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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9/6: Florida-Eastern Michigan post-game report

The Florida Gators (1-0) exorcised some demons on Saturday, erasing a seven-game losing skid and continuing a 25-game season-opener winning streak by running through the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-1) on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

The Gators upended the Eagles 65-0, scoring eight touchdowns and forcing five turnovers in an afternoon where everything seemed to go Florida’s way.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the season-opening victory, addressing what he saw as the highs and lows of the win.

OPENING STATEMENT

“Very pleased with what we were able to do today. Hit some big plays offensively, missed a couple. We got to hit those down the field. I thought Jeff [Driskel threw the ball extremely well. You saw what I referenced as far as his command and comfort with where we are. …

“I thought we protected pretty well. The turnovers were huge to be able to get those in the game and get the ball off some people. Eighty-six plays – that was good to have that many skill kids and take that many shots. …

“Defensively, I thought we did OK. I thought there were some things they missed. We didn’t cover down on a couple things in the secondary especially that would have hit against someone else probably, in my opinion. We got to get that cleaned up.”

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Instant Replay: Florida flashes new-look offense in 65-0 rout of Eastern Michigan

One week later than initially scheduled, the Florida Gators (1-0) kicked off their 2014 season on Saturday with a 65-0 trouncing of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida extended its winning streak in season-opening contests to 25 games while starting the campaign with the exact type of blowout victory that fans hoped for all offseason. OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

Deciding drive: Starting on its own 23-yard line after receiving an Eagles punt late in the first quarter, the Gators traveled 77 yards in 10 plays to take a 24-0 lead and put the game out of reach early for Eastern Michigan. Florida entered the red zone on a 42-yard deep vertical throw from redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel to redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and crossed the goal line two plays later when freshman running back Brandon Powell rumbled into the end zone from 12 yards out. Driskel went 31-for-45 for 248 yards with a touchdown on the afternoon, while Dunbar hauled in five receptions for 81 yards. Powell had three catches for 24 yards including his score.

Important injuries: Midway through the second quarter, redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee got his left leg rolled up on by senior right guard Trenton Brown. McGee had his left ankle placed in an air cast before a stretcher cart was brought out to drive him off the field. Earlier in the first quarter, junior left tackle D.J. Humphries was brought to the locker room after injuring his ankle following UF’s first touchdown of the game. He did not return. In a post-game interview on SEC Network, head coach Will Muschamp noted that the team has lost McGee “probably for the season.”

Check out the second half of The Quick Slant…after the break.
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Florida LB Taylor, DE Fowler ready to lead…and hit; Gators see Muschamp as tough but fair

A pair of defenders are ready to lead the way for the Florida Gators both on and off the field, while players disagree with some critics labeling head coach Will Muschamp as soft in light of his decision to reinstate three suspended players for the Eastern Michigan Eagles game on Saturday.

THE MAN FOR THE JOB

Losing Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell last year – plus Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Lerentee McCray the season before – the Gators spent a portion of the offseason searching for veteran leaders to unite the program and take it to another level in 2014.

In stepped redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor, a 10-game starter in 2013 who is as confident off the field as he is aggressive on it. Not only have his Florida teammates fallen in line behind him, the coaching staff also views him as a trustworthy extension of their teachings on the gridiron.

“Mike, really his entire career, has been about all the right things and what we stand for as a program. He’s never an issue off-the-field. He’s a very tough, physical, hard-working guy. He loves football. He’s really into it. He’s already graduated from here,” explained defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.

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8/21: Durkin praises Morrison, young tackles

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Thursday with just over a week until the first game of the season. He updated the status of a number of players and also discussed competition at a key position.

REDEMPTION YEAR

After shining during limited action as a freshman, linebacker Antonio Morrison had a sophomore campaign he wishes he could forget. Not only did he get arrested twice in the offseason (and subsequently suspended to start the year), Morrison did not play as well as many hoped and wound up getting injured before the season was out.

Now with an incident-free offseason behind him and an important junior season ahead, Morrison is drawing overly positive reviews from his coaches and teammates.

“He’s had a great camp. He’s always been a guy, very serious about football, practices hard, does all those things. I think he’s even taken it to another level,” explained Durkin. “His preparation off the field is as strong as it is on the field. He really understand how important this year is for him. I couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s approaching things, being a leader for other guys, grabbing the defense when he has to. I expect him to have a great year.”

Redshirt freshman Daniel McMillian has been on the opposite end of some of that leadership and admitted that Morrison certainly has his own unique method to motivate his teammates.

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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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Defensive line shake-up working well for Gators

It was no surprise when the Florida Gators defensive line struggled last season after defensive tackle Dominique Easley, the star of the unit and a leader on the team, went down with a torn ACL during a late September practice.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp tried to fill in the gaps the best he could, but the Gators had issues stopping the run, getting to the quarterback or doing much of anything at times with their defensive front seven.

So while the offense is in the middle of an overhaul under new coordinator Kurt Roper, Muschamp and defensive line coach Brad Lawing are tweaking a unit that must make significant improvements if Florida is going to have substantial success in 2014.

Before the Gators could begin improving came the realization that they would have to do so without redshirt senior Leon Orr, who is not expected to be cleared until May 1 as he recovers from a fractured wrist he suffered last season.

Filling in for him on the interior is junior Jonathan Bullard, a defensive end who played some tackle in 2013 despite not actually having the desire to switch positions. Bullard admitted Tuesday that he was frustrated when Muschamp asked him to move inside because he had never played the position before and felt like his production would significantly decrease (which it ultimately did).

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