Former Florida Gators participate in 2014 Pro Day

Thirteen former Florida Gators football players participated in Pro Day in Gainesville, FL on Monday though the event was not able to be held in front of the public at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as originally scheduled.

Due to heavy rain, Florida was forced to cancel the on-field workout and move things indoors. Players ran 40-yard dashes and participated in other drills on a rubber track inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center – many took their shoes off and ran barefoot – before returning to the practice field for some positional drills.

“That was a first,” said UF head coach Will Muschamp of seeing the players run barefoot. “Proud of those guys working hard, a great day for them. The culmination of a lot of work. Have a great opportunity to play in the National Football League. …

“You play football in the rain. Our guys, it’s amazing how many scouts [came out]. Last year, we had a cold day. This, year we had some rain. The scouts walk up and the coaches walk up, Mike Zimmer walks up and says, ‘Hey, I appreciate you guys working.’ That means a lot. Believe me, these guys are professionals; they understand the conditions and the things the guys go through. None of our guys bellyache; they go work, and I’m proud of them for their effort.”

Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance with 59 scouts reportedly in Gainesville on Monday. Unlike last season, when general managers and coaches did not attend because the Gators held Pro Day on the same day as the start of 2013 NFL free agency, a number found their way to The Swamp with Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer and New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan standing out as notable faces.

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Gators reflect on ‘Cats, look ahead to Razorbacks

A number of players from the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) met with the media throughout the week to discuss team issues and preview Saturday’s game against the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-2, 0-1 SEC).

DEFENSE

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs

» On senior DT Dominique Easley‘s mindset: “He’s doing pretty good. He’s staying positive. I’m trying to keep him positive so everything’s going good. Just trying to put him back in that joking mood he’s always usually in. He’s a big prankster and a big joker so I try to keep him going that way.”

» On the opportunity Easley’s injury presented for him: “It’s a big opportunity because I’m going to have way more reps than I thought I was going to have this year. This is my last year also, so it’s a big opportunity for me to put myself on the market. Me and him talked about that last week. He told me not to miss out on it.”

» On Arkansas’ offense: “Physical, they’re real physical. I think they’re a little chippy, a little dirty, so we’re going to have to be ready for all that this week.”

» On how the Razorbacks are dirty: “I just see from film a lot of the stuff after the play. Especially with the center, number 64, he’ll get after you after the play. He’ll make you want to do some things to him. So we’re going to have to try to keep our temper and keep cool on that. Just hit them in the mouth first. Just keep hitting them until they quit. That’s how you do it.”

Redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor

» On what he says when he trash talks: “You guys couldn’t handle that so I can’t really say that in here. If y’all mic me up, you might find out.”

» On whether Arkansas’ center is ‘dirty’ like Jacbos said: “I haven’t seen ‘dirty.’ I’ve seen that he finishes plays. All that talk of ‘dirty,’ if somebody’s trying to come block you, if you don’t let them get into your body there’s no way they can block you. Using good hands, keeping them away from you. Anything he would try to do, if it was dirty, would be negated because he can’t even touch you.”

» On the Hogs also trash talking: “So, we’ll have a lot of fun. … That’s how I’ve always played. I’ve always played with a lot of emotion. I love the game of football so I’m going to be out there, I’m going to be passionate about what I’m playing. I’m going to let you know what I’m finna do and I’m gonna do it. So that’s just how I like to play.”

» On Arkansas’ physicality: “We’re a physical team as well, so, we go again physical opponents every day in practice. We bang in practice. Not on Thursdays and Fridays because it’s close to the game, but we bang all the way up until [that]. It’s not going to be nothing we’re not prepared for.”

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Gameday: No. 10 Florida Gators vs. Toledo

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 85°F, partly cloudy / scattered t-stomrs (20%), winds SW at 6 mph
Time: 12:21 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $28 on TiqIQ

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 136/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 10 FLORIDA GATORS TOLEDO ROCKETS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Matt Campbell
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mid-American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 55.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Toledo have never played on the gridiron*, but UF is 14-1 in the last two seasons against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» The Rockets have never played a team from the SEC.
» The Gators are 79-27 all-time in season openers (64-6 in Gainesville) and have won 23-straight games to begin a season, the longest streak in the SEC and second-longest streak in the nation (Nebraska, 27).
» UF opens the 2013 campaign ranked in the polls for the 23rd-straight season but in the top 10 for the first time since 2010.
» Toledo finished 9-4 (6-2 MAC) in 2012 and are also coming a devastating bowl game loss, falling 41-15 to Utah in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
» Entering the season, Florida has what is widely considered as the toughest schedule in the country with four games scheduled against preseason top-15 opponents plus a road game at Miami in Week 2.
» In 2012, the Gators finished a 7-0 at home for just the third time in school history, a mark that matched the 2006 and 2009 UF teams.
» Florida is 12-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards). The Gators are also 14-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 10-2 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 12-3 when scoring first (6-5 when an opponent scores first) and 14-1 when leading at the half (4-7 when tied or trailing at the break).
» UF’s .878 (129-18) home winning percentage is best in the nation since 1990.
» Florida still leads the nation in interceptions (96), interception return yards (1,688) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) since 2008.
» Wide receivers coach Joker Phillips and special teams coordinator Jeff Choate are new additions to the Gators’ coaching staff. Also helping the team this season are thee former Florida players – undergraduate assistant Mike Peterson and graduate assistants Chris Leak and Duke Lemmens.
» Safety Jordan Haden, the brother of Joe Haden who transferred to Toledo after enrolling at UF in the spring of 2010, injured his collarbone and will not play Saturday.
» One-time Gators wide receiver commit Rodney Adams, who was unable to qualify academically, accepted an offer from the Rockets and will play in The Swamp.
» Toledo bested Florida in every offensive category rank in 2012, coming in ahead of their hosts in rushing offense (35-39), passing offense (48-114), total offense (32-103) and scoring offense (44-76) last season. The Gators, however, were miles ahead in defensive ranks including rushing defense (4-78), passing defense (17-116), total defense (5-109) and scoring defense (5-67).

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!

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8/12: Muschamp on Joyer’s injury, Jones missing games, standouts from Florida’s scrimmage

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media during his team’s second full week of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT

There appears to be no slowing down Florida’s rash of fall injuries. Though junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (appendectomy) returned to practice over the weekend and both redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia (back) and redshirt sophomore G Trip Thurman (shoulder) were cleared – as expected – on Monday, the Gators added another player their long injury list over the weekend.

Junior fullback Hunter Joyer pulled his hamstring Sunday and will miss a 7-10 days.

He joins sophomore running back Matt Jones (viral infection – out indefinitely), redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral – 7-10 days), senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (sprained patella – one week), senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot – one week) and freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (meniscus surgery – 3-4 weeks) on the sidelines.

Jones began participating in cardiovascular activities last week but is not close to returning to practice. Muschamp said team doctors want to avoid a “relapse of the situation” and ensure that he makes a full recovery before returning to the field. He also indicated that Jones’s absence could stretch into the 2013 campaign.

“Beginning of the season, at some point, whether it’s the first week or the second week or as you head into the open week, he’s going to play for us this year,” he said. “It’s totally up to [the doctors] as far as the things they’re telling me right now. That’s why I said we’re a little bit in uncharted waters coming into having the type of infection he had and then you’re talking about the heat we’re in and that sort of thing. I think we just need to be really careful right now.”

Muschamp then reiterated what one of Jones’s doctors told him about his recovery. “When you’re dealing with the human body, you never know. You don’t know how he’s going to respond and how quickly. The great thing is he’s young, he’s in great shape and it knocked him down a little bit, but he’s a guy that’s going to respond very quickly.”

Halapio was reevaluated on Friday when Muschamp said he expected him to be cleared for action by Monday. Instead, he will miss at least another week of action.

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8/5: Muschamp on injuries, standouts, tight ends

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media after his team’s first weekend of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

ILLNESS / INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore running back Matt Jones, who is now over his serious viral infection and recovering but did lose 8-10 pounds while ill, may be able to get reactivated at some point next week if he continues to make progress. “Matt Jones is in the building and moving around a little bit and hopefully, maybe try to see maybe next week if we can try and get him active,” Muschamp said. “He looks good. He’s moving around a little bit. He was on the bike the other day. We’re just trying to get him back in the swing of things.”

Though junior quarterback Jeff Driskel is still limited from his appendectomy and has not done anything physically as of press time, Muschamp is confident that the prognosis will be positive when Driskel meets with the doctor on Wednesday or Thursday. He also said that redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (pectoral) is “doing very well” and will be evaluated on Friday, and redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia (back) will meet with a doctor Tuesday.

Two new injuries are to freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson and redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr. Johnson had a high school knee injury flare up but should return to practice Monday or Tuesday, while Orr sprained his thumb over the weekend but should be in action on Monday.

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8/1: Muschamp breaks down Gators entering 2013

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | Story: Appendectomy a bump in the road for confident Driskel | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

The Florida Gators will take the field for the first time since April on Friday morning at 6 a.m. for the official start of fall practice ahead of the 2013 season.

Head coach Will Muschamp, heading into his third year at the helm of the program, held a press conference during Florida’s annual media day on Thursday to discuss the make-up of the Gators heading into the fall. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel spoke after Muschamp and addressed some similar topics.

OPENING STATEMENTS

» Overall: “I love this time of year, training camp. You see your football team develop through the offseason program, through spring practice, then on their own in the summer, preparing themselves for the season. You get to see the older guys and see the improvements they needed to make, whether it’s in the weight room or schematically, watching film, and preparing themselves for position battles and a lot of situations. You get to see the young guys you recruited and how they looked when they get on the field with the other guys and see how they mix it up. This is a huge time of the year as far as the development of your football team as you move forward and certainly an exciting time for us.”

» On the offense: “Do we need to be more balanced and efficient in throwing the football? That’s been well documented, but I think we’re better up front. We’ve been better at wideout, and I think we’re better at the quarterback position. But we need to do that August 31st, and we need to prepare that way to that point. We still have some questions at tight end, and what’s behind Jeff at the quarterback position, and continue to have playmakers at the running back position and outside. Those are some things we need to continue to work through.”

» On the defense: “Concerned about depth at the linebacker position more than anything. The experience, I think we’ve recruited well, but those guys need to gain some experience through training camp, and obviously we’re not as good at the safety position in spring. Very concerned heading into fall camp with those question marks up the middle of your defense. I do think we’re good enough up front to be fine. I think we’ve got a good combination of guys that can play, play well, and play the way we need to play to get to Atlanta.”

» On special teams: “Placekicker is an issue. Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips both have the ability to do the job, but they’ve never done it in the situations they’re going to be put into. So we may change that a little philosophically of what we think when we cross the 50.”

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Appendectomy a bump in the road for QB Driskel

Florida Gators’ 2013 Media Day: Story: Injured Matt Jones, Jon Halapio, others join Jeff Driskel on sidelines | News, Notes & Quotes – Will Muschamp breaks down the Gators | Story: It’s now or never for Florida WR Andre Debose | Story: RB Brown, QB Murphy ready to step up for Gators

Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel will have some catching up to do by the time he recovers from his appendectomy and is cleared to practice with the team, but the incumbent starter is not too worried about picking up where he left off at the conclusion of the player-run practices over the summer.

“Luckily we did do a lot of work in the summer, so I won’t miss too much,” Driskel said of the 1-2 weeks of action he will have to sit out. “Obviously I’d like to be out there but the reps with those other guys will help them, and if anything does happen to me down the road during the season, those other guys will be ready.”

The “other guys” include redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg and freshman Max Staver, three quarterbacks that have a combined zero snaps behind center as college football players.

Muschamp, at his press conference on Thursday, declared Murphy the “clear-cut back-up” for Driskel, and the starter thinks his understudy is ready for the opportunity.

“He’s always gone in with the [thought] that he’s one play or one injury away from being the starter,” Driskel said. “He’s really attacked the offseason like he should. He’s definitely going to get more reps than he thought here to start camp. He’s going to have to make plays, and I believe that he can.”

The appendicitis was certainly an unexpected blow for Driskel, who by all accounts worked hard over the summer to stay in shape and grow as a leader.

He told reporters on Thursday that he started feeling sick with a stomach ache on Monday and woke up Tuesday with worsening stomach pains. Driskel’s roommate, former Gators offensive lineman Tommy Jordan (who never stepped on the field but received a medical exemption to remain in school on scholarship), told him Monday that it could be appendicitis, which led Driskel to spring into action when he felt the additional pain on Tuesday.

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Former QB Leak, DE Lemmens announced as Florida Gators’ newest graduate assistants

Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak returned to his alma mater in May as a defensive quality control assistant (intern) with the football program. On Wednesday, Florida announced that Leak and former Gators defensive end Duke Lemmens were both accepted into graduate school and will be graduate assistants for the team this fall.

Though Leak was working with the defense over the summer – scouting and breaking down film for game-planning purposes while assisting the coaches but not teaching players – he and Lemmens will now be able to work hand-in-hand with the players, each coaching offense and defense, respectively.

Lemmens, whose acceptance into Florida’s graduate school and subsequent hiring was first reported via the OnlyGators.com Twitter account on Saturday, had been waiting for official word from the school for the past few months.

The Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship and the Gators’ career leader in pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and passing yardage (11,213), Leak spent five seasons playing in the CFL and AFL, winning two Grey Cup rings as a backup quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes. He worked as a member of the media for the last two years, serving as co-host on SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation and a college football analyst for CBS Sports.

Lemmens was a reserve until his senior season in 2010 when he was named a captain and started all 13 games for Florida, registering 43 tackles (18 solo, 6.5 for lost yardage), three sacks and a fumble recovery.

“I just took it upon myself to try and out-work everybody. It paid off. My teamamtes noticed, the coaches noticed, I got voted captain. I had a chip on my shoulder,” he told OnlyGators.com in May 2011.

Lemmens also expressed his fondness for D.J. Durkin, who is now Florida’s new defensive coordinator and effectively Lemmens’s boss on a day-to-day basis.

“Coach Durkin is as good of a technician as anyone I’ve ever seen. You can definitely tell that he was, back in the day, a [graduate assistant] for Coach [Greg] Mattison,” he said. “Coach Durkin became one of my real good friends while I was there. He was my coach, but he’s someone I still talk to. Playing for him is fun. It’s all about toughness, but you still have fun doing it. It’s not a chore. He has a bright future ahead of him.”

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