some nice things, absolutely.”

Special teams as a whole was abhorrent for Florida last season, especially when it came to the kicking game. Muschamp also praised UF’s kickers for the work they did Saturday, combining to go 14-for-17 on field goal attempts.

Austin [Hardin] was 7-of-9 field goal-wise; he missed from 47 and 41. Frankie [Velez] was 7-of-8 and missed from 46,” he noted. “So, I thought we’ve made some improvement as far as being more accurate in kicking the football.”

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