Friday Final: Florida confident, prepared for UT

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles the team’s confidence entering its third Southeastern Conference game, the emergence of a young offensive lineman and a look at the unofficial depth chart ahead of the contest.

The Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hit the road for the second time this season when they face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game kicks off at noon and will air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Tennessee, talks injuries and support
Notebook: Kurt Roper keeping Florida offense calm, focused
Story: With support, QB Jeff Driskel focused on improvement not criticism
The Silver Lining: QB Treon Harris not ready for prime time
Notebook: Muschamp, D.J. Durkin looking to fix Gators secondary

GOOD TIMING

According to players on both sides of the ball, Florida’s off week came at an opportune time for the program, just as it was coming off a devastating loss on the road to Alabama. It’s not that the Crimson Tide simply defeated the Gators while hosting them in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but rather that the victory was a dominant one which appeared to show that UF still has a long way to go to truly be competitive this season.

Simply put, not all of Florida’s players saw the gap as that wide.

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9/29: Muschamp talks injuries, support, secondary

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team begins preparations for the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC). Florida will look to extend its nine-game winning streak against Tennessee on Saturday at noon when the Vols will host the Gators at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.

INJURY UPDATES

While Florida’s injury issues are nowhere near as bad as they were in 2013, the team is certainly dealing with some injured Gators one-quarter of the way through the season.

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (meniscus) will be sidelined for Saturday’s game as expected, though Muschamp hopes he will be able to return against LSU. Junior Jonathan Bullard will take many of his snaps on the interior.

Florida’s defense may also be without redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor (knee swelling), who is listed as “questionable-to-doubtful” this week. Freshman running back Brandon Powell (hamstring), who has not played since the opener against Eastern Michigan, received a similar designation from Muschamp on Monday.

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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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TWO BITS: Florida grades, Gators recruiting

1 » The folks over at Pro Football Focus chose to evaluate the Florida Gators vs. No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide contest on Saturday as their College Game of the Week. As such, PFF described the Gators’ performance as “simply a putrid defensive effort that saw Florida miss 30 tackles.” Three different UF players – redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor, senior safety Jabari Gorman and redshirt sophomore defensive back Brian Poole missed four tackles each, while junior DB Marcus Maye was “the only Florida starter not charged with an official missed tackle.”

Gorman and junior LB Antonio Morrison – due to their pass coverage and run defense, respectively – graded out as the worst of the Gators’ defenders on Saturday, rated lower than any offensive player. Redshirt senior tackle Chaz Green and redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel were given the lowest grades on the offensive side of the ball for their pass blocking and passing, respectively. All-in-all, it was a terrible day for Florida football, and PFF‘s detailed statistics break it down quite nicely.

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9/20: Florida-Alabama post-game report

A turnover-filled yet nevertheless tied game in the third quarter turned into a 42-21 blowout victory for the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC), which dominated the third quarter and stomped on the visiting Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the devastating defeat.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama improved to 24-14 all-time against Florida and now holds an 8-5 edge in games played in Tuscaloosa. UA has won four-straight games against UF, outscoring it 143-50 in those contests.
» The Gators are now 4-13 against ranked opponents under Muschamp.
» Florida is now 4-14 under Muschamp when tied or trailing at the half and 5-12 when an opponent scores 21 points or more in a game.
» The Gators’ defense gave up a school-record 645 total yards on Saturday.
» Florida forced four turnovers on Saturday and is now +8 on the season after coughing up three of its own.
» The Gators allowed the Crimson Tide to convert seven-straight third-down attempts including all six they tried in the third quarter of the game. Alabama finished 12-for-16 on third downs, while Florida was a paltry 2-of-13.
» All 21 of UF’s points on Saturday came off turnovers.
» The Gators did not call a single timeout on Saturday.
» The Crimson Tide completely dominated the third quarter, outgaining the visitors 160-41, out-possessing them 12:02-2:58 and converting six third downs (two for touchdowns).
» Sophomore safety Keanu Neal’s fumble return touchdown was Florida’s first since 2011 and the sixth-longest in school history (49 yards).
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has now caught a pass in 31-straight games. He is four games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.
» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel completed just 32.1 percent of his passes on Saturday, the lowest mark in his career for a game he started and did not leave due to injury. His 57.5 quarterback rating was the lowest of his career for a game he started.

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9/9: Kurt Roper wants Florida Gators offense to stay humble, be careful, speed up

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and a couple of his players met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s first game and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Kentucky Wildcats, which is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

KEEPING THEIR HEADS

Florida’s offense exploded on Saturday to the tune of 65 points and 655 yards of total offense, though Roper was not necessarily surprised by the performance.

“Yeah, that’s not easy to do,” he said. “I think as coaches what you look at [are] the things that you have to improve on. Obviously it’s nice to win and score that many points and all that but there’s so many things to correct that that’s what sticks on your brain as a coach. We’ve got to be better here or it’s going to create some issues.”

As a coach, Roper is used to keeping his head and not letting his players get too far into the clouds after stellar performances. On Tuesday, he explained exactly how he goes about doing that on a weekly basis.

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9/8: Muschamp sees room for improvement

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (1-0) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s Southeastern Conference opener against the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

INJURY (AND REPLACEMENT) UPDATES

Muschamp confirmed Monday that redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee’s leg surgery, to repair a broken tibia and fibula, was successful with the player expected to leave the hospital later that afternoon. No decisions have been made by McGee about his future, Muschamp said, which is understandable considering the incident just occurred. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang had McGee rated as a fifth- or sixth-round selection prior to the injury.

Senior Clay Burton will take most of McGee’s snaps at tight end, while senior Tevin Westbrook and freshman DeAndre Goolsby battle for the second-string job. Goolsby was potentially headed for a redshirt but is unlikely to have that luxury anymore.

“We plan on activating him and getting him going,” Muschamp said. “That means you’ve got to get him going on special teams and get him going on offense. That’s our plan.”

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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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