10/22: Muschamp on injuries, awards, turnovers

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s big 44-11 win over the then-No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks and preview Saturday’s game against the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) are once again out for Saturday’s game. Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) will return to practice Monday before being evaluated again, and junior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (hamstring) will sit on Monday but return to practice on Tuesday (probable for Saturday).

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: junior running back Trey Burton
“Trey does a lot of things for our football team offensively, special teams, really a lot of things go through him. We have a package for him in every game, and we certainly were able to use it Saturday and it was very efficient.”

Big Plays: redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed, redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar, junior WR Solomon Patton

Scrap Iron: redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green

Defensive Player of the Game: junior defensive end Dominique Easley

Ball Hawks: Burton (two), Patton, sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy (two), redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray, junior DT Sharrif Floyd, sophomore CB Jabari Gorman, sophomore RB Chris Johnson

Special Teams Player of the Game: Purifoy and sophomore punter Kyle Christy
* Christy was also named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Big Plays: Burton, Patton and Johnson

Scout Team Players of the Week: Special Teams – freshman LB Jeremi Powell, Defense – freshmen DL Alex McCalister and Quinteze Williams, Offense – freshman walk-on RB Mark Herndon

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 10/22: Muschamp on injuries, awards, turnovers

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10/16-17: Florida players discuss team, USC game

Five Florida Gators players – redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., senior safety Josh Evans, sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer, redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green – met with the media this week to discuss No. 2 Florida’s upcoming game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks. Below are a few choice quotes from the players.

» Hammond on if he wishes the Gators threw the ball more on offense: “I’m a receiver. I’d rather them throw it to me the whole game because I’m the receiver. I want the ball. But you got to understand, that’s not the motive of the game. You got to run, you got to throw, you got to be balanced. If running is working, I have no problem blocking down field for [Mike] Gillislee, Matt Jones or any of those guys in the backfield. We’re just doing what it takes to win ballgames.”

» Evans on Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore: “He’s a good back, physical guy. I think he lost a step a little bit from what we’ve seen before, but he’s still showing statistics. Nothing to take away from him. […I think that’s due to the [ACL] injury.”

» Evans on head coach Will Muschamp ensuring that Florida plays better at home this year: “That’s something he talks to us about every day, about holding down The Swamp and make sure we keep everybody happy. [Losing] is one thing you don’t like to do. It’s a bad day when you lose in The Swamp. Everybody’s down and it takes a lot to get back after that. Winning in The Swamp means a lot to the defense and this team.”

» Evans on how the fans help each week: “Fans being behind us 100 percent gives us the energy and strength to move forward.”

» Joyer on not carrying the ball much and having a quiet role: “I really don’t care. That doesn’t bother me at all. I’m not looking for TV time or my name to be talked about a lot. I just want the team to do well and success for all of us.”

» Halapio on Gillislee: “Somehow he just finds little creases, little holes here and there. I feel like, when he gets to the second level, there is no stopping him.”

» Green on strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman: “Coach Dillman, he’s got a great plan and offseason for strength and containing. We like him a lot. We put a lot of our success towards him and the stuff he does. It benefits us on the field. We feel like we’re in the best shape we’ve been in, so we credit him a lot.”

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10/2: Pease talks Driskel; Hunter steps up

With the team preparing for its fifth game of the season, a 3:30 p.m. showdown in The Swamp against the No. 4/3 LSU Tigers, No. 10/11 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media Tuesday to discuss improvements being made by his side of the ball and some of the standout players on offense.

NOT ALWAYS THE QUARTERBACK’S BURDEN

Sophomore signal caller Jeff Driskel has received plenty of well-deserved praise for his performance through the first four games of the season. But Driskel has yet to go up against a defense as dominant at LSU’s, and experience against Florida’s in practice situations does not compare.

Boasting one of the best defensive lines in the nation, the Tigers will be using a four-man rush most of the game and will certainly get to Driskel no matter how well the Gators’ offensive line plays. That is where Driskel’s mobility and ability to get out of the pocket come into play.

“Because of the four-man rush – they got speed on the edges and power in the middle – you just can’t sit back there seven yards and expect to pass the ball every play,” Pease said. “You got to move [Driskel] around. You got to sprint out, roll him a little bit, change where he’s going to be so they’re not going to always zero-in.”

While Driskel, as the quarterback, is the natural leader of Florida’s offense, Pease made sure to point out Tuesday that the success of that unit is not solely his responsibility come Saturday.

“It’s not always on his shoulders,” he said. “There’s guys around him that – it’s their job to execute also. He’s just got to get the ball in motion. When it is based on a throw or him making a play, he understands what he has to create and where to go with the football. I just think his knowledge has gotten a lot better. His questions on the field, what he’s seeing on film, the things he’s asking [are all improved].”

Instead Pease has Driskel focused on taking care of the football, managing the game and continuing to compete a high percentage of his passes. “He’s going to have to make a decision. Once he gets out of that pocket people are either open or they’re not,” he said. “There’s other guys around him. This isn’t about Jeff Driskel. This is about 11 guys out there executing a plan.”

HUNTER NO LONGER “FAT AND OUT OF SHAPE”

If it seems to you like redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter has been taking his play to another level this season, well, that’s because it is exactly what he’s done. After years of toiling with back issues and a lack of playing time, Hunter has gone from sometimes afterthought to the Gators’ fourth leading tackler (17 through four games).

Asked Tuesday when he last dealt with back issues, Hunter responded in joke-serious fashion: “Since I was fat and out of shape – that’s probably the last time I had issues.”

Down to a svelte 313 lbs., Hunter is seeing increased reps and production while doing everything he can to help Florida’s defense succeed in his final season with the team. He is doing just that and even picked up an SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week nod (the first of his career) recently.

“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t prepare myself the right way on the field or off the field,” he said. “The more and more I grew up, things started changing for me. I really grew up and started to put that extra work in on and off the field.”

Hunter is just one of the reasons why the Gators’ defense has picked up where it left off last season. He attributes the continued success to the overall attitude of the players.

“Guys are a lot tougher – mentally and physically – much more mature,” he said. “Guys have really been putting in the extra work this year, compared to last year [when] every guy worked hard but this year they’re going above and beyond.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Pease on if consideration has been giving to limiting senior running back Mike Gillislee’s carries to keep him fresh: “We’re going to do what we got to do. If he’s got to carry 30 times this game, carry 30. He’s got to carry it 12, carry it 12. Whatever it takes. He’s 22. He’s got good youth in him. I look at it like in the NFL. If the guy wants to play at the next level, he better be able to handle it 25 times a game. How strong are you in the fourth quarter? I think the kid’s good. Comparing him to Doug Martin when we were with Boise State, Doug Martin carried it 25-30 times a game. I don’t see any difference with Mike. He can handle that. We use other guys at other spots just to give him [a break]. Mike’s good at avoiding people. He’s not taking direct hits all the time. That’s one of his strengths.”

» Pease on the offensive line stepping up: “I think they have improved. We went from a big-sack game to no sacks. They’re always up for the challenge. That’s how those guys are. They don’t complain. They’re company-work guys. They get out there. We don’t have great, great depth. We have some good guys. Usually you like to have 12 guys; we have nine guys we’re rolling with, and they do a lot of work in practice.”

» Pease said that freshman left tackle D.J. Humphries is certainly in the mix for major playing time on Saturday and that he expects redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (ankle) to be available for the game.

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9/26: Muschamp, Pease, Quinn speak during bye

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Brent Pease and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn all met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the bye week and the team’s upcoming game against LSU on Sat., Oct. 6.

INJURY UPDATES

Junior running back Trey Burton (back spasms), redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (sprained ankle) and junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee inflamation) are all “doing very well,” according to Muschamp, and are expected to be able to play against LSU.

Additionally, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken thumb) will see a specialist on Friday and have the surgically-inserted pin removed from this thumb. Muschamp said team trainers are “optimistic” about him being able to play next Saturday, but he will have to do so initially in a cast. His pain and comfort levels, should he receive doctor approval, would determine if and how much he plays.

“I certainly hope [he can play],” Quinn said. “He provides some real speed for us on the field. I think the guy’s a terrific blitzer. He can certainly match up, tight end-wise, covering when we get into our nickel package. And then just his experience playing linebacker, I don’t think you can overlook that.”

Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) will both sit out vs. LSU as they are expected to each be out a couple more weeks.

WAITING FOR DEBOSE…

Redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose has yet to put forth the consistent effort that the coaching staff expects. After touching on their issues with him a bit last week, Muschamp and Pease were asked about him again Wednesday. Muschamp, responding specifically to a question about Debose as a punt returner, said he needs to field the ball better but it is really up to the rest of the players on the field to block better for him. Pease had this to say on Debose’s performance up to this point:

“He’s got to get comfortable and do it consistently with what we’re doing in the offense. And there’s a trust. There’s a trust factor there. You go out there, you’re going to run the right route. You’re going to do it hard, whether you’re covered or not. Because sometimes running a route, it isn’t always built for you. Depending on what the coverage does, you’ve got to open it up for other players if they double-team you or play a cloud coverage over the top of you and you’ve got to stretch the safeties. If you don’t do that, you hurt your teammates. So it’s just a combination of being consistent, understanding, playing effort all the way through because as a receiver, you’re covered at times. You have to compete. You have to continue to try and get yourself open. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m covered. I’m done running my route,’ and stop running. That’s unacceptable.”

DRISKEL PROGRESSING NICELY

For a second-year quarterback with only three SEC starts under his belt, sophomore Jeff Driskel continues to stand out (in a positive way) for Pease. He said Wednesday that the way Driskel has progressed has, in some ways, been quicker than a number of other signal callers he has coached throughout his career.

“Some of the guys I’ve worked with, he is ahead of what they’ve done on a week-to-week basis,” he said. “Sometimes it’s maybe right on par. I don’t think he’s behind anybody because I think each week he’s done a better job.”

Pease also said he is very pleased with how Driskel, a mobile quarterback, has been able to hang in the pocket and not rely on his legs to get him out of jams. “One of the things I think he’s done a really great job of is just his comfort zone in the pocket, trusting the protection and starting to use his feet when he has to. He hasn’t mastered it by any means, but he’s gotten a lot better at it on a week-to-week basis,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on if he would be a proponent of NFL-style injury reports for college teams: “No, I wouldn’t be for that. […] That’s not going to work on our level.”

» Muschamp listed a number of true freshmen who have not played much (or at all) this season but are doing well in practice recently: defensive linemen Alex McCalister and Quinteze Williams, guard Jessamen Dunker, TE Kent Taylor, DB Brian Poole, WR Raphael Andrades, QB Skyler Mornhinweg and walk-on RB Mark Herndon.

» Expanding on a statement from Monday, Muschamp said that depth at defensive line has allowed players to see 12-20 fewer snaps per game, which is making a huge difference in their energy and performance late in the game. “When you talk about another 15-18 snaps to a 300+ pounder, it takes its wear and tear on them. And then you’re also taking on a double team with their guard and tackle for a combination of 700 pounds for another 2-3 more power plays. It makes a huge difference,” he said.

» Pease on an aspect of the game in which the offense may be ahead of the curve: “I think our balance in what we can do, run and pass, and how productive we’ve been with it. Guys are really fitting into being productive, being playmakers in the offense.”

» Pease on LSU being a measuring stick for Florida: “Oh, absolutely. They’re good. This is a defining moment to see where we’re at, who we’ve got to play and how well we got to play.”

» Pease on the play of redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar: “Q’s done a great job. He is getting comfortable with everything. His practice habits have started to carry over more to the game. He’s getting a good feel. The thing about it is, when that happens, these guys as young as they are, when they have fun but they’re still competing, you can see that stuff carries over. When you’re not having fun and it’s not working, you’re probably not going to be doing it on Saturdays. Well, that’s not him. He’s smiling, having fun. He’s making plays on third down, makes blocks; he’s out there competing.”

» Quinn on preparing to face LSU: “When you talk about SEC play, it kind of gets you fired up. There’s a great game for us coming up, and it’s exactly why you come to Florida as a player and as a coach to have opportunities to play and coach in games like this.”

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9/24: Muschamp talks Gators’ injuries, bye week

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review his team’s dominant 38-0 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday while also previewing the bye week and the activities planned for the Gators over the next few days.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee), junior running back Trey Burton (back), junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (head) “should be fine for LSU based on the information I have,” Muschamp said Monday. He also noted that Reed suffered a head injury (read: concussion) and not a shoulder injury as initially reported.

Furthermore, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb) will be reevaluated on doctors by Wednesday as it will be determined whether he can begin practicing and potentially return to the field on Saturday with a club on his hand.

Redshirt junior OT Matt Patchan, on the other hand, will miss yet another game while continuing to deal with his strained pectoral and torn muscle.

“Yeah, I expect him to play this year. I certainly do,” said Muschamp when asked if Patchan would miss another season. “If we played this week, no, I would say probably not LSU [either] but maybe the week after. That’s what I’m hoping based on meeting with our medical staff [Sunday]. We’re hoping to hopefully get him some work next week on the field. How healthy he’ll be at that point, I don’t know. It’s a pec strain; he had some tear on the muscle. It’s a painful injury and up front you’ve got to be able to use that to block. Rehab has gone well. He’s worked extremely hard as far as that is concerned. We’re just hoping we can get him some snaps. But he will play this year, yes.”

BYE WEEK BENEFITS

In addition to giving Florida the opportunity to rest and heal, the bye week coming early for the Gators this year will also help the team clean up a number of issues.

Muschamp wants the offense to focus on figuring out how to make the passing game a bit smoother. He envisions the timing between the quarterback and wide receivers improving so that Florida can convert more third downs and throw the ball vertically to move down the ield. The Gators will also work on short-yardage and goal line plays while figuring out how to block better on the perimeter.

“That’s where you get big runs is when you’re blocking on the perimeter and finishing blocks down the field,” he said.

Defense has been pretty solid for Florida so far though Muschamp wants the Gators to get better pressure while rushing four guys without a blitz. He also hopes to see improvement in red zone defense as UF has allowed seven touchdowns in 10 total opponent trips through four games this season.

Where Florida may be able to take the biggest leap is special teams. The Gators must find a way to produce better in the return game, especially on punts. “We’ve got some explosive guys. We need to settle on a guy and get a guy back there that’s, number one, going to field the ball but, number two, can get the ball north-and-south, stick your foot in the ground and get north-and-south,” Muschamp said.

UF has also yet to block a single punt this season despite Muschamp and special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin calling a handful of designed punt block plays. Florida no longer has Chris Rainey to count on in that regard but does still feature junior Solomon Patton and other young, speedy and elusive players.

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Players of the Game: redshirt senior left guard James Wilson

Scrap Iron: redshirt juniors right guard Jon Halapio and RT Kyle Koehne

Big Plays: redshirt senior TE Omarius Hines

Defensive Players of the Game: redshirt senior DT Omar Hunter and junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins
* Hunter was also named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.

Ball Hawks: Watkins, redshirt sophomore LB Michael Taylor and sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders

Special Teams Player of the Game: sophomore punter Kyle Christy

Scout Team Players of the Week: freshman linebacker Jeremi Powell, freshman defensive lineman Alex McCalister, redshirt sophomore walk-on wide receiver A.J. Mobley

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what he’s seen while watching LSU on film so far: “Typical LSU – physical, tough, recruited extremely well, good job developing their players, a physical style of play that you appreciate as a coach.”

» On the progression of sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel: “The more snaps he continues to get, the better he’s going to get. He’s going to work hard at it. He’s a cerebral guy. He’s going to learn and work at it and watch the film and understand. He takes coaching very well. It’s just the more snaps you get, the more opportunities you get. The game starts to slow down; you start to see it better. Obviously the timing with the receivers will continue to improve, in my opinion.”

» On the bye week: “We got three huge days to improve – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – opportunities for our team to get better.”

» Muschamp said sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy is the only player at his position who is “really excited” about tackling running backs and that the others need to take a cue from him and become better at stopping edge rushing.

» On the Gators being confident at 4-0: “I just think that confidence is a great thing. We were a confident football team last year at 4-0…and then we lost our quarterback.”

» On some of the recent struggles for senior LT Xavier Nixon: “He’s been banged up. He’s had a shoulder; he’s had a legitimate injury there. He’s a guy that’s pushed through it. Run assignments the other night were very good; he blocked extremely well in the run game, needs to finish on a couple things. Protection a little bit we need to solidify as far as his pass protection is concerned.”

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9/22: Florida vs. Kentucky post-game report

No. 14 Florida Gators football (4-0, 3-0 SEC) started slow but eventually blew past the Kentucky Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, FL, shutting out the visitors 38-0 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. After the game, head coach Will Muschamp and sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel discussed the contest.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida has won 26-straight games against Kentucky, tying a SEC record for longest one-sided winning streak in league history. UF is 46-17 all-time against UK, 26-4 in The Swamp and 32-1 overall since 1980.
» The Gators are 7-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 8-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points.
» Florida is outscoring opponents 64-13 in the second half and 34-0 in the fourth quarter through four games in 2012.
» The Gators have outscored the Wildcats by at least 30 points in last five meetings.
» Florida registered its first shutout since Sept. 10, 2011 (Alabama-Birmingham) and first conference shutout since Sept. 29, 2001 (Mississippi State).
» The Gators have started the season 4-0 for the fourth-straight year.
» Florida won the time of possession battle by 15:22, more than a full quarter.
» UF nearly doubled UK in total offense (403-219) and more than tripled their opponent in passing offense (203-60).
» The Gators registered three interceptions in the second quarter, marking the first time the team has picked off three passes in a single quarter since Nov. 25, 2006.

INJURY UPDATES
Noticeably absent from Saturday’s game was junior running back Trey Burton, who Muschamp said at halftime had suffered back spasms on Friday and was held out of action. Muschamp expanded on those co
mments after the game.

“Trey Burton came in Friday morning with back spasms. We worked on him all day Friday, Friday night, into this morning. We did everything we could do but every time he planted on his right foot he had pain shooting up his right hip. That’s all it was,” he said.

Muschamp added that Burton did have some back spasm issues in 2011 but that the problem came out of nowhere on Friday and the staff had not seen any prior indications of him being unable to play.

Redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee inflammation) were both held out again though Muschamp specifically said he expects Easley to return against LSU on Oct. 6.

Junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (shoulder) were both dinged up during the game with neither returning to the field after being hurt. Muschamp said Floyd had a stinger on his shoulder and should be fine while Reed was unable to regain full range of motion right away and sat out as a precaution.

Read the rest of what Muschamp and Driskel had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 9/22: Florida vs. Kentucky post-game report

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9/15: Florida at Tennessee post-game report

No. 17/18 Florida Gators football (3-0, 2-0 SEC) completed its second-straight come-from-behind victory on Saturday, taking down the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 37-20 on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, TN. After the game head coach Will Muschamp and sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel discussed what occurred on the field and in the locker room.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida has won eight-straight games against Tennessee, the longest winning streak in the series between the two teams. The Gators are 23-19 all-time against the Volunteers and 21-6 since 1976.
» UF won its first game against a ranked opponent since Muschamp took over. Florida was 0-5 previously.
» The Gators are 2-0 when trailing at the half this season after going 0-5 when faced with the same situation last year.
» Florida is 6-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 7-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 50-13 in the second half and 27-0 in the fourth quarter this season.
» Florida’s 37 points were the most UF has scored in Knoxville since 1984.
» The Gators eclipsed 500 yards of total offense (reaching 555) for the first time since registering 520 against Kentucky on Sept. 24, 2011.
» Florida outrushed Tennessee by 253 yards (336-83), their greatest margin since running for 271 more than Kentucky on Sept. 24, 2011.
» Redshirt senior Buck Lerentee McCray notched his first career interception.
» Junior running back Trey Burton totaled 129 yards and two touchdowns. His 80-yard run (for a touchdown) and 32-yard reception were career-longs in each category.

MUSCHAMP’s OPENING STATEMENT

“I’m proud of our guys, coming on the road two weeks in a row in two tough places to play. Really poised at halftime again, no bickering, finger-pointing. It’s what we need to do to get this thing going. We need to give the offense more possessions in the first half. Third down was a killer for us defensively again. We had tight coverage. I’m going to give these guys credit now – they can throw the football. You look at some of the balls they threw in and completed. [Cordarrelle] Patterson and [Justin] Hunter are two outstanding players. [Mychal] Rivera the tight end is a guy and [Tyler] Bray was really on fire early, really made some nice, nice throws. A bunch of those on third down we had the match-ups we wanted in most situations.

“As the game wore on, I felt like we were winning the line of scrimmage. I think obviously our rushing yardage with [330+ yards], when you do that you’re going to win games. And we were able to do that in the ballgame. No turnovers offensively was critical and then defensively two turnovers for 14 points. So we’ve kind of flipped ourselves in the first three games a little bit on turnover margin; still need more on defense.

“I really think the pivotal turning point in the game was winning the line of scrimmage, first of all, but secondly that brilliant fake punt I ran at midfield and then we go three-and-out and then the next play 80 yards with Trey Burton. We felt like we had the counter on the backside. It was blocked beautifully. They overpursued the speed sweep. Trey cut it backside and out-ran them. Very resilient for our kids. They overcome coaching an awful lot, and I think in that situation they certainly did. I think that was a huge, huge turning point. […]

“What we gave them they earned. We didn’t play much zone tonight. It was some pattern match and man-to-man. And we pressured and we tried to get after the quarterback. We only had one sack but I know we had some solid collisions with him. A little disappointed with how they ran the ball early in the game. Just pleased with the effort overall. Our guys did a nice job. Continue to play hard, continue to develop our identify as a team and a program. Not where we need to be but certainly better than we’ve been.”

DRISKEL STEPPING UP

Read the rest of what Muschamp and Driskel had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 9/15: Florida at Tennessee post-game report

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Injuries pile up for Florida Gators: Jenkins, Riggs out; Powell re-injured; Gillislee good to go

One would think the news would be more positive for the No. 17/18 Florida Gators coming off a big win on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies, but head coach Will Muschamp actually spent most of his weekly Monday afternoon press conference delivering plenty of bad news as it pertains to his team’s health.

“We’ve kind of got a saying around here: ‘Man down, man up,'” he said.

Muschamp announced Monday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken thumb) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (fractured foot) will both miss at least a month after being injured against Texas A&M.

Jenkins, who had surgery on Monday, will definitely be out at least for this week’s road game against the Tennessee Volunteers but may be able to return sooner than his timetable dictates if doctors approve a protective device for his hand.

Riggs, however, could be out as long as six weeks depending how his foot heals as doctors said he does not need surgery on the fracture.

Freshman LB Antonio Morrison will take over for Jenkins as the starter at Will, but the Gators will also see plenty of redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor in a reserve role at both inside positions. Junior Darrin Kitchens will also have a bigger role in the defense.

Defensive backs sophomore Jabari Gorman and redshirt freshman Valdez Showers both filled in for Riggs on Saturday and will continue doing so in the near future. Junior Matt Elam will likely transition back to playing much more safety while junior Jaylen Watkins, who moved into the starting cornerback role last week, will take over at nickel.

The bad news continued as Muschamp added that junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in April during the team’s spring game and hoped to return sometime in October, re-injured his knee while rehabbing and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“He is being reevaluated next week. He has got some swelling on the knee. We took the MRI – probably a little too much swelling to tell really where he is right now,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to reevaluate him next week. Very disappointing for him. Really a setback as far as where he is and where we thought he would be at this point as excelled as his rehab has gone.

“Talking to him [Monday] morning and his parents throughout the weekend, more than likely Ronald will redshirt this year. It’s just disappointing for him, a guy that mentally has been a rock, just been amazing in how he’s handled the process. And again, he’s handled it very well. The diagnosis is not totally final yet; we want to look at it again next week. Certainly it has put a speed bump in the recovery process. Very disappointed for him and us.”

Not all was negative on the injury front.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee, who has four of his team’s five touchdowns this season and appeared to hurt his groin while scoring in the fourth quarter on Saturday, only “strained” the muscle and will be able to practice all week.

“He’s going to be fine. He’ll be fine for this weekend,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to practice [Monday]. We just had a staff meeting and they said he is going to practice, so I think he should be fine. We probably won’t rep him 40 times [in practice]. We’ll make sure he’s ready to go for Saturday [and] we feel like he’s fully available.”

Senior safety Josh Evans (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green (cramps) are both good to go as well.

Florida will also get sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders (hamstring, suspension) and freshman tight end Kent Taylor (concussion) back for the Tennessee game though redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (strained pectoral) will probably be out until the bye week (at least two more weeks).

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