Freshman QB Harris leading Gators’ turnaround

The book is nowhere near closed on Florida Gators freshman quarterback Treon Harris – there are potentially four years to go and dozens of games yet to be played – but the first chapter has indeed been written and it is one that deserves some acclaim.

Since Harris took over as Florida’s starting signal caller, the Gators are 2-0 with consecutive victories against Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time in a year. They outscored then-No. 11 Georgia and Vanderbilt by a combined 72-30 and only lost one of eight quarters in those contests.

Perhaps most importantly, Harris has shown rare poise for an 18-year-old behind center of one of the most prominent programs in college football, starting the first game of his career in one of the sport’s biggest rivalry games. It is a quality that has not been overlooked by his teammates.

“Before the Georgia game, I was kind of nervous for him, just because it’s a big game. I went up to him and started talking to him, and he’s like ‘I’m ready,’ and I’m like, ‘OK…’ He obviously was,” said sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III after Saturday’s win.

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Florida-Vanderbilt post-game and Twitter Chatter: Gators take in a dominant road win

Looking to win consecutive league games for the first time in a year, the Florida Gators (5-3, 4-3 SEC) rolled into Nashville, Tennessee, and proved to be the dominant team from the third series onward, upending the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-7, 0-6 SEC) on Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Muschamp met with the media after Florida’s 34-10 win to discuss his team’s latest victory. A number of former Gators also took to social media before, during and after the contest to provide there thoughts on the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is now 36-10-2 all-time against Vanderbilt; the series between UF and VU dates back to 1945 with games being played annually since 1992. The Gators are 17-7-1 when playing the Commodores in Nashville with 12-straight road wins since 1990.
» The Gators are now 22-6 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 13-4 against unranked SEC teams during his tenure after losing to LSU and Missouri – at home – in consecutive weeks this season.
» UF is still just 5-10 since Oct. 6, 2013, sporting the worst win-loss record in the SEC during that period.
» The Gators are second nationally and first in the SEC in red zone scoring, converting 29-of-31 chances. However, only 62.1 percent of those scores are touchdowns (18).
» Florida is now +4 in turnover margin this season after being even entering the Vanderbilt game. The Gators are now +11 in their six wins and -7 in three losses. UF has a 23-4 record under Muschamp when winning the turnover battle in a game.
» Freshman quarterback Treon Harris averaged 16.5 yards per completion, third-most under Muschamp and the highest for Florida since Nov. 19, 2011 (vs. Furman).

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Florida works past Vanderbilt 34-10 in Nashville

The Florida Gators (5-3, 4-3 SEC) won consecutive games against Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time in more than a year, working their way to a 34-10 defeat of the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-7, 0-6 SEC) on Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Though Florida’s rushing attack was nowhere near as proficient as it was when it compiled 418 yards on the ground against Georgia one week ago, the Gators did their damage on the ground, racking up 214 yards and four touchdowns on 50 total rushes. Three of those scores came on the legs of UF quarterbacks with freshman Treon Harris rumbling in for two touchdowns and redshirt junior Jeff Driskel adding a one-yard score of his own.

Harris finished 13-of-21 for 215 yards, adding 49 net rushing yards on 10 attempts. Driskel did not complete his only pass try, throwing the ball into the ground, but was effective in a rarely-used direct snap role.

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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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