9/30: Muschamp on Easley to NFL, injuries, Hogs

No. 18/19 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 24-7 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats and his team’s upcoming home game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Oct. 5. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

HEADING TO THE NFL

Asked about senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley future and whether he would consider applying for a medical redshirt and playing a fifth season, Muschamp announced that there was no question Easley would be moving on with his career.

“Dominque’s definitely going to go to the NFL,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s had two ACLs. I think that’s the best move for him right now is go and prepare himself for April and getting ready for that. He and I talked briefly about it. That’s what he wants to do, and I support it 100 percent.”

Muschamp said he is not concerned about teams being worried in regards to Easley’s injury history. He thinks what Easley has been able to do on the field will be more than enough to convince teams to draft him.

“He’ll have plenty of interest. He’s going to be a productive guy on the next level. He’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself in how he plays the game, how he approaches the game. He’ll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization.”

Muschamp also noted that he has not spoken at length with redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose regarding his future though the two did touch base. Debose would have to apply for a second medical hardship waiver but would likely have it granted considering he did not play a single down in 2013.

INJURY UPDATES

Aside from season-ending injuries, the Gators appear to be relatively healthy heading into their next game. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers (ankle), who has missed the last two games, should be back in practice by Tuesday but will definitely see the field by Wednesday at the latest. Muschamp also noted that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) could have played against the Wildcats if needed but was held out as a precaution considering he was a game-time decision.

Redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) will remain out for this week, but sophomore TE Kent Taylor (ankle) should be back in uniform for the game. Muschamp had not previously announced Taylor’s injury but noted Monday that he has missed 2-3 weeks of action.

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Pease talks Dunbar and Robinson, Gators offense

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday, four days before the 2013 season opener against Toledo on Aug. 31.

MAXIMIZING TALENT AT RECEIVER

With junior Quinton Dunbar and freshman Demarcus Robinson both listed as X wide receivers (Dunbar the starter and Robinson as second-string) on the first depth chart of the fall, many began wondering whether Florida would try to get both players on the field at the same time to maximize the talent at the position and give junior quarterback Jeff Driskel as many weapons as possible.

Both Pease and head coach Will Muschamp said previously that they want to bring Robinson along slow, ensuring he knows the X receiver spot perfectly before trying to move him around the field, which would mean Dunbar lining up elsewhere while Robinson has his helmet on. Pease on Tuesday addressed whether that is something that will likely happen during games.

“There will be situations like that. One thing with Quinton, you know, he’s a kid that’s been in it. Actually Quinton last year was a Z and we moved him to the X,” Pease said. “He knows the Z and will be inside for us sometimes. He’s a guy with experience. He’s learned the spots. … He’s a kid we can move around now.”

Robinson, despite being supremely talented, does not have the in-game experience just yet. Nevertheless, Pease noted this week that he is ahead of schedule for a player his age and should be an important contributor for the Gators this season.

“Oh yeah. Yeah, that guy is really developed for a young kid. Physically, he’s developed. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s got great hands,” Pease said. “You always want to see consistency, how you’re going to perform … and understand your routine and develop your trade and your professionalism, how you’re going to approach it. … With him, I think he’s getting to that point. He’s comfortable with things. He’s playing on his instincts. Now, let’s see you do it in the game because that’s what it’s going to come down to. …

“Is the kid going to make mistakes? Yes, because he’s a freshman. Does he have the ability to be fun to watch? Absolutely. Is he fun to be around and coach? Absolutely.”

PLAYER THOUGHTS AND EVALUATIONS

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Florida Gators 2013 opening week depth chart

Game Week – Monday: LB Antonio Morrison’s Suspension Reduced | RT Chaz Green Out for Season, RB Matt Jones Set for Miami | New Mr. Two Bits, Muschamp on Tight Ends, Season Opener

Though things could still change over the next five days, the Florida Gators on Monday morning released the team’s first official depth chart for the 2013 season.

Florida omitted players that are not participating in the season opener due to injury or suspension; therefore, the depth chart below is an “active” version rather than a “best-case scenario” version. Notations marked with (») can be found below certain positions.

OnlyGators.com will update this post shortly with additional details and thoughts from head coach Will Muschamp‘s Monday press conference.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Tyler Murphy
RB: 33 Mack Brown, 37 Mark Herndon, 10 Valdez Showers
» 24 Matt Jones is not playing on Saturday.
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 83 Solomon Patton, 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 85 Chris Thompson
» 13 Latroy Pittman and 4 Andre Debose (out for season) knocked out of Z.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman, 30 Michael McNeely
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook, 84 Colin Thompson
» 18 Kent Taylor not on the three-deep.

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 76 Max Garcia
» 74 Trenton Brown no longer the back-up to Humphries.
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 63 Trip Thurman
» 77 Ian Silberman no longer the back-up to Garcia.
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 64 Kyle Koehne, 77 Ian Silberman
» 67 Jon Halapio is not playing Saturday; Thurman moved to left guard.
RT: 73 Tyler Moore, 74 Trenton Brown
» 75 Chaz Green is out for the season; Brown moved to right tackle.

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8/16: Muschamp discusses injuries, standouts and Florida’s roster; decision day ahead for Gators

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media following the team’s first open practice of fall camp ahead of the 2013 season.

INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUNT

Sophomore running back Matt Jones “continues to improve” from a serious viral infection that put him in the hospital, according to Muschamp, who could not pinpoint when the presumed starter will be able to return to the team. “He’s exercising, getting back into it but not ready to get out in the heat in full gear yet,” Muschamp added. “I’ll certainly update when I know. I’m anticipating that news, hopefully sooner than later.” Jones has yet to practice this fall.

Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral) was hoping to be cleared for practice last Friday and was only supposed to miss 7-10 days as of Monday but instead got dealt another week on the sidelines by team physicians. Apparently, he will not be cleared this Friday either and Muschamp now hopes he is ready to go in time for the first game of the season on Aug. 31. “I think [he] has an appointment next Friday,” he said. “I hope to get him cleared for game week. That’s kind of the prognosis we’ve gotten so far, and I want that to happen.”

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (knee) is not expected to be cleared until game week either, according to Muschamp.

Senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (sprained foot) remains day-to-day following an initial prognosis that he would be out one week and could be back on Monday.

Junior fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring), expected to miss 7-10 days on Monday, will miss “another 5-7 days.”

There are also three new injuries to report, which has been standard operating procedure for Florida throughout the fall. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Alex McCalister and freshman offensive lineman Octavius Jackson are each day-to-day with shoulder injuries, redshirt freshman OL Quinteze Williams is day-to-day with an illness, and freshman DB Vernon Hargreaves III will miss at least 5-7 days with a shoulder injury of his own. “He’ll be fine,” Muschamp said of Hargreaves.

IT’S “D-DAY” FOR THE GATORS

Muschamp is ready to whittle down the Gators’ roster and figure out who is going to be seeing the field for Florida this season, and he plans on starting that process following the team’s Friday scrimmage.

“I told the team the last two days, this is going to be moving day for a lot of guys. We’ve got to start narrowing reps,” he said. “We can’t continue to rep everybody. So as far as the guys preparing as we move forward in the season, this will be a D-Day, so to speak, for a lot of guys.”

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Appendix out, wound healed, Driskel ready to work


Six days standing on the sidelines.

Six days watching someone else take his snaps.

Six days waiting to work with the teammates he corralled and led through player-run practices over the summer was more than enough for Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who returned to practice on Thursday less than two weeks after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis and undergoing an appendectomy.

“It was good. Everything felt good in my stomach. I thought I threw the ball really well, and I thought we had a good day offensively,” Driskel said of his first practice back.

“I wasn’t limited at all. I was full-go, didn’t have any pain, no issues. Didn’t get all the reps I would like to because I’m still in the acclimation period, so I couldn’t be out there in pads, so there was a couple things I couldn’t do. But other than that, I wasn’t limited.”

According to NCAA rules, Driskel must return to practice by working in shorts for the first two days. He can then move on to two days of practice in shells before putting on the pads for the duration of fall camp.

Driskel spent the previous six days attending meetings, watching film and standing next to coaches during practice. He felt right at home when he put on his red non-contact jersey on Thursday, like nothing had changed during his short time not wearing cleats.

“I didn’t miss too much. I missed six days and feel like I didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “I definitely didn’t like standing there. Practice goes by a lot slower when you’re not involved, that’s for sure. …

“I think I’m up to speed. Second year in the offense, so there’s not really anything I haven’t done yet. I think I’ve done a good job staying alert in the meetings and getting the mental reps. I think I’m good to go.”

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8/8: Gators evaluate each other in practice

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is looking at the start of fall practices.

“IT’S LIKE WE GOT TO PLAY WITH PILLOWS NOW.”

Suffice to say, redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor is not pleased with the NCAA’s new targeting and contact rules that restrict hits in games and allow referees on the field to assess penalties and eject players during games.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s kind of hard. It’s like we got to play with pillows now,” he quipped on Thursday. “[The coaches] tell you. We watch film. If you come through free on a blitz, they tell you that you got to target low. If you got a receiver flying across the middle, we don’t kill them in practice, but they let you know you can’t go targeting his head. I understand they’re trying to make the game safer.”

Taylor does not plan to change the way he plays, however, noting that thinking about the rule could result in mistakes being made on the field.

“I’m just going to react and play,” he said. “You can’t hold back because that’s when you give up plays, you give up big plays, giving up touchdowns. You can’t think when you’re on the field sometimes; you just got to react. So that’s what I feel. That’s all we have to do. And sometimes it’s out of our hands.”

Taylor also explained the message that head coach Will Muschamp conveyed to the team during meetings throughout the offseason.

“He’s telling us: ‘Be smart. Play smart about it. Don’t go running directly into a guy’s helmet. Don’t launch yourself. If you’re going to hit somebody, hit them face-up. Don’t launch yourself into them. If you’re making a tackle, wrap him up like you’re taught in Pop Warner.’”

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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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