Florida football preview: 54 facts, stats and tidbits

In an attempt to preview the 108th season of Florida Gators football, OnlyGators.com decided to find 108 interesting facts, important statistics and relevant historical tidbits about the team. The process proved to be more daunting than initially expected.

Below you will find 54 different notes to prime you for the 2014 campaign, which kicks off against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30 live from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, at 7 p.m.

1. Florida finished 2013 with a 4-8 record, putting together its first losing season since it went winless (0-10-1) in 1979. UF rebounded to finish 8-4 in 1980, setting an NCAA record for best turnaround in major college football history at the time. The Gators were also the first team ever to play in a bowl game after failing to win a game the season prior.

2. Will Muschamp (43) is the second-youngest coach in the SEC behind Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen (42).

3. Muschamp’s 22-16 record through three seasons (2011-13) is the worst for a Florida head coach in that span since Charley Pell went 15-19-1 from 1979-81.

4. Kurt Roper is Muschamp’s third offensive coordinator in four seasons and UF’s fifth in the last seven years, while Mike Summers is Muschamp’s third offensive line coach in four seasons.

5…starters played in all 12 games for Florida in 2013.

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FOUR BITS: Villegas, Cooper, White, Jenkins

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Camilo Villegas captured his fourth career PGA Tour title over the weekend when he won the 2014 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, and took home a winning share of $954,000. Villegas, who had not won an event since finishing first at the 2010 Honda Classic four years ago, edged Bill Hass and Freddie Jackson by a single stroke with a -17 on the tournament. He opened and closed the event by shooting 63 on Thursday and Sunday. Villegas jumped up to 37th in the new FedExCup standings, moving up 68 spots from No. 105. He is the second former Gators golfer to win on tour this year as Matt Every picked up a victory in the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational back on March 23. Every is currently ranked 35th in the FedExCup.


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TWO BITS: Horford transfer, Easley Pro Day

1 » According to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, redshirt junior forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators F Al Horford, is heavily considering choosing to play the final year of his collegiate career in Gainesville, FL. Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be a redshirt senior in 2014-15 and cleared to play without having to sit out a season. He registered 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game for Michigan last season and decided to transfer in order to get more playing time. That is one reason why a move to Florida was not believed to be on the table previously. Though the Gators are in need of frontcourt players, they do have freshman Chris Walker and redshirt junior Damontre Harris at center next season. Florida will also play redshirt juniors Alex Murphy (currently not scheduled to be eligible until the spring), redshirt junior Dorian Finney-Smith and incoming freshman Devin Robinson, though the latter two players will likely play small forward. Horford’s addition would fill UF’s remaining 2014-15 scholarship but not affect the allotment for 2015-16.

2 » Gators defensive tackle Dominique Easley has spent the last seven months rehabilitating his torn ACL but is finally getting the chance to show NFL teams what he can do on Thursday as he is participating in a private Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Joining Easley for the workout are outside linebackers Ronald Powell and Darrin Kitchens, who also participated in Florida’s first Pro Day one month earlier on March 17. Easley recently completed a visit with the Dallas Cowboys, his first private trip, and is expected to go on many more after his Pro Day workout is complete. Projections for Easley range from the second to fifth round, but he is likely to be taken on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft as long as he can prove he’s healthy.

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Will Muschamp, coaches discuss Florida Gators 2014 signees, recruiting process

National Signing Day LIVE COVERAGE page
2014 Florida signee bios | Gators flip four-star QB Treon Harris from Seminoles, add WR C.J. Worton | Three-star OT Andrew Mike flips to Florida

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp held a press conference after his coaching staff finished inking its 24-member 2014 recruiting class on National Signing Day. Below are the most notable quotes from that session as well as player evaluations made by other members of the coaching staff.

OPENING STATEMENT

”It’s a great day here at the University of Florida, a lot of hard work put in by our staff. I don’t think people realize the contribution it takes from everybody. It’s a total team effort on campus, professors, our administration, our academic people do a fantastic job. When a young man comes on campus for an official visit, all of the people that have to contribute to make that a special experience, and our people do it the best. Our travel people do an amazing job. All of our pilots, [the media seems] to track pretty well, but they do a phenomenal job. It takes all these moving parts to make things work the right way. So we got a great staff. Our staff did an outstanding job.

“We had a miserable fall, and to have the staff come together – three new coaches in Kurt Roper, Mike Summers and Coleman Hutzler come together and change a little bit, not philosophically, but schematically offensively, adjust some things that we need to do in midstream as far as some of the guys we were recruiting and to put together this class – I’m really proud of that. I don’t know where we ended up as far as any rankings and all. You all know me, I don’t get overly concerned with that.”

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Changes ahead for Florida Gators offensive staff

With head coach Will Muschamp‘s job secure and the Florida Gators in desperate need of improvement heading into the 2014 season, it is no secret that changes to to the team’s offensive staff are on the horizon after Saturday’s game against Florida State.

Muschamp made a point to hammer the offense’s lack of production after Florida’s loss to Georgia Southern, a move that appeared to make the unit and its coaches a scapegoat for the Gators’ overall struggles.

Though Florida’s defense has struggled in recent weeks, it has been overly impressive during Muschamp’s three years with the Gators. It has finished in the top 10 each of the last two years and is likely headed for a top 25 finish this season.

The team’s offense, on the other hand, has consistently been one of the worst in the nation. UF is currently ranked 110th in scoring offense and 111th in total offense, averaging just 19.9 points and 327.9 yards per game.

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who took the reins for that side of the ball in 2012, has failed to improve on the numbers of his his predecessor Charlie Weis. And the Gators’ offensive line, which was supposed to be much improved in 2013 in its second year under position coach Tim Davis, has struggled to find any consistency even before massive injuries struck the unit.

When jobs are lost and changes are made in the offseason – an inevitability at this point – it appears likely that Pease and Davis will be the first two looking for new forms of employment. CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman, citing a source, reported Sunday that outsting Pease and Davis is already a done deal.

The Orlando Sentinel first confirmed Sunday, also citing a source, that changes to the offensive staff were ahead. A source close to the team told OnlyGators.com on Monday that changes would indeed be made on the offensive side of the ball but perhaps elsewhere in the program as well after the season.

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11/11: Muschamp on Murphy’s injury, fixing Gators

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 34-17 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores and upcoming road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday, Nov. 16. The homecoming contest will kick off at 7:00 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

BIG NAME LEADS LIST OF INJURED GATORS

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy has been dealing with a shoulder injury since the LSU game but has yet to miss a start. Muschamp announced Monday that Murphy will not practice Monday or Tuesday but should be back out on the field Wednesday.

The player admitted later Monday that he would not be able to play if the game was that day, noting that the injury was aggravated – and potentially worsened – by getting hit in and falling on his shoulder multiple times against Vanderbilt.

“I’m missing Monday and possibly Tuesday,” Murphy said. “I need all the practice I can get. It’s just frustrating, being banged up a little bit, I have to sit out and try to get healthy. I’m just going to live in the training room and get healthy and try to get out there as soon as possible.”

There are rumors circulating that Murphy’s injury is worse than is being let on by the coaching staff, but to put that chatter in proper perspective, what exactly would Florida – a two-touchdown underdog to South Carolina – have to gain by lying about a season-ending injury the same day one is announced for another starter.

“It’s more of a day-to-day thing,” Murphy said about his ailment. “I’m just trying to get healthy so I can get back out there and try to contribute to helping this team.”

Muschamp also announced Monday that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) will miss two days of practice but should return Wednesday. Freshman linebacker Jeremi Powell (knee) is scheduled for surgery this week, and sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL) is doubtful for Saturday.

“He’ll be back this season, just based on the injury report this morning he’s doubtful for this weekend,” Muschamp said. “He can get into a stance and move and stuff, he just can’t press off of it right now. He’ll play [again] before the year is out.”

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Friday Final: Florida prepares for Kentucky

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Brent Pease, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and a number of players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s road game against the Kentucky Wildcats scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY, and air on ESPNU.

Below are some notes and quotes that fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the 10 posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: Updated depth chart released | Muschamp talks injuries, rushers and more | Special teams not so special (exclusive)
Tuesday: QB Tyler Murphy focused on preparation, leadership
Wednesday: Muschamp updates injures; Steve Spurrier and Mark Stoops join him on SEC teleconference | Ousted Kentucky coach Joker Phillips making an impact at Florida | QB Jeff Driskel undergoes successful surgery | DT Dominique Easley out for the season (torn ACL)
Thursday: CB Vernon Hargreaves III making an early impact | Gators hope BUCK Dante Fowler, Jr. continues to dominate

GETTING THE RUNNING GAME GOING

The Gators are currently ranked 48th in rushing offense, averaging 199.7 yards per game. It’s not exactly where Florida wants to be at this point in the season, and the coaching staff has altered its approach on how carries will be divided up going forward. Rather than having sophomore running back Matt Jones automatically take the bulk of the carries, UF will go with the hot hand each game.

“We know what Matt is capable of and he’ll be fine. What he can’t do is get down on himself emotionally,” Pease said on Tuesday. “He’s still part of the game pan. You just got to understand you just go back and work harder. Kids think everything is always going to be perfect all the time. No, it isn’t. There’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys. What he did last year, he obviously worked himself where he was pretty consistent where he was at. … Now you’re an every-down guy so your expectation of execution is much higher on a play-to-play basis on consistency, performance. He’s fine. He’s a good player. He’ll be alright.”

In addition to giving more carries to redshirt junior Mack Brown, Florida wants to get freshman Kelvin Taylor more involved. Pease believes consistency is the main issue holding Taylor back from making an impact at this point.

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9/3: Pease dismisses “vanilla” tag for Florida; discusses Jones, Showers, freshmen receivers

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the second game of the season against the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 7.

“WE DIDN’T HAVE A ‘VANILLA’ GAME PLAN”

Asked Tuesday if the Gators purposely held back on offense in order to not put some of their new plays and vertical passing game on tape – or if Florida was simply the same old offense that could not do much other than run the ball – Pease appeared to be a bit offended by the implication that the Gators’ offense was vanilla and not creative. He responded with the following (extremely long) rant.

“First off, I don’t know what ‘vanilla’ – because I’ve heard the word ‘vanilla’ – I don’t know what ‘vanilla’ is. I’ve never made a game plan with vanilla and that’s never what I would go into a game plan with. I would feel too uncomfortable thinking we got to save all this, we got to save all that.

“I look at it, compared to what we did last year… We controlled the ball for 40 minutes, finished the game with the last 6:38 on the clock. We rushed for 262 [yards]; we passed for 77 percent. We had one turnover we need to improve on. We had nine explosives. We were 6-of-12 on third downs, which last year at this same thing, we were asking each other what we got to do on third downs. We were 3-for-3 on 3rd-and-1s, which last year that was a concern in our first [press] conference.

“OK, yeah, do we need to improve on sacks? Yeah, we had two sacks. Our protection, our scheme got us. Happy for Mack Brown, happy for Trey Burton how they kind of stepped up with their opportunity.

“We threw the ball down field seven times. Coverage takes some things away. Do you ask a quarterback not into coverage deep? Yeah, you do. We hit Trey Burton on two, we had two check downs, we got a protection issue on one. We’re stretching the field. We can stretch the field if we want to stretch the field. Did we have to stretch the field at a certain part in time? No. Did we have it in the game plan to do it? Yes. I’m not sure what everybody wants. …

“Are we going to throw the ball 75 times a game and throw vertical? No. When a team plays corners coverage like Toledo, you don’t throw the ball vertical. You throw the ball in intermediate to check-down throws. Did we try to throw the ball vertical in the red zone? Yes, we did. Well, they played coverage. So what’s Jeff [Driskel] do? He checks it down to Gideon [Ajagbe], guy bounces off Gideon, Gideon runs for 15 yards, gets a first down, we’re in good position and we continue to score.

“We didn’t have a ‘vanilla’ game plan. You saw reverses. I can’t handle what the refs don’t see but yet they call and it keeps us out of the end zone. …

“Should we have come out in the third quarter and probably had more production in the first two series instead of three-and-outs? Yes. … I think we hit a lull that we got to be able to step it up and not be able to do that, score at the end of the game. So if you’re measuring us against points, yeah, we left points out there. But we had things in control and we ran the last – I don’t even know how many plays – but I know there was 6:38 on the clock and we walked off the field with the offensive on the field. We were on the one-yard line or three-yard line, whatever we were on, trying to score.”

He later added:

“Do I want to see 300 passing yards? Absolutely. Is that going to be a reality? I don’t know. I don’t measure success totally on that. We completed 77 percent yet we have two drops, two tips and a pass that he probably should’ve hit on the end zone but he overthrew it and it got away from him. That’s what I see. The kid’s making good decisions. He’s managing the game. … He’s productive with his hands running it. He’s putting us in the right plays in the run game. That’s what I look at. Are we having a chance to win the game? Yeah, explosiveness, but I’m not measuring it on yards. That’s called you trying to get your guru card. Maybe when I was 30 years old, but I’m not 30 years old anymore.”

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