8/19: Roper talks backup quarterbacks, Leak

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday after practice to provide his thoughts on the installation of his offense to this point. Roper also evaluated a number of Gators who should be big factors for Florida in 2014.

BACKUP BATTLE CONTINUES

Redshirt junior Jeff Driskel will be Florida’s starting quarterback. That much has been known for months. As far as who will be backing him up on game days, well, the Gators do not seem to be any closer to making a decision on that despite previously pinpointing this week as the ideal time to come to a conclusion.

Roper on Tuesday indicated that the battle between freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris is “fun to watch” with both players competing hard and still being good teammates to each other. He is just waiting to see some separation.

“The biggest thing is you look for production on their team reps as big as anything else. Sometimes production isn’t making a play, it’s keeping a bad play from being worse, if that makes sense. So really playing fast, playing quick, being decisive and being productive,” he explained.

The battle remains “fluid,” according to Roper, who said that even though it is “getting close to decision-making time,” the winner out of fall camp may not be the second-string quarterback throughout the entire season.

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8/13: Fowler breakout, Leak coaching, Jones ready

A handful of Florida Gators met with the media on Tuesday to discuss both how fall practice is going and how the team is coming together ahead of the 2014 season. Others met with the media last week to discuss similar topics.

BREAKOUT TIME

Junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. had his share of moments during his sophomore campaign. He looked strong at times and explosive at others but had little help around him to stop the double teams and allow him to be truly dominant.

With 2014 now approaching, Fowler has the opportunity to step up and be the dominant name on Florida’s defense, even more so than sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. According to some of his teammates, he’s on his way to earning that type of recognition.

“He’s been relentless,” said sophomore safety Keanu Neal. “Effort, that’s what he’s bringing. He’s bringing a lot of effort and continuing to work on his technique to get better.”

Fowler has also taken over Dominique Easley’s role as a leader on the Gators’ defense. That baton was ceremoniously passed when Easley relinquished his Chucky doll and allowed Fowler to be the adoptive father. Fowler tried to fill in for his role model last year, but even with Chucky in tow, he had a ways to go. This year, it seems he is putting it together on the leadership front.

“He’s one of my best friends. Me and him were roommates last semester, so we’re pretty close. Every time I’m on the field with him it’s like playing next to one of my good friends. He pretty much brings me up, tells me to work hard. He’s definitely a good guy, definitely a good role model,” explained sophomore defensive tackle Joey Ivie.

Fowler is doing all of this without Chucky in the locker room, at least for now.

“I haven’t seen the doll yet. I don’t know if I will,” redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “I wasn’t scared of it; it was just a matter of fact that you got a little doll that kills people in movies. Besides that, no, I haven’t seen it. We might see it soon, but I don’t know. We’ll have to see at the first Gator Walk.”

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Are Florida’s receivers finally ready to break out?

It has been four years since the Florida Gators have seen one of their wide receivers get drafted by an NFL team, an especially jarring statistic when one considers that the program had 19 total selected in the 17 drafts the league held from 1994-2010.

Combining poor recruiting with lackluster development, inconsistent quarterback play and overall uninspiring offenses, Florida has been unable to get the necessary production out of the position to win football games and propel players to the next level.

As the 2014 season fast approaches, it appears to be unanimous around the team that the Gators possess more firepower at the position than they have since the 2009 campaign.

Florida does, however, face a couple of obstacles on its way to having the position perform as well as head coach Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper both expect with Roper’s newly-installed offense.

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Florida Gators WR coach Joker Phillips resigns; Chris Leak to coach wide receivers

Updated on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.

After just one year on the job, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips has resigned from his position with the Florida Gators.

Graduate assistant Chris Leak, a four-year starter at quarterback and national championship-winning signal caller for the Gators in 2006, will take over coaching the position as a full-time staff member.

The second African-American head football coach in Southeastern Conference history, Phillips spent most of his 26-year coaching career with Kentucky before he was fired by the program during the 2012 season, his third as the Wildcats’ head coach.

He joined Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s staff that December, signing a two-year contract that was supposed to keep him at Florida through the 2014 campaign.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons,” he said in a school release.

Neither Phillips nor UF provided any specific reason for his departure, though ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, citing a source, noted Phillips “resigned because of possible recruiting violations.” McMurphy retracted prior assertions that Phillips was forced to resign whether by Muschamp or someone else at the school.

FootballScoop.com‘s Scott Roussel cited a separate source which said “the issue at hand is a ‘bump’ [with] a [high school] junior” and that Phillips was “turned in by another program in Florida.” A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not.

A source close to the program confirmed to OnlyGators.com that Phillips was indeed turned into the NCAA for a “bump” violation by a representative of Miami but could not say whether that incident led to his resignation.

Thursday update: Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports report that Phillips’s resignation came on the heels of the NCAA receiving “a photo of the coach sitting in a restaurant with a high school recruit during a mandated dead period in recruiting.” Citing three sources, the duo further reports that “the photo was turned over to the NCAA by an individual with ties to the Miami Hurricanes athletics program. Should the NCAA determine Phillips improperly recruited during a mandated dead period, it could be considered a major NCAA violation.”

Read the rest of the original story…after the break!
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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.

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

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