Former Florida Gators shine at 2013 Pro Day

Nineteen former Florida Gators football players – including five that have been off the team for more than a year – participated in Pro Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on a rain-covered Florida Field in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday.

Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance though many head coaches and general managers remained at their teams’ headquarters considering Pro Day was being held on the same day as the start of NFL free agency for the 2013 season.

“It’s an exciting time. That’s how Pro Day is supposed to look at Florida,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the event. “All 32 teams are here and that’s how it ought to be. As we continue to do a good job evaluating in recruiting and developing our players, which we will, our Pro Days will continue to look that way. Really proud of these guys that worked out today and appreciate all their contributions to the University of Florida. I want to congratulate our staff on doing an outstanding job developing these guys.”

“I think they’ve all worked extremely hard,” he continued. “They understand what’s at stake. These guys are at a great time in their life. Here they are the verge of playing in the arena on Sunday. That’s something, as you look at, you’re a football player and taking that next step. They understand what’s at stake. I’m proud of what I saw today just form the standpoint of how they worked and how they conducted themselves, the positive feedback I’ve gotten from general managers, head coaches, assistants and the National Football League of the character of our guys and how they handled themselves at the combine. All of it has been ultra-positive. I’ve been real pleased about that.”

Below are evaluations on and quotes from many of the Gators that participated on Tuesday. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, linebacker Lerentee McCray and tight end Jordan Reed did not work out but will in a separate, private Pro Day event on March 22 in The Swamp. Reed did still participate in some on-field drills Tuesday.

Muschamp had nothing but high praise for Floyd when asked about him potentially going in the top five picks. “Turn on the tape,” he said. “The guy can anchor, he can play the run, he’s got great initial quickness, he can rush the passer. He’s everything you want from an inside player. The NFL teams, they don’t like to project. I’ve been there; I know. They want to see guys that play in 3-4 and 4-3. They’ve seen him play two-gap. They’ve seen him play nose. They’ve seen him play four-technique, They’ve seen him play one-gap, three-technique, five-technique, nine-technique. They’ve seen him play outside; they’ve seen him play inside.

“From a general manager prospective, talking to his owner and telling him he wants to spend money on a player – a clean player that has no issues off the field – that’s a very smart pick, in my opinion. You got a guy that can be a very dominating player that has got so many positive things surrounding him and he’s been exposed positionally to so many different things within our scheme.”

Other former Gators in attendance to root on the younger guys included wide receivers Reidel Anthony and Riley Cooper, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Mike Peterson, running back Chris Rainey and linebacker Brandon Siler.

Safety Matt Elam

» NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock (via Florida’s website): “On tape he plays so close to the line of scrimmage, especially in their nickel package, he’s on the slot. He’s quick-footed, an aggressive tough kid. What I saw today was what I wanted to see, his ball skills, especially on deep balls. I could see him open his hips, take angles like a deep half or deep third. I thought he really helped himself today.”

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Senior Day – Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 68°F, few showers (30% chance of rain), winds NNE at 1 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Starting at $15 on TiqIQ

TV: Pay-Per-View (Larry Vettel, Nat Moore) | ESPN GamePlan (outside Florida)
SiriusXM: 104/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com (outside Florida)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

No. 6 FLORIDA GATORS JACKSONVILLE STATE
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Jack Crowe
Record: 9-1 Record: 6-4
Conference: Southeastern (FBS) Conference: Ohio Valley (FCS)
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: OFF

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Jacksonville State have never squared off on the gridiron.
» The Gators have the No. 1 ranked strength of schedule nationally.
» Florida can finish 7-0 at home in a season for just the third time in school history. The 2006 and 2009 UF teams also accomplished that feat.
» The Gators are 13-1 against unranked opponents and 3-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp since he took over in 2011. Florida is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season with wins of Tennessee, LSU and South Carolina and a loss to Georgia.
» UF was 0-5 when trailing at the half in 2011 but have flipped that around and are 4-1 in 2012 in that category with all four victories vs. SEC opponents (two ranked).
» The Gators are 10-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 13-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 9-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 10-3 when scoring first and 12-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida has scored on 30-of-36 red zone trips (83.3 percent) but have only converted 19 of those possessions (52.8 percent) into touchdowns.
» UF has converted a paltry 52-of-142 third-down attempts (36.6 percent) this season, which is tied for 88th nationally in that category.
» The Gators have held their opponents to 38-of-144 on third down conversions (26.4 percent), which is good for seventh-best in the nation. UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent) last season.
» Florida is averaging 33:11 in time of possession through 10 games, a margin that ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC by 1:36 per game.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 155-55 in the second half (34-27 over the last three games) and 85-23 in the fourth quarter.
» Florida is third in scoring defense nationally (12.9 points per game).
» The Gators are +12 in turnover margin through 10 games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (341) since 2000.
» Florida has grabbed 15 interceptions so far in 2012 and has already surpassed its 2011 total of eight picks. UF has registered at least one pick in seven-of-10 games and has also forced eight fumbles.
» The Gators are first nationally in pass efficiency defense (90.4), fifth in total defense (284.9 yards per game) and 11th in rushing defense (99.9 yards per game).
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010. UF has not yet registered a kick return (or punt return) in 2012.
» The Gators are second nationally in net punt average (41.9 yards per punt).

Read about the injuries and absences and Senior Day…after the break!
Continue Reading » Senior Day – Gameday: No. 6 Florida Gators vs. Jacksonville State Gamecocks

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Florida seniors discuss careers, final home game

Eighteen Florida Gators football players will step on to Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the last time Saturday as student-athletes at the University of Florida. Below is what each had to say about his career and final home game.

» Redshirt senior running back Omarius Hines: “It’s going to be a very emotional weekend. It’s going to be a great weekend at the same time. We can be undefeated in The Swamp – that’s always a good thing.”

» Redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.: “It is [hard to believe]. Time flies fast when you’re playing ball. The four or five years I spent here have went by and the time is here. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been a great experience for me. The time comes when you have to close that door, move on, and another door opens for you. … A lot of us have poured our hearts into this program. To have it finally end and to finally look at it from the outside in, come December, we’ll be spectators of the game. It will be real emotional having that hit you like, ‘Wow. I’m not playing and now I’m sitting back and watching.’ It definitely hurts but it’s time to close that door and other opportunities will come.”

» Senior safety Josh Evans: “I hope we play one of our best games, leave it all out on The Swamp. It’s going to be a very emotional day. We call came in as freshmen, grew up together and had a brotherhood, pretty much leaving a legacy of winners. I just want to leave as a winner. … It’s been very emotional, this whole senior process. Being around these players and knowing its my last year here, it’s been very emotional at times to know that I’m moving forward. I enjoyed my time here, my highs and lows here. I appreciate everything. It was amazing. Amazing staff, coaches and players that I’ve been around. I’ve had fun since I’ve been here.”

» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter: “It’s going to be fun, man. I remember getting here as a freshman and all the excitement I had my first game playing. I think it’s going to top that on Saturday. My last game in The Swamp – I’m definitely going to enjoy it, definitely going to be emotional. … I’m much more mature now. When I first came in, I wasn’t that mature. I thought everything was going to be handed to me. I saw I had to work for things and be more mature, throughout my years I’ve become better as a person and a football player.”

» Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon: “It’s just a new door opening, a new chapter in all of our lives. We put in a lot of time here, a lot of energy into this program, blood, sweat and tears. It means a lot to have one last hoorah and go through the tunnel. … [We want to be remembered] as a group that overcame a lot of obstacles and a lot of adversity and at the end of the day just stuck together and remained a family. … I plan to try to graduate first. I have aspirations for the NFL, of course, but that will come when it gets here. I’m focused on the season right now.”

» Nixon on redshirt senior left guard James Wilson: “James has evolved into a great person and a great player. He’s contributed a great amount to this team over the season.”

» Redshirt senior DT Earl Okine: “My career at Florida has been up and down. My first couple years I didn’t play as much until my third year, then injuries and stuff like that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love this university. I wouldn’t have redone anything. I love this program. It will always be a part of my life. … It means a lot [being from Gainesville]. It’s a lot of pressure. … I’m pretty sure I have a shot [to play in the NFL]. I’ve heard a couple things. If this is my last year playing football, that’s fine with me. I graduated over the summer, and I might come back and finish a double major, grad school, something like that. Right now I’m concentrating on playing football for the University of Florida.”

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No. 2 Florida chomps No. 7 South Carolina 44-11

A hard-fought Southeastern Conference battled turned into a one-sided blowout on Saturday when the No. 2 Florida Gators, led by a career-high four touchdown pass performance by sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, trampled the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks 44-11 in Gainesville, FL.

On a day in which ESPN’s College GameDay emanated live from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) proved that it is a new team in year two under head coach Will Muschamp, preventing head coach Steve Spurrier and South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC) from winning a third-straight game in the annual series.

The Gators turned three fumble recoveries into 21 first-half points and went five-for-five in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on every trip as they put the SEC East crown within their grasp pending the outcome of next week’s game against Georgia.

Florida started the game on fire as sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy forced a fumble that was recovered on the South Carolina two-yard line by redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray on the first play from scrimmage. Faced with a third down, Driskel hit redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed for a short touchdown to give UF a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

Read the rest of the game story and watch video highlights…after the break!
Continue Reading » No. 2 Florida chomps No. 7 South Carolina 44-11

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10/15: Muschamp on injuries, winning, Clowney

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s big 31-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores and preview Saturday’s home game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb, hamstring) missed Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury after returning one week prior with a cast on his hand. Though a “modified” version of the cast will remain on Jenkins’s hand, he is now back to full speed and will be active against South Carolina.

Florida’s offensive line wound up playing without three starters on Saturday as redshirt senior guard James Wilson (eye) did not travel with the team and both senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) and redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) went down with injuries during the game.

Muschamp said Monday that Harrison “should be ready to go” and both Wilson and Nixon “should be fine” for Saturday. We’re really hopeful to get all those guys back,” he said. “They are all definitely going to be fine – or at least ‘probable’ at the worst.” Included in that group is junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who traveled to Vanderbilt but experienced some swelling around his knee and did not play.

The news is not as positive for three other players. Freshman WR Latroy Pittman hurt his ankle on Saturday and is questionable for this week’s game. Additionally, junior CB Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior T Matt Patchan (pectoral) will both miss the game. Muschamp said that Riggs may try to run this week but that both players have an outside chance of returning in two weeks.

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel

Scrap Iron: redshirt junior guard Jon Halapio
* Halapio was also named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week.

Defensive Player of the Game: senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic
“He played extremely well. Very productive, active in the middle, made a lot of plays, playing blocks extremely well. Jon’s really progressed this year as far as his physicality of playing in the core of the formation and playing blocks and disengaging, getting off people. Real proud of him.”

Ball Hawks: Bostic, redshirt sophomore Sam LB Neiron Ball, redshirt senior defensive lineman Earl Okine, sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy

Special Teams Player of the Game: sophomore running back Chris Johnson
“He had three tackles inside the 20 on kickoff. They were doubling him and he ran through every one of him. He’s a guy who I’m real proud of his efforts.”

Big Play: junior wide receiver Solomon Patton

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » 10/15: Muschamp on injuries, winning, Clowney

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QB Jeff Driskel’s 177 yards, three touchdowns lead No. 4/6 Florida over Vanderbilt 31-17

The Vanderbilt Commodores gave the No. 4/6 Florida Gators everything they could handle on Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN, but it simply was not enough to pull off the upset as Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC) always had an answer for Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3 SEC) and picked up a hard-fought 31-17 victory.

The Gators out-rushed the Commodores 327-126 in an effort led by Florida sophomore Jeff Driskel, who scored three rushing touchdowns and bested Tim Tebow by setting a school single-game record for a quarterback with 177 rushing yards.

Vanderbilt got on the board first, completing a six-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in quarterback Jordan Rodgers’s first touchdown pass since the second week of the season. The Commodores benefited from a 15-yard penalty at the beginning of the drive when kick-catch interference was called on Gators sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy for hitting the punt returner too soon after he caught the ball.

Purifoy then got beat by wide receiver Chris Boyd for a 37-yard reception, and Florida junior safety Matt Elam was leapt over in the end zone three plays later as WR Jordan Matthews hauled in the touchdown. It was the first touchdown UF had given up in nine quarters dating back to the Tennessee game in week three.

The Gators finally registered some points on their first possession of the second quarter. Florida took over at its own nine yard line and put together an 11-play, 91-yard drive to score its first points of the game. Senior running back Mike Gillislee tallied 27 yards on the possession, but it was sophomore QB Jeff Driskel who scampered 37 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown.

UF then decided to go for two and converted as junior RB Trey Burton took a keeper into the end zone on a spread-out formation to give the Gators an early 8-7 lead.

Read the rest of the Florida-Vanderbilt story…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Jeff Driskel’s 177 yards, three touchdowns lead No. 4/6 Florida over Vanderbilt 31-17

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8/23: Quinn on reserve LBs, secondary, pass rush

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had plenty to say just over a week before the 2012 regular season is set to begin and did exactly that on Thursday afternoon. Quinn discussed the team’s reserve linebackers, how the secondary is shaping up and who is stepping up in the pass rush.

VERSATILITY IN THE MIDDLE

Not every defensive coordinator is lucky enough to have two terrific inside linebackers like senior Jon Bostic (Mike) and redshirt junior Jelani Jenkins (Will). According to Quinn on Thursday, his embarrassment of riches extends to their reserves as both redshirt sophomore Michael Taylor and true freshman Antonio Morrison are making themselves known during practice.

Taylor, the primary back-up to Bostic in 2011, said recently that he has been switching between Mike and Will in practice in order to become more versatile. That is good news considering Quinn somewhat revealed that it will be Morrison behind Bostic this season.

“This guy is really coming on,” he said. “I like his instincts. I like his toughness. I think he’s got a big future ahead of him, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Quinn did say, however, that both Morrison and Taylor can play either inside position and that he is completely comfortable with moving them back and forth until he figures out which player is best at which position.

SECONDARY COMING TOGETHER BUT NOT YET SET

It should be no surprise junior Matt Elam and senior Josh Evans will be starting at safety for the Gators, though it was interesting when Quinn noted that junior Cody Riggs has been spending plenty of time back there after mostly serving as a cornerback and nickel corner in 2011.

Riggs along with junior Jaylen Watkins and sophomores Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy are all competing for the two starting cornerback jobs though Quinn pointed out (just like head coach Will Muschamp has repeatedly) that the team will probably be starting three each game and all four will see plenty of time on the field.

“It’s nice having so many of those guys return, know the same language going into training camp and moving forward,” he said. “I kind of have a feeling it will work itself out like it usually does through the course of the season and as we get through a few ballgames.”

IMPROVING THE PASS RUSH

Read the rest of what Quinn had to say on Thursday…after the break!
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8/20: Muschamp on roster, starters, injuries, etc.

With the Florida Gators under two weeks away from the beginning of the season and set to compete in their third and final scrimmage of training camp on Tuesday, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide updates on the team.

SOME, BUT NOT ALL ROSTER DECISIONS MADE ON SUNDAY

Muschamp said on Saturday that the entire coaching staff would sit down Sunday and iron out the roster in order to determine who should get the most reps heading into the third and final scrimmage. Though he said that the Gators will not be releasing a depth chart until Aug. 27, Muschamp explained what was accomplished Sunday as far as organizing the roster is concerned.

“We looked at the roster and went through everybody. We did not necessarily set depth charts; I know everybody will be asking for that. We will release that Monday of game week,” he said. “More than anything we narrowed down who is getting reps and then talked in terms of special teams. Who are the guys that we need to be stepping up on special teams for us? Especially some of the younger players, where are they figuring in as far as snaps are concerned.”

Florida has now mostly figured out out which “guys we can count on” and “guys that we need to continue to rep,” an important step before a the final scrimmage on Tuesday that will look in many ways like a game day.

“We’re going to have another situational scrimmage. We’ll treat it like game day,” Muschamp explained. “We’ll have a pre-game at 11:30 [a.m.], and we’re going to kick it off at 3:30 [p.m.]. We’re going to go in for halftime; we’re going to come out. We’ll have to be able to adjust coming out of the locker room and put them in some situations.

“We’ll have some move-the-field. I want to have another [situation of] coming out off the goal line. We weren’t very good in the first scrimmage on that. Some more third-down work, some more red zone work and then some just getting on the field and functioning as an offense, get the coaches in the booth. It will now be our third time [doing that]. That, as much as anything, is what [Sunday] was about.”

SO…WHO IS STARTING?

Though position-by-position starters were not discussed by Muschamp on Monday, he did provide a handful of notes on who has nailed down jobs prior to the third scrimmage.

QUARTERBACK
Sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will continue splitting reps down the middle during practice on Monday and the scrimmage on Tuesday. Muschamp said both will be non-contact (the plan was apparently always to return to that) for he duration of practice heading into the game on Sept 1.

Muschamp noted over the weekend that he expects to name a starter on Aug. 27 (along with the release of the entire team’s depth chart) but also said that Driskel’s bruised shoulder will be reevaluated next Monday. That can be looked at one of two ways: Either the health of his shoulder is a deciding factor as to whether or not he gets the start (in which case one would expect that evaluation to occur before the press conference) or it is a non-factor (in which case the time is of no matter).

Either way, Muschamp is pleased with the way both have improved.

“Both guys, I would say, are just commanding the huddle, knowledge of the system, understanding what Brent [Pease] wants,” he said. “What I have seen with both guys is a maturity level now of anticipating some of the situations that come up and what we’re going to go to. When you start getting that then you start maturing as a player and you’ll play better because you have better anticipation of what’s going to happen.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Monday…after the break!
Continue Reading » 8/20: Muschamp on roster, starters, injuries, etc.

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