TWO BITS: Senior Bowl, transfer destinations

1 » A pair of Florida Gators – redshirt seniors running back Chris Rainey and defensive tackle Jaye Howard – have officially accepted invitations to participate in the 2012 Senior Bowl, the organization announced on Wednesday. The duo will play on the South roster and are the only Florida players currently invited/committed to the event. “It feels good. I know a lot of great players have come to this game and I’m glad I’m invited and hope to do the best that I can to compete with the other greats,” Rainey said in the event’s official release. “The first thing I’m going to tell the scouts and coaches is that I want to be on special teams. They are going to have to set up some scheme for me to block a punt or do whatever they want me to do on special teams, because I love special teams and that’s the number one thing that wins games.”

Howard said he is playing in the game because he wants to “prove that I’m one of the elite defenders in this class this year and it’s a business trip for me.” He continued, “I’m quick, I can run all over the field and chase plays down. I want to prove that I can play several positions on the defensive line, not just d-tackle. I can play the end, nose guard—everything on the d-line, so I can bring that to a system.” The Senior Bowl will be played on Jan. 28 and air live on NFL Network beginning at 4 p.m. Practices will also be televised during the week leading up to the game on the same network.

2 » Four former Gators who decided to transfer this season have already chosen their new destinations, according to various reports. Defensive back Joshua Shaw has chosen to head closer to home (Palmdale, CA) and picked UCLA where he will sit out a season per NCAA transfer rules, while linebacker Dee Finley announced that he will play for Tuskegee, a HBCU, beginning next year. Two Florida players are expected to be heading to Louisville to play for former UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Tight end Gerald Christian told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he will be going to Louisville, while multiple reports over the last two weeks have wide receiver Robert Clark planning to join him. Like Shaw, each will have to sit out one year due to NCAA transfer regulations and will be eligible to play beginning in 2013.

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Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Finley, Marotti, Tebow, Brewer

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Dee Finley confirmed to OGGOA Thursday night that he has chosen to transfer and finish his collegiate football career with the Division II North Alabama Lions. Finley, who decided to leave Florida on Oct. 12, will return to his home state and attend a school just four hours north of his hometown. Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins transferred to play for the Lions after being dismissed before the season by head coach Will Muschamp and has done very well during his time at North Alabama this year.

2 » Two former Florida players have told OGGOA over the last couple of days that Gators strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti is indeed headed to Columbus, OH to team up once again with head coach Urban Meyer at his new post with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Despite reports that Meyer was also after linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin, OGGOA has learned that Durkin plans to stay put and remain with Florida for 2012. However, as the Columbus Dispatch noted on Thursday, Meyer is also interested in bringing over UF wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill. Hill joined the Gators staff under Muschamp after Meyer left.

3 » Former Florida teammates quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin will do battle this weekend when their respective teams – the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings – do battle this week on the NFL gridiron. Harvin, who obviously has plenty of experience playing with Tebow, has been helping Minnesota game plan this week for the Heisman Trophy winner. The Vikings are using backup QB Joe Webb as a Tebow clone in practice in an effort to stop the Tebow train and (5-1 as a starter this year) and lead Minnesota to just its third victory of the season. The Vikings, however, have the ninth-ranked run defense in the league, so Tebow and broncos head coach John Fox may have to use his arm to succeed this week.

4 » After bouncing around between a number of teams of last season, former Gators forward Corey Brewer hopes to have found a more permanent home with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. While head coach Rick Carlisle told Brewer that he is pleased with his effort, rebounding and ability to attack the basket, he pointed out that Brewer must improve his jump shot going forward. “We were shooting a lot trying to get my jump shot to be consistent,” Brewer said in mid-November, according to ESPNDallas.com. “All the other things I do well, but I need to be a consistent jump-shooter, especially in our offense. The way we pass the ball you get a lot of open shots.” Brewer may not have done much to help Dallas win last season, but he hopes to be an integral part of the team winning its second title in 2011-12. “I always felt like this was a good move for my future. We have a lot of guys that are aging and I feel like I’d get a chance to come here and help,” he added. “I was happy to be on the team last year and I helped as much as I could, but I knew I wasn’t going to get much time. But now, it’s a new year.”

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S Shaw, DE Trail to transfer from Florida Gators

Two more Florida Gators football players – redshirt freshmen safety Joshua Shaw and defensive end Lynden Trail have decided to leave the program, The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley confirmed Tuesday.

Both four-star recruits from Florida’s heralded 2010 recruiting class, Shaw and Trail are the 10th and 11 players to depart since head coach Will Muschamp took over.

“We wish Lynden and Josh the best of luck in the future and we certainly appreciate their contributions to the football program,” Muschamp said in a school release.

Shaw registered 22 tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup in 10 games this year, while Trail never saw the field and did not even dress for the vast majority of contests.

“I have enjoyed my time at Florida but I feel like I need to be closer to my family right now,” Shaw said in the same school release. “This is not a football decision, this is a family decision. I need to be with my family.”

Each player came into the program with a previous relationship. Shaw (Palmdale, CA) was close to and from the same state as sophomore defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, CA), and Trail attended the same high school as redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (Booker T. Washington).

“I have decided that I would like to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Trail said. “I want to thank the fans and Gator Nation for their support. I’ll always be a Gator at heart.”

Trail also wrote about his decision on his Twitter account Tuesday.

GATORNATION I LOVE YALL AND LOVED ALL YALL SUPPORT I LOVED THE COACHES MY TEAMMATES AND THE STUDENTS HERE ONCE A GATOR ALWAYS A GATOR <3

[and]

I have nothing negative to say about UF I LOVE THE PROGRAM THE STUDENTS THE FRIENDS I MADE AND OVERALL THE FANS #GATORNATION

The duo join DE Chris Martin, WR Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely, tight end Michael McFarland, linebacker Dee Finely, TE Gerald Christian and WR Robert Clark as players who transferred this season. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team following two marijuana arrests in less than 90 days.

Additionally, redshirt junior offensive lineman Daivd Young announced that he plans to graduate and will not participate in his final year of eligibility. Young saw action in all 12 games so far this season.

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10/12: Quinn focuses attention on defensive line

As the Florida Gators prepare for their second-straight road game on Oct. 15 against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss last week’s game and the team’s upcoming contest.

DEFENSIVE LINE NEEDS TO STEP UP, BIG TIME

If this headline looks the familiar, it should, because it is unchanged from Quinn’s meeting last week. Speaking Wednesday about the area in which the defense must show the greatest improvement going forward, Quinn admitted he was disappointed with the defensive line and how it has performed over the last two weeks. “Us and our staff take a lot of pride in the way we play run defense. Certainly when one of the things that you really are counting on to be a backbone of your core, and you don’t play the technique quite as well as you want, certainly there was some frustration there,” he said.

One player in particular – sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd – earned some praise from Quinn, though he did not offer up much for the rest of the unit. “Floyd would have been one that stood out and had a better performance than the week before. Overall one of the things we’re really emphasizing is getting our hands and getting knock backs and separation – really moving back the line of scrimmage. It’s such an important part of playing defensive line. It’s something we’ve emphasized from the time we’ve gotten here,” he said.

“As as whole unit, there may be certain guys here and there that shined to us, but it was a tough performance for all of us and not a lot to pull from to be honest with you. We didn’t single anybody out necessarily that stood out to us one way or another.”

PICKING UP POWELL

One man who was expected to be a big playmaker for Florida’s defense, sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell, has been relatively quiet the last three weeks after helping force two interceptions with his pass rush against Tennessee. Quinn on Wednesday expressed his disappointment with Powell’s production lately.

“At that position we certainly want the production to be higher,” he said. “When the rush opportunities are there, converting faster into your rush. [The] technique of edge setting when we’re playing that way. I wouldn’t say it’s one thing. It’s something we’re working on daily in practice with him. In pass rush, it’s all about our get-off with him. In the run game, the outside guy has to set the edge. It’s a daily thing with he and a lot of the guys to say how are we going to play our brand of football better.”

Quinn was quick to note that changing Powell’s position to less of a hybrid role was not under consideration at this time. “He’s in the right spot for the system. What we’re looking for at that spot is a guy who has speed and length and he certainly has those two,” he said. “For him, like a lot of our guys, it’s just a function of us playing better. The evaluation on him, like a lot of the guys, is nowhere near complete. At that position, along with others, we really need to play better.”

STOPPING OFFENSES AND CREATING TURNOVERS

The main area in which the Gators have struggled over the last two weeks has been stopping the run. Florida’s opponents put up season-high numbers against them, which is not exactly the goal going into the game. Quinn, though he praised Alabama and LSU, did not want to make excuses for the line. “We’ve faced some talented backs and some talented offensive lines. Really it says we’ve got to play a certain way. When you face a good team – whether it’s a good offensive line or a good running back – you really have to be on your technique,” he explained. “It told us, ‘This is where we are today. This is where we have to get to.’ That’s the message I gave to the club. I told them, “These are the errors we made. This is how we’re going to play.’ And we’re working hard to getting back to the style we want to play.”

Quinn also spoke about the team’s inability to get off the field on third downs and how the Gators have been unable to secure a single takeaway in their consecutive losses. “It’s our job to stop them. Some of the times for the long drives we missed a critical third down where maybe we could have got off the field,” he said. “We’re firefighters and let’s go put out the fire. If it’s third down, we got to get off the field. If we didn’t stop it, we had to go another series, then it’s on us to get it stopped and really get the ball. That’s one of the things we’ve been most disappointed about the last few weeks – not creating opportunities for the offense. Zero takeaways for us is really hard to swallow. It’s something we’re working hard at.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Quinn said that an eight-man rotation on the defensive line is optimal.

» On how the linebacker rotation will change with Dee Finley transferring: “Certainly Mike Taylor is the top backup inside behind Jon [Bostic] and Jelani [Jenkins]. We’re kind of working in as we have been the last few weeks Graham Stewart and Juice Johnson.“

» On Finley transferring: “I wish him the best.”

» On preparing for an up-tempo offense like Auburn’s: “It’s not uncommon at times, when you have to prepare for a team that could do some tempo to use two huddles. When a group of five guys go out, maybe the offensive line stays the same and maybe a different set of running backs and receivers comes in. That’s one way to simulate the speed. Certainly our offense has the ability to go in and out of that system as well. For us, being able to go against our offense or try to simulate it in practice was really a critical part of our preparation this week.”

» On how the team has prepared for Auburn’s offense: “The scout guys had a really critical role in this to watch tape together and see how fast the action went. How fast you have to get back to the line of scrimmage. That was really an important part of it.”

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Update: Gators LB Dee Finley will transfer

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley has decided to transfer to another school, the University of Florida officially announced on Wednesday.

“Dee has decided that he would like to pursue other opportunities,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a release. “We wish him the best of luck and we appreciate his time at Florida.”

A four-star defensive back coming out of high school who transferred to the Milford Academy for a year in order to improve his grades and qualify to enroll at UF, Finley was moved to linebacker upon joining the team in 2009.

He appeared in 14 games in his first two seasons, playing in 10 as a freshman but only four as a sophomore. Finley fractured his collarbone against LSU in 2010 and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.

Muschamp praised Finley as a “solid” linebacker and “outstanding” special teamer in the spring, but he has not played much in 2011, slotted as the reserve Will linebacker behind redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins

Finley had played in five of the Gators’ six games this year but has only registered four tackles. He missed one game while serving a suspension after being arrested for driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence.

“Although I’ve enjoyed my time here at Florida, I think it’s best for me to move on and get a fresh start somewhere else,” Finley said in the same release. “I plan on finishing the semester here and concentrating on my academics.”

Finley is the seventh player to leave Florida since Muschamp took over the team. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed following two marijuana rests in less than 90 days. Defensive end Chris Martin, wide receiver Chris Dunkley, WR Javares McRoy, running back Mike Blakely and tight end Michael McFarland transferred.

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10/12: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

With the Florida Gators just days away from their seventh game of the season under head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. against the Auburn Tigers, he spoke during the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to provide some insight about where his team is at going into into week seven action.

FINLEY’s TRANSFER IS NOT OFFICIAL – YET

Though some reports surfaced Tuesday that had redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley already having transferred from the team, Muschamp said Wednesday that it is not official “at this time” because, after meeting with the player, he told him to think about his decision. “Dee and I talked the other night and we’re going to meet again,” he explained. “I told him he needed to take a little time to think about what he wanted to do and where he was in his mind. He and I plan on probably trying to meet today sometime and we’ll address that as we go.”

OPEN COMPETITION FOR QUARTERBACK JOB CONTINUES

For the third-straight day, a Florida coach has declined to name a starting quarterback against Auburn, with Muschamp saying Thursday that freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are both taking nearly equal snaps. “We haven’t made a decision as far as a starter is concerned, but both guys we have a lot of confidence in,” he said.

Ideally, Muschamp would “love for one of them to step forward and be the guy” but due to them being the same age with relatively the same amount of experience, they are way too similar at this juncture in their careers for that to happen so soon. “Their skill set is so similar, so it’s not like we’re having to drastically change what we do when one young man is in the game as opposed to the other,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to work through. Again, I’d love for one of them to step up and play really well and go from there. We will manage that as we roll through the season. I couldn’t think of anybody whose hands it could be in better than Charlie Weis.”

The evaluation of Driskel and Brissett will be an open one though Driskel’s ankle will factor into the equation. To that end, Muschamp said he has bounced back well from missing almost every practice one week ago.

“He’s been doing well. He looked good yesterday when we repped him. I don’t think it’s limiting anything that he’s trying to do,” he said. “You’re just trying to work through an injury. He got some reps last week and he’s trying to get back in and get the reps this week. Again, we’re talking about a freshman. He hasn’t had the amount of turns and reps at the position in the offense as a John Brantley would have. When John misses a practice or so in training camp, he picks it up back the next day and it’s OK. When you’re talking about a freshman, you have a little bit of a drop-off as you go back the next time.”

Muschamp said he’s “got my ideas about what’s going to happen” as far as naming a starter but said it certainly could change after Wednesday’s practice. “We’re going out there today working a lot of red zone and third down and critical situations in the game,” he said. “We got a one-minute drill to win the game, we’ve got some situations that are going to come up in the practice that those guys need to perform well [in].”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On adjusting the offensive philosophy: “We’re going to open some things up a little bit offensively. We need to do that to help our football team.”

» On competition at the quarterback position: “It starts in the meeting room – how well they’re aligning and how well they know what we’re doing and understanding us and our opponent. That’s where it starts. We do have some lifting during the week and how they conduct themselves there. And then on the practice field. Who’s producing? Who’s making plays? Whether it’s a quarterback or any other position. Who are the guys who are making positive plays for the Gators? That’s what I talk about every day. We talk about competition. Those are the things you’re talking about. You’re talking about guys going out and competing every day at positions. Competition makes everybody better. We don’t have enough competition at some spots. That’s what’s been frustrating for me.”

On playing a lot of true freshman: “Any time you have transition there is some natural attrition that happens within the program.”

» On returning to Auburn: “The Auburn people were good to me. I really enjoyed my time there.”

» On the main reasons why Florida has lost consecutive games: “The first thing that I would be disappointed with would be psychologically when John went down in the Alabama game – of how we responded. We didn’t respond very well as a football team. That goes back to mental toughness of understanding that you can’t always control your circumstances but you can control how you handle it. We didn’t handle that very well. Then going into Baton Rouge and playing a very good football team, I don’t know that early in the game we faced adversity if we handled it very well. From there it’s a trickle-down effect to how the game was going and what LSU needed to do to win the game and that was not throw the football. That was just run the football. Over a period of time of not maintaining drives offensively, not getting enough stops defensively, it turns out to be a little bit of what it was.

“The first thing I would talk about as far as my disappointment so far has been handling adversity – handling when things go against you and understanding that, when you play in this league, you’re going to have adversity and you’ve got to learn to handle those situations. It’s a mental toughness factor. It’s an understanding that, when you play in this league, there’s going to be some adversity. You got to learn to handle it and play through it. A little of that goes to youth. Who are your leaders? Who are the guys who are willing to step up and take it by the horns and push forward? It’s not from a lack of effort. We’re getting great effort. All of those things have been very positive. It’s just the psychological part of the game that you got to learn to battle through.”

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9/26: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp and a few players meet with the media each Monday to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

OPENING STATEMENT AND PLAYER AWARDS

Muschamp began his portion of the press conference by commending Florida for a terrific team effort against Kentucky and recapping Saturday’s game.

“[It was the] first road win for us. A SEC victory is always important,” he said. “I felt like offensively when you rush the ball for 400 plus yards that’s always exciting. Two guys went over 100 yards in Jeff [Demps] and Chris [Rainey] but really blocked well up front, played very physical on the line of scrimmage. [We] had a 99-yard drive to be able to flip the field, come off the goal line, obviously the 84-yard run was huge by Jeff. It was well blocked. Our downfield blocking was outstanding in finishing some runs. That’s really what creates explosive runs for you. Defensively we affected the quarterback. We stopped the run. We were 82 percent on third down which is critical on getting off the field. We created four turnovers and had three fourth down stops, which we count as a turnover situation.”

He also handed out his weekly awards, which can be found below along with honors that one Florida player received from the Southeastern Conference:

Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt sophomore tackle Kyle Koehne
Big Play Award: Redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian (45-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Junior linebacker Jon Bostic
Hard Hat Award: Junior safety Josh Evans
Ball Hawk Award: Sophomore S Matt Elam, redshirt freshman LB Michael Taylor, redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard, redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter, redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins
Special Teams Players of the Week: Freshman LB Chris Johnson (coverage)
Scout Team Players of the Week: James Wilson, Mike McNeely, Scott Peek

Howard was also named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.

WEEKLY INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), who has yet to play in 2011, will be the only player out of action for Saturday’s game against Alabama. Redshirt sophomores TE Jordan Reed and wide receiver Andre Debose – both of whom traveled to Kentucky but did not suit up for the game – are healthy and able to return to the field.

Apparently injured on Saturday, redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio is “good” and feeling better, according to Muschamp. Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley also appeared to get dinged up but he said all he felt Monday was some soreness. “I feel good. I took a couple shots bu that happens in football,” he said.

ADVICE FOR ALABAMA DEFENDING DEMPS AND RAINEY

Between Demps and Rainey alone, the Gators rushed for nearly 300 yards on Saturday. Asked how he would negate the speedsters if he was the opposition’s defensive coordinator, Muschamp offered his honest thoughts on the subject.

“I don’t have to, so that’s a good thing,” he joked. “I don’t think there’s one answer for that. That’s something that could take a long time to really talk about. Obviously you’ve got to gain the edges, but we do run the inside zone and some different things that are off-tackle and inside plays. It’s not like it’s only a perimeter run game. You got to get speed on the field.

“Do you match up in nickel or do you match up big people? It’s a little bit of a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ so to speak as far as what you want to do defensively and what you want to try to take away. I don’t know all the answers to that. That’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about as far as our preparation is concerned. You got to look at those two guys and understand they’re doing a lot of things well as far as running, blocking and catching the ball. When you’re talking in terms of defending them, something that has got to hang in your mind is that one missed tackle is pretty costly.”

DOWNFIELD BLOCKING CREATES EXPLOSIVE PLAYS

Rainey’s reverse-field 27-yard run that brought the ball down to Kentucky’s goal line was one of the highlights of the evening. Watching the tape on Sunday, Muschamp said he was glad Rainey’s a Gator and explained that his “great vision” is what “keeps plays alive.” That and the downfield blocking by the receivers and offensive linemen.

“We always talk in terms of our extra effort award on offense is generally some type of downfield blocking. It’s been going to a wideout or an offensive linemen and this week Chris. That’s something that we really talk about because generally explosive runs are created by some sort of downfield blocking on a secondary defender or a linebacker trying to finish a play,” he explained.

“Our players understand the importance of that and they understand the importance of explosive plays. How do those happen? Generally in the run game they happen because of some downfield blocking. They all complement each other very well as far as players are concerned in blocking for each other. It’s part of what we’re preaching as a football team. Be unselfish – don’t be a selfish player. In doing so, that shows a lot of unselfishness as far as our players are concerned.”

One player had a slightly different take on Rainey’s play. “It’s magic. That’s all you can say. I’ve seen him do crazier things than that [in practice],” Jenkins said.

MUSCHAMP’s ENERGY “GETS THE PEOPLE GOING”

Anyone who has watched Muschamp on the sideline this year (or in the past) has obviously noticed how emotional he can be at any given time. Discussing whether or not his players feed off that emotion, Muschamp was unsure but said it did not matter much. “I’m going to be who I am. If it’s working and it’s good than I think it’s good,” he said. “If it’s not then we’ll change and do something different. It’s about being who you are. The worst thing you can do in a leadership position is try to be somebody you’re not.”

Sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd somewhat agreed with Muschamp’s explanation, noting that every player is different. “A good group of us feed off of Coach Muschamp’s emotion. We love it. It gets us going. It wakes us up. It’s amazing to me, actually, watching him pour his emotions out on game day and throughout the week,” he said.

Agreeing with Floyd’s assessment is Jenkins, who believes Muschamp “has the ability to get his team really fired up about going out there and playing,” something that makes him “really enjoy going out there and playing full speed for him.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp was asked if his relationship with Saban is like a “master vs. padawan” thing, a reference about Star Wars. Confused by the reference, Muschamp quipped: “What’s a ‘padawan?’ Huh? I watched Star Wars one and after that I watched Empire Strikes Back. I ain’t see nothing after that. I don’t know what a padawan is. You didn’t call me a bad name, did you? I don’t speak French either.”

» Muschamp on Florida’s three offensive turnovers: “I credit Kentucky there before the half with the nice play on their defensive back. Well-thrown ball by Jeff [Driskel] caught by Frankie [Hammond] – it’s a tough one to hold on to. That was a nice play by Kentucky. The other one we got to have better ball security in the pocket and protection with Jeff. And then Mike [Gillislee] there he’s got to keep that ball high and tight.”

» Muschamp on if his emotional nature ever clashed with Saban: “We’re both intense guys.”

» Muschamp on how the team’s depth at linebacker is doing: “I think Mike [Taylor]’s done some nice things for us in his opportunities. Obviously he was very productive the other night. We’ve got to continue to play better behind that. Dee Finley, Graham Stewart and Chris Johnson [and Darrin Kitchens] have all been guys who have got some opportunities. All of those guys need to continue to progress in order to give us some quality snaps.”

» Muschamp on the recruiting implications of Florida-Alabama: “To me a young man who makes a decision to go to college is not based on one game. It’s going to be based on a body of work – academically, athletically, socially, support system…”

» Muschamp on if the atmosphere will be intense on Saturday: “I hope – I’m sure it’s going to be loud. We got the best fans in the country, so I know they’re going to be excited.”

» Muschamp on how Christian has done in place of Reed: “Very well. Caught the vertical route there down the middle. Very pleased with that. Thought he blocked well. He did a really nice job in the pass game, had a critical third-down conversion coming off their goal line when we were backed up there. I’m very, very pleased with Gerald’s production.”

» Muschamp on Christian temporarily switching positions in the spring: “Gerald’s very intelligent. He can handle a lot. We would not have asked a player to do that who maybe couldn’t have handled it. The bottom line is, the best thing for our football team was for him to play tight end. He plays a little bit of what we play the F – a move position when we’re in 12 personnel – and the on-the-line tight end. He plays two positions offensively and there […] are different assignments on different plays based on what he’s doing. He handles all that very well.”

» Muschamp on how getting Reed back helps the team: “Vertical passing game, he’s a guy that can stretch the field. He’s a guy that blocks well at the point of attack. He’s also a guy that you’ve got to account for in the passing game. He’s an accomplished receiver.”

» Floyd on the importance of the defensive line’s play on Saturday: “I feel like every game we come across it’s going to be defined [by] how we play up front. A lot of teams want to run on us, a lot of teams want to run, so we got to defend the run before we can defend the pass.”

» Easley on being a unique character on- and off-the-field: “I just try to have fun. That’s how I get in my zone, just dancing, that’s how I just have my fun.”

» Easley on what he does that is “wacky” and if Muschamp’s intensity allows him to “get away with” his antics: “To me? Nothing. A lot of people say the Chucky doll is ‘wacky.’ [...] It’s not really me getting away with it. It’s just who I am. I’m just really different.”

Brantley on Muschamp putting less of an emphasis on rivalry games than Urban Meyer did: “There’s certain games that bring the intensity. They mean the same on the schedule – a win’s a win. Different games bring different intensities, but we try to be as intense from game one to game 10.”

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