11/14: Muschamp speaks after Florida’s fifth loss

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent. Florida fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 17-12 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a home game against the Furman Paladins on Nov. 19. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from Saturday and Monday.

INJURY UPDATES

In addition to announcing that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) will be out for the season, Muschamp said redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (“banged up”) should all be able to play on Saturday. Green and McCray were tested pre-game on Saturday and could not play; both are expected to return to practice early in the week and try to give it a go again versus Furman.

COSTLY ERRORS AT CRITICAL JUNCTURES

The Gators once again failed to impress on Saturday and continued to make major mistakes after being put in a position to succeed. Florida was inside the five-yard-line twice against South Carolina and came out of the situations with a total of six points rather than the 14 they should have posted. UF also committed a costly offsides penalty continuing what wound up being USC’s final offensive drive. Muschamp said Saturday after the game that Florida’s miscues continue to disappoint him.

“We’ve had three ballgames where we had our opportunities. It comes back to turnovers, critical errors when you got to make plays, you got to make a play on the ball down the field,” he said. “You’re in a situation where it’s a field goal game, and you have to execute in those situations. It comes back on me. [I’ve] got to do a better job coaching, a better job in those critical downs and critical situations. In four of our last games, three of them have come down to the last drive of the game. We have got to win in those situations and we haven’t.”

He expanded on those comments on Monday, explaining what he and the players spoke about during their meeting earlier in the day.

“I told the team this morning at 6:00 a.m. Every football game you play in or you coach in, there are 8-10-12 plays in the game that really determine the outcome. It isn’t one play but generally those collective plays and you never know when those plays are going to happen,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to make plays in those situations. We’ve been very inconsistent obviously in our play, and that falls back on my shoulders, doing a better job putting our guys in situations to be successful.

“We watched plays from the game as an entire team this morning to show them when those situations arrive and how we’re hurting ourselves in a lot of those situations. We’ve got to eliminate that from our game if you expect to win those games. Those critical plays we’ve got to do a better job [on].”

A SILVER LINING TO THE STRUGGLES

Muschamp is not using 2011 as an evaluation season per se but while the team is struggling to get into the W column on a consistent basis, he is noticing some qualities about the players that give him a sense of promise for the future.

“I see a lot of improvement regardless of the results,” he said Saturday. “In the big picture of things, we’ve made tremendous improvements. We play blocks much better up front at times. We do a better job in the run game against a quality defensive football team. [...] We ran the ball in the second half. Is there improvement? Yes. Is it what we want? No. Is it where it needs to be? No. Are we going to get there? Yes, it’s going to get there. You play three quality teams that you feel like you had opportunities to win the games. Is it frustrating? Yeah. But it’s frustrating to lose one when you don’t play very well, too.”

He went into further detail on Monday, discussing specifically the improvements he is seeing game-in and game-out. “We all look at the result at the end of the game and feel like nothing good is happening. That’s not the case. We have a lot of positive things happening, just not enough to get us over the hump to win those games,” Muschamp said.

“The effort. Guys are playing hard with great effort. Individually guys that are doing nice things, as a team doing nice things. We’re just very inconsistent. You can attribute it to a lot of different things, but the bottom line is that it’s inconsistent. I see things that are very promising as far as where we are and what we’re trying to do. It’s not what we want right now, but we’ll certainly get there.

“We improved our tackling defensively. Both linebackers have played extremely well this season. We’re a little inconsistent in some situations Saturday, but we’ve played blocks better up front. We’ve improved in the secondary. Jordan Reed is playing really well. A.C. Leonard is coming along and playing really well. The running backs have played well all season. I think John [Brantley] continues to play well, and I think we’ve got a bright future with Jacoby [Brissett] and Jeff Driskel. Matt Patchan is playing his best football, and Jon Halapio is playing very well. We’re not consistent enough across the board, but there are some guys who are playing good football. Jon Bostic is having an outstanding season.

“There’s a fine line in winning and losing. It’s a really fine line from being 5-5 and possibly 8-2. There’s really fine line, and it goes back to those 8-10-12 plays in a game – you got to make those plays. You got to put your guys in situations to be successful and that’s my job.”

BOWL ELIGIBILITY NOT A CARROT TO BE DANGLED

As a coach who expects much from his players, Muschamp said he has never considered and certainly is not now using bowl eligibility as any type of motivator for his team going into the Furman game.

“For me it’s about playing better. It’s about coaching better. If you do that, things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’ve had our opportunities in the last four weeks to do that. We haven’t exactly closed it out. I don’t know that bowl eligibility should be a motivating factor for you as a competitor.

“When you step on the field, you compete. You can do it every day in practice, you can do it every day in meetings, and you do it every day during game day regardless of who is lined up on the other side. That’s the mental attitude you want to have as a competitor. It’s to go out and compete. You don’t need to be motivated by external factors, in my opinion.”

One positive result of becoming bowl eligible, something that the Gators will be on Saturday after their likely victory over the Paladins, is that Florida will get nearly three additional weeks of practice before playing in the game. Those can be used not only to prepare for the upcoming opponent but to set the tone for spring practice in 2012.

“They’re very important,” Muschamp said of the additional practices. “You got a great opportunity to scrimmage your young players. Our young players have been scrimmaging all year. It’s an opportunity to go out and rep, get better, familiarize with your scheme a little more, get guys turns and reps in what they’re doing. There’s no question – generally you try to get 4-5 fundamental practices and then 4-5 practices on your opponent. And then you break for Christmas, come back to the bowl site and get 4-5 more practices. It’s in essence another spring ball. There is no question it is very beneficial for your program.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On what adjustments he made at halftime: “Execute. Execute.”

» On playing a tough SEC slate of games: “We have two really good teams in our league in Alabama and LSU. The rest of us you could throw us in a sack and shake us up.”

» On his players fumbling the ball: “We just got to play different guys.”

» On deciding to kick the field goals and not go for touchdowns on fourth down: “The game is all about points. Neither offense was doing a whole lot. It was all about getting points early in the game to me. Get as many points as you can, don’t squelch opportunities in the red zone, which we did. You got to score touchdowns in there.”

» On Brantley’s mental makeup: “John’s a guy that, I’ll tell you, I’m very impressed with him as a person and what he’s all about. He’s all about the right things.”

» On the wide receivers not getting separation: “We got to play better. We got to coach better.”

» On the offensive and defensive lines: “Not very good. Real simple. We’re not deep enough. We don’t have enough numbers. It’s real simple. Just look at the roster. We’ve got good talent. We don’t have enough numbers.”

» On if it will take long to develop depth on the lines: “We’ll recruit well up front. I feel very excited about where we are from that standpoint. We’ll continue to improve and gain depth as far as the recruiting is concerned and do a better job coaching the guys here on campus.”

» On if the 5-5 season has affected recruiting: “None.”

» On why redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has not done more this year: “Given his opportunities, he has played well. A little bit is Andre has made some big plays for us, especially in the middle of the season as we’ve moved forward. They play the same position in most situations, so Andre [Debose]’s made a little bit more vertical plays down the field. Very pleased with Quinton recognized this morning for his effort on the field, his blocking in the game. I look for him to continue getting some opportunities.”

» On if Florida is getting enough out of the freshman class: “I’d have to individually think through in my head. Both quarterbacks are going to be outstanding; I’m pleased with where both of them are. Offensively right now A.C. Leonard has really come on. It really put him behind when he had the knee injury there in camp he missed a lot of time. For a freshman that’s very difficult when you miss that many turns and that many reps. I’m very pleased with the secondary players that have played extremely well for us. Graham Stewart has done some nice things at linebacker. Chris Johnson on special teams has been outstanding, Louchiez Purifoy. For a freshman class, there are a bunch of them playing and probably only three guys who will be redshirted in the class.”

» On why penalty numbers being down overall: “We’ve emphasized it as much as we can go over it. We have crowd noise at every practice. We hard count on defense probably once every 2-3 snaps. In critical situations we talk about it. We text the players about it. We’re exhausting every measure we can of jumping offsides and having false starts offensively. We’re going to continue to do a better job because we’re not doing a good job obviously. We’ve been doing that all along. That’s something that we’ve practiced and we do. That’s just what we do. [...] We’ve talked about it. We text them. We had a t-shirt made [that reads] ‘hard count.’ We’ve done everything. We’re exhausting all measures.”

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11/9: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off their first win in over a month and set to face the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks this Saturday, head coach Will Muschamp spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at heading into the contest.

STATUS AND INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green, redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger are all good to go and expected to play Saturday. Redshrit junior LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), on the other hand, will be a game-time decision.

Though redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison was pulled from the Vanderbilt game due to inconsistencies in his shotgun snaps, he is working this week and trying to earn the job back. He is competing with Wenger (a center at Notre Dame) and redshirt junior Sam Robey, who replaced Harrison on Saturday.

“Jon’s played well for us,” Muschamp said. “His consistency in snaps since we’ve gone to strictly shotgun formation due to John’s ankle [has been an issue]. That has been the only issue. As far as his assignments and blocking, he’s been fine.”

MUCH RESPECT FOR SPURRIER

A Florida fan and football player growing up, Muschamp kept a close eye on South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. When he faced him both as a player at Georgia and defensive coordinator at Auburn, he understood even more why Spurrier is so good.

“I’ve got great respect for coach Spurrier as an opponent when I was a player and the job he did with his football teams. Being a player wanting to be a coach, you see the success he had here at Florida and how he really turned this place around to winning championships. As an opponent, I have tremendous respect as a player and now as a coach,” he said. “It’s the way he does things. He does things the right way. He goes by the rules, works hard and his teams compete each Saturday every time out. I have a lot of respect for the man and what he’s accomplished.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Penn State story: “It’s obviously tragic. I don’t know all the facts; we’ve been working. If the allegations are true, my thoughts are with the victims and the victims’ families at this time.”

» On how the quality of college football teams have changed with freshmen wanting to play right away: “I don’t know that the quality of the game is a whole lot different. There are some teams right now a little ahead of the others. There are younger players playing – a lot of guys are coming out [early] now for the NFL and that sets you back a little bit as a program because you count on a guy to be here and then he’s not there. Generally if he’s leaving early, he’s a really good player. [...] All of the freshmen coming in because of recruiting now think they’re going to start as a freshman. They don’t want to go to a school that has an incumbent starter. Some of those things make your depth not as good as it’s been in past years where you’re a little paper thin at certain areas as far as positions are concerned.”

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11/7: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a tough road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

INJURY UPDATES AND PLAYER AWARDS

The following players will return to practice Monday:
Redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)

The following players will return to practice Tuesday:
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (foot)

“He’s fine,” Muschamp said of Brantley. “He got a funny hit on [his arm]. He probably could have gone back in, but I told him to sit down and let Jacoby [Brissett] finish it. It was one of those things that was a funny injury. There is nothing serious at all.”

Additional injury notes:
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remain out of action this week. Freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan had surgery Monday morning and will take a redshirt for 2011. Fellow freshman OL Trip Thurman had shoulder surgery earlier this year and will also be redshirted.

Player awards from the Vanderbilt game:
Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan
Big Play Award: Jeff Demps (52-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Hard Hat Award: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (55-yard field goal), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (blocked field goal), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (onside recover)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Ryan Parrish, Hygens Succes, Tim Clark

Demps was also named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

GAME AND FUTURE OPPONENT STATEMENTS

Muschamp first provided his general thoughts about Saturday’s victory.

“You go back and look at the game and we were balanced on offense. Being able to run the ball helped us with our play actions down the field. It slows the defensive linemen down a good bit up front. We converted on third down about 50 percent and had some big plays. We were able to get some chuck plays. Defensively we really needed to stop the run game and for the most part we did a decent job of that. We have to finish the game better and cover better – on the back end especially. We had some breakdowns [in the secondary] and obviously had some pass rush issues with Rodgers being able to scramble, create and extend plays. Those are the things we’ve really talked to the kids about.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 12, South Carolina.

“They’re very balanced on offense – 188 yards rushing per game, 180 passing. Offensively Alshon Jeffrey is an outstanding wide receiver. A guy that is 6’4″ or 6’5″ with great ball skills down the field. He’s a tremendous match-up issue in all situations. [...] Defensively Ellis Johnson does a great job. [The unit has] 27 turnovers this year and is led by Melvin Ingram, a guy from a fake punt against Georgia to sacking the quarterback to playing the runs well inside is a really good athlete, a big guy that plays hard with a great motor. I’m really impressed watching him on film. Defense and special teams for them have scored seven touchdowns, so that’s impressive.”

Muschamp also commented on USC head coach Steve Spurrier:

I got great respect for Coach Spurrier, first of all as a player winning the Heisman Trophy here in 1966 and then the job he did as a head coach here for 12 years was outstanding. You look at the championship run and establishing the tradition of what Florida football is as far as winning championships. [...] I think he changed the SEC as far as the passing game is concerned. When he took over in 1990, the SEC was a running league. It was a ground-and-pound league. He came to Florida and did a great job in the throwing game, changing the perception of the SEC to an offensive league but still remained balanced in everything he did.”

PISTOL SET GIVES GATORS A RUN GAME

Between Brantley’s ankle injury and the numerous other problems the Gators have had running the ball, employing the pistol set on Saturday helped get the run game going again and keep the Commodores’ defense honest. In fact, Florida ran at a near two-to-one clip, though UF was also successful through the air.

Muschamp said Monday that employing the pistol helped in protection and opening up throwing seams down the field while also allowing the Gators to call play actions and run the ball inside. He said Florida plans to keep using the set because it assists in keeping defenses off balance.

Brantley is expected to be back under center at South Carolina but calling some runs from the pistol could still be smart in order to keep the turns he has to make on his ankle to a minimum. Muschamp also explained that UF’s pistol set is not the same as the pistol offense first run at Nevada and now UCLA.

“We were running from a set to be able to get to a downhill running game. What they run is a misdirection running game. It’s a different theory. What they run is a package; what we run is a set to be able to get to some downhill run game. What they do is a total package – they run a total offense that is called the pistol offense. We ran a set to get to our downhill running game. We ran it from a different set to enable John to run our downhill running game. We didn’t change what we were doing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on how the secondary needs to improve: “As far as playing the ball, we’re in situations and we’re in position. You got to play the football. When you’re in position to cover the receiver, you got to play the ball. We just need to finish some plays. [...] Those things are all correctable. Those are all things that we can work on. We’re going to spend a lot time today working on perimeter drill where we work on our eye control, covering and leveraging formations. They just need to improve, and I need to do a better job coaching from my spot.”

» Muschamp on how long he plans on coaching: “I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it. I enjoy coming to work every day regardless of the situation. I can’t picture myself not coaching.”

» Muschamp on if Spurrier called him when he took the Florida job: “I called him to tell him that our doors were always open unless we’re playing South Carolina.”

» Muschamp on redshirt junior DE Earl Okine: “He’s done a nice job. He’s done a better job preparing himself throughout the week as far as practice is concerned and that gives him other opportunities to play.”

» Muschamp on if he is seeing he team mature: “From a competitive standpoint and how we’re practicing, how we’re approaching things, as far as the team is concerned, I do think we’ve made some positive strides.”

» Muschamp on not walking on with the Gators: “Not that Florida missed anything [with me] as a player. I can tell you that.”

» Muschamp on the strides redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard has made: “I think Jaye has played really well. I thought he played well Saturday. He’s a guy that we really challenged him as far as playing hard every snap, giving great effort all the time. Jaye is very talented. He’s strong. He’s a very good athlete. He can bend his lower body, play blocks. A lot of Jaye needs to play hard all the time and do it all the time and be a guy that really shines. I’ve been really proud of his performance and how he’s played this year. I think he’s been very consistent this year.”

» Muschamp on how sophomore safety Matt Elam has stepped up: “He is communicating very well. He was not a very vocal player when I came in here from a standpoint of communicating. He was more worried about getting himself lined up and with what he was doing. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing schematically to understand what the other safety needs to do, what the nickel needs to do. He’s got very good playmaking skills and ability. He’s got natural instincts as a football player. He sees the play before it happens a lot. He anticipates the route breaking off. He anticipates where the runner is going to break. He anticipates where the ball is going.”

» Muschamp on freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “Wow. He’s had an outstanding year. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for us. He’s smart, understands football. He gets it. It’s important to him. He’s very intelligent and tough. He’s a guy who we like giving the ball too as he gets a lot of positive yards after contact. He’s a really good blocker and picks up the game very well. I think he’s had an outstanding freshman season. He’s basically been the starter for us all year.”

» Muschamp on if he watched Alabama-LSU: “I got through about halftime and then fell asleep [out of exhaustion].”

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11/5: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game notes

The Florida Gators (5-4, 3-4 SEC) finally got off the schnide after a winless October with a 26-21 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-5, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday. Florida played a home game for the first time in over a month and held on to a victory after leading by double digits late in the fourth quarter. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game along with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP THANKFUL FOR FANS, PLEASED WITH EFFORT

At the start of his media availability, Muschamp made it a point to show his appreciation for the support of the Florida fan base. “I want to thank our crowd. We had 90,000 plus for a 12:21 p.m. kick and we have not performed very well on the field up to this point. So I am really proud of our fans and proud to be a part of the Gator Nation. It shows how powerful of a place this place is,” he said.

He also expressed his appreciation for the mentality his football team has had all season long. “I’m really proud of our team from the standpoint of continuing to push, practice and compete, which they do. They do every day in practice. I’ve never been disappointed with our effort or how we approach regardless of the negativity of what’s happened,” Muschamp said. “More than anything, I’m really happy for our team because these guys have really forged together with what we’re trying to do and where we’re headed with this thing. Their effort has been outstanding, and they really needed this today.

“They continue to fight. These guys have pulled together. Adversity either creates division or it unifies you. These guys have pulled together, they really have pulled together. You couldn’t walk on our practice field on Monday or Tuesday of this week – if we ever opened it – and see the team and know the difference if we were 5-4 or we were 9-0 by the way they compete on the practice field. I’m very proud of the effort that they put in. We’re building our battle scars right now, and we’ve got a bunch. I know one thing – we’re going to have a tough group as we continue to move forward with this. Some guys are going to be tight together in what they do. We will benefit from the tough times that we’re traveling through, and [our opponents] better enjoy it while they’ve got it.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played for a second-straight after injuring his ankle on Oct. 1 against Alabama and said it felt “strong” throughout the contest. However, Brantley suffered another injury in the fourth quarter that will be discussed further on Monday. Neither Muschamp nor Brantley would comment on it after the game, though Brantley did admit it came after a shot from a Vanderbilt player.

Also returning at full strength on Saturday were senior running back Jeff Demps, junior RB Mike Gillislee and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who connected on a 55-yard field goal in the game after missing a 49-yard attempt earlier in the contest.

Unlike Brantley, redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) were all held out of the game Saturday. Rainey was dressed and a game-time decision, but the other players did not dress and were ruled out until next week.

PLAYING SOFT AND NEARLY GIVING IT UP

Florida’s defense was strong most of the game but with a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Gators began playing soft. When UF went up 12 with just minutes to play, the secondary played even softer and allowed Vandy to drive 80 yards on five plays in 57 seconds, giving them an opportunity to try an onside kick and perhaps wind up winning the game. Muschamp was quite displeased with what he saw from that unit at the end of the game.

“When you get put in those situations – i.e. a two score game with 2:13 to go – you still play coverage. We were calling coverages we had been calling and had success with the whole game. Our guys felt like – just don’t get beat deep. That’s not what you can do in these situations,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience. Believe me, Monday morning at 6:00 a.m., we’re going to learn that you can’t play that way at the end of a game. You’ve got to continue to play the game.

“A lot of what I saw is very correctable, in my opinion. Any time you give up some yardage passing – it’s kind of like a sack on offense – everybody wants to point a finger on the offensive lineman. Fourth-and-12 we lose contain[ment] on the quarterback and he holds the ball for three days. That’s the defensive line’s issue. We’ve got to get a lot of things straightened out, some of our underneath coverage. The big emphasis this week, in my opinion going in, was to stop the run game and stop the quarterback runs. I felt like, for the most part, we did a decent job of that.”

He touched on the subject again later, saying that the mistakes that players in the secondary made were mostly due to youth and inexperience – not discipline.

“It has to do with exposure to the situation. To understand it’s a two score game that doesn’t mean it’s a pass skeleton. We still are trying to compete to get the ball off people and make plays,” Muschamp said. “I was thoroughly disappointed with how we [played]; we’re not coaching them to play soft. You let them just throw the ball down the field? That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

“We couldn’t cover a bucket of water on the last drive,” Muschamp joked.

DISCIPLINE ON PENALTIES IMPROVED BUT JUST A SMALL STEP

The most penalized team in the country heading into Saturday’s game, the Gators continued to search for ways to become more disciplined each week. Florida committed just three penalties against Vanderbilt, down from their near double-digit average per game this season.

“It’s been emphasized every week. It’s like all results – you can go out and beat your chest this week and say you must have done a good job coaching penalties. When I was at Texas two years ago, we led the country in turnovers. We don’t coach turnovers any different than we coach today,” Muschamp said.

“Was I a better coach coaching turnovers two years ago than I am now? I don’t think so. We just had some balls bounce our ways a couple times, we got a couple tipped passes, they put the ball on the ground a couple of times. We’ve emphasized discipline in our program. We talk about it all the time. We talk about focusing a little better. We talk about taking a guy out if he jumps offisdes or lines up offsides in situations. We’ve tried to do that in some situations. We’ve explored all of the options. Over a period of time hopefully it’s helped. This is one game. I’m not ready for one game to be ready to waive the flag that we’re disciplined now. We need to work on it day in and day out because we haven’t been consistent all year.”

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

Below are a number of questions that have been Tweeted, e-mailed or left in the comment section regarding the game with Muschamp’s respective response.

What has been the problem with the running game recently and how were you able to rectify that this week?
Muschamp said that the team only has 9-10 healthy scholarship offensive linemen active right now. Combining that with a number of injured running backs and it has been tough for the Gators to improve in that area each week. He also touted the newly installed pistol offense (QB in shotgun, RB lined up behind him) as a big help. “Being able to get in the pistol and run the ball a little bit downhill helped our team in this football game. Being able to create some of that downhill running game instead of all the lateral running game, which is sometimes tough in our league.”

Were you going to go for it on the fourth down play that Vanderbilt wound up jumping offsides on?
“We were going to go for it. We were going to win the game.”

Why has the offense been stalling in the second half?
“As much as anything, we didn’t get some stops defensively – that threw us out of our rhythm offensively. You affect each other, whether we think we do or not. [...] You complement each other in every game. I think we had some critical, critical times in the game where we could have made some stops defensively and we didn’t. We got to keep our guys in a rhythm offensively.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the five-point win: “We made it interesting there at the end; we shouldn’t have.”

» Muschamp on the offense stepping up this week: “Our game plan offensively was really good – to get to the line of scrimmage, see the pressures, bring the receiver in, block the edges, change the run game from one side to the other. We were very effective in doing that. You have to credit our offensive staff and Charlie; I thought they did a really good job with that.”

» Muschamp on the downfield passing opening up: “There’s no question – I’ve said it in our game against LSU and obviously in our game against Auburn – we struggle for a number of reasons to be able to throw the ball vertically down the field. When people in this league are able to outnumber you, you can’t get a hat-on-a-hat sometimes in the run game and you have a hard time running it. We’ve faced that. When John’s in there and you have the extra dimension of seeing coverage, taking it to the right spot, getting it to the right people, timing of the passing game, the timing of the offense, getting us in and out of the right protections, seeing the pressure coming off the edge, check the protection. We’re able to do a lot more of that because of a fifth-year senior and a guy who has played a lot of football for us. There is no question that John is a huge part of that.”

» Muschamp on removing redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison from the game in place of redshirt junior center Sam Robey: “We just need to be more consistent with our snaps, and we’ve had issues throughout the year so I felt like we needed to make the change. [...] We’ve had some inconsistencies before in practice. Our decisions are pretty calculated.”

» Muschamp on freshman QB Jacoby Brissett coming in: “I’ve said it all along – not just Jacoby, Jeff Driskel as well – we have the utmost confidence in both of those players that they’re going to be outstanding players.”

» Muschamp on Demps returning: “Every time he’s been healthy for us this year he’s been very productive. [...] He works hard every day, gives you everything he’s got. That’s what being a student-athlete is all about.”

» Muschamp said that over 20 former captains visited this past weekend for a special dinner and to celebrate homecoming.

» Muschamp on not ending a long home winning streak against Vanderbilt: “I don’t think a game in 1945 had anything to do with a game today.”

» Muschamp on if he wavered about trying the 55-yard field goal: “When you get to that 37-38 yard line, I’m kicking a field goal. There’s not a whole lot of kickers in the country you can say that about. [...] In normal situations you might have to get to the 25 to attempt a field goal. When you’re able to have a guy like Caleb, it certainly helps your football team.”

» Redshirt junior defensive end Earl Okine on seeing the field and playing well: “It took me a while to keep progressing. Every week and every day it’s been a grind. Coach Muschamp and Coach Dan Quinn have been pushing me the entire season, and that’s why I’m improving.”

» Okine on the mood of the locker room after the game: “Ecstatic. Ecstatic. Everybody was very happy, relieved, all of the above positive emotions.”

» Demps on getting back out on the field: “It was definitely a good feeling. The offensive line did a great job of opening holes all game, and the wide receivers did a great job on the perimeter blocking.”

» Demps on having just a few games left in his final year: “I’m going to play my last three games here and give it all I got. I enjoyed the whole ride. It’s been tough but anybody can win. When you lose it’s how you face adversity.”

» Demps on the team being close: “We’re definitely a tight group. Throughout the whole offseason, the summer and the spring, I wasn’t around much but when I was there were leaders stepping up all over the place. That really bonded everybody. Even though we’re having a tough season like we are, we have each other’s back. We were there when we started and we’re going to be there at the end.”

» Sophomore safety Matt Elam on the significance of the win: “We got our confidence back. After losing the whole month, a win is a great feeling.”

» Elam on correcting the penalties: “I know there’s been a lot of stuff about us being young and undisciplined. Coach Muschamp is very hard on that, trying to make us more disciplined.”

» Elam on if the win was a relief: “It was a relief we got our win. We got another win, man. It’s been a long time. We ain’t sing the fight song in a long time. It was a great feeling.”

» Elam if the team matured over the losing streak: “We learned. Everybody stuck together. We stuck together and we continued to fight. Everybody went out and practiced hard.”

» Elam on how the secondary will play in 2012: “No, we won’t have those problems.”

» Gillislee on seeing the field again:“I had to just continue doing what I was doing, get back healthy to 100 percent and go out there and produce. Our rushing yards were low the past few games, so we knew we had to go out there and prove a point that we could run the ball.”

» Brantley on picking up a win: “The month of October was rough for us. To get this first win – the first game of November against a good Vanderbilt team – was huge because we’ve got some good teams ahead of us.”

» Brantley on the pistol offense: “It’s easier to establish a downhill run game in that formation. We did a great job all week preparing. The o-line did a great job blocking. You noticed today that Gillislee and Jeff ran hard.”

» Brantley on the penalties being cut down: “It felt really good. We focused on that and focused on our mental discipline all week and it paid off.”

» Brantley on having just three regular season games left: “We had our captains dinner last night. They just kept stressing that we have three more times to run out of the tunnel. That set home on us. We’ve got to cherish these moments, go out there and play our hardest.”

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10/29: Florida vs. Georgia post-game notes

The Florida Gators (4-4, 2-4 SEC) lost yet again on Saturday, dropping a close one to the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (6-2, 5-1 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Florida has now lost four-straight game for the first time since 1988, leaving head coach Will Muschamp with a lot of questions and decisions to answer going forward. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“We had our opportunities in the game. You have two turnovers inside your 25-yard-line, you give up 14 points on two critical fourth-down plays, the lack of being able to run the football, too many penalties in critical situations. Obviously John [Brantley] went and [it was] a gutsy performance on his part. Very proud of him and his effort. He was a guy who really laid it on the line. We couldn’t get him under center to do some of the things we wanted to do; we knew that going into the game. We felt like we had some things in the throwing game and that’s why we stayed with what we wanted to do in that situations. We got to find some ways to run the football. We cannot be so one-dimensional. That’s something we’ve got to work on. We got a turnover inside the 10, we wind up with two sacks and are out of field goal range. Those are very frustrating to deal with, but we had our opportunities in the last two ball games. We got to close it out and win those games.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Though redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley returned for the Gators, he was severely limited due to his ankle injury and was unable to take snaps from under center. Some other players were held out of the game, while even more were hurt during the contest, further hurting Florida’s already lacking depth going forward.

Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis did not play after straining his leg two weeks ago against Auburn, redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green hurt his ankle Wednesday in practice, and junior running back Mike Gillislee (ankle) dressed but did not play after injuring his ankle two weeks ago.

In the game Saturday, redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray hurt his shoulder, returned to notch a sack but wound up visiting the locker room and did not return for the second half. Sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs injured his wrist during the game and was also forced to leave the field.

PENALTIES, TURNOVERS AND MISCUES

The Gators had two weeks to figure out how to concentrate on discipline and fundamentals, yet their performance on Saturday seemed to indicate that absolutely nothing had been fixed over the bye week. Florida committed 14 penalties for over 100 last yards on Saturday, which unbelievably is their second-worst total of the season. UF remains last in the nation in penalties.

“There’s two different parts as far as penalties are concerned. Some of them are undisciplined and those are the ones that are tough to deal with. I’ve got to do a better job with the others, so I’ll work on it,” Muschamp said.

Perhaps worst of all, many of the Gators’ miscues in this area came at inopportune times. A pass interference call on third down extended a Georgia drive that Florida needed to stop. A personal foul call on Buck linebacker Ronald Powell on special teams pushed the Gators back to the goal line, and multiple delay of game and false start penalties either took Florida out of scoring range or pushed them far enough back where they could not put together a solid drive.

And then there are the turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 14 points off of two UF fumbles near their own red zone. Georgia posted both touchdowns through the air via jump ball passes on fourth down, each of which was converted rather easily.

“We were in position – there were a couple well-thrown balls and well-caught balls,” Muschamp said. “Both touchdowns, they’re in position to make the play and we’re playing the ball and trying to get the ball off the guy and the guy makes a heck of a throw and a heck of a catch. There’s a couple situations. They’re on scholarship too. They made nice plays, but we got to find a way to get them out though.”

INABILITY TO RUN THE FOOTBALL

Florida struggled with their running game for the fourth-straight contest but unlike previous attempts, this time it was because of a lack of trying. Due to Brantley being limited with what he could do on his ankle, the Gators were unable to call plays from under center, which in turn reduced the team’s chances of putting together a consistent power running game.

“No question it affects the run game,” Muschamp said of Brantley’s limitations. “When you’re in the [shot]gun so much and you run the ball so much east and west, you need to be able to run the ball downhill. When you’re in the gun, it’s hard to run the ball consistently downhill. He was limited with his ankle, but we felt like he gave us the best opportunity to be successful in the game, so that’s what we went with. I would do it again. John played well. We just got to figure out how we can run the ball a little bit more effectively.”

One of the other reasons that Florida has struggled running the ball is that their personnel does not fit the type of offense the team wants to run. Muschamp explained that improvement in that area will come with time.

“I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage. It’s very difficult to run a power running game with what we want to do right now with who we have,” he admitted. “I like the guys we got, but the bottom line is looking at the situations of where we are. It doesn’t take anybody real educated to figure it out right now.”

SACK ISSUES MOSTLY – BUT NOT ALL – ON OFFENSIVE LINE

With Brantley seemingly being sacked whenever the Gators were trying to put something together, the offensive line was immediately blamed for letting too many rushers through. While that may be true most of the time, Muschamp was quick to point out after the game that there are other things going on at the same time.

“When you look at a sack, everybody wants to look at the offensive line. Did the quarterback hold the ball too long? I think there were some situations like that. There are some situations where we didn’t get open down the field and had a busted route,” he explained. “There are a lot of situations when you have a sack; it’s not just the offensive line’s fault every time it happens. That’s the easiest thing to say, but that’s not always the offensive line’s fault. If we’re in a one-back protection or two-back protection, did the backs block right? There are a lot of things that happen as far as protection issues, and that’s not always the offensive line.”

That being said, tackles junior Xavier Nixon and redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan each had their share of struggles on the evening. Nixon kept bouncing off the line for false starts and both men struggled blocking the edge rushers. Muschamp said that Florida’s inability to run the ball ensured that the edge rushers did not have to respect that part of the game, making it even tougher on the tackles and blockers.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the team’s penalties: “I was disappointed with it.”

» Muschamp on not taking advantage of momentum: “It’s disappointing. You felt good about getting the kickoff return, getting some points on the board, getting some momentum for your team. And then we lay it on the ground twice. We only get one turnover defensively, and we just had some critical mistakes at critical times. We got to make those plays. I told them the last two ball games the bottom line was Auburn and Georgia made those plays and we didn’t. We’re going to have our opportunities and when we get in those situations we need to make the plays.”

» Muschamp on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis calling plays from the booth: ”Just to see the game better. We didn’t feel like we were getting the information right and were searching for some answers for this time offensively to figure out what we can do well. That was something we felt like we could benefit from.”

» Muschamp on sophomore Brad Phillips filling in for Sturgis: “Brad was outstanding. Here’s a guy that steps in, missed the first one, came back and hit two more. Kicked off extremely well with a pretty good wind coming from the one side. He kicked one real deep in the end zone when he was with the wind. I was really proud of his efforts; he stepped up when another guy went down.”

» Muschamp on defensive struggles: “We didn’t get lined up a couple times and had some tempo issues there late. That’s something we worked on and prepared for. We got to make some stops in the red zone. You got to force field goals when they’re in those situations. That’s about where it is.”

» Muschamp on now just playing for pride: “That’s the way it is all the time with me. I don’t ever really talk about the SEC race. I talk about what we got to do to get better as a program every day and stay the course of what we’re trying to do. It’s not always just about the SEC race. We don’t always talk about that. We understand our goal at the beginning of the season. We understand our expectation – the University of Florida has to go to Atlanta. Our job as a competitor is to go out every day – whether you’re a coach or a player – is to work hard to get better, work hard to improve yourself. And that’s what we’re going to do. “

» Muschamp on losing four-straight games: “I don’t really think about losing a whole lot, but obviously it’s happened so we got to regroup and reevaluate where we are. We need to move forward. It’s disappointing, and you can believe there is no one more disappointed or impatient than I am. We’ve got to evaluate ourselves first of all starting with me and then we work from there.”

» Muschamp on how he felt during the game: “I felt good the whole game. I felt like we were in a situation to go win the football game. We had the ball late to win the game. That’s what you want to be in these situations. You got to make the plays in those situations to get it done.”

» Muschamp on how far away the team is right now: “This year? We’re not close. No, I don’t. I think we’re close. I think we got to build our numbers back. I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage.”

» Senior RB Jeff Demps on the fourth-straight loss: “Things just didn’t go our way tonight like we wanted it to. We just got to stick together as a team. We have to unite from this and stay together.”

» Demps on his kick return touchdown: “All of the credit goes to those 10 guys that were blocking. They gave me a big hole to run through and made it easy.”

» Brantley said that he was still considered “probable” up until game time. He went out early to test the ankle during warm-ups but went back to the locker room to get a bit more treatment and stay off of it was much as possible until the game began.

» Brantley on the 4th and 10 design: “It was a little bit deeper midfield. I was stepping up and knew I had to get it out – the time clock in my head said I had to get it out.”

» Brantley on Weis calling plays from the booth: “He can see the field better up there. I had the headset on each time and we were communicating just fine. There wasn’t too much of a difference.”

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10/4: Debose’s maturity and confidence in Driskel

With the No. 17/18 Florida Gators preparing for their toughest road test of the 2011 season, three prominent offensive players were made available to the media on Tuesday to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the No. 1/2 LSU Tigers on Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge, LA.

PROGRESS IN PRACTICE HELPED DEBOSE ON FIELD

Redshirt sophomore Andre Debose on Saturday made his most significant contribution from the wide receiver position to date, catching two passes and taking the first play 65 yards for a touchdown. Debose was pleased with his play after the contest, noting Tuesday that it was “definitely a nice feeling to be involved in the offense.”

Asked what changed this week, Debose explained, “Coaches always [said] it was pretty much my practicing and my practicing habits, me being consistent in practice and showing the coaches that I can compete at a competitive level on Saturday.”

He also feels like he can be consistent game-in and game-out as long as he continues to get chances to prove himself. “I definitely will be getting my opportunities and that’s all I’ve been asking for – the opportunity to make plays,” Debose said. He also hopes to go back to returning kickoffs as soon as possible. “Coach always preaches that if you don’t practice you don’t play. I didn’t practice the kick return position so I didn’t play it. I’m trying to get back there as soon as I can,” he said.

RALLYING AROUND DRISKEL

Considering redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley has been ruled out for Saturday’s game, freshman Jeff Driskel is by far the most likely player to take his spot in the huddle. In addition to Driskel himself needing to get his head in the game and mature quickly, the support of his teammates is going to be important going forward.

If comments that Debose and redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio made on Tuesday are any indication, Driskel is not lacking in that department. “We have the ultimate confidence in Driskel. I feel like he can get the job done,” Deobse said. “His whole attitude has changed since the time he has been here until this point. He’s a whole different person. He let us know that he doesn’t consider himself a freshman.”

Though Debose said that redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and freshman Jacoby Brissett are also getting reps in practice, he thinks Driskel brings something special to the table. “He has a strong arm, and when things are going bad, he can always get away with his legs. That’s one thing he can bring to the offense that Johnny B couldn’t,” he said. “He can keep a lot of plays alive a lot longer, so the scramble rules play into effect.”

Halapio said Driskel is “confident in the huddle” and though “he’s young, he’ll get it right this week.” He continued, “Obviously he’s a young quarterback, but I have full faith in him and we fully support whoever will be playing that quarterback position on Saturday.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Debose on how hurt he was two weeks ago: “I had sprung [sprained] my ankle, and I feel like I’m 100 percent now. It was pretty bad. I couldn’t walk for a while. With our training staff, they helped me get back as fast as possible. It was pretty bad. I was walking on crutches after the game and had a boot for a couple days after that. I was just determined to get back.”

» Debose on why the offense struggled moving the ball against Alabama: “We really couldn’t get a run game started. That had a lot to do with it. Once you’re one-dimensional, the defense can kind of pin your ears back and it’s kind of hard.”

» Debose on how he gets along with redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar: “Our relationship is great. I’m always pushing him and he’s always pushing me. When he was on the field, I just always tried to tell him little advice on what he can do to get better. He does the same for me. It’s a friendly competition. We’re never putting each other down or anything like that.”

» Debose on how the team can be more successful this week: “I would definitely say we have to get our run game started. Our whole offense is kind of based on our run game. Once we get our run game started, I feel like our team will open up.”

» Redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green on the team’s performance vs. Alabama: “We obviously struggled and need to do better. Everybody will take that upon himself to get better. We got to do better on protection of course. We don’t like to give up any sacks. That’s something that we pride ourselves on. We got to get better in that area and we got to get better in our run blocking.”

» Green on the offensive line not creating holes to run the ball: “It was rough because that’s what we pride ourselves on. It was rough but, like I said, we just got to look at film and correct it. We got to make sure we correct our technique and make sure we get it back to where it [was].”

» Halapio on not playing well against Alabama: “We feel like it’s just motivation. We’re going to go out there and play to our best abilities. It’s motivation for this week to get better, go up to Louisiana and handle [our] business.”

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9/27: Weis focuses on rushing, offensive line

As the No. 12 Florida Gators prepare for their biggest game of the 2011 season thus far on Oct. 1 the No. 2/3 Alabama Crimson Tide, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s victory and the upcoming contest.

GETTING DEMPS AND RAINEY TOUCHES IN THE OPEN

Ensuring that running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey not only touch the ball but have space to make plays after doing so has been relatively easy for Weis early in the season. The duo shredded three opponents and played quite well against Tennessee, too. With a stout Alabama defense coming to town featuring the best run defense in the Southeastern Conference, Weis knows he will have to get creative.

“You have to wait and see how they play the game. You have to have multiple ways of being able to do that. You can’t just do the same thing each week,” he said. “You have to have a plan where, if they stop this, you have another way of getting to the same means to an end. You just have to wait and see how it goes. You go into the game with a plan and then you have some tweaks in the plan ready to go depending what they end up doing.”

One thing that could work to Florida’s advantage is the number of eyes that will be on Rainey every time he touches the ball. Weis explained, “When we call plays, it’s not designed that we’re throwing the ball to [one player]. The first curl that they threw to Frankie [Hammond], [the defense] had Rainey fever, so Rainey’s running to the flat and so is everybody else runs to the flat. There’s a big hole, Frankie on the curl got us an extra 10 yards after the catch. That’s the type of thing we’re looking for.”

IT ALL STARTS UP FRONT FOR FLORIDA

Probably the biggest surprise this season for the Gators has been the success their young offensive line has had game-in and game-out. Weis believes the momentum comes from how tough and rugged the unit has been every time it takes the field.

“I like to think that we’re establishing somewhat of an identity of being fairly physical up front. You don’t run the ball that efficiently, you don’t protect the quarterback that well without being physical,” he said. “On top of everything else, I think our receivers have done a wonderful job being physical down the field, making some of those runs be longer runs. You’ve got to go toe-to-toe. They’re good but you got to be ready for a slugfest. You got to be ready to go toe-to-toe.”

One characteristic about the offensive line in particular has caught Weis’s eye, and it is something that has been discussed quite often already this season. “The reason why we have a chance every week is because those offensive linemen are very close knit. That’s not a façade. When you have cohesiveness on and off the field with your offensive linemen, you usually have a fighting chance,” he said.

“Psychologically, offensive linemen realize that the only time they ever get noticed is when something bad happens. When things are going good, no one ever talks about the offensive line. They understand that’s just the way football is. The only time they really get any notoriety is when bad things happen. Their quarterback’s getting under siege or else you can’t run the ball very well. They kind of bond together.

“The communication that takes place between five guys – it’s the only position there’s that many guys playing at one time. Communication is one of those critical factors to the offensive line. Usually the standard is the less they’re noticed, the better they’re playing. It’s sad but true, but that’s the way it is.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS AND UPDATES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (and his health after last game): “He was out there slinging it today, so that was encouraging. I told him to quit being so soft. [Smiling] Actually I think that we gave him most of the reps today. He got most of them. He’s glad that the game’s still a few days away, but I think that he’s moving along nicely. He’s really progressing nicely. He threw the ball well today.”

Redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian (and moving him back-and-forth from linebacker): “I knew Gerald from the first few days of training camp was a big, physical presence. We didn’t have a bunch of big, physical presence on the offensive skill position. [...] We were quite banged up at the tight end position. For him to go back-and-forth from outside linebacker to tight end, I think one thing that shows is his big, physical presence. When you can go out there and make a couple big plays in the game. [...] When you have a guy who can play offense and defense, what you have to do is figure out what gets him on the field the fastest. It really, really was a position of need. We needed him on offense; not that he wouldn’t play on defense, but we needed him more on offense than they needed him on defense. The kid’s unselfish. He didn’t care. Anywhere he had the best opportunity to help the team is where he wanted to go. I think it’s worked out.”

Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Chaz Green (and his progress): “Chaz is a tackle that’s also very athletic. He has really good feet. Not only has good size but Chaz has just gotten better as the year’s gone on. He’s just gotten better and better. Remember, he’s a young pup. Everyone thinks that he’s been there for five years already. The kid’s relatively inexperienced.”

Freshman QB Jeff Driskel (and if he’s coming along): “He better because he’s second. It would be nice if he got a little bit more help in that game the other day. He’s got to take care of the ball. He can’t let 22 come in there and take the ball out of his hands. He was so worried about the pressure coming from outside off the right edge there that he got a little careless with the ball. The interception, that’s a bang-bang play. You can’t throw the ball much better than he threw the ball. I just don’t like strip-sack fumbles that lead to the only touchdown that the other team scores because ultimately we feel like we are the ones that gave them their one touchdown in the game. He runs our team well. The team’s not afraid when he’s in there. He can make every throw. Just gaining experience, that’s what he’s doing. Every time he’s out there it’s a good thing regardless of what happens because he’s just gaining experience.”

Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “Frankie has been very consistent for us. He’s been very consistent for us the whole time. He also has versatility for us because he’s one of the few guys at the receiver position that can play every position. He can line up at what we call the X, the Z, the F – he can line up at all those positions. Any time you have a player that has some position flexibility, it really helps you in this offense.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On if he is “happier” about the offense than he was last week: “I’m glad that we got on the road, got that kind of out of the way. It’s really tough. You got to give a lot of credit to Coach [Will] Muschamp and then the players, too. They knew what was on the horizon. We could sit there and talk ‘till we’re blue in the face. They’re going on the road for the first SEC game with a bunch of young guys that had never done it before. Everyone wants to talk about Alabama, nobody wanted to talk about Kentucky. I’m talking about outside our locker room. Will did a great job and our team showed an unusual amount of maturity for a team to not look past the opponent that they played last Saturday. For that, kudos. We ran the ball for over 400 yards. That doesn’t happen too often now. I was genuinely pleased that they didn’t go in there and look past that opponent to the one we’re playing this week.”

» On how the offense responded after not starting well against Kentucky: “We made a mistake on the third play of the first drive. We got that ironed out. We figured that one out. The second drive – they did a couple things early in the game that were a little different than they [had] been doing. Sometimes that happens, but it didn’t take long. The sign of a fairly good team on offense is when things don’t go too well right in the beginning, you figure out what the problems are and go fix them. Too many times teams wait to make halftime adjustments. Well you still had a lot of time left after those first two drives. We had a bunch of points on the board by the time we went in to halftime.”

» On if the offense has seen enough adversity up to this point: “We coach them hard. We coach them hard. We coach them hard every day. You’d hope that by the time you get to the games that the games are actually easier than the practices. Even if the scores of the game weren’t that close, you can still create a lot of situations to get your team better. That’s all behind us now. This is going to be a tough challenge for us and we’re really excited and we’re really looking forward to it.”

» On if he sees any of Bill Belichick’s methods within Alabama’s defense: “One of the first things I did this week was [say to Muschamp], “Tell me about Nick [Saban], tell me about Kirby [Smart]’ because these are his boys. I know that Nick worked for Bill back in the Cleveland [Browns] days before he moved on to Michigan State. A lot of the terminology is the same. There are a lot of things that are consistent. They have a good, sound system that I have familiarity with, but they also got really good players. Sometimes you wish that weren’t the case, but that is the case. We have to be ready to make sure that we don’t create any mismatches in the opposite direction.”

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No. 18 Florida Gators vs. UAB Blazers Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 83°F, isolated thunderstorms
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN/FSNHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: WatchESPN
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(18) FLORIDA GATORS UAB BLAZERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Neil Callaway
Record: 1-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Conference USA
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -23.5; O/U 53.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week two action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in The Swamp.

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against UAB, defeating the Blazers 51-3 in 2002, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators are 36-15-3 against current members of Conference USA and have not lost to one such opponent since 1979. Florida last squared off against C-USA member Central Florida in 2006 and claimed a 42-0 victory.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (118-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 56-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Nine Florida players earned their first starts last Saturday in the season opener as freshmen safety De’Ante Saunders and cornerback Marcus Roberson; redshirt freshmen tight end Gerald Christian, wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and right tackle Chaz Green; sophomores defensive tackle Dominique Easley and S Matt Elam; redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray; and redshirt senior transfer left guard Dan Wenger took the field with the Gators’ first team. It is the first time in school history that a pair of true freshman started the season opener in UF’s secondary.
» Florida’s offensive line did not allow a sack last Saturday.
» The Gators defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (304) since 2000; however, UF did not obtain any in its season opener, finishing with a -3 turnover margin (interceptions). Florida also has the most interceptions in the nation (68) since 2008.
» UF did not punt the ball last week but sophomore WR Solomon Patton blocked one which was returned for a touchdown. He has blocked a punt in back-to-back games dating back to last season (2011 Outback Bowl).

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and UAB have only met on one other occasion – Aug. 31, 2002 – when the Gators stomped the Blazers 51-3 in Ron Zook’s first game as the team’s head coach. Florida outgained UAB 643-240 in the contest and Rex Grossman went 16/26 for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor Jacobs broke the Gators’ single-game receiving record with 246 yards and two scores on eight receptions, while Earnest Graham took 13 carries down the field for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

INJURIES

» Acitve: Soph. RB Trey Burton (bruise), redshirt senior WR Deonte Thompson (head)
» Probable: Redshirt junior WR Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Questionable: Redshirt jr. CB Jeremy Brown (knee), soph. WR Robert Clark
» Inactive: Soph. DT Sharrif Floyd (suspension), fresh. TE A.C. Leonard (meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley…who completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) in the season opener for 229 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions. Brantley only had a 60.8 completion percentage in 2010 with more picks than scores but is said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey combined for 272 total rushing and receiving yards with five touchdowns against FAU. Rainey became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, while Demps eclipsed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark and had four runs over 20 yards in the contest.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary and moved into a starting role in 2011. He notched four tackles in the season opener good for second-best on the team
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell started one game as a true freshman but has earned that role permanently this season and achieved a sack against FAU.
» Defensive tackles Easley and redshirt senior Jaye Howard…who have solidified the interior of one of the Gators’ strongest units. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (18 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard had a sack in the season opener, while Easley registered three tackles including one for a loss.
» Redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins…who had a team-high five tackles last Saturday including a big-time hit that earned him the team’s first Hard Hat Award.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. He is perfect this year on two field goal attempts including Florida’s first points of the season – a 51-yarder on UF’s first drive.

UAB
» QB Bryan Ellis…who started the final nine games of the Blazers’ 2010 season and finished with 2,940 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He leads a strong UAB passing attack that hopes to keep UF on its heels throughout the contest.
» RB Pat Shed…who is the team’s leading rusher for a year ago with 847 yards on the season. He also plays a role in the passing game and amassed 471 receiving yards as well as seven total touchdowns for the Blazers.
» LB Lamanski Ware…who is UAB’s defensive leader as well as a team captain in his senior campaign.

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