Friday Final: Robinson breaking out, Driskel stepping up, Gators preparing for TIde

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles last week’s breakout performance by sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, continued confidence in redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and a wide variety of other topics not previously covered in stories posted on the site this week.

The Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) hit the road for the first time this season when they face the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will air live on CBS.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp reviews Kentucky, previews Alabama
Story: Florida secondary faltered early, strengthened late
Story: Healthy, motivated Matt Jones made a statement
Notebook: Kurt Roper, D.J. Durkin evaluate units ahead of showdown with Tide
Story: Gators not intimidated by recent success of Crimson Tide

HONEY THUNDER RUMBLES

Anyone who watched the Kentucky game, viewed a highlight package or read a Florida-centric story this week knows full well what Robinson did last Saturday – matching a school record with 15 receptions in a single game while finding a landing spot at No. 4 on the Gators’ all-time list of players with the most receiving yards in one contest (216).

Taking a step back and looking at the performance in greater context, it is even more impressive. Two suspensions and a lack of dedication made Robinson completely ineffective during his freshman campaign despite the fact that the four-star prospect was hailed as Florida’s best offensive recruit in years. A third suspension, which would have cost him the ability to perform in the Idaho game if it had been played, made it appear as if Robinson had not truly turned the corner off the field despite all of the praise he received from his coaches and teammates for his performances on it in the offseason.

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Driskel avoiding miscues, praising Harris; Fowler leading troops without fear

Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. met with the media on Monday to wrap-up their 65-0 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles and preview Florida’s next game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Driskel discussed the Gators’ comfort level in their new offense while Fowler displayed many characteristics of an emerging leader for Florida’s defense. Both players also praised some of their freshmen teammates.

SUCCEEDING AND STAYING HUMBLE

Driskel earned plenty of praise from his teammates and coaches alike in the offseason, and it was even pointed out separately by both groups that he never once turned the ball over in 11-on-11 competition. He was error-free in that regard Saturday, too, though head coach Will Muschamp was not completely thrilled with that being pointed out on Monday.

“Are you trying to jinx us, or what? I mean, what the heck’s going on?” Muschamp jokingly asked the questioning reporter. “Jeff’s been really smart with the football and that’s a day-to-day process you’ve got to go through. But I think, again, people saw the command that we’ve seen in camp and the comfort level he has in what we’re trying to do.”

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9/8: Muschamp sees room for improvement

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (1-0) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s Southeastern Conference opener against the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

INJURY (AND REPLACEMENT) UPDATES

Muschamp confirmed Monday that redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee’s leg surgery, to repair a broken tibia and fibula, was successful with the player expected to leave the hospital later that afternoon. No decisions have been made by McGee about his future, Muschamp said, which is understandable considering the incident just occurred. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang had McGee rated as a fifth- or sixth-round selection prior to the injury.

Senior Clay Burton will take most of McGee’s snaps at tight end, while senior Tevin Westbrook and freshman DeAndre Goolsby battle for the second-string job. Goolsby was potentially headed for a redshirt but is unlikely to have that luxury anymore.

“We plan on activating him and getting him going,” Muschamp said. “That means you’ve got to get him going on special teams and get him going on offense. That’s our plan.”

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Florida TE Jake McGee (leg) out for the season

The Florida Gators believed the injury bug that ravaged their roster – with 10 starters and 15 total players suffering season-ending injuries in 2013 – had left Gainesville, Florida for good. Instead, it appears as if it was just hibernating in the offseason.

Florida redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee, a graduate transfer from Virginia in his first year with the program, broke his tibia and fibula during Saturday’s season opener and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season.

McGee, UVA’s leading pass-catcher in 2013 who was expected to play a big role in UF’s new offense under the leadership of coordinator Kurt Roper, did not even have the opportunity to catch a pass before going down with the injury during the first quarter Saturday’s season opener.

“We lost Jake McGee for the year – broken tibia and [fibula]. I’m so disappointed for him, a guy that came in here, and it’s very difficult to come into a situation for one year. He’s done it as well as you can imagine,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the game.

“This guy is a total team guy, tough guy, and I think we’re going to do the surgery [Saturday] night. I’ll know much more Monday where we are.”

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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

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Roper enthused heading into Gators spring game

Two days before spring practice ends with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media to provide his final thoughts on his unit heading into Saturday’s spring game.

“LET’S GO SCORE SOME POINTS”

Fans that had time to attend got a sneak peak at Florida’s uptempo offense during the Gators’ open spring practices, but the rest of the base has been patiently waiting to see how Roper has turned around a downtrodden unit in just over two dozen practices.

Roper believes his group is ready to deliver and hopes that fans come away from the spring game confident in Florida’s ability to move the ball up and down the field in 2014.

“What you want to see from the offense is really, ‘Hey, let’s get the right personnel on the field, let’s get lined up, let’s get set with motion, get the ball snapped before the play clock runs out, and let’s have possession of the ball at the end of the play.’ If we’ll do those things and look like a well-coached offense and guys that are locked in, we’re going to make plays in this offense,” he confidently explained.

“That’s going to happen. There’s enough opportunities that will take place. The biggest thing is not beating ourselves, going out there and looking like a well-coached team.”

In order for that to occur, the players need to be as confident as their coach, which Roper believes they are even though the system is still quite new to these Gators. But he is not concerned about their confidence heading into the game. Rather, he wants to see the same thing as fans: points on the scoreboard.

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Offense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (2/2): Junior D.J. Humphries, redshirt senior Chaz Green
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson

By the time the 2013 campaign came to an end, the Gators lost three starting tackles for the season. The first of those absentees was Green, who had locked up the starting right tackle job over the summer but tore his labrum in practice and missed the entire season. Then came Humphries, who started the first six games at left tackle but missed the final five after an injured MCL kept him hobbled for the remainder of the year. Florida’s offense struggled mightily, in large part due to a weak offensive line, but Green and Humphries will almost assuredly start for UF as long as they can remain healthy. Johnson did not play in 2013 after suffering a physical setback early in camp but impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism when he was able to practice as a part of the scout team. He is a candidate to see a good number of snaps this year.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Returning starters (0/2): None
Fresh faces: Junior transfer Drew Sarvary, freshman Kavaris Harkless

With Jon Halapio and Kyle Koehne graduating – and Florida’s starting left guard changing positions (more on that below) – new offensive line coach Mike Summers will have the opportunity to hand-pick some players to help solidify the unit. Sarvary – a First Team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection last season – and redshirt junior Trip Thurman will compete for the jobs, as will senior Trenton Brown and redshirt junior Tyler Moore, both of whom started games at tackle for the Gators in 2013. Florida’s guards are a work in progress, no two ways about it. Harkless could get in the mix as well though it is tough to know what UF can get from a freshman offensive lineman in the spring.

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11/2: Florida vs. Georgia post-game report

The Florida Gators (4-4, 3-3 SEC) fought back from a rough start but still fell 23-20 to the Georgia Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. After the tough loss, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on his team and its defeat.

OPENING STATEMENT

“Very proud of our players and the effort and the intensity and the fight and the resolve to battle back. We dug ourselves too big of a hole especially with the big plays on defense early in the game. … Field position got us a little bit. … Settled down in the second half. I think we had about 250 yards in the first quarter and 155 for the rest of the game. But we dug ourselves too big of a whole. We moved the ball offensively. I thought we did protect well for the most part. … We ran the ball effectively at times. We threw the ball well at times. We just go to somehow figure out a way to create some more explosive plays for our football team to gain momentum.

“I give our guys credit defensively. Third down was a killer obviously there at the end, not being able to get off the field. In those situations, we’ve got to be able to convert some third downs and force a punt in that situation, especially with that much time on the clock. Disappointed in that but very pleased in our players and how they continue to play hard.”

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Georgia holds a 49-40-2 all-time advantage over Florida in the series between the two teams. The Bulldogs also lead 32-37-1 for games played in Jacksonville.
» UGA has won three-straight games over UF for the first time since 1987-89.
» Neither Florida nor Georgia were ranked heading into the annual rivalry game for just the second time since 1980.
» Saturday was just the Gators’ second loss to an unranked opponent under Muschamp.
» Muschamp is still winless in the Florida-Georgia series as a player (0-4) and head coach (0-3).
» Muschamp is 5-7 against UF’s traditional rivals of Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami and Tennessee. Three of those victories have come against UT.
» The Gators have forced at least one turnover in 18-straight games.
» Florida is now 7-12 under Muschamp when rushing for fewer than 150 yards, 8-8 when an opponent scores first and 4-11 when tied or trailing at the half.
» The Gators forced a safety for the first time since Sept. 10, 2011 vs. UAB.
» Florida committed seven total personal fouls on Saturday though some were not counted due to offsetting penalties. The Gators still finished with seven penalties for 70 yards lost, slightly over their already-high average.
» Georgia went 7-for-12 on third down against the top-ranked third-down defense in the conference in Florida’s unit.
» The Bulldogs gained 335 yards of total offense in the first half but picked up just 79 in the second half.
» UF scored 17 unanswered points in the second half while holding UGA scoreless.
» Florida won the coin toss and chose to defer possession until the second half for the third-straight game. Georgia, like Missouri two weeks ago, scored on its opening possession, putting UF in a deficit right off the bat.
» The Bulldogs ran the final 8:17 off the clock with a three-point lead, putting together a 15-play, 67-yard drive that included four third-down conversions (one via penalty).
» Florida gained just 34 yards on 23 first-down snaps (1.47 yards per play).

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has extended his stream of games with a reception to 24. His 83-yard catch in the first quarter was the longest for Florida since Sept. 17, 2011. It was also the longest completion of redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy’s career.
» The Gators registered a two-point conversion for the first time since Oct. 13, 2012. Murphy hit junior tight end Clay Burton in the end zone for the latter’s first reception of the season. (It will not count in the stat book, however.)
» Redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr registered a fumble recovery for the second time this season on a heads-up play in which he jumped on top of a dropped lateral pass thrown by Aaron Murray.
» Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III picked up nine tackles, leading the team in that category for the first time in his career.

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