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!
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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!
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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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Lerentee McCray making a difference for the Gators on the field and his family off the field

Redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray had a bit of a coming out party for the Florida Gators on Saturday, grabbing his first career interception, causing another with his pass rush and hitting the opposing quarterback hard on two separate occasions.

He was awarded Defensive Player of the Game honors by head coach Will Muschamp on Monday and even earned an honorable mention from the Southeastern Conference for his outstanding efforts.

“Lerentee McCray played an outstanding game. He’s got a great motor, a guy that plays hard all the time. [He caught] a big interception and then caused an interception for Matt Elam later in the game. [He] continues to play well for us, gives us a lot of good rush on the edge,” Muschamp said.

“Lerentee works extremely hard. He is a guy that is always in the weight room, always up with Dan [Quinn] wanting to watch extra film. He does the little things it takes to be successful. It’s very important to him. He’s a passionate guy. He plays hard, plays with great effort. A guy that gives everything he’s got, and it’s really, really important to him playing at Florida.”

Moved into the starting Sam linebacker role as a redshirt junior in 2011, McCray looked to be one of the team’s better defenders early in the season until a shoulder injury knocked him out for the final four games.

Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic saw flashes from McCray last year and is not surprised that he has once again stepped up and played a major role this season.

“He has been doing it all along,” Bostic said. “If he wouldn’t have got hurt last year, he started off the season pretty much playing the best on defense. He had to get hurt; we wish he wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Coming back from the injury, we knew that he was going to be back to the old Lerentee. He just had to get his feet in the ground. He pretty much can do it all – he can drop in coverage, he can rush the quarterback, he’s physical. He’s pretty much everything you want in a player.”

An injury was not the only obstacle McCray has had to overcome. In speaking with the media on Monday, he explained that his family situation has provided plenty of inspiration or him as a football player.

“It definitely motivated me. I have a lot of motivation just coming from the family that I come from. That’s just a little extra motivation,” he said. “My mom, I just come from a single-parent home. My older brother, who I looked up to, went to jail when I was in high school and he’s still locked up to this day. [I] just had to step up and kind of be the man of my house.”

Read the rest of this story on Lerentee McCray…after the break!
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9/15: Florida at Tennessee post-game report

No. 17/18 Florida Gators football (3-0, 2-0 SEC) completed its second-straight come-from-behind victory on Saturday, taking down the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 37-20 on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, TN. After the game head coach Will Muschamp and sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel discussed what occurred on the field and in the locker room.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida has won eight-straight games against Tennessee, the longest winning streak in the series between the two teams. The Gators are 23-19 all-time against the Volunteers and 21-6 since 1976.
» UF won its first game against a ranked opponent since Muschamp took over. Florida was 0-5 previously.
» The Gators are 2-0 when trailing at the half this season after going 0-5 when faced with the same situation last year.
» Florida is 6-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 7-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 50-13 in the second half and 27-0 in the fourth quarter this season.
» Florida’s 37 points were the most UF has scored in Knoxville since 1984.
» The Gators eclipsed 500 yards of total offense (reaching 555) for the first time since registering 520 against Kentucky on Sept. 24, 2011.
» Florida outrushed Tennessee by 253 yards (336-83), their greatest margin since running for 271 more than Kentucky on Sept. 24, 2011.
» Redshirt senior Buck Lerentee McCray notched his first career interception.
» Junior running back Trey Burton totaled 129 yards and two touchdowns. His 80-yard run (for a touchdown) and 32-yard reception were career-longs in each category.

MUSCHAMP’s OPENING STATEMENT

“I’m proud of our guys, coming on the road two weeks in a row in two tough places to play. Really poised at halftime again, no bickering, finger-pointing. It’s what we need to do to get this thing going. We need to give the offense more possessions in the first half. Third down was a killer for us defensively again. We had tight coverage. I’m going to give these guys credit now – they can throw the football. You look at some of the balls they threw in and completed. [Cordarrelle] Patterson and [Justin] Hunter are two outstanding players. [Mychal] Rivera the tight end is a guy and [Tyler] Bray was really on fire early, really made some nice, nice throws. A bunch of those on third down we had the match-ups we wanted in most situations.

“As the game wore on, I felt like we were winning the line of scrimmage. I think obviously our rushing yardage with [330+ yards], when you do that you’re going to win games. And we were able to do that in the ballgame. No turnovers offensively was critical and then defensively two turnovers for 14 points. So we’ve kind of flipped ourselves in the first three games a little bit on turnover margin; still need more on defense.

“I really think the pivotal turning point in the game was winning the line of scrimmage, first of all, but secondly that brilliant fake punt I ran at midfield and then we go three-and-out and then the next play 80 yards with Trey Burton. We felt like we had the counter on the backside. It was blocked beautifully. They overpursued the speed sweep. Trey cut it backside and out-ran them. Very resilient for our kids. They overcome coaching an awful lot, and I think in that situation they certainly did. I think that was a huge, huge turning point. [...]

“What we gave them they earned. We didn’t play much zone tonight. It was some pattern match and man-to-man. And we pressured and we tried to get after the quarterback. We only had one sack but I know we had some solid collisions with him. A little disappointed with how they ran the ball early in the game. Just pleased with the effort overall. Our guys did a nice job. Continue to play hard, continue to develop our identify as a team and a program. Not where we need to be but certainly better than we’ve been.”

DRISKEL STEPPING UP

Read the rest of what Muschamp and Driskel had to say…after the break!
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