2012 Gator Bowl: Florida vs. Ohio State post-game

The Florida Gators (7-6) capped their lackluster 2011 season with a rousing victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes (6-7) in the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Monday. After the contest, head coach Will Muschamp and some Florida players were made available to the media to discuss some of the notable occurrences before, during and after the game.

MUSCHAMP’s TWO POST-GAME STATEMENTS

Accepting the trophy on stage after the team sang the school alma mater and fight song, Muschamp delivered the following statement to his players, their families and the fans remaining in the crowd after the game:

“I can’t talk real well right now. I’m proud of these players, fighting through a tough situation, a tough transition, but they hung with us all the time. I appreciate the Gator Nation. We’re building a program, not a team, and it takes time, and I appreciate your patience. I’m going to tell you what. We’re going to have a better football team next year because of these young men you got right here. And you’ve got an outstanding staff. Go Gators.”

He began his post-game press conference in a similar fashion:

“[This was about] sending the seniors out the right way. We got a lot of good kids in that locker room. We got some guys that have had a very frustrating year. The realization of this whole thing, if you really want to see big picture, is in the last two years at the University of Florida we’re 15-11. That’s unacceptable. That’s what we are. We’re one game’s difference from last year. We’re 7-6; we were 8-5 last year. Sometimes I think you got to put your realistic glasses on of where you are and what you are as a program right at this point. And it’s not where we’re going to be very long, I can assure you of that. We’re moving in the right direction.

“I’m very pleased with the attitude and the effort and the drive of our young men. They kept fighting in the game and kept playing; they did it the entire season. I don’t think you could turn the tape on and watch a team that wasn’t giving effort, wasn’t trying to play with the right kind of toughness. It wasn’t always what we wanted at times. It was frustrating at times, and I appreciate the backing of our administration in what we’re trying to do. I’ve said it before and I mean this sincerely: We’re not building a team, we’re building a program. That takes a foundation to start, it really does. You stay the course with what you’re trying to do and what you believe in and the hardcore values of what you want. It isn’t always what you want. You get criticized and those sort of things, and that’s part of the deal. That’s part of being the head coach at the University of Florida, and I fully accept that.

“[I’m] excited for our football team. We need to get better and that starts with me. For our entire organization, 7-6 is not acceptable at the University of Florida. We’re looking forward to getting started on January 9. When we start school, we’re going to have a good team meeting that day and get these guys ready to go. That’s when our season starts for next year. It’s good momentum. There are a lot of guys out there knowing their opportunity to come a place like Florida, get an outstanding education, play for a great staff and be a part of a winning tradition..”

HIRING PROCESS WILL NOW BEGIN
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12/28-29: Coordinators talk players, Gator Bowl

Interim offensive coordinator Brian White and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media this week to answer some questions and look ahead to the Florida Gators‘ next opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida and Ohio State will go head-to-head in the 2011 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Jan. 2 at 1 p.m. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availabilities.

PLAYER UPDATES AND EVLAUATIONS

Despite both missing the first day of Gator Bowl practice, senior running back Jeff Demps (personal issue) and redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson (illness) were on the field on Wednesday. Additionally, White said that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley is completely healthy and has even been routinely taking snaps under center during practice.

White also noted that, with 2012 being the offense’s second year in the pro-style system, he expects to see some major improvements and is already seeing players doing much better in these practices.

“There’s always a learning curve your first year in any program. Once you flatten that learning curve, you see an exponential jump, and certainly that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of progress with our young players – Chaz Green being one of those players, Andre Debose being another one of those players, Hunter Joyer invaluable time and reps for a player like Hunter, Mike Gillislee. There are a lot of players that have improved dramatically and hopefully they can put the performance on the field and really use it as a springboard to 2012.”

Quinn spoke about five players in particular, praising three and providing some evaluations on two others. He said that redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter has been playing great in bowl practices, being strong and square and really jumping out with his technique. Quinn also noted that there are two players who have continued to get better as the year has gone on and should make a big impact next Monday.

“[De’Ante] Pop Saunders has been one that’s really come on and done some good things,” he said. “At linebacker, [Michael] Taylor has improved from where I saw him in the spring to training camp to now playing some meaningful and valuable reps for us. Those guys at those two spots would be two that have shown up and [I can tell] are coming on and doing a good job.”

He also spoke about sophomore Sharrif Floyd’s participation going forward and how redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard will fare in the NFL.

On Floyd’s position on Monday and beyond: “It’s really going to depend on the situations. In this bowl practice, we’ve played a lot of him inside [in nickel formations], but we’ve also played a lot of him at the defensive end spot. [It will] just kind of be by the flow of the game. Fortunately for him, he’s had reps at both spots playing tackle and playing end. When it’s a running team, sometimes you like to have a bigger base end out there where you can play strong and hanker on the outside. And then in nickel, we’re going to need some speed to chase this guy down because he’s certainly a guy who can run and move on the field.”

On Howard’s NFL prospects: “Inside is where I see him, playing nose tackle and three technique. I thought he’s really improved as the season went on. It was important for him from last year to this year to get his weight down and his conditioning up so he can finish on plays. I think he’s shown that on tape. I think he’s a real strong guy that can anchor. [...] He’s done a good job this year. He’s really done a good job with his hands being strong, improvement and I think the arrow is going up on him moving forward.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» White on calling plays once again:“What people don’t realize are game plans are a very collaborative effort. They’re very structured and your calls are very defined based on situational football – down and distance. Not to diminish the role of a playcaller, but it’s not as difficult as one would think. There is a knack to making the right call at the right time, but for the most part he could have picked anyone else on our staff – they are very qualified to do it, too.”

» White on how practice has been going: “We’ve had very good timing and practiced very wisely.”

» White on why Gillislee did not get more carries during the year: “The Florida State game was just a function of the way the game unfolded. We wanted to use him a lot more in that game, but you’re playing from behind. Sometimes it doesn’t go according to your plan. Mike has made improvement. We’re looking forward to him having a role in this game. To say it’s going to be anything more than a role would be disingenuous.”

» Quinn on what improvement he is most proud of this year: “Our situational awareness – I think our third down defense those guys deserve a lot of credit for that. Knowing that on 3rd-and-6 you play differently than 3rd-and-12 and 3rd-and-1. That situational awareness for me is one of the things that sticks out on the back end.”

» Quinn said that not getting takeaways on defense this year negates any positive statistics about the unit, including the fact that it is No. 9 in total defense and does very well against third downs. He said there was plenty of room for improvement in 2012.

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11/19: Florida vs. Furman post-game notes

The Florida Gators (6-5) became bowl eligible with one game left to play after fighting back from a 15-point deficit to defeat the Furman Paladins 54-32 on Saturday. 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.

CAUGHT OFF GUARD

Fans were not the only ones surprised when Furman’s offense gashed Florida in the early part of the game, scoring a touchdown on their first drive and taking a 22-7 lead seemingly without breaking a sweat. Muschamp explained after the game what happened to UF and why the team was not prepared defensively.

“They had been a pro-style team all season. They jump to the double slot option and had not shown a snap all season,” he said. “Obviously the first series we were completely scrambling on defense trying to adjust to it. It’s happened maybe one other time in my coaching career, but it happened today. The next two series we had an eye-control issues on the bubble pass [that] busted coverage for a big play, and then on the fourth one we have an eye-control issue – not watching what you’re supposed to watch. That’s their three scores in the first half.”

Though Muschamp was obviously disappointed in that occurrence, he was happy with the way the Gators responded to being put in a hole so early in the game.

“As ugly as the victory may be for us, the most pleasing part of the win was the fact that nobody panicked on the sideline. We just kept playing, hanging in there, made the adjustments defensively,” he said. “You start to realize that if it could have gone wrong, it already has, so eventually it has to start turning our way. That’s part of the game; that’s why you play the game for 60 minutes.”

Muschamp referred to the strategy as a “good plan on their part” and credited the Paladins and their head coach with being creative and doing what it took to win.

LONG RUN THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

The 77-yard rushing touchdown that Florida was stung by at the end of the third quarter was the one play in the game that truly bothered Muschamp. “Defensively, more than anything, [I’m] very disappointed with the long run there in the second half. You can’t allow that to happen in a game like that,” he said.

After the game, Muschamp criticized the defensive alignment on the play, which was most likely referring to a decision made by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

“We got bounced out of our gap, and we didn’t leverage the ball correctly. We shouldn’t be in a man pressure in that situation. You zone the ball when you’re up 12 in the fourth quarter. We need to do a better job of letting our kids execute in that situation.”

He also addressed the fact that the Gators have been run on quite frequently after being so stout in that area early in the season. “We’ve been exposed on tape in some areas quite frankly,” he noted.

BRANTLEY, DEBOSE BREAK OUT WITH CAREER GAMES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley made all of the throws he was supposed to on Saturday, connecting with his pass catchers on 16-of-28 attempts for career-highs of 329 yards and four touchdowns. He did what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has asked him to do all season – play within himself – and helped rally his team back from a tough early deficit.

“You got to give Furman a lot of credit. They came into here and played us hard and played us well. We just kept fighting. We knew things would go our way if we stayed calm and collected, and it did,” Brantley said. “This team has grown up a lot through these ups and downs, that’s the only think you really can do, learn from it and mature, and that’s what we have done.”

One of those players coming into his own is redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose, who caught three balls from Brantley for a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns (of 80 and 64 yards, respectively).

“The two routes I ran today were go routes. The [defensive back] was a little bit too close, and I took full advantage of it and just beat him with speed. Johnny B had some great throws,” Debose said. “I was very surprised the way they played me the second time. Usually teams put a safety on top and try to prevent the deep ball from us. They really didn’t play it that way, and we took full advantage of it.”

Brantley also hit redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar for a 29-yard touchdown to give Florida the lead at the end of the first half.

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed, who caught four balls for 56 yards and a touchdown in the first half, left the game before halftime with an ankle injury and did not return. Muschamp said the early indication is that he will be able to play against Florida State on Saturday. Junior tackle Xavier Nixon also left the contest with an undisclosed injury, and his status is to be determined.

Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) was held out, as was redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (ankle). Redshirt freshman safety Joshua Shaw was not at the game after requesting to go home and visit his family due to his grandfather being ill.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on Debose: “When we’re able to gain single coverage outside, Andre’s the guy that can do some things vertically down the field. He really made two very nice plays on the ball in my opinion. He’s done that all season for us when given the opportunity. The thing I always challenge him on is mental intensity; it’s got to be an everyday thing. It’s not just a one day thing. That’s where Andre’s biggest challenge is right now. It’s an everyday thing to go out and play hard, concentrate and focus on being a really good player. He’s extremely talented, but if you don’t bring the other part it won’t always happen for you. “

» Muschamp said that being bowl eligible is important but what is even more important are the 15-18 extra practices the team will have. Because 70 percent of the roster is composed of underclassmen, getting the extra reps, snaps and opportunities will give the team a chance to pull together and become even more cohesive with the playbook.

» Muschamp on freshman safety De’Ante Saunders and his second interception in as many games: “Pop’s got really good instincts on the ball. He’s got a very good feel for the game. He’s improved his tackling although he still has some work to do on that. He needs to get stronger – that’s part of the issue being a true freshman. He’s a guy that came in here mid-year, he’s highly intelligent and very smart. He picks things up very well. He can play corner, nickel, dime, safety – he can play every position we have. He’s got very good football instincts and that’s what makes him a very good player.“

» Muschamp on if Urban Meyer going to Ohio State would surprise him: “Yeah, it would. I think it would be great for college football. I think Urban is an outstanding football coach. He does it the right way. He did a phenomenal job at Bowling Green, Utah and obviously here at Florida. He’s just a first-class guy. With his deteriorating health there and his family – as important as that is to him – I wouldn’t think he would, but again that’s just my opinion.”

» Brantley on Debose: “He’s one of the fastest people on the team. As long as they give you the right coverage and you throw a decent ball to just give him a chance, he’s coming up with it more times than not.”

» Brantley on the team struggling to start: “All of us are recruited very highly. We want to play at our best each time. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. You get a little frustrated, but you just got to keep learning from it and moving on.”

» Debose on his consistency: “I would say my consistency is a lot better. There are still things I have to work on myself, but I would say overall my consistency is much better.”

» Debose on Muschamp motivating him: “Coach Champ, he just stays on me all the time. This week he’s been saying mental intensity and jamming that in my head.”

» Debose on what he has to improve: “My routes – it takes a lot for me to work on my routes. Coming in and out of my cuts and working off the jam, I have a lot of trouble when somebody comes up and tries to jam me.”

» Junior linebacker Jon Bostic on redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins’s pick-six: “He needed that. He made a great play on the ball. The quarterback threw it high; he picked it off and took it back”

» Bostic on teams running all over the defense: “That’s our main priority – stopping the run. They came out and gave us a couple new wrinkles. We made the adjustments and gave up one play [after that] and that’s about it.”

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11/16: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators coming off a tough road loss and looking to become bowl eligible with a victory over the Furman Paladins 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.

CONSISTENCY THY NAME IS BOSTIC

All season long Muschamp has been saying that “consistency in performance” during practice is a determining factor as to who starts and gets to see the field. Providing that consistency both in practice and during games this year is junior linebacker Jon Bostic, who Muschamp noted continues to impress him with how well he’s played.

“We do a production chart by week for each game. Throughout the entire season, he’s a guy that has had a winning performance for the season as far as a production per play ratio,” he said. “[Bostic is] a guy that’s been productive, gets in and out of the right fronts, gets us lined up, does a great job communicating the calls. He’s played extremely well. He’s played very consistent week in and week out with his performance. There has not been a lot of up-and-down with him. He’s a guy that’s played a lot before so he’s had a lot of snaps, he’s got experience. He’s really blossomed in his role in what we’re trying to do defensively.”

Muschamp added that Florida’s defensive scheme has helped Bostic’s tackle numbers soar, especially considering how much better the Gators have been playing on the line in recent weeks.

“More than anything, we put a lot of emphasis on playing blocks up front and not letting people to the second level. As the year has gone on, we’ve done a nicer job of keeping him free,” he said. “We’ve kept him free in a lot of situations to be able to run and make plays. Our defense is really designed for both of those guys [Bostic and Jelani Jenkins] to make a bunch of tackles. Jon certainly benefitted from that. When he has his opportunities, he makes plays.

“He plays well in space, he plays with good toughness, he’s done a nice job disengaging on blocks. I’ve been very pleased with his consistent performance, and that’s been something we’ve struggled with as an entire football team. Consistency in our performance is week-in and week-out, and he has been a guy that has shown the consistent performance we got to have to be successful in this league.”

INJURY UPDATES AND FUTURE REDSHIRTS

Redshirt senior guard/center Dan Wenger (ankle) was ruled out for the game, while redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder) were all listed as questionable. Muschamp said McCray is not responding well to treatment on his shoulder, Green is having a hard time coming back off the ankle, and Orr got banged up in practice this week. With the Florida State game looming, none of the four are expected to play Saturday against Furman.

Muschamp also updated the redshirt situation, saying that offensive linemen Tommy Jordan and Trip Thurman as well as wide receiver Ja’Juan Story and safety Valdez Showers will all receive them this year. Tight end Clay Burton and defensive end Tevin Westbrook, both of whom played early in the year but were injured, are potential medical redshirt candidates after the season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the inconsistency of Florida’s offense: “More than anything just being so inconsistent, that’s what’s hurt us the most. At times we’ve run the ball well – you look at the second half of the South Carolina game – we ran the ball pretty well against a very good defense. We get in the red zone and you look at the three games that we had opportunities there – Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina – we’re 1-for-7 as far as touchdowns in the red zone. That’s been a killer for us. Those games are certainly different outcomes if we cash in on those opportunities. The inconsistency in which we’re playing with has been the most frustrating. It’s not one position; it’s across the board, different things we’re not doing well enough to win those games. That’s been the most frustrating part of our season thus far.”

» On if the 5-5 record has anything to do with him being a first-year head coach: “I don’t know that there’s been anything reflected in our record based on me being a rookie head coach. I honestly don’t. [...] I don’t think our record is indicative of me being a first time head coach. I don’t think that has anything to do with it.”

» On why the wide receivers are so inconsistent: “When teams play man-to-man, you got to get open. You got to be able to be a threat vertically down the field. We have some deeper developing routes where you try to come off of a comeback or some curls inside. You got to create some separation in those situations and continue to challenge people vertically down the field which we try to do. [...] More consistent play at that position in catching the ball, finishing the plays; we’ve had some drops that have certainly hurt us in some situations. We’ve done some nice things, but we’re just not playing very consistent outside.”

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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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