8/10: Muschamp announces injuries, updates QBs

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday following the Florida Gators‘ seventh fall practice. He spoke about a number of hot topics including some major injuries, the quarterback competition and how certain players are progressing.

KNEE INJURIES DOOM ALAJAJIAN, JOHNSON

Muschamp announced Friday that true senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian suffered a fractured right knee after getting “rolled up on in a drill” and will be out for the season. He is not sure what his future holds and whether or not he will take a redshirt year, which he has not used yet. “It’s disappointing for him in his senior season. Hurt for him right now; we all need to pull together and support him,” he said.

Moments later Muschamp dropped another bombshell by announcing that redshirt junior DL Kedric Johnson will also miss a significant amount of time after dislocating his left knee in practice. Johnson’s recovery timetable has not yet been set though the loss of both he and Alajajian means that some freshmen should get even more playing time as reserves this season.

IT’S CALLED A “COMPETITION” FOR A REASON

Asked whether either of his sophomore quarterbacks – Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel – has separated himself through seven practices, Muschamp quipped that the competition between the two talented signal callers is “pretty even” right now.

“We have purposely let them manage and gotten our offensive staff off the field because they need to manage our team,” he explained. “I think both guys have done a really nice job of that. I think both guys have had their moments when they’ve really shined and both had moments where we probably could have been better in some areas.”

Muschamp said that he would like to have Brissett and Driskel compete in at least three full scrimmages before the coaching staff begins to make a decision on the future of the position. “When the decision is right and the time is right, we’ll know,” he added.

SCRIMMAGE SET FOR SATURDAY

The next time the Gators line up in pads they will be going head-to-head in a game-like scenario at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. Muschamp is trying to mimic game day so much that he is even going to put some of his coaches upstairs to work out a system for in-game play calling.

“The first groups, we need to go let them play,” he said. “Those guys need to get out there. We’ve got a collection of guys that need to go out and play on their own and not have a coach let them know where to line up, what to do, where to shift, where to motion, where your eyes need to be. We need to get off the field and let them play.

“That’s what I’m looking for Saturday – a good, crisp, physical scrimmage, good operation offensively. Our coaches will be in the box that’ll be in the box on game day, and I think it’s important for us to be able to get in that function of getting the play down.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Friday…after the break!
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Muschamp: Time to “quit talking, start playing”

With the Florida Gators finally set to begin 2012 fall practice on Friday, head coach Will Muschamp and dozens of the players met with the media to discuss the upcoming season. Below are some highlights from Muschamp’s press conference, which lasted over 40 minutes. Though all practices will be closed to both fans and media, Florida has decided to hold fan day on Saturday, August 18, which will include a special open practice at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (9-11 a.m.) followed by fan activities in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center (3-6 p.m.).

INJURY UPDATES

» Sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck): fully cleared to practice
» Senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian (back): “slowed” for the first 10 days
» Freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot): “slowed” for the first 7-10 days, limited but practicing some after having foot surgery in the spring
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (leg): cleared by middle of camp
» Freshman defensive back Marcus Maye (knee): cleared by middle of camp
» Junior buck linebacker Ronald Powell (torn ACL): “knee has…taken well to surgery”

”WE NEED TO QUIT TALKING AND WE NEED TO START PLAYING”

As he did when he took over the program last season, Muschamp is once again taking a no-nonsense attitude into this season. He said early in his press conference that he is just as dismayed at the Gators’ record over the last two seasons as fans are and that he wants the team focused on improving day in and day out.

“We just got done with a team meeting. I said, ‘At 15-11 at the University of Florida [over the last two years], we need to quit talking and we need to start playing, at the end of the day. Let’s get on the field and play,’” Muschamp said.

Part of getting ready to play is building toughness in training camp. Muschamp hoped Florida would be able to practice with great physicality a year ago but insists that will be the case no matter what in 2012.

“Obviously more contact drills and some different things that we can do,” he said on what can be done differently. “A little bit of our issues last year was because of numbers, at the end of the day. We had a hard time, at times, especially as you work into camp and you have some attrition because of injuries in your roster. It’s hard to simulate game day situations when you’re only working with one line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That was the case last year. That’s not going to be the case this year.”

BRISSETT? DRISKEL? BRISSETT AND DRISKEL?

With quarterback being the most important position on the football field, it should be no surprise that the battle between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel continues to be the hottest topic of conversation surrounding the team.

“Everybody wants to ask me about the quarterback position. I’ll be honest with you, I feel really good about that position because we got two really good players competing that are going to make each other better, our offense better and our team better,” Muschamp said.

He added that he cannot put a timeframe on when he will pick a starter but noted that decision-making, commanding the huddle and making big-time plays on the field will be the keys in determining who gets the job.

“We’ll know when the decision is right. I really feel that way. I’ve always felt that way about every position. You’ll know when it’s right,” he said.

Read much, much more from Muschamp at media day…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Florida Field, Bullard, Pease, Donovan

1 » With renovations to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium almost consistently occurring since 2003, it was only a matter of time before the University of Florida also decided to make some changes inside the bowl. In June the Florida Gators completely removed the playing surface and installed a new field of Celebration Bermuda grass, a renovation that takes place once every 7-10 years, according to Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs Chip Howard. OGGOA learned late Tuesday evening that what is being painted on that new grass will also be changing. According to information obtained by this website, the Gators will be removing the block “F” from midfield and replacing it with a Gator Head, the school’s primary athletic logo. Additionally, Florida will replace the Gator Head logos that were previously found on the 35-yard lines with the slanted “F” that is steadily being used more and more including in the end zones.

UF has also begun the process of changing the font adorning The Swamp‘s famous orange walls (see the picture above from July 27). It is believed that all four will retain their respective sayings – “This is…The Swamp,” “This is…Gator Country,” “Home of the Florida Gators” – in the new lettering. Making adjustments to the walls and field are not new for the Gators. The block “F” at midfield at one time replaced the intertwined “UF” that is still used occasionally by the baseball team. The walls were previously painted blue with orange letters in a different font prior to being repainted orange with the lettering that many have grown used to over the last few decades. One of the walls also used to read “This is…Florida Field” before former head coach Steve Spurrier coined the term “The Swamp” in the 1990s and the school decided to make a change.

Read three more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
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Previewing Florida’s 2012 Friday Night Lights

Mixing pomp and circumstance with football drills and relationship building, the Florida Gators use their annual Friday Night Lights camp at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as both a recruiting tool and means of evaluating some of the best high school football players in the country. The Gators often pull in some recruits over the FNL weekend but also find diamonds in the rough as recruits get coached up while getting to know each other.

The Swamp will once again filled with some of the top young talent in the nation on July 27, so much so that covering every player that plans to step on the field is a near impossibility. Below are a list of 10 players (in no particular order) to keep an eye on either because of their talent or high level of interest in attending Florida.

DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL) –
The No. 6 player at his position and ranked No. 54 overall in the 2013 class, Harris is a UF legacy (though that probably will not play much of a role in his decision) and will likely choose either Florida or Texas when all is said and done. The Gators got a big commitment from five-star defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL) on Thursday, so impressing or even adding Harris could go a long way to giving Florida an absolutely dominant secondary in the near future. His father is former safety Mike Harris, who played on the 1996 national championship team.

DE Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) –
Close friends with Hargreaves (the two actually arrived in Gainesville together on Thursday), Sherit is himself highly rated (No. 94 overall, No. 9 at his position) and could be yet another answer to the Gators pressing needs at Buck linebacker. He has long had Florida in his top 10 list and recently said it is one of four schools (Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt) he is looking at seriously despite having plenty of other offers (Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc.).

DE DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, FL) –
Another extremely talented player out of Jacksonville, Walker has his choice of any school in the country and will likely be picking between UF and Alabama when it comes down to the wire. Though some believe he is leaning towards the Crimson Tide, he has a lot of Gators commitments (including a handful from his hometown) in his ear and a trip to UF is the last visit he’s taking before his ceremony on Aug. 24.

Read up on seven more players attending Friday Night Lights…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Miller, Haslem win; Swamp; Young

1 » Former Florida Gators guard Mike Miller and power forward Udonis Haslem celebrated mightily Thursday evening as their team, the Miami Heat, captured the 2012 NBA Championship with a 4-1 series victory over Oklahoma City. The title is Miller’s first but Haslem’s second as he was also a member of the Miami team that won the 2006 championship. It is the second-straight year that a former Florida player will receive an NBA ring as G Corey Brewer captured one during his short stay with Dallas in 2011. Haslem averaged approximately three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes per game in the Finals, while Miller saw much less court time in the series but had a fantastic Game 5 with 23 points on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown.

2 » Following up on a BIT from early Thursday, which noted that Florida has the eighth-most players selected in the NBA Draft since 2002 and one-fifth of all Southeastern Conference players selected, is this chart from the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the Gators 10 NBA players played the sixth-most total minutes of any school in the league this year. Florida’s players totaled 12,652 NBA minutes this year, slightly less than Arizona’s representatives but far fewer than Duke (21,609), UCLA (18,029), Kentucky (17,159) and North Carolina (16,904).

3 » Pictures of Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium being under construction have made their rounds on Twitter over the last few days, most of which consisted of an empty playing surface that consisted of dirt and machinery. The Gators officially announced the construction project on Thursday, noting that a new playing surface will be installed consisting of Celebration Bermuda grass rather than Tifway 419 Bermuda, which is what was in The Swamp previously. “Every seven to 10 years you need to completely renovate a grass field,” said Chip Howard, Florida’s senior associate athletics director of internal affairs. “Over the years of resodding and painting, the ground gets contaminated and the crown of the field gets thrown off a little bit just because of overuse.” To that end, UF has removed the turf and 6-8 inches of topsoil but will instal the new grass in July so it is ready in time for the beginning of the football season.

4 » All Gators fans are understandably excited about the inaugural Navy/Marines Corps Classic featuring Florida basketball facing Georgetown on Nov. 9 in Jacksonville, FL. But junior center Patric Young, a Jacksonville native, is perhaps even more pumped for the game. “It’s very exciting and pretty cool,” Young told The Florida Times-Union. “Hopefully, they’ll make special jerseys for the game. I know they did in last year’s game. It’s an honor and a great opportunity that only select teams get to have. [...] It definitely adds to my excitement that the game is in my hometown. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people while I’m there and having all my family there.” He is also excited about the potential opportunity to play in front of President Barack Obama should he choose to attend the game. “Normally, it doesn’t matter who is in the crowd,” Young said, “but when you are talking about the most powerful man in the free world, you think about that.”

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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, The Swamp, Harvin

1 » Four Florida Gators were named to various All-American teams on Thursday. Junior baseball players catcher Mike Zunino and left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson were both honored as Louisville Slugger All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, while softball’s senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers were awarded by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Zunino and Moultrie earned first-team honors, and Johnson and Rogers were named to the second team.

2 » A press release issued on Thursday announced that the University of Florida and LIDS® Sports Group have reached an agreement for the retailer “to operate and manage the official team stores” located within Ben Hill Griffin Stadium “as well as other special event concessions for the University’s baseball, basketball, and gymnastics athletic programs, among others.” The now-former Florida Gators Sports Shop will be re-branded as the Gator Locker Room, a name similar to the LIDS Locker Room storefronts that can be found throughout the state of Florida. The two stores inside The Swamp “will be equipped with custom embroidery and screen printing capabilities…which will allow fans to personalize their game day apparel.” There will also be a loyalty card available that “provides points with every purchase that earns rewards such as exclusive discounts and promotional offers, as well as access to special products and events.” LIDS also plans to leverage Gators merchandise in existing locations throughout the state, which will give Florida fans a greater choice of merchandise outside of Gainesville, FL. “We wanted a company that offered what Gator fans are looking for – a vast variety of quality merchandise available at convenient store locations around the state,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the release. “LIDS fits those requirements, as it is among the nation’s premier sports retailers. We are confident Florida fans will find just what they are looking for at the Gator Locker Room or at LIDS Locker Room locations.”

3 » Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin explained that he is sitting out of organized team activities as a precaution not because his recently operated upon shoulder is requiring him avoid physical activity. “I feel great. No limitations. Got all my strength back. It’s just precaution,” Harvin said, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t want me to fall or do anything crazy right now during these drills. Hopefully next week I should be back out here.” Even less stressed about Harvin’s absence from the field (he is still at the facility running and exercising) is head coach Leslie Frazier. “I gave him a big hug when he showed up,” Frazier said. “He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day, because I wasn’t sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, ‘I’m in town, what doctors do I have to see tomorrow morning?’ I texted him back, ‘Is this the Percy Harvin? The real Percy Harvin?’ So just great for our meetings, great for our coaches to see him around.”

4 » In a new edition of the Gatorade online series Inside the Edge, former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team member Abby Wambach is filmed at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute as she learns “how to properly prepare her body from the inside out before hitting the field.”

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TWO BITS: Walker’s taco, Bennett’s list, Swamp

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor petit theft and was ordered to pay a $301 fine on Thursday after the State Attorney’s Office agreed to drop all charges against him. According to The Gainesville Sun the judge also withheld adjudication for Walker meaning he was not officially convicted of the crime. Walker was arrested and charged after allegedly stealing a taco worth $3 from a street vendor in downtown Gainesville, FL. “It was just a silly mistake,” he said, according to ESPN.com. “I apologize to everybody. I’m embarrassed about it. That’s not me. I’m just trying to put it behind me and move on.”

2 » Five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) is down to four. According to SNY.tv, Bennett has eliminated Washington from his finalists and is now down to Florida, Kentucky, Oregon and UNLV. He plans to cut one more school by next week and pay visits to the three finalists before sitting down and making a decision in early May. Ryan Greene of RunRebs.com adds that Bennett and Gators head coach Billy Donovan had “a lengthy sit-down” on Wednesday. Florida is believed to be Bennett’s leader but has a back-up plan in center Bradley Hayes should the former player not commit. UF has not offered Hayes a scholarship yet as the school is first waiting on a decision from Bennett.

Extra BIT » Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is currently undergoing yet another face lift as the West Concourse is being renovated and improved. The project should be completed in July 2012 but GatorVision.tv provided a video update this week which includes some renderings of and more information on the project.

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Blue tops Orange 21-20 in 2012 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut – Postgame Report

More than 38,000 fans filed into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday to watch the Florida Gators conclude spring practice with a live scrimmage in the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut. After combining to score just seven points in the first three quarters, Blue outscored Orange 21-13 in the final quarter to pull off a 21-20 victory.

“Really pleased with where we are at this point,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the scrimmage. “I feel much better standing here today than I did a year ago as far as where we are as a football team, our physicality as a team, our togetherness as a team as this moves forward. We got the right kind of guys. We just got to get better. There’s things we need to improve on.”

QUARTERBACKS STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT

Florida fans wanted to see a big-time competition from sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel and that is exactly what they got on Saturday. Brissett (9/16 for 233 yards and two touchdowns) and Driskel (12/14 for 147 yards) each had their good and bad moments on the field including long passes and over/under-thrown balls. Brissett hit freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman with a great pass down the left sideline for 43 yards. He also connected on a bomb with junior Trey Burton that resulted in a touchdown and found redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone early in the game. Driskel completed a nice 44-yard pass to redshirt junior WR Andre Debose near the right sideline and also hit Burton on a deep pass that he brought inside the five. His accuracy and athleticism were both impressive as he was able to extend plays and make correct decisions.

“We saw that both those guys throw the ball extremely well. They’re both really good athletes and guys that can create some off-tempo plays for us as a football team,” Muschamp said. “It was very evident [how close they are]. You see both guys take command of our football team. Both guys made vertical plays down the field, good decisions where they took the ball. There’s no question you saw what I’ve been seeing for 14 practices previous [to Saturday]. I’ve said this before: We can win with both guys.”

Up next for the duo is managing the offense in the offseason. Muschamp wants to see how they rally the players for 11-on-11 drills and PRPs (player-run practices) without any influence from the coaching staff. “Those guys need to take the next step as far as that’s concerned,” he said.

As far as the players go, though both are working hard to earn the starting job, neither is taking the actual competition with their friend too seriously. “I love it. Coming out every day, competing against the No. 1 quarterback in the country a couple of years ago. It don’t get no better,” Brissett said. “I guess I’m slower so that’s what I’m lacking. Jeff is a great quarterback. He can make every throw that I can make, so it’s going to be tough to see what the real difference is. [...] I don’t got nothing wrong against him. I mean, I look better, but that’s just something he’s got to deal with.”

Driskel joked that he doesn’t play basketball with Brissett because his teammate is better in that area and said that the two are making sure the rivalry does not ruin their friendship even if he was not necessarily comfortable with his commitment in the first place. “I wasn’t excited about it at first but I realized they’re going to bring somebody in the next year. There’s always going to be competition. So I embraced that, and I think it’s made me better through the spring,” he said.

Check out the rest of the Orange & Blue Debut postgame report…after the break!
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