9/12: Gators discuss rivalry week, improving pass rush, converting in red zone & more

With the Florida Gators beginning preparations for their first Southeastern Conference opponent of the 2011 season, number of prominent players were made available to the media on Monday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in The Swamp.

DIFFERENT TAKES ON FIRST RIVALRY WEEK

Of Florida’s three main rivals, Tennessee is always the first they face each season, and different players have varying perspectives about the week in general. While all believe it is important in terms of being the first SEC game of the season, some care very much that it is against Tennessee while others are not fazed whatsoever.

“It’s a big rival game. It’s probably my favorite rival game – playing that and the Florida State game,” said redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter, who expects the contest to be physical. “Growing up I used to always watch the Florida-Tennessee rivalry. Being from Georgia, both of those teams are hated, but I always grew up watching the Florida-Tennessee game has always been fun to me. These two teams hate each other and they always love to play. Everyone gives it their all and they all enjoy playing in this game.”

For redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, a life-long Gators fan, it is all about getting the win. “We start out SEC play against a tough opponent each year, which is Tennessee. To walk out of the game with a ‘W,’ know that you’ve played fairly well, that gives you some confidence and everything leading into other SEC play,” he said.

Sophomore running back Trey Burton is just ready to play. “It’s a big game for us and it’s always fun to play SEC games because they count,” he said. “It’s a conference game. Our goal is to get to Atlanta, and if we don’t wint his game then we won’t be able to get to Atlanta. These are obviously a little more important than the other games.”

Feeling slightly different is redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who cares more about giving maximum effort at all times than the team he faces. “We try to come out every day and attack each opponent the same,” he said. “Tennessee – they probably have more talent [then our first two opponents] – but we still like to play the best that we can every week, it really doesn’t matter what opponent we play.”

STEP ONE: IMPROVE THE PASS RUSH

Florida did not register any sacks against UAB on Saturday, which head coach Will Muschamp said was OK simply because the opponent got the ball out fast and did not allow many opportunities to do so. “Not having any sacks is some place that we need to get better at. That’s something we were very unhappy about, but we did affect the quarterback and still got some hits on him as he was throwing the ball,” Jenkins said. “Those are always stats that they don’t really show too much but they add up and help us out in the long run.”

Nevertheless, the players are well aware that improving in that area will be a major focus this week heading into SEC play. “This week in practice we need to have a good pass rushing session. We need to get better with our pass rush as far as the defensive line goes,” Hunter noted. “In the UAB game, we could have got to the quarterback a lot more, and I think that’s a big emphasis on what we need to do this weekend.” Redshirt junior LB Lerentee McCray agrees. “The pass rush emphasis is going to be a real big deal after that last game with us not getting any sacks. Just mostly our get-offs. It’s probably going to be a real big emphasis by coaches this weekend at practice.”

STEP TWO: CONVERT IN THE RED ZONE, SPREAD THE BALL AROUND

Though Florida’s offense has performed well over the last two games, the running game has led the Gators in both contests. “Like any quarterback, you want to be able to throw touchdown passes and everything, but the run game has been working,” Brantley said. “The pass game has really been working also, we just haven’t gotten the ball into the end zone through the air. That’s fine as long as we’re putting points on the board and coming out with the W – that’s all that matters to me.”

He recognizes this as well as the fact that Florida has been unsuccessful in converting most of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. “We ran the ball real well. Once we got to that red zone we just kinda stalled,” he said. “I’m sure this week we’re going to concentrate on it. Once you get in the red zone you got to score. Field goals are nice, but you’d like to punch it in the end zone. […] Everything just gets a lot harder in the red zone. It’s a smaller area of field. We got the right plays for it and everything, we just got to execute them.”

Brantley is also aware that the passing game must open up, but he will not do so at the risk of attacking covered players. “[Long passes are] in the game plan and everything, but we take what the defense gives us. That’s one thing Coach [Charlie] Weis stresses to me and that’s what we’ve been doing,” he said. “All the receivers are built-in to this offense and they completely understand. They know as much as we check down or have to check down, sooner or later it’s going to open up. If they get frustrated or anything, they might miss that opportunity for a big play or something like that to happen. You always want to throw down field, but we’ve got great receivers and one-on-one I know the receivers can get open. We’re just going to go out there and take what the defense gives us.”

HUNTER A JOY TO HAVE AS A TEAMMATE

Taking his first carry in the orange and blue uniform into the end zone for a touchdown on Saturday, freshman fullback Hunter Joyer has been impressing teammates on both sides of the ball as well as the entire coaching staff. His focus, dedication and talent is something that his teammates respect and enjoy competing against.

Jenkins, who encounters Joyer in the backfield from time-to-time when rushing the passer during practice, noted that his strength is a major plus. “[Jon Bostic and I] both have a lot of respect for Hunter Joyer. He’s a great player. He’s real low to the earth, so you have to come at him real low. He’s strong,” he explained. “I remember first seeing him in the weight room benching like 315 [pounds] like it was easy. A lot of guys can’t do that at all. He’s a great player, and I love having him on the other side because we get to practice against him. We’re going against one of the best to prepare for other teams.”

Burton is working with Joyer as a part-time fullback himself and has seen first-hand how his preparation translates onto the field. “Coach [Brian] White works with both of us. Hunter is doing an unbelievable job especially coming in as a freshman,” he said. “I’m real proud of him and he’s learning real fast, and he’s a great kid. He’s unbelievable. He comes in and works real hard. He’s not a guy that will go out and talk a lot. He’s a really soft-spoken guy. He’s really quiet, doesn’t speak too much.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Hunter said the cast he has been wearing is a removable one that is heavy and has made it “difficult at times to do certain thing I would like to do.” He hopes to have it off before Saturday’s game.

» Hunter on the defensive line stepping up: “As a defensive line, we talk about it before games, that we want to put the pressure on ourselves because we’re the most experienced group on the field.”

» Hunter on Tennessee-week motivation: “It is a little different coming to the Tennessee game and not seeing the pictures, posters. New coaching staff and they got their own little thing they like to do and I’m enjoying it.”

» Hunter on how this staff prepares for each game compared to the last one: “They’re both very similar. They’re all about mental focus during practice and during the week, coming in and getting a lot of tape in, a lot of studying in and knowing what you have to do before the game starts. I think they’re both very similar in that aspect.”

» Brantley on how Weis has helped him improve: “He’s helped me out in a bunch of ways – mostly mentally. I think I’ve grown up a lot since last year, just forgetting about plays – even good plays and bad plays – you got to move forward. You can only worry about what’s going on right then and there; you can’t worry about the past.”

» Brantley on redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey being the leading receiver: “He has great hands and once he has the ball in his hands, he can do dangerous things. Coach Weis tells the receivers to keep blocking because you never know who he’s going to make miss and what he’s going to do.”

» Brantley on the intensity inside the locker room for Tennessee week: “Inside our locker room it definitely has the same intensity as it always has been. […] There’s been a lot of great memories. It’s always a big rivalry and always will be I believe.”

» Brantley’s opinion of the new offense: “It’s completely changed. Under center, I-back, just we’re going to run the ball at you. It’s completely changed and I think it’s changed for the good around here.”

» Brantley on how Weis uses Rainey: “He’s not a real downhill power runner, but Coach Weis – he’s able to get those running backs out on the edge, and I think that’s where Chris is most dangerous – in the open field out on the edge. Coach Weis just does a great job suiting the offense around what his players do best.”

» Brantley on if what Rainey can do ever shocks him: “He still surprises me sometimes, but I just know he has it in him. When I watch film on Sundays, when I come in and watch the game, because sometimes I’ll be faking away or I really don’t get to see it. It surprises me a lot. First game when he spun and scored that touchdown, I had no idea that he made that spin or anything. He definitely surprises me.”

» Brantley on Muschamp letting Weis handle the offense: “Coach Muschamp’s our head coach and everyone knows that. He’s not completely distant from the offense during practice; he overlooks the offense at times. We understand that Coach Weis is the main offense, but it’s not too much of a difference because he’s still around quite a bit.”

» McCray on sophomore safetyMatt Elam being the leader of the secondary: “Matt Elam has taken on his role very well. He’s quiet – he pretty much leads by example in the secondary. He has to talk to the other guys to get the guys going sometimes, but he’s doing a good job taking on his role as just being the quiet guy who leads by example.”

» McCray on if he plays harder against SEC opponents: “I just look at it as being a consistent player – just going out and playing your best every game. You can’t play better versus one team and worse versus another team. You just have to go out and put a consistent level of play every time you get on the field.”

» Jenkins on if his teammates make fun of him for dropping two interceptions: “Yeah they always give me grief about that. There are two plays I probably could have made.”

» Burton on how his brother, freshman tight end Clay Burton played during his first game time: “I was happy for him. He had a good time and my whole family was happy for him. He did pretty good. I didn’t really watch too much of what he did, but from what I saw on the sideline, he did pretty good. He was real psyched to play.”

» Burton on his conversation with Weis about his position before the season: “I just told him I wanted to play whatever he saw me playing. It’s his offense and he does what he wants to do.”

» Burton on if he’s noticed the crowd has not been at capacity: “I heard UAB brought back 5,000 tickets or 4,000 tickets, something like that. That might have had something to do with it, but I expect it to be a pretty good crowd on Saturday. The Swamp’s The Swamp.”

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8/29: Muschamp on injuries, coaches, position separation and standouts before opener

With the Florida Gators now in final preparations for the first game of the 2011 season (Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic), head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss a number of topics relating to the team and their opening game.

OPENING STATEMENT AND INJURY REPORT

“I’m excited for the first game; I’m excited for game week. I know that the players are and we are as a staff. Starting off with Florida Atlantic, offensively they are a pro-style attack with multiple formations. I think that Coach [Howard] Schnellenberger does an outstanding job of teaching the quarterback and what they want to do offensively. That obviously is their success and defensively they have more of a four-down team and now they have changed their personnel listing the possible three down, so we’ll prepare for both of those as we work through the week here.

“Obviously, anytime there is a first game there is some unknown on both sides of the ball and I think we’ve got some ourselves but I’m very pleased with our preparation at this point. Last Thursday and Friday, we came back and had a little better day from Wednesday. We had good meetings last night, very attentive and I thought the guys were bouncing around a little bit as far as the walkthroughs and things that we were doing. I’m real pleased at where we are at this point.”

OUT: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonoard (torn meniscus)

QUESTIONABLE: Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt junior wide receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder)

ACTIVE: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back)

COACHING POSITIONS, JOBS ON GAME DAY

Though many offensive coordinators spend their game days up in a box overlooking the field, Charlie Weis will be stationed on the sidelines this year along with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and most of the other position coaches. “I feel that it’s important to have Charlie on the field from the standpoint of the first year on offense,” Muschamp explained. “John is a senior but it’s the first year of going through the adjustments that happen in the first year. I’ve been through it before, the growing pains of something happens on game days that you’re not prepared for. We’ve got to get them up, we’ve got to get them calmed down. We’ve got to say this is what’s happening.”

Defensively, Muschamp reiterated that Quinn will be making the calls on defense though he will “be on the headsets and I’ll certainly make suggestions when I feel I have to look at some things.” Filling up the box upstairs will be running backs coach Brian White and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson Of White, Muschamp said he has experience of watching a game from that vantage point and “does an outstanding job of communicating what is happening with the other team’s defense. In regards to Robinson, Muschamp said he “is the same with knowing our defense very well” and that he needs his eyes up in the box.

As a whole, he reiterated that there is not much more he could have asked for from his staff after their first offseason together. “I’ve been very pleased with how we’ve come together and understanding where we are headed with this thing. First of all, philosophically being on the same page and that starts with offensively and defensively, special teams, recruiting and public relations. It’s everything,” he said. “I think that they understand and they know what I want done in the program and how we want things done in the program as far as discipline is concerned, how we approach practice, how we approach our players, how we handle the situations. I’ve been very pleased with the results to this point, but again, we are measured on game day.”

READY AND RARING TO GO

The team may not be there yet, according to Muschamp, but they will be. He said it all starts “with today and finish[es] through Thursday and having a good walk-through on Friday.” To his dismay, the Gators will be playing an evening game rather than an early afternoon game, something that he would prefer. “We’re going to get ready and try to play the game and unfortunately it’s at 7 p.m. I wish we were playing at 1 p.m., but that’s the way it is and we’re looking forward to doing that,” he said. Asked why the game time matters, Muschamp indicated he preferred earlier contests because of the motiviation players have in the morning. “You wake up and you’re ready to play and that’s kind of the way you feel but once you get out there at night with the great atmosphere – we’re going to have we’ve got the best fans in the country so I’m excited about that, they are going to be excited about that,” he said. “They’re going to be excited at 7:00; they’re going to be excited 1:00. They’d be excited at 11:30 a.m. if we played then so I will be fine.”

In the long run though, Muschamp just wants to get out on the field and relieve some of the light anxiety he is facing as a first-hear head coach. “I’m emotional every day. I’m excited about it, but more than anything is to just focus on the task at hand. It’s coaching well, it’s making good decisions for your football team, preparing well during the week,” he said. “Come Friday, the preparation is done, it’s just a mental game from that standpoint moving on to game day and going out and winning the football game. That’s what we’re looking forward to doing. I’m not nervous. ‘Anxious’ would probably be a better word.”

WORK IN PROGRESS: OFFENSIVE LINE AND SECONDARY

During his introductory press conference and before each semester so far this year, Muschamp has repeated that the offensive line and secondary are the two units that need the most cohesion in order for a team to be successful. Unfortunately for Florida, those are the two areas that the team is having the greatest difficulty finding players to separate themselves from the pack. “The bottom line with me is that you have to earn the right to start, so if a guy doesn’t practice, he’s not going to start,” Muschamp said Monday. “A guy has got to get out there and practice and compete and play the right way when we start our football game.”

In the depth chart released a few hours after his press conference concluded, Muschamp outlines exactly where certain players fall as of right now. He said he is pleased with junior Xavier Nixon, redshirt junior Matt Patchan and redshirt freshman Chaz Green at the tackle position and considers all three of them to be starters even though Nixon and Patchan will likely earn that title. The left guard and center position, however, remain up for grabs even though redshirt senior transfer Dan Wenger and redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison currently hold those respective positions. Muschamp said Wenger is pushing Harrison for the center job but redshirt sophomore Kyle Koehne is also making a case for Wenger’s left guard position, leaving both up in the air right now.

He is similarly concerned with the starting positions in the secondary, noting that every spot (left vs. right cornerback, left vs. right safety) is interchangeable. “all of those positions are a little bit up for grabs as far as who practices the best,” he said, except for sophomore Matt Elam who has locked down a starting job at safety. Take a look at the depth chart released today for a closer look at the alignment of the secondary.

In the end, his main goal is to see players finally separate themselves and claim a starting job rather than be just another good player who is not consistently leading the pack at their respective position. “We’ve got certain guys and I’d like to think they are competing very well and they’re competing to be the star. They all will play, and I can tell you that. So, who deserves to be the starter and jog out there to start the game? We’ll see what happens and how they progress through the week,” he said. “You can look at it as motivation, you can look at it as a lot of different things, but the bottom line is them understanding it is how you prepare is how you play. I’m young, but I’m old-fashioned and generally how you play is how you practice, too. That’s the way I view it and nobody, in my opinion, has separated themselves to be named the starter here Monday before our first game. Does that mean that we’re playing poorly? I don’t think so, that means we have not created a separation at the position as we have at other positions.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders: “He would be the front-runner today [to start at safety], but it’s about consistency and that’s the hardest thing for young players. It’s hard for them day-in and day-out to go out and consistently do it but I’m very pleased with him. I think he has in the intangibles as far as the instinct to play in the deep part of the field, tackling ability, coverage ability, playing the ball and a guy that I’m excited about playing for the Gators.”

» On restoring Brantley’s confidence this season: “I don’t know about restoring…I think that if more than anything when you have some sort of change you grow with that change and that’s what John has done. I’ve been very pleased through the off-season and his work ethic and his approach through spring practice and it’s catching on onto what we are trying to do. I think he feels more comfortable in the things that we’re doing and I’ve been very pleased in his progress. I think that John has built his confidence himself and I think that when you have a quarterback coach and an offensive coordinator like Charlie Weis, the track record speaks for itself and Charlie has confidence in a guy like John and that should bring confidence to John. I think that’s what is happening and I feel very comfortable for where we are right now.”

» On if the reserve quarterbacks, specifically freshman Jeff Driskel, will see the field: “We’ll cross that bridge we come to it. As far as the game is concerned, we’ll work through that but John is our starting quarterback and if it presents itself that somebody else plays then that will be fine and if it’s Jeff, it’s Jeff. At this point, it would be Jeff being the backup but certainly through the week we’re going to see the guys who are practicing best and who deserves to play. John Brantley is our starting quarterback.”

» On where fans can expect to see sophomore Trey Burton on the field: “At a bunch [of positions]. You better track him. He’s a guy that can line up in a fullback position, he can line up in the tailback position, he’ll line up in the slot, he’ll line up at tight end, he can be split out wide. He brings an awful lot of variety to your playing call because he’s smart and he gets football, he understands it. When you want to change something with him, you can say, ‘This is what we did yesterday, we’re just doing it from a different spot,’ and he understands that. Some guys have a harder time with that and he does not. We’re going to use him in a lot of different ways, he’s a very valuable member of our football team and on special teams he does a very good job.”

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Women’s football clinic was one for the books

Long-time OGGOA reader Jennifer contacted us last week and offered to share with our readers her experience at the Florida Gators’ annual Women’s Football Clinic hosted this year for the first time by new head coach Will Muschamp. Below is her account from the exciting day (pictures included).

I heard about this event about a year ago and always thought it sounded interesting. After rounding up a couple of friends, we registered and were off to Gainesville. The day started in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. After checking in, where we were given a t-shirt and small goodie bag, we were free to roam around the ballroom and meet the coaches. Even though I am a huge sports and Gators fan, with all of the new coaching changes, the only coaches I could recognize at first were Coach Muschamp, [linebackers/special teams coach] D.J. Durkin and [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn. As we walked around we got autographs, took pictures and briefly chatted with the assistant coaches and grad assistant coaches. All were very friendly and seemed pumped up about the day’s activities.

One coach stood out among our favorites for his personality and friendliness, which only got better throughout the day. That was tight ends coach Derek Lewis. He was funny, saying a few times to the ladies throughout the morning and during some of the presentations that “tight ends” really are a football position. Another of our favorites was [wide receivers coach] Aubrey Hill, who when we took pictures with him, told us to “bring it in tight” and pulled us close for a picture with a huge smile on his face.

After mingling with the coaches in attendance, we proceeded to buy some raffle tickets and then moved over to the longest line, which was the opportunity to get a professional picture take with Coach Muschamp. We weren’t allowed to get his autograph or take our own pictures here, but many had the opportunity to do so later in the day as he was walking around. Also in attendance were Muschamp’s two boys and his wife, though they weren’t introduced to the crowd.

Everyone took their seats and the crowd got to listen to Coach Muschamp. It was similar to what you reported from the local Gator Gatherings. Then the crowd was given the opportunity to ask questions. He said why a few of the coaches couldn’t make it that day including [offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis, who he said had knee replacement surgery on Wednesday, and Mickey Marotti, who had a family obligation and “family comes first.” Coach Muschamp said he finished moving to Gainesville on Thursday and jokingly added that he still had lots of extra boxes, if anyone had extra time.

Read the rest of Jennifer’s story from the clinic including a few interesting details related to the football team…after the break!
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Gators coach Muschamp’s contract released

Three months ago, the University of Florida released detailed contract information for the assistant coaches of the Florida Gators football program. Thursday, the school did the same regarding head coach Will Muschamp‘s five-year, $13.75 million deal.

According to Florida, Muschamp will earn $2,750,400 per season and received a $750,000 bonus upon signing his contract. Other bonuses include $500,000 if he is retained as coach through Jan. 31, 2016 (and $250,000 more if he is retained through Jan. 31, 2017), $200,000 per year from Nike, $75,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference Championship and $250,000 for winning the BCS National Championship. He will also have an annual expense account of just over $60,000.

Muschamp can be bought out for $500,000 but would be paid $2 million for every year remaining on his contract if the Gators decide to terminate him.

The second-largest contract among Florida’s coaches is that of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who signed a three-year, $2.625 million deal. The contract makes him the highest-paid assistant coach in school history. Weis will earn salaries of $765,000 in 2011 and $865,000 in both 2012 and 2013; he also received a $100,000 signing bonus.

A look at the coaching staff’s 2011 salaries compared with their counterparts in 2010:

2011 Coach2011 Salary2010 Coach2010 Salary
Will Muschamp
Head Coach
$2.75M
(5 years)
Urban Meyer
Head Coach
$4M
(6 years)
Charlie Weis
Offensive Coordinator
(Quarterbacks)
$765K
(3 years)
Steve Addazio
Offensive Coordinator
(Offensive Line)
$375K
Dan Quinn
Defensive Coordinator
(Defensive Line)
$490K
(2 years)
Teryl Austin
Defensive Coordinator
(Cornerbacks)
$440K
Brian White
Running Backs
$240K
(1 year)
Brian White
Tight Ends coach
$240K
Frank Verducci
Offensive Line
$290K
(2 years)
Scot Loeffler
Quarterbacks
$240K
Aubrey Hill
Wide Receivers
$230K
(1 year)
Zach Azzanni
Wide Receivers
$240K
D.J. Durkin
Linebackers/ST
$265K
(1 year)

D.J. Durkin
Linebackers/ST
$240K
Travaris Robinson
Cornerbacks
$230K
(1 year)
Chuck Heater
Co-Defensive Coordinator
(Safeties)
$305K
Derek Lewis
Tight Ends
$190K
(1 year)
Stan Drayton
Running Backs
$240K
Bryant Young
Asst. Defensive Line
$230K
(2 years)
Dan McCarney
Assistant Head Coach
(Defensive Line)
$330K
* White and Durkin are both in the second year of two-year contracts signed in 2010.

Contract notes (as of 2010):
– Asst. coaches receive a $10,000 bonus from Florida’s contract with Nike
– All coaches receive a car and other tangible incentives

Universal bonuses (as of 2010):
– BCS National Championship Game appearance – up to 30 percent increase
– Other BCS bowl game appearance – 20 percent increase
– SEC Championship Game appearance – 10 percent increase
– Non-BCS bowl game – 10 percent increase
– Bowl game with less than $2 million payout – one month’s salary increase

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Muschamp gathers Gators in Fort Lauderdale

Flying into Fort Lauderdale, FL for a Gator Gathering with the Broward Gator Club on Tuesday evening, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp appeared anything but tired after a long day’s work. He gave a confident and passionate speech to nearly a thousand orange-and-blue-clad fans in attendance before energetically answering questions until it was time to depart. Below is a recap of some of the more newsworthy and interesting topics that Muschamp covered during the event:

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2011 Orange & Blue Debut – Gameday Preview

Event: 2011 Orange & Blue Debut – Florida Gators spring football
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Time: 12:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: Sun Sports

Online Video: —–>

Live Updates: @OnlyGators Reference: Roster | Schedule 2010: Blue 27, Orange 24

Radio appearance: Adam Silverstein will be previewing the Florida Gators’ spring game Saturday on Sirius-122/XM-143 College Sports Nation at approximately 11 a.m. Tune in.

EVENT INFORMATION

» Gator Walk: North side of stadium, exterior, 9:30 a.m. start
» Parking: The following parking locations are available first-come, first-serve for fans wishing to attend the game – O’Connell Center garage, O’Connell Center lot (disabled), Commuter Lot (Lemerand Dr.) with shuttle
» Heisman Statue Ceremony: UF will unveil three statues of the school’s Heisman Trophy winners – Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996) and Tim Tebow (2007) – on the westside of the stadium at halftime of the game near the skybox entrance. Those inside the stadium will not be allowed to exit for the ceremony but will be able to watch the unveiling live inside The Swamp after watching a brief video introduction. Spurrier, Wuerffel and Tebow will all provide remarks to the crowd after the unveiling, though only Wuerffel and Tebow are expected to be in attendance.
» Former Gators in attendance: QB Tebow, QB Wuerffel, LB Mike Peterson, RB Fred Taylor, C Maurkice & Mike Pouncey, WR Riley Cooper, WR David Nelson, LB Brandon Spikes, DE Carlos Dunlap, DB Dorian Munroe, DE Jarvis Moss, DT Joe Cohen, RB Kesthan Moore, etc.
» Recruits in attendance (List courtesy of InsideTheGators.com): LB Jeremi Powell (commit), RB Matt Jones (commit), LB Tyriq McCord, OT Patrick Miller, OT Avery Young, DE Jelani Hamilton, ATH Angelo Jean-Louis, ATH Amos Leggett, ATH Nelson Agholor, LB Noor Davis, OL Evan Goodman, ATH Marcus Maye, DT Korren Kirven, TE Kurt Freitag, DE Jhaustin Thomas, LB Tashon Whitehurst, S Ladarion Young, LB Trey Johnson (2013), RB Kelvin Taylor (2013), LB Leon McQuay III (2013), etc.

Additional information including the game format, injury report, team notes and who to keep an eye on all are available…after the break!
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Gators paying new coaching staff handsomely

With a new head coach comes a new coaching staff, and the University of Florida decided to dish out some hefty salaries in order to make sure the Florida Gators two coordinator positions under head coach Will Muschamp were filled by experienced, talented coaches for 2011 and beyond.

According to information released by Florida on Friday, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has signed a three-year, $2.625 million contract with the university. The deal makes the highest-paid assistant coach in school history.

Weis will earn salaries of $765,000 in 2011 and $865,000 in both 2012 and 2013; he also received a $100,000 signing bonus.

A look at the coaching staff’s 2011 salaries compared with their counterparts in 2010:

2011 Coach2011 Salary2010 Coach2010 Salary
Will Muschamp
Head Coach
$2.75M
(5 years)
Urban Meyer
Head Coach
$4M
(6 years)
Charlie Weis
Offensive Coordinator
(Quarterbacks)
$765K
(3 years)
Steve Addazio
Offensive Coordinator
(Offensive Line)
$375K
Dan Quinn
Defensive Coordinator
(Defensive Line)
$490K
(2 years)
Teryl Austin
Defensive Coordinator
(Cornerbacks)
$440K
Brian White
Running Backs
$240K
(1 year)
Brian White
Tight Ends coach
$240K
Frank Verducci
Offensive Line
$290K
(2 years)
Scot Loeffler
Quarterbacks
$240K
Aubrey Hill
Wide Receivers
$230K
(1 year)
Zach Azzanni
Wide Receivers
$240K
D.J. Durkin
Linebackers/ST
$265K
(1 year)

D.J. Durkin
Linebackers/ST
$240K
Travaris Robinson
Cornerbacks
$230K
(1 year)
Chuck Heater
Co-Defensive Coordinator
(Safeties)
$305K
Derek Lewis
Tight Ends
$190K
(1 year)
Stan Drayton
Running Backs
$240K
Bryant Young
Asst. Defensive Line
$230K
(2 years)
Dan McCarney
Assistant Head Coach
(Defensive Line)
$330K
* White and Durkin are both in the second year of two-year contracts signed in 2010.

Contract notes (as of 2010):
– All coaches receive a $10,000 bonus from Florida’s contract with Nike
– All coaches receive a car and other tangible incentives

Universal bonuses (as of 2010):
– BCS National Championship Game appearance – up to 30 percent increase
– Other BCS bowl game appearance – 20 percent increase
– SEC Championship Game appearance – 10 percent increase
– Non-BCS bowl game – 10 percent increase
– Bowl game with less than $2 million payout – one month’s salary increase

The Associated Press, Gainesville Sun, Palm Beach Post, Florida Times-Union and other media outlets obtained the above salary information via an open records request.

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FOUR BITS: Parsons, Gillespie, basketball praise

1 » Just a day after being named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons was honored with the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Parsons averaged 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in back-to-back wins last week against No. 24 Vanderbilt and No. 11 Kentucky, Florida’s first consecutive wins against ranked opponents since 2007. He is the first Gators player to ever pick up the honor, which was instituted last season, and earns an automatic nomination to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list.

2 » If you think Florida head coach Will Muschamp’s first choice to replace former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton was to simply change tight ends coach Brian White’s responsibilities and hire someone in his place, that would be an incorrect assumption. In fact, the Gators initially reached out to former Florida running back Robert Gillespie, who accepted the same position with the West Virginia Mountaineers one month earlier. For Gillespie, not returning to his alma mater was possibly the toughest choice he has had to face as a coach. “I’m a man of my word,” Gillespie told The Daily Athenaeum. “I left a good job at Oklahoma State to come [to West Virginia], and I gave [offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen] my word that I would help him build this program. [Florida’s] a place that holds a special place in my heart, but I didn’t make a decision based off of emotions.”

3 » Looking at No. 17/19 Gators basketball’s status for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan considers them an absolute lock to make a second-straight appearance in March Madness…this year with a much better seed.

How impressive is Florida’s NCAA tourney profile at this point in the season? Let’s count the ways: The Gators have the benefit of high RPI and strength of schedule numbers, as well as a 6-1 record against the RPI top 50 and an 11-2 record against the top 100. They’re also 7-2 in conference play, which puts them alone atop the jumbled SEC East standings. They added notches to all three of the aforementioned belts Saturday night with their huge home win over Kentucky. After that win, few teams in the nation can boast a more impressive résumé against top competition than the Gators. Welcome to lock territory, Florida fans. It’s all smooth sailing from here.

4 » Similarly complimentary is Sports Illustrated, which pegs Florida as an elite program who suffered a downturn but is quickly gaining steam once again.

Florida took a step back to respectability last season by winning 21 games and reaching the NCAA tournament, and had expectations ratcheted up this season with all five starters back to go with a talented freshman class. The Gators opened the season at No. 9 and moved to No. 17 this week after dropping out of the polls. Florida (18-5) bumped off No. 10 Kentucky over the weekend and No. 23 Vanderbilt before that to take control of the SEC East at 7-2 – and another step back toward notability.

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