Friday Final: Roper on quarterbacks, offensive problems; Durkin on fresh faces on defense

In this week’s special edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at what offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin had to say ahead of the team’s fourth Southeastern Conference game.

The Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) return home to host the LSU Tigers (4-2, 0-2 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp addresses recent incidents, prep for LSU
Story: Coaches want Gators’ playmakers to step it up

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Quarterback Jeff Driskel is having a horrible redshirt junior campaign. As a full-time starter, he’s completing a career-low 54.7 percent of his passes and averaging a career-worst 5.0 yards per attempt. He has thrown more interceptions through four games (six) than he did in 13 starters in 2012 (five).

Simply put, Driskel has regressed in a major way, and there should be no doubt whatsoever that confidence is the biggest factor in his decline. While Roper understands what is wrong with Driskel, he does not see a player struggling with confidence or poise.

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10/4: Florida-Tennessee post-game report

A come-from-behind victory fueled by a first-year signal caller led the Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) to a hard-fought 10-9 win over the Tennessee Volunteers (3-2, 1-2 SEC) at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday afternoon.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the close win, and OnlyGators.com takes a look at a number of key moments in the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida has now won 10-straight games against Tennessee, a winning streak that dates back to 2005. The Gators are 25-19 all-time against the Volunteers and now 12-11 when playing in Knoxville. UF is 23-6 against UT since 1976 and 9-2 in Knoxville since 1994.
» Overcoming a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Florida pulled off its biggest come-from-behind victory in the last period since 2003. It is also the second-best road comeback for the Gators since 1966, per UF.
» Tennessee shutout Florida in the first half for the first time since 1955. It was the Vols first such shutout against any opponent since 2007.
» The Gators’ 10 points were the fewest in a win for the program since 1968 (nine, Florida State), per ESPN Stats & Information.
» It was the seventh time in the last 16 games that the Gators were held without a touchdown in the first half. UF is now 2-5 in such games after the victory, per ESPNSI.
» The Gators are now 21-4 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 12-2 against unranked SEC teams during his tenure.
» Tennessee entered Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 nationally in third down defense (.208), while Florida was ranked No. 106 in the country in third down offense (.340). The Gators converted 35.0 percent of their third downs, the Vols just 29.4 percent.
» UF is still +8 in turnover margin on the season after finishing even (3-3) with UT.
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has now caught a pass in 32-straight games. He is three games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.
» Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. exploded on Saturday with five solo tackles, three sacks, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery. It is the first three-sack game for a Florida player since 2009 (Carlos Dunlap).
» The Gators’ six total sacks against the Vols were second-most in series history (seven, 1999).

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Friday Final: Florida confident, prepared for UT

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles the team’s confidence entering its third Southeastern Conference game, the emergence of a young offensive lineman and a look at the unofficial depth chart ahead of the contest.

The Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hit the road for the second time this season when they face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game kicks off at noon and will air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Tennessee, talks injuries and support
Notebook: Kurt Roper keeping Florida offense calm, focused
Story: With support, QB Jeff Driskel focused on improvement not criticism
The Silver Lining: QB Treon Harris not ready for prime time
Notebook: Muschamp, D.J. Durkin looking to fix Gators secondary

GOOD TIMING

According to players on both sides of the ball, Florida’s off week came at an opportune time for the program, just as it was coming off a devastating loss on the road to Alabama. It’s not that the Crimson Tide simply defeated the Gators while hosting them in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but rather that the victory was a dominant one which appeared to show that UF still has a long way to go to truly be competitive this season.

Simply put, not all of Florida’s players saw the gap as that wide.

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9/29: Muschamp talks injuries, support, secondary

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team begins preparations for the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC). Florida will look to extend its nine-game winning streak against Tennessee on Saturday at noon when the Vols will host the Gators at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.

INJURY UPDATES

While Florida’s injury issues are nowhere near as bad as they were in 2013, the team is certainly dealing with some injured Gators one-quarter of the way through the season.

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (meniscus) will be sidelined for Saturday’s game as expected, though Muschamp hopes he will be able to return against LSU. Junior Jonathan Bullard will take many of his snaps on the interior.

Florida’s defense may also be without redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor (knee swelling), who is listed as “questionable-to-doubtful” this week. Freshman running back Brandon Powell (hamstring), who has not played since the opener against Eastern Michigan, received a similar designation from Muschamp on Monday.

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9/24: Muschamp hopeful off week will help Gators; changes in secondary but not at quarterback

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) met with the media for the first time this week on Wednesday with his team currently in the middle of its first off week of the 2014 season. He discussed issues on both sides of the ball and updated Florida’s injury list 10 days ahead of the program’s next game on Oct. 4 at Tennessee.

INJURY UPDATES

The Gators could be without two starting defensive front seven players next week as redshirt seniors defensive tackle Leon Orr (meniscus) and linebacker Michael Taylor (knee swelling) were both listed as questionable by Muschamp on Wednesday. Orr had a knee scope on Monday and has a minor tear in his meniscus (along with a bone bruise), though Muschamp said he was walking around on Tuesday and looked to be recovering well. Taylor is dealing with a bothersome bone bruise as well.

Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) remains on track to return to practice on Monday and play next week after missing two games, Muschamp said, though he is not the only banged-up offensive lineman the trainers are keeping track of during the off week. Redshirt senior Chaz Green and senior Trenton Brown, who both suffered ankle injuries against Alabama, are “going to be fine” and were listed as probable for next Saturday.

The Gators are also dealing with injuries to two of their running backs. Junior Mark Herndon tore his ACL during a kickoff on Saturday and will be out for the season. Freshman Brandon Powell tweaked his hamstring during an unspecified practice and will likely be sidelined for a couple more days.

Muschamp also clarified Wednesday what injury sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was dealing with on Saturday, noting that Hargreaves was dealing with a bruised Achilles that swelled up on him after it had been kicked previously.

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9/6: Florida-Eastern Michigan post-game report

The Florida Gators (1-0) exorcised some demons on Saturday, erasing a seven-game losing skid and continuing a 25-game season-opener winning streak by running through the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-1) on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

The Gators upended the Eagles 65-0, scoring eight touchdowns and forcing five turnovers in an afternoon where everything seemed to go Florida’s way.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the season-opening victory, addressing what he saw as the highs and lows of the win.

OPENING STATEMENT

“Very pleased with what we were able to do today. Hit some big plays offensively, missed a couple. We got to hit those down the field. I thought Jeff [Driskel threw the ball extremely well. You saw what I referenced as far as his command and comfort with where we are. …

“I thought we protected pretty well. The turnovers were huge to be able to get those in the game and get the ball off some people. Eighty-six plays – that was good to have that many skill kids and take that many shots. …

“Defensively, I thought we did OK. I thought there were some things they missed. We didn’t cover down on a couple things in the secondary especially that would have hit against someone else probably, in my opinion. We got to get that cleaned up.”

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Instant Replay: Florida flashes new-look offense in 65-0 rout of Eastern Michigan

One week later than initially scheduled, the Florida Gators (1-0) kicked off their 2014 season on Saturday with a 65-0 trouncing of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida extended its winning streak in season-opening contests to 25 games while starting the campaign with the exact type of blowout victory that fans hoped for all offseason. OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

Deciding drive: Starting on its own 23-yard line after receiving an Eagles punt late in the first quarter, the Gators traveled 77 yards in 10 plays to take a 24-0 lead and put the game out of reach early for Eastern Michigan. Florida entered the red zone on a 42-yard deep vertical throw from redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel to redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and crossed the goal line two plays later when freshman running back Brandon Powell rumbled into the end zone from 12 yards out. Driskel went 31-for-45 for 248 yards with a touchdown on the afternoon, while Dunbar hauled in five receptions for 81 yards. Powell had three catches for 24 yards including his score.

Important injuries: Midway through the second quarter, redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee got his left leg rolled up on by senior right guard Trenton Brown. McGee had his left ankle placed in an air cast before a stretcher cart was brought out to drive him off the field. Earlier in the first quarter, junior left tackle D.J. Humphries was brought to the locker room after injuring his ankle following UF’s first touchdown of the game. He did not return. In a post-game interview on SEC Network, head coach Will Muschamp noted that the team has lost McGee “probably for the season.”

Check out the second half of The Quick Slant…after the break.
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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

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