Friday Final: Florida preparing for Maty Mauk, Alex McCalister stepping up for Gators

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) as they prepare to host the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Missouri prep begins with Florida playing two quarterbacks
Notebook: Kurt Roper talks Gators’ offense and rushing attack
Story: Jeff Driskel will start as Florida readies Treon Harris
Notebook: Will Muschamp updates team injuries, quarterback situation

GATORS LOOK TO AVOID BEING MAUK-ED UP

One year ago, while making his first career start against a reeling Florida team, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk looked like a seasoned veteran, throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown and hitting the ground for another score. Sixty-one of those 295 yards came on two passes within the first 22 seconds of the game, as Mauk completed a 41-yard toss and then a 20-yard touchdown throw on consecutive plays. Suffice to say, the Gators have no plans to underestimate him this time around.

“I think he’s a very good player. He’s a guy that can make all the throws. He’s got extreme arm talent. He’s got good touch; he can zip it when he needs to. He’s got great legs,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp. “He’s a guy that throws it extremely well. He has great command of their offense and what they do and how they’re doing it. I think he needs to get a little more help around him.”

Mauk threw four interceptions this week, though like many committed by the Gators this season, his Tigers playmakers have been partly responsible for some of his miscues by either running wrong routes or tipping decently-to-well-thrown passes. Prior to that game, he had a 14-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

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Late field goal lifts LSU over Florida 30-27

An intense, hard-fought, back-and-forth affair Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, came to a close as Colby Delahoussaye booted a career-long 50-yard field goal to push the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a 30-27 victory over the Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC).

LSU benefited from three forced turnovers – all coughed up by Florida redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel – tough running and some questionable penalty calls throughout the contest, while the Gators had multiple chances to win the game late but came up short by making numerous mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Freshman running back Leonard Fournette was beastly for the Tigers, taking 27 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. LSU sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural also broke through for 52 yards and a one-handed touchdown, hauling in a huge 41-yard reception on 3rd and 25 late in the game to put his team in position to score.

For Florida, Driskel completed 14-of-25 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, but a fumbled early in the contest and a late interception (one of two for the game) that led to Delahoussaye’s game-winning field goal. He also carried the ball a team-high 21 times for 71 yards and another score.

Redshirt senior WR Andre Debose was the Gators’ best playmaker on Saturday, returning one punt 62 yards for a touchdown and another 53 yards to set up a second Florida score. He also had one carry for 35 yards. Sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson, the beneficiary of a 73-yard bomb from Driskel late in the fourth quarter, led the wideouts with 104 yards on the evening, and freshman RB Brandon Powell took six receptions for 66 yards.

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9/24: Muschamp hopeful off week will help Gators; changes in secondary but not at quarterback

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) met with the media for the first time this week on Wednesday with his team currently in the middle of its first off week of the 2014 season. He discussed issues on both sides of the ball and updated Florida’s injury list 10 days ahead of the program’s next game on Oct. 4 at Tennessee.

INJURY UPDATES

The Gators could be without two starting defensive front seven players next week as redshirt seniors defensive tackle Leon Orr (meniscus) and linebacker Michael Taylor (knee swelling) were both listed as questionable by Muschamp on Wednesday. Orr had a knee scope on Monday and has a minor tear in his meniscus (along with a bone bruise), though Muschamp said he was walking around on Tuesday and looked to be recovering well. Taylor is dealing with a bothersome bone bruise as well.

Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) remains on track to return to practice on Monday and play next week after missing two games, Muschamp said, though he is not the only banged-up offensive lineman the trainers are keeping track of during the off week. Redshirt senior Chaz Green and senior Trenton Brown, who both suffered ankle injuries against Alabama, are “going to be fine” and were listed as probable for next Saturday.

The Gators are also dealing with injuries to two of their running backs. Junior Mark Herndon tore his ACL during a kickoff on Saturday and will be out for the season. Freshman Brandon Powell tweaked his hamstring during an unspecified practice and will likely be sidelined for a couple more days.

Muschamp also clarified Wednesday what injury sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was dealing with on Saturday, noting that Hargreaves was dealing with a bruised Achilles that swelled up on him after it had been kicked previously.

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Driskel avoiding miscues, praising Harris; Fowler leading troops without fear

Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. met with the media on Monday to wrap-up their 65-0 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles and preview Florida’s next game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Driskel discussed the Gators’ comfort level in their new offense while Fowler displayed many characteristics of an emerging leader for Florida’s defense. Both players also praised some of their freshmen teammates.

SUCCEEDING AND STAYING HUMBLE

Driskel earned plenty of praise from his teammates and coaches alike in the offseason, and it was even pointed out separately by both groups that he never once turned the ball over in 11-on-11 competition. He was error-free in that regard Saturday, too, though head coach Will Muschamp was not completely thrilled with that being pointed out on Monday.

“Are you trying to jinx us, or what? I mean, what the heck’s going on?” Muschamp jokingly asked the questioning reporter. “Jeff’s been really smart with the football and that’s a day-to-day process you’ve got to go through. But I think, again, people saw the command that we’ve seen in camp and the comfort level he has in what we’re trying to do.”

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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

Continue Reading » Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

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Keanu Neal, young defensive linemen emerging; Gators evaluate each other before season

About a dozen Florida Gators players met with the media over the last couple weeks to discuss fall practice and how the team is coming together ahead of the season. With less than a week until the start of the 2014 campaign, OnlyGators.com is cleaning out its notebook and present you with a bunch of their thoughts.

TWO SECONDARY STARTERS

When head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday afternoon unveils the team’s first depth chart since last November, one position group that will draw some of the most attention in the secondary. A unit full of talented starters that was ravaged by defections (graduations, early departures, a transfer), the secondary currently only has two players that have locked down roles at this time – sophomores cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Keanu Neal.

Hargreaves, after a stellar freshman campaign, is already a known quantity. Neal, on the other hand, earned his job during training camp after impressing with some big hits during the 2013 season.

“Just my effort [has improved],” he explained. “This year seems like everything clicked versus last year. My recognition on plays and things like that is a lot better.”

Muschamp singled out Neal early in fall camp as the best safety on the roster, locking him into a starting role early and never backing off from that stance. Suffice to say, the player was flattered.

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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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8/11: Muschamp updates injuries, backup quarterback, progress after nine practices

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss how the team is progressing in fall training camp. The Gators have completed seven days of practice to this point.

INJURY UPDATES

Though most of the injuries Florida players have suffered early this fall are minor, the list is beginning to lengthen with the Gators now nine practices into training camp.

Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his knee on Thursday, has not yet returned to practice and spent Monday running in an anti-gravity treadmill. He is expected to return to the field on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose and junior running back Matt Jones, both of whom are returning after suffering season-ending knee injuries in 2013, had swelling in the joint and did not practice Monday. Debose should return on Wednesday, while Jones might be back as early as Tuesday.

Sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor missed practice with a strained hamstring and will be held out until the end of the week, either Thursday or Friday barring an unforeseen setback. Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (ankle) did not practice Monday but will be back Tuesday.

Four players including redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Trip Thurman, redshirt freshman defensive ends Bryan Cox, Jr. and Alex McCalister, and freshman defensive back Duke Dawson all suffered shoulder injuries over the weekend but “should be fine” in the next few days.

Additionally, freshman DL Taven Bryan, who had been impressing Muschamp early in training camp, has strep throat and is day-to-day. “I hate that Taven has strep throat, because I thought he was making some progress. This will set him back,” he said.

Already out of action, freshman DL Thomas Holley continues to recover from a sports hernia that occurred in high school. Due to the build up of scar tissue, he will need minor surgery and remain out of action indefinitely until given clearance by doctors.

“They’re going to go in and shave that down, but I don’t know what the time frame is for that. I want to say the surgery is Tuesday,” Muschamp explained. “It’s not a major procedure, it’s more like having a scope done. He had some scar tissue that was built up that was very of discomforting when he ran, so he will be out for some time, but I do not know how much.”

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