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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9/8: Florida at Texas A&M post-game report

No. 23/24 Florida Gators football (2-0, 1-0 SEC) struggled in the first half but turned things around in the final 30 minutes and defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (0-1, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. After the game head coach Will Muschamp discussed what occurred on the field and in the locker room.

MUSCHAMP’s OPENING STATEMENT

“It was a good win for our team. The guys continue to fight hard and play the game and play it for 60 minutes. And it wasn’t always pretty – first half defensively. Third down was an adventure. You’ve got to give them credit. Johnny Manziel is a fantastic athlete. He’s a guy that really has got legs and he extended plays and made plays for them. You got to give him credit. A lot of off-rhythm plays, very difficult to defend. We did a better job in the second half of controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the difference. There was no magic potion. We came in and told the guys just to squeeze blocks, play thicker on blocks, quit running up the field. You get an illusion that these guys are a passing football team and really they’re not right now with Johnny. They’re a running football team; a screen, short, controlled passing game. He’s going to have high percentages in every game because of the throws that they’re making and asking him to do.

Offensively I thought we ran the ball extremely well. Obviously whether it was protection, holding the ball too long at the quarterback position or we had a busted route I know on one of the sacks where the ball should have gone – we got to get that stuff cleared up. A 3rd-and-1 late in the game was critical for us; we did not convert, which was very disappointing. But we ran the ball well, we stayed balanced in the game, and we moved the football. Coming into this environment, which is a pretty solid environment, I thought our guys responded well, hung in there and did what we had to do to win the game.

Guys, we’re going to have a lot of games like this now. It’s just who we are. We’re going to grind it out. We’re going to win. That’s what we kind of are as a mentality as a football team as we continue to grow and mature through the year.”

WINNING THE FOURTH QUARTER

SEC opponents outscored the Gators 72-22 in the fourth quarter during Muschamp’s first season in 2011. Florida was much better not only in the fourth quarter but in the entire second half on Saturday, coming from behind out of the break for the first time in Muschamp’s tenure (1-5). The coach undoubtedly noticed this improvement and praised his team for its efforts.

“The second half we just played more disciplined football. They were 0-for-6 on third down; we forced six punts. We did a nice job of flipping the field in some situations,” he said. “[We] really won the game on offense there at the end. When they knew we were going to run it, we ran it. We had to run it. The 3rd-and-1 [failure] was disappointing but other than that, heck man, when you line up and are able to run the football and people know you’re going to run it, that’s what you have to do.”

He continued, “Last year, I don’t know, man. I don’t know if we win this ballgame. As far as running the football when you had to [in order] to win. Making stops defensively when you had to. Doing the things you got to do to win football games.”

Muschamp said the biggest change defensively in the second half was the defensive line. Florida’s aggressiveness was hurting them as Texas A&M invited the rushers to run up the middle while Manziel hit the creases that were created by those actions.

“I told them, ‘I’m firing you if you run up the field again. Sit on the line of scrimmage, squeeze blocks inside and quit running up the field. That’s what you want to do. Just sit on the line of scrimmage and get your hands on people and play thick on people. If you’ll do that then we won’t have run lanes anymore.’ And we didn’t have any run lanes in the second half,” he explained.

Muschamp called the final possession the “happiest moment in Florida history for me – that and the Ohio State game,” noting that being able to run it successfully when your opponent knows that is your intention puts a smile on his face. He was also ecstatic about the victory as a whole, especially one coming in such a tough road environment.

“I told our team, ‘I’m not big into those sort of things.’ With all of our hospitality in the SEC, we’re trying to make everybody happy. Everybody wanted the glory story here with A&M and they didn’t get it. I’m very proud of our team to come in here, play well and do what we had to do to win the game,” he said.

“We played two games and we’re 2-0. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

”I’M NEVER GOING TO…APOLOGIZE FOR WINNING”

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M post-game report…after the break!

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Gators “gig” Aggies 20-17 in SEC initiation

It was a tale of two halves for the No. 23/24 Florida Gators on Saturday as they faced the Texas A&M Aggies for the first time in 35 years at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. Florida (2-0) struggled defensively in the first half but was dominant in the latter portion of the game, stifling Texas A&M (0-1) offensively and coming away with a 20-17 victory in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee led the Gators with 83 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries but missed most of the second half after seemingly pulling his groin on his second score. Joining him as an effective member of Florida’s offense was sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who made his first career start but still went 13/16 for 162 yards and made plenty of plays with his legs.

The Aggies’ offense was led by freshman QB Johnny Manziel, who was 23/30 for 173 yards and carried the ball 17 times for a net of 60 yards with a touchdown. Senior RB Christine Michael also chipped in 13 carries for 33 yards and a score for Texas A&M.

The Gators defense allowed 270 yards of offense and 17 first-half points but clamped down at the end of the game, holding the Aggies scoreless and allowing them to register a total of 64 yards of offense.

Florida’s defense looked dominant on the first two plays of the game, but a 16-yard rush by Manziel followed by a personal foul penalty on sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson gave Texas A&M the ball across midfield.

The Aggies then converted on a 4th-and-1 before being stopped in the red zone as junior safety Matt Elam and Roberson broke up consecutive fade passes. TAMU was forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal and take an early 3-0 lead.

The Gators answered back immediately with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive led by Driskel. He moved Florida down the field nicely, but UF was put in a tough spot when sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer was stopped short on 3rd-and-1 at the 16-yard line.

Florida executed a fake field goal run with junior running back Trey Burton, and a personal foul facemask added to the end of the play put the Gators in scoring position. Two plays later Burton took a Wildcat snap and handed it off to Gillislee, who tumbled into the end zone with 3:51 left in the first quarter.

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M game story…after the break!

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8/29: Players self-motivated to work hard in 2012

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green and sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the season opener set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against the Bowling Green Falcons.

2011 WAS ALL THE MOTIVATION THE GATORS NEEDED

Ending the 2011 regular season with a paltry 6-6 record was enough motivation for Florida to work hard this offseason, Green said on Wednesday. In fact, he said the players did not even need the coaches reminding them how poorly they played to know that things had to change quickly.

“The year we had, there wasn’t much that needed to be said. We kind of just knew the mindset. We came in and everybody was hungry; everybody knew what we had to do. It wasn’t about talking or about pointing fingers. Everybody knew we didn’t have a good year. We have to get back to where we can be, where we should be,” he said.

One thing that did stick out the team’s mind, however, was head coach Will Muschamp calling them soft near the end of the regular season. Though he would only speak for his unit in particular, Green noted that the offensive line knew they needed to do better.

“I think we took that personally as a team,” he said. “We can only worry about us as the O-line. We realized there were things we had to improve on. We worked on that in the spring and feel that we’re stronger, ready to go.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Green said that he may be on the first team for the season opener, but he considers himself one of three starters (along with senior Xavier Nixon and redshirt junior Matt Patchan, who is out for the game) and not two. “It’s not really a ‘starter;’ it’s three guys that can rotate – three starters,” he said.

» Green on the quarterback competition: “There’s just so much [other stuff] that we got to worry about. Both guys we respect a lot. Whoever they go with, we’re fine with. We like both guys. They’re both great quarterbacks.”

» Green on freshman guard Jessamen Dunker: “He’s just one of those guys…you know he’s an O-lineman. He’s a nasty guy.”

» Green on if redshirt junior G Jon Halapio would be a good defensive tackle: “I think he’d be all right. Maybe short yardage, goal line, run stopper. He ain’t rushing no quarterback though, I’ll tell you that.”

» Joyer on the defense: “They’re looking great. I think they’ll be one of the top defenses in college football this year, to be honest. All the linebackers, defensive line, defensive backs are doing great as well.”

» Joyer on if the motions and shifts will continue the offense’s pre-snap penalty issues from a year ago: “I think our penalties will be way down this year.”

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Florida Gators 2012 opening week depth chart

Though things could still change over the next five days, the Florida Gators on Monday morning released the team’s first official depth chart for the 2012 season. As was noted by head coach Will Muschamp last week, sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will both play against the Bowling Green Falcons though who will take the first snap has not yet been determined.

Florida omitted players who are not participating in the season opener, therefore the below depth chart is not the “best case scenario” version. A list of those players can be found at the end along with some additional explanations.

QB: Jeff Driskel OR Jacoby Brissett
RB: Mike Gillislee, Mack Brown
FB: Hunter Joyer, Trey Burton
WR (X): Frankie Hammond, Jr., Latroy Pittman/Andre Debose
WR (Z): Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton
F: Trey Burton, Omarius Hines
TE: Jordan Reed, Clay Burton

LT: Xavier Nixon, Kyle Koehne
LG: James Wilson, Ian Silberman
C: Jonotthan Harrison, Sam Robey
RG: Jon Halapio, Jessamen Dunker
RT: Chaz Green, Trip Thurman

DE: Dominique Easley, Earl Okine
DT: Sharrif Floyd, Damien Jacobs
NT: Omar Hunter, Leon Orr
Buck DE: Lerentee McCray, Dante Fowler, Jr.
Sam LB: Darrin Kitchens, Neiron Ball
Mike LB: Jon Bostic, Michael Taylor
Will LB: Jelani Jenkins, Antonio Morrison

CB: Jaylen Watkins OR Louchiez Purifoy
CB: Marcus Roberson OR Cody Riggs
S: Matt Elam, Valdez Showers
S: Josh Evans, Jabari Gorman
Nickel CB: Matt Elam, Jaylen Watkins
Dime CB: Matt Elam, Brian Poole

K: Caleb Sturgis, Brad Phillips
P: Kyle Christy, Todd Fennell
H: John Crofoot, Tyler Murphy
LS: Drew Ferris, Kyle Crofoot
KR: Andre Debose, Solomon Patton
PR: Marcus Roberson, Andre Debose

OUT SATURDAY: Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral), sophomore defensive back De’Ante Saunders (hamstring), junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (ACL), freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot), senior defensive lineman Nick Alajajian (knee), redshirt junior DL Kedric Johnson (knee)

POSSIBLY OUT SATURDAY: Redshirt junior DB Jeremy Brown (wrist), freshman LT D.J. Humphries (MCL), freshman DB Marcus Maye (knee), redshirt freshman OL Tommy Jordan (shoulder)

NOTES
– Debose is not listed as a starting receiver.
– Koehne and Thurman are inserted as reserve tackles because Patchan is out.
– Silberman is listed as the second-string left guard because Koehne is filling in at tackle.
– Taylor is at Mike LB and Morrison at Will LB as reserves but both are interchangeable.
– All four cornerbacks are expected to see 75 percent of the snaps in a particular game.
– Phillips beat out freshman Austin Hardin for the No. 2 kicker job.
– Murphy is the back-up holder after working on that during the fall.

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (79-70)

With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.

77 – Ian Silberman (Orange Park, FL)
Redshirt sophomore guard
6’5” 303 lbs.

Quick Bio: Silberman enrolled early in January 2010 coming out of high school as a four-star recruit. He was the No. 8 player at his position nationally according to Rivals but only saw action in the season opener that year.

2011 Season: Though he bulked up some between his freshman and sophomore years, Silberman was moved to guard and only appeared in three games as a reserve.

2012 Outlook: Silberman has gained 19 lbs. since last season but has not been spoken about much other than as a third-string reserve on the offensive line. He will play plenty of special teams though, according to head coach Will Muschamp.

76 – Max Garcia (Venice, FL)
Junior offensive lineman
6’4” 307 lbs.

Quick Bio: A two-sport athlete in high school who competed in shot put and discus in addition to playing football, Garcia committed to Maryland and despite not seeing much action as a freshman started at left tackle in all 12 of the team’s games during his sophomore season.

2012 Outlook: Due to NCAA transfer rules, Garcia is being forced to redshirt and will miss the entire 2012 season. Coaches, however, have noted that he is playing quite well during practice and they are very high on his potential to be an impact player in 2013.

Check out five more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
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8/13: Muschamp discusses first scrimmage

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday following the Florida Gators‘ first scrimmage of the fall. He spoke about a number of topics including what was learned this weekend, the quarterback competition and how players are progressing.

REVIEWING THE SCRIMMAGE

Offense
Muschamp said the Gators offensive unit accounted for 11 “explosive plays” (more than 12 yards on the ground, 15 through the air) over the course of the scrimmage and that they were equally split between the running and passing games. He also pointed out that he was pleased with how the unit got in and out of the huddle and went through the scrimmage, giving special praise to the running backs.

“Offensively we ran the ball very well. Mike Gillislee, Mack Brown had his best scrimmage since he’s been here, and Matt Jones – all three ran the ball extremely well. Very pleased with those guys getting the ball north and south.”

Defense
While the offense did well overall, it also put the ball on the ground four times and the quarterbacks combined for three interceptions (though he would not say who threw them). That also means the defense did well in one of the No. 1 areas in which it had to improve from last season – turnovers.

There were also 11 missed tackles on the afternoon, a number that Muschamp said was unacceptable but also choked up to the rust of just getting into the new season.

Special Teams
Nothing in particular stood out in this area for Muschamp though his instance the some of the younger players on the team contribute to this unit perhaps means there is not as much desire to play on special teams as there was previously at Florida.

“Special teams we need more young guys to step up and contribute,” he said. “We’ve got some really good athletes in this freshman class and they need to step up. They need to come to the table and understand that that’s part of…one-third of the game and it’s very important here at Florida – controlling the vertical field position of the football game.”

QUARTERBACK COMPETITION ADDRESSED

Though Muschamp would not go into too many particulars, he said that both signal callers are completing 63-65 percent of their passes and are about even statistically in their attempts and completions. They have been taken out of the red protective jerseys as of Sunday’s practice.

“Obviously the quarterback I’d like to be a little more settled,” he said when asked which position he is most concerned about as of now. “But again, my confidence level is overly high in both guys. I would just like to settle in where we are as far as that’s concerned. You’re always concerned in camp when you got guys banged up here and there as far as injuries are concerned. I worry about everything, I guess. I don’t know if there’s one thing I could say. How much time do you got?”

PLAYER UPDATES, NOTES AND QUOTES

» Redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed twisted his knee and will miss 3-4 days of practice. Muschamp said that he is a little sore but perfectly fine otherwise.

» Freshman defensive back Marcus Maye (knee) participated in his first practice on Sunday. “He looked good for the first time out there,” Muschamp said.

» Praised was heaped on freshman wide receiver Raphael Andrades, one of the last players to join Florida’s 2012 recruiting class. “Raphael Andreas had a good day from a receiver standpoint. [He] caught a bubble screen and made a couple guys miss, caught a ball down the field for a jump ball, 50-50 ball,” he said. “I know he’s only a two-star so he’s not supposed to be a good player, but we had the guy in camp and the guy’s got great ball skills. He judges the ball well, catches the ball well, and he’s a guy we need to get more reps to.”

» Redshirt sophomore RB Mack Brown showed flashes on Saturday but still must become a more consistent player especially when it comes to his blocking and pass protection. “He ran the ball extremely well, protected well. He didn’t do a lot of dancing. He stuck his foot in the ground and got north and south, which is something that he can do very well. He’s a strong guy, he’s got a strong lower body. That was very pleasing,” Muschamp said.

» On redshirt sophomore tight end Omarius Hines: “I think he plays very well in the slot. He’s a guy that you can get the ball to on the edge and he can create some things down the field. He’s an explosive athlete. He catches the ball well. He does get on the perimeter and runs well. There is certainly a place and package for him with what we’re doing, and he will have one.”

» On freshman TE Kent Taylor: “Athletically in the throwing game he’s a really good athlete, catches the ball well. We need to get better at some point of attack things, which we knew that coming in and he did, too.”

» On freshman Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr.: “Through 10 practices, he’s done a nice job. He’s been a guy that has produced well and been very productive. He’s very attentive in meetings. He asks questions; he asks the right kind of questions. He plays hard. It’s hard for a young man to come in in the summer and understand the tempo and understand all of the mental gymnastics you have in playing the game and the different things that happen. He’s working very hard at it.”

» Muschamp said redshirt senior Frankie Hammond, Jr. has been the team’s most consistent receiver.

» On junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd playing inside: “He eats a lot of space in there.”

» Muschamp said “right now Marcus Roberson” would be starting as the team’s punt returner with redshirt junior WR Andre Debose and sophomore DB De’Ante Saunders next in line. He added that Saunders is rotating as the third safety and fifth cornerback in practice right now.

» Muschamp said the primary starting offensive line included senior Xavier Nixon at left tackle, a rotation of redshirt junior Kyle Koehne and redshirt senior James Wilson at left guard, redshirt junior Jonotthan Harrison at center, redshirt junior Jon Halapio at right guard and redshirt sophomore Chaz Green at right tackle.

» On how the team looks at this point in the fall: “I’m very pleased after 10 practices where we are [with] he commitment level, the toughness, the things that we’ve identified that were major issues for our football team a year ago. I’m very pleased with where we are but we still have miles to travel, you know?”

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Muschamp gathers Gators in West Palm Beach

Florida Gators fans in Palm Beach County were visited by a head football coach for the first time since 2008 and came away both enthusiastic and impressed on Thursday when Will Muschamp dropped by the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds to discuss his first season at the helm and his expectations for 2012.

After a 20-minute opening statement, Muschamp took questions for another half hour and stuck around to sign autographs for all of he nearly 200 fans in attendance. Below is a recap of some of the more newsworthy and interesting topics that Muschamp covered (and were not included in stories here and here):

» The competition between sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has not slowed down at all. “I have the utmost confidence in both guys. They’re working extremely hard here in the offseason. It’s going to be critical – it’s got to become their football team. And their competition will make each other better which will make our offense better and is going to make our football team better,” he said. “Jacoby and Jeff are both guys we can win a championship with. I do know that. […] We can win with both. I’d like to name a starter. If we have to play both, we will play both. We’re going to do what it takes to win games at the end of the day. If one guy will distance himself then certainly we will name him the starter.”

» Muschamp said Florida had a legitimate opportunity to match-up against and win every game but two in 2011. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing,” he said. “Last year we played two football teams that were better than us in Alabama and LSU. The rest of the games we had our opportunities. Whether it was maturity or coaching or whatever you want to say it was, at the end of the day we didn’t get the job done. 7-6 is not acceptable at Florida; neither is 15-11 – that’s what we’ve been the last two years.”

» Junior safety Matt Elam’s groin continues to be an issue for the Gators but Muscahmp is confident it will be all healed by the time summer rolls around. “He twinged it in the latter part of spring. We really needed to look at the young safeties Valdez Showers and Jabari Gorman – get those guys a lot of reps. Matt’s a good football player. I know what he can do,” he said. “I pulled him the last three practices before the spring game. I just felt like it was another opportunity for someone else to get the reps. I saw him in the weight room [Wednesday]. He looks great and is working hard. He’s a guy that is very instinctive, has great ball skills, toughness. He can cover; he can play in man and zone. He does a lot of things for our football team.”

» His pair of freshman offensive linemen are impressing him: “Jessamen Dunker from here in Boynton Beach and D.J. Humprhies from Charlotte, North Carolina are two really good players. I’d recruit them again. Glad they’re on our football team.”

» Muschamp said he learned plenty of lessons after his first season as a head coach but in the end you cannot change what happened, you can only move forward. “There’s a lot to be learned through last season. You can’t go back and re-do and press the reset button and start over. That’s not what you do. You learn from it, you move forward, and I think our guys have learned from it,” he said.

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