10/17: Quinn evaluates Gators defenders

No. 2 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss some of the individual players on his unit as the team prepares for another tough home game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.

» On senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic and how he has improved: “Jon is really playing physical. I think you saw that over the last few weeks in his game, not just in terms of how he’s taking on blocks but the way he can tackle. He’s always had very good football smarts and real command of the defense. I think his leadership skills are improving as he’s moving forward and that’s natural progression as a senior when you’ve been playing and have the experience. The one thing that stands out to me is his physical nature.”

» On if injured junior Buck LB Ronald Powell could have played like Jadeveon Clowney and Barkevious Mingo this year: “I really thought Ronald this spring had a terrific spring. Each practice you kind of saw him grow and take steps forward. It is going to be important for him to take that step because I really do feel like, yeah, he would have been mentioned with those guys. The improvement from last fall through the spring, it was really significant for Ronald.”

» On what junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd needs to improve in his game to play at the next level: “It’s going to be pad level as an inside player and his inside pass rush as a defensive tackle. At the line of scrimmage, really that’s where you win the most, when you can play underneath a guy. It’s something that, the inside guys, you harp on all the time whether you’re in high school or college or even in the NFL. If you have your pads underneath a guy and you can play him and consistently see it on tape, you’re usually going to win more matchups than you’re going to lose.”

» On why Florida has been more successful turning the ball over on defense compared to a year ago: “Although we emphasized it last year, maybe [now] the players to each other are emphasizing it more. As you know, when another teammate is telling you or reminding you, maybe that is a little different voice than a coach. When it comes from a player or another teammate – that adds value, too.”

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10/10: Quinn, players talk defensive improvement

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including how it is preparing for the upcoming road game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday at 6 p.m. A handful of Florida players spoke on Tuesday about LSU and their teammates.

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH

When head coach Will Muschamp hired Jeff Dillman as the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, he cited Dillman’s similar mindset and personality as two reasons why he felt that it would be a perfect fit. Just a handful of games into the 2012 season, it is looking like Muschamp made a superb hire, especially when one considers how similar the two men are in their persona and work ethic.

“Both high-energy, a lot of passion for what they do. They both bring it every day,” Quinn said.

Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins, whose improved play has been a revelation for the Gators, said Wednesday that Dillman has done wonders for the players’ focus.

“[Dillman’s changed] our mentality as football players,” he said. “He coached us to be more physical in everything we do and before we had a lot of speed, so that’s pretty much what we worked on a lot.”

Muschamp has been preaching physicality since he arrived at UF, but he has also been known for his consistent high energy, another characteristic that Dillman shares.

“He’s always like that and that’s the best thing about him,” Watkins said of Muschamp. “He’s always genuine with us. It feels good to know your coach is right there with you celebrating.”

IT’S A TEAM EFFORT

Florida’s entire defense, a unit ranked eighth nationally one year ago, has still managed to take a big leap in season two, one which Quinn believes is fueled by the physicality that the players exhibit in each and every game.

“I thought we played with real toughness at the line of scrimmage. It was an area of emphasis for us for the game,” he said of the Gators’ effort on Saturday. “When we talk about that [with] that group, they have pride in how they do it. So I wasn’t surprised in that way and how they performed on the line.”

He also thinks it helps that the defense plays together as a unit instead of individual players trying to stand out by making highlight plays. “I think the best player on our defense is our defense,” Quinn added. “We don’t need one guy to feel like, ‘Man, if he doesn’t do it, we’re not going to be able to make it.’ We have a number of guys that we feel can make plays on our defense. I think that’s good.”

Muschamp estimated on Monday that Florida has only missed seven total tackles over its last three games, an impressive stat considering some teams have whiffed on as many as 20 in a single contest this season. Watkins explained Wednesday why that has been the case for the Gators.

“Our mental approach,” he said. “Last year, I don’t think we took tackling as seriously. We didn’t really realize how much a missed tackle can hurt the game. This year when we’re doing the tackling drills, we actually lock in and take it serious.”

Florida has also greatly reduced its discipline penalties, an area that really killed the team early in the season. Quinn discussed how the Gators have succeeded in making such a vast improvement in that category.

“Yeah, we have cut down on that. [Knocks on wood] It’s something – you get what you emphasize. It’s something that has been a big emphasis for us, and we just stay consistent in terms of message,” he said. “We have the officials at practice. They throw the flag. Each day at practice we try to create as many game-like situations as we can to let them know that you can’t line-up offsides, you can’t jump, illegal contact or whatever the penalty might have been.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Quinn on how to defend a mobile quarterback: “Certainly it’s a challenge when you play a mobile QB in terms of the different things that they can do. Not only do they have a mobile QB, they also have a quarterback running game package where there’s some direct quarterback runs and those kind of things. You have to do a really good job setting the edges because sometimes when you face a guy that has the speed to get outside, he’ll break contain and try to create a play that way.”

» Quinn on sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy: “He adds a lot to our team, even form a special teams standpoint the way he can cover. […] He was certainly one guy we highlighted in terms of the way he played on teams. He does carry a lot for us.”

» Quinn on if redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins will be able to play on Saturday: “We’re pushing Jelani as hard as we can to get him ready to play. We certainly need him to. We’re taking it day-by-day. We’re hoping to have Jelani available for us.”

» Watkins on Florida playing with swagger and intimidation: “Last year, I feel like teams tried to do that to us more. This whole summer we thought about that and it’s always in the back of our hands that we won’t be the ones to be intimidated this year.”

» Watkins on which players help energize and motivate the defense:Matt Elam. He brings a different type of energy to the defense. If he’s down, I feel like the whole defense will be down. But when he’s up and he’s going, everybody will play around him. And Lerentee McCray, too. He and Matt Elam kind of have the same personality – that bad boy persona on- and off-the-field. And it works for them on the field. [Dominique] Easley is in his own category.”

» Senior linebacker Jon Bostic on his celebration penalty: “It was just really exciting for Matt to come up and set the tempo. I didn’t think it was too much, but I guess the ref did. That was a big play for us. We really saw that as one of those setting-the-tempo type plays.”

» Redshirt senior guard James Wilson on coming back to be a major part of the offensive line: “There was a little bit of doubt, but if there was any more doubt than that I would have hung up my pads. Scout team last year was pretty low. That didn’t feel good. We got a whole new change of offensive coaches and they saw what I could do. I’ll just say that these coaches believe in me more than coaches of the past.”

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James Franklin incredibly impressed with Florida

Speaking with the media on Monday during his weekly press conference, Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin spent five uninterrupted minutes praising the No. 4/6 Florida Gators and explaining how difficult of an opponent he believes his team is going to be facing in their home game on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Nashville, TN.

Franklin’s full comments on Florida (highlights underlined)…after the break!
Continue Reading » James Franklin incredibly impressed with Florida

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10/3: Quinn thinks defense can only get better

No. 10/11 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including its personnel as well as how it is preparing for Saturday’s game against the No. 4/3 LSU Tigers.

IT CAN ALWAYS GET BETTER

Florida may be rolling into Saturday’s showdown ranked No. 17 nationally in total defense (305.00 yards per game) and No. 10 in scoring defense (12.75 points per game), but the team is bested by LSU in both categories (fourth at 217.80 YPG and ninth at 12.60 points per game, respectively).

As far as Quinn is concerned, the Gators have plenty of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball. And on Wednesday he detailed the areas in which he thinks the unit can improve.

“From a coverage standpoint, I think there’s been some good matchups in terms of how the guys are playing routes and that way. From a communications standpoint on the back end, we would like to still see that improve where you play some no-huddle teams that move fast and that type of thing,” he explained. “In the run game, I’d like to see that area squared up at the line of scrimmage where we just didn’t maybe fit a run exactly like we needed to. And then the final phase for our area of improvement is getting the ball back.”

Florida’s 1.25 turnover margin (seven gained, two lost) is 18th best nationally. UF being able to take the ball away from LSU, which has coughed up the ball eight times already this season, could go a long way in helping fuel the upset.

THUMBS UP AT LINEBACKER

As head coach Will Muschamp announced during the weekly SEC teleconference on Wednesday, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins returned to practice and has been cleared for game action on Saturday. Quinn said that Jenkins is already relatively comfortable with the cast he is wearing on his thumb (some of his other fingers are free) and is once again bringing experience and talent to the defense.

“I think the more they have it on, you kind of get used to it. It might be harder the first time you go out and practice. I think he would absolutely take it over not playing, so it’s good to have him back,” he said. “Through practice this week I’ve been pleased with what we’ve seen from him.”

Jenkins returning to the lineup means that linebackers redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor and freshman Antonio Morrison will see fewer reps than they have been used to over the last two-plus games. Quinn is still confident that they will be able to contribute plenty this week.

“With the other guys who backed him up, I really have a lot of trust in those guys, in Mike an Antonio. In that way, no differentiation for us with whose in the game,” he said. “I think what Jelani adds in experience and playmaking ability, he adds value for us and we certainly need to get him in there. But we’ll certainly still play Mike and Antonio in the ball game.”

STEPPING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter claimed on Tuesday that winning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week following the Kentucky game was not a big deal for him. However, the award was indicative of the vast improvement he has made this season, going from underperforming reserve to the fourth-leading tackler on the team. Quinn said Wednesday that Hunter’s improved strength and pop off the ball has made a major difference this season.

“His practice preparation leading up into Kentucky, into the bye week and going into LSU week – he’s been really practicing well. His pad level, his hand placement, all the things you’re looking for in a defensive tackle he’s been doing in practice. And that’s why, for him, it’s carried over into the game,” he noted.

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Gators LB Jenkins cleared to practice in cast

Florida Gators redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins, who broke his thumb in week two action against Texas A&M and has missed his team’s last two games, will return to practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, head coach Will Muschamp announced while appearing on Sports Radio 1010XL in Jacksonville, FL on Friday afternoon.

A veteran defender who registered five tackles and a sack over the first two games of 2012, Jenkins attended his scheduled meeting with a specialist on Friday and had the surgically-inserted pin removed from his thumb.

Muschamp said on Wednesday that trainers were “optimistic” about Jenkins being able to play against LSU though he would have to do so in some form of a cast. He confirmed Friday that Jenkins will be allowed to return to practice on Tuesday or Wednesday to see how he handles playing with a large cast on his hand.

His pain and comfort levels will determine if and how much he plays next weekend.

“I certainly hope [he can play],” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said on Wednesday. “He provides some real speed for us on the field. I think the guy’s a terrific blitzer. He can certainly match up, tight end-wise, covering when we get into our nickel package. And then just his experience playing linebacker, I don’t think you can overlook that.”

Muschamp, who spent Friday in Jacksonville recruiting before appearing on the radio, is set to attend the Glades Day-Yulee high school football game in the evening. The contest features two of the best 2013 running backs in the state – four-star Florida commitment Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and four-star Alabama pledge Derrick Henry (Yulee, FL).

Asked during his interview about his relationship with former Gators RB Fred Taylor, Kelvin’s birth father who is set to be inducted into the Jacksonville Jaguars’ ring of honor on Sunday, Muschamp said the two go way back.

“He’s a great Gator. I consider him a friend. He’s a guy that’s come and spoke to our football team on several occasions and just gets real with them,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had to tackle him when I was a senior and he was a freshman. I didn’t come in on the good end of that. I was on the long list of people he ran over.”

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9/26: Muschamp, Pease, Quinn speak during bye

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, offensive coordinator Brent Pease and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn all met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the bye week and the team’s upcoming game against LSU on Sat., Oct. 6.

INJURY UPDATES

Junior running back Trey Burton (back spasms), redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (sprained ankle) and junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee inflamation) are all “doing very well,” according to Muschamp, and are expected to be able to play against LSU.

Additionally, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (broken thumb) will see a specialist on Friday and have the surgically-inserted pin removed from this thumb. Muschamp said team trainers are “optimistic” about him being able to play next Saturday, but he will have to do so initially in a cast. His pain and comfort levels, should he receive doctor approval, would determine if and how much he plays.

“I certainly hope [he can play],” Quinn said. “He provides some real speed for us on the field. I think the guy’s a terrific blitzer. He can certainly match up, tight end-wise, covering when we get into our nickel package. And then just his experience playing linebacker, I don’t think you can overlook that.”

Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) and junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) will both sit out vs. LSU as they are expected to each be out a couple more weeks.

WAITING FOR DEBOSE…

Redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose has yet to put forth the consistent effort that the coaching staff expects. After touching on their issues with him a bit last week, Muschamp and Pease were asked about him again Wednesday. Muschamp, responding specifically to a question about Debose as a punt returner, said he needs to field the ball better but it is really up to the rest of the players on the field to block better for him. Pease had this to say on Debose’s performance up to this point:

“He’s got to get comfortable and do it consistently with what we’re doing in the offense. And there’s a trust. There’s a trust factor there. You go out there, you’re going to run the right route. You’re going to do it hard, whether you’re covered or not. Because sometimes running a route, it isn’t always built for you. Depending on what the coverage does, you’ve got to open it up for other players if they double-team you or play a cloud coverage over the top of you and you’ve got to stretch the safeties. If you don’t do that, you hurt your teammates. So it’s just a combination of being consistent, understanding, playing effort all the way through because as a receiver, you’re covered at times. You have to compete. You have to continue to try and get yourself open. You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m covered. I’m done running my route,’ and stop running. That’s unacceptable.”

DRISKEL PROGRESSING NICELY

For a second-year quarterback with only three SEC starts under his belt, sophomore Jeff Driskel continues to stand out (in a positive way) for Pease. He said Wednesday that the way Driskel has progressed has, in some ways, been quicker than a number of other signal callers he has coached throughout his career.

“Some of the guys I’ve worked with, he is ahead of what they’ve done on a week-to-week basis,” he said. “Sometimes it’s maybe right on par. I don’t think he’s behind anybody because I think each week he’s done a better job.”

Pease also said he is very pleased with how Driskel, a mobile quarterback, has been able to hang in the pocket and not rely on his legs to get him out of jams. “One of the things I think he’s done a really great job of is just his comfort zone in the pocket, trusting the protection and starting to use his feet when he has to. He hasn’t mastered it by any means, but he’s gotten a lot better at it on a week-to-week basis,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on if he would be a proponent of NFL-style injury reports for college teams: “No, I wouldn’t be for that. […] That’s not going to work on our level.”

» Muschamp listed a number of true freshmen who have not played much (or at all) this season but are doing well in practice recently: defensive linemen Alex McCalister and Quinteze Williams, guard Jessamen Dunker, TE Kent Taylor, DB Brian Poole, WR Raphael Andrades, QB Skyler Mornhinweg and walk-on RB Mark Herndon.

» Expanding on a statement from Monday, Muschamp said that depth at defensive line has allowed players to see 12-20 fewer snaps per game, which is making a huge difference in their energy and performance late in the game. “When you talk about another 15-18 snaps to a 300+ pounder, it takes its wear and tear on them. And then you’re also taking on a double team with their guard and tackle for a combination of 700 pounds for another 2-3 more power plays. It makes a huge difference,” he said.

» Pease on an aspect of the game in which the offense may be ahead of the curve: “I think our balance in what we can do, run and pass, and how productive we’ve been with it. Guys are really fitting into being productive, being playmakers in the offense.”

» Pease on LSU being a measuring stick for Florida: “Oh, absolutely. They’re good. This is a defining moment to see where we’re at, who we’ve got to play and how well we got to play.”

» Pease on the play of redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar: “Q’s done a great job. He is getting comfortable with everything. His practice habits have started to carry over more to the game. He’s getting a good feel. The thing about it is, when that happens, these guys as young as they are, when they have fun but they’re still competing, you can see that stuff carries over. When you’re not having fun and it’s not working, you’re probably not going to be doing it on Saturdays. Well, that’s not him. He’s smiling, having fun. He’s making plays on third down, makes blocks; he’s out there competing.”

» Quinn on preparing to face LSU: “When you talk about SEC play, it kind of gets you fired up. There’s a great game for us coming up, and it’s exactly why you come to Florida as a player and as a coach to have opportunities to play and coach in games like this.”

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9/22: Florida vs. Kentucky post-game report

No. 14 Florida Gators football (4-0, 3-0 SEC) started slow but eventually blew past the Kentucky Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, FL, shutting out the visitors 38-0 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. After the game, head coach Will Muschamp and sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel discussed the contest.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida has won 26-straight games against Kentucky, tying a SEC record for longest one-sided winning streak in league history. UF is 46-17 all-time against UK, 26-4 in The Swamp and 32-1 overall since 1980.
» The Gators are 7-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 8-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points.
» Florida is outscoring opponents 64-13 in the second half and 34-0 in the fourth quarter through four games in 2012.
» The Gators have outscored the Wildcats by at least 30 points in last five meetings.
» Florida registered its first shutout since Sept. 10, 2011 (Alabama-Birmingham) and first conference shutout since Sept. 29, 2001 (Mississippi State).
» The Gators have started the season 4-0 for the fourth-straight year.
» Florida won the time of possession battle by 15:22, more than a full quarter.
» UF nearly doubled UK in total offense (403-219) and more than tripled their opponent in passing offense (203-60).
» The Gators registered three interceptions in the second quarter, marking the first time the team has picked off three passes in a single quarter since Nov. 25, 2006.

INJURY UPDATES
Noticeably absent from Saturday’s game was junior running back Trey Burton, who Muschamp said at halftime had suffered back spasms on Friday and was held out of action. Muschamp expanded on those co
mments after the game.

“Trey Burton came in Friday morning with back spasms. We worked on him all day Friday, Friday night, into this morning. We did everything we could do but every time he planted on his right foot he had pain shooting up his right hip. That’s all it was,” he said.

Muschamp added that Burton did have some back spasm issues in 2011 but that the problem came out of nowhere on Friday and the staff had not seen any prior indications of him being unable to play.

Redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and junior defensive end Dominique Easley (knee inflammation) were both held out again though Muschamp specifically said he expects Easley to return against LSU on Oct. 6.

Junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (shoulder) were both dinged up during the game with neither returning to the field after being hurt. Muschamp said Floyd had a stinger on his shoulder and should be fine while Reed was unable to regain full range of motion right away and sat out as a precaution.

Read the rest of what Muschamp and Driskel had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 9/22: Florida vs. Kentucky post-game report

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9/19: Quinn on depth improving the defense

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics concerning his unit including how it is preparing for the upcoming home game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday at 12:21 p.m.

DEPTH HAS MADE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE

Florida’s 2011 defense was nothing to sneeze at, especially considering it concluded the season ranked eighth in total defense nationally. However, the Gators struggled grabbing turnovers, rushing the quarterback and remaining effective deep into games. That has changed in 2012 as Florida now boasts a +3 turnover margin, has been able to get much more pressure overall and has held opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter through three games.

Quinn on Wednesday said that the Gators have improved in these areas mostly because of the team’s newfound depth in the defensive front seven.

“We are playing more players as part of our rotation. That’s really by design,” he said. “To finish a game and have some rushers available in the fourth quarter, you need to be able to have a defensive line that’s able to go in there and still have the ability to go do that. For us that’s been part of the plan, to build some depth and be able to have more of a rotation where we can go longer into games and feel like, at the end of the games, we can still have a chance to affect the quarterback. That is one thing we really wanted to address.”

Quinn also noted that the players having “more experience in the system and in games” is important. However, he still feels that having two additional players in the rotation both on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps has really helped his unit the most.

“At the end of the game you really need those guys to win the game at the end. I think it’s an important thing to have and something that we talk about a lot,” he said.

MCCRAY STEPPING UP AS A PLAYMAKER AND LEADER

Redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray was open and honest about his family situation on Monday after coming up big against Tennessee on Saturday with an interception and quarterback pressure that forced another pick.

Quinn heaped some praise on McCray not only for what he is able to accomplish on the field but because of the type of person he is off of it as well.

“Lerentee McCray, for us, is really one of our toughest guys and one of our most emotional leaders and players on our defense,” he said. “He provides a lot of the energy for our team by the way he plays, by the way he rushes. He provides a lot for our defense in terms of leadership, in terms of the way that he carries himself on the field. He adds toughness to our team.

“So, on the field, everything that you’re looking for and the attributes from a rusher and from a player and as a teammate you’re really pleased with. And off the field, he’s someone that is really passionate about football and wants to do better and ‘Let’s watch extra [film],’ and ‘Let’s do more.’ In the locker room, a good teammate, and then on the field you can really count on him not only for his energy but because he is tough and he brings it all the time.”

Quinn also said that McCray is partly responsible for the heavy sense of brotherhood that the defense (and team as a whole) has developed this season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On how sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson handled some of his struggles early in the game: “I’ll give credit, number one, to Tennessee and to their receivers who made some plays. There were some times when it was really good, tight coverage and they threw a good ball and completed it. At corner, as you know, there’s going to be some balls completed on you. You got to be able to battle and compete and trust your technique and go back at it the next play. I expected him to do that, and he did.”

» On most of the defense’s penalties being caused by aggression: “Really the penalties we kind of talk about them when they’re undisciplined ones – a false start or a flagrant one where you might have grabbed a facemask where you didn’t need to. Those kinds of things, for us, are the ones that we got to get out of our system that we talk about. We put them on film; we walk through them again. If there was a bang-bang play that could have gone either way on a penalty, we generally don’t’ go overboard on those – especially during the game.”

» On having an extra five minutes in college for halftime: “It is a really big difference. You think, ‘Well why would five minutes make such a difference?’ But it really does seem to make a difference at times. […] It is a big difference. I know it would seem small – just five minutes – but it really is a big difference.”

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