9/23: Muschamp talks injuries, rushers, Kentucky

No. 19/20 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers and his team’s upcoming road game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 28. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPNU.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp announced that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel’s surgery, originally scheduled for Sunday, will instead be performed on Wednesday. Driskel broke his right fibula during Saturday’s game and will have a plate inserted in the leg. “Again, very disappointed for Jeff. It’s part of the game, but it’s very difficult to deal with. Really hurt for him and his family and for us as a football team,” he said.

One other serious injury occurred as redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson, who missed all of 2012 due to injury, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot and will probably miss 1-2 weeks. “I’m disappointed for Colin. He was starting to really progress and do well for us,” Muschamp said. “He’s had some issues with his foot; this is a different issue with his foot. It’s something that has not happened before.”

Three other Gators were injured Saturday but each is expected to be active for Saturday’s game. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr hurt his shoulder and will miss practice on Monday but should be back Tuesday or Wednesday. Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who sat out the first two games of the season with a torn pectoral, got poked in the eye early Saturday and had three stitches after the game. “He’s going to be fine for this week. I’ll tell you, a tough young man he is to play through that,” Muschamp said. Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was also knocked from the game after being hit hard on a kickoff return; he was later diagnosed with a thigh contusion and was back at practice running on Sunday.

As for the three Florida players that missed the Tennessee game, Muschamp believes two will be healthy enough to play at Kentucky. Junior CB Marcus Roberson (knee) ran well Sunday and will be back at practice Tuesday, and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) will also be back in action Tuesday. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers, who injured his ankle during practice on Wednesday, was listed as “doubtful” and will likely be out at least one if not two weeks.

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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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8/5: 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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Florida Gators 2013 post-spring depth chart

Below is the 2013 post-spring practice version of the Florida Gators depth chart. Though some fans will be excited to see where the team stacks up below, head coach Will Muschamp cautions each year that feeling that way is not worth the energy.

Muschamp makes it quite clear that he does not put a lot of stock into depth charts, even those that are published after spring practice is over. In fact, back in 2011 and again on Wednesday, he stated it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.” In other words, the depth chart seen here is just a starting-off point for 2013 and plenty can change between now and the start of the season.

Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on April 24. Notations marked with (») denote changes from the pre-spring depth chart released March 12. Players marked with (*) were out for all or most of spring practice.

OGGOA will update this post with more from Muschamp shortly.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 10 Tyler Murphy
» Murphy inches ahead of 17 Skyler Mornhinweg for the No. 2 job.
RB: 24 Matt Jones, 33 Mack Brown
» Brown understandably inches ahead of freshman 21 Kelvin Taylor.~
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
» Ajagbe wins the second-string job over 29 Rhaheim Ledbetter.
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 13 Latroy Pittman, 4 Andre Debose, 83 Solomon Patton
» Debose switches from second X to second Z receiver though the players switch in those positions. Pittman takes over the top spot at Z from 15 Loucheiz Purifoy.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook OR 18 Kent Taylor OR 84 Colin Thompson

~ Muschamp on Brown edging past Taylor: “You’re not going to get through the SEC with one back. That’s not going to happen. Certainly Mack has distanced himself as a second-team back at this time, a guy that we’ve got a lot of confidence in, that we expect big things form in the fall to continue to progress. I think he’s done a nice job of running the football, and protections, catching the ball, finishing plays. Kelvin certainly has done some nice things and he needs to continue to progress – more than anything- mentally with the offense. Physically, he’s got some ability.”

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 74 Trenton Brown
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 77 Ian Silberman*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 63 Trip Thurman*
RT: 73 Tyler Moore OR 75 Chaz Green*
» Brown (an incoming JUCO transfer) replaces Thurman, who moves from back-up LT to back-up RG. Silberman replaces Koehne at back-up LG.

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2013 Florida Gators Orange & Blue Debut Review

With the 2013 Orange & Blue Debut now officially in the books, OGGOA is here to take a look at what happened Saturday afternoon on Florida Field inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the Florida Gators spring game practice and how head coach Will Muschamp felt about the team and his players after the conclusion of the day’s events.

OFFENSE: STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
* Separate story on passing game (quarterbacks, wide receivers) to be posted Sunday.

Running Backs
A starter emerges: Sophomore Matt Jones did not see a lot of action on Saturday by design. Why? Because Jones has played so well throughout the spring that he has all but officially been named Florida’s starter in the backfield. “Matt has really had an outstanding spring. We have a good comfort level where he is as a player,” Muschamp said. “He’s a physical runner. He understands our protections. He’s got great hands in the throwing game. There’s no question he’s an all-around back. He can do everything for us and he’s shown it to us for 14-straight practices.”

Four-deep with a freshman shining: Behind Jones there are three other players competing for carriers – redshirt junior Mack Brown, freshman Kelvin Taylor and sophomore walk-on Mark Herndon. On Saturday, Brown barely got any carries with the vast majority of snaps going to the latter two players. Unlike Jones, it did not look like the coaching staff was resting Brown. Taylor looked dynamic and Herndon made it quite clear why the coaches have praised him throughout the spring with multiple nice runs including a touchdown scamper from inside the 10-yard line. Though Taylor started slow, he showed nice patience running between the tackles, looked decent in pass protection and showed shiftiness breaking a tackle and moving the ball to the outside. Late in the scrimmage, he had a 15-yard run off-tackle and later scored a red zone touchdown from eight yards out when he stuck the ball over the goal line.

Asked about Taylor after the game, Muschamp gushed about how impressive he has been just 15 practices into his Gators career. “Kelvin’s got a really strong lower body. He runs through contact extremely well. He’s got natural instincts in the run game. You get the turns and reps and [need to learn] the protections and all the things that you got to be able to do for us at running back, but [I’m] extremely pleased with his progress,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very talented runner. Some positions are easier than others to contribute as a freshman. That’s a natural instinct position. You get the guy the ball and let his natural instincts take over and run for daylight. And he can do that. It’s the other things we got to brush up on.”

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Florida defense: Quick hitters on Fowler, Bullard, McMillian, Gorman, Maye and Christy

Over the last week-and-a-half of Florida Gators spring football practice, a number of players met with the media to discuss their individual play and the team as a whole. Below are some of the stories, notes and quotes that have fallen through the cracks.

BIG EXPECTATIONS FOR HIGH-WORK ETHIC DEFENDERS

With so many starters now off the team due to graduation and the draft and redshirt junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell still recovering from his ACL injuries, Florida head coach Will Muschamp is looking to a trio of young players to be impact players for the Gators defense in 2013.

Sophomores Buck Dante Fowler, Jr. and defensive end Jonathan Bullard both impressed as freshman in 2012, combining for 13 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. Each player appeared in all 13 games and earned a start or two but now must take the next step and potentially become full-time starters for Florida. As far as Muschamp is concerned, both have what it takes to do just that for the Gators.

“Football is really important to both of those guys, I mean extremely important. There are guys that come in and meet extra, they watch extra film, they come up after practice if they don’t feel like they played well and they’re going to go in a meeting room with a coach or myself and say show me what I’m doing,” Muschamp explained.

“Dante walks up to me every single day and says, ‘What can I do to get better?’ It starts, to me from a maturity standpoint, of off the field understanding what it takes to be successful. A lot of guys, when they are a dominant player in high school, come to college and they’ve never had to work hard, never had to watch extra film, never had to do the extra things to be successful.

“That’s what those two guys do. They work extremely hard at being good football players. God has blessed them; they got ability. But you can walk in the weight room and see how they work; you walk on our practice field and see how they work. They’ve got tremendous work ethic away from just having good talent. That’s the difference in those guys. They’re both mature guys from that standpoint because they want to be really good players.”

Fowler, who said Tuesday that he knows there are “a lot of high expectations” and he is “looking forward to living up to them,” is excited for the season to begin. He has heard all about players making their biggest leap heading into their second year and believes he is posied to continue that trend.

“I feel really good getting my freshman year under my belt, getting to play a lot of reps and experience. I feel really good about that. I feel a lot stronger being able to play against the offensive lineman,” he said. “Getting that experience, just knowing the game and stuff like that, being more mature about the game. I feel really good.”

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