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!
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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!
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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!
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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (99-90)

With the 2011-12 athletic season now in the books and the 2012-13 season about to begin, the focus has shifted to the return of Florida Gators football. For the second-straight year, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, in this series: The Countdown.

Updated on Aug. 14 to include five freshmen.

99 – Omar Hunter (Buford, GA)
Redshirt senior defensive tackle
6’1” 314 lbs.

Quick Bio: A Parade and EA Sports All-American out of high school, Hunter is a five-star recruit who redshirted in 2008. He majors in social & behavioral sciences.

Career Stats (42 games): 71 tackles (35 solo, 7.5 for loss), sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, pass defense, blocked field goal

2011 Season: After starting six games the season before, Hunter earned that distinction just once last year but played in all 13 contests and posted his best statistical season. His only start came in the Gator Bowl against Ohio State where he notched a season-high five tackles and the first forced fumble of his career. Hunter registered a career-high 31 tackles in 2011 and also recorded his first career sack and fumble recovery.

2012 Outlook: Though he was limited due to injury last spring, Hunter wound up putting together a solid season despite the fact that he had to compete with numerous other talented interior defensive linemen for playing time. With junior Dominique Easley recovering from injury and likely to see more time at defensive end this season, Hunter should be a starter on the inside in 4-3 sets alongside junior Sharrif Floyd. As one of five seniors on the defensive unit (and one of three five-year players on that side of the ball), he hopes to serve as a leader and veteran presence for a unit should be the Gators’ strongest in 2012.

98 – Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, GA)
Freshman defensive lineman
6’5” 276 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Williams both defensive line positions and could be a very versatile player for Florida in the near future.

2012 Outlook: Though Muschamp said at the time of his commitment that “the sky’s the limit” for him and that he will get into the mix immediately, Williams has not been mentioned much thus far in fall camp. In all likelihood, with a number of experienced veterans and other talented freshman also competing for time, Williams will be relegated to a reserve role.

Check out seven more players in this edition of The Countdown…after the break!
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8/6: Muschamp praises retention, chemistry

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday following the first weekend of fall practice for the Florida Gators. Muschamp spoke about a number of hot topics concerning the team including how much material the players retained from the spring after spending the summer working on strength and conditioning.

HIGH MARKS ON RETENTION AND CHEMISTRY

Though the team has only had three practices together, Muschamp said Monday that he has been pleasantly surprised with how well the team has retained the information given to them in spring by the coaching staff.

“I do want to compliment our players on the retention from spring. It was very evident on the first three days on both sides of the ball the retention we have for spring, which credits our players and the job they did this summer,” he said.

“We are far ahead of – after three practices, mind you – where we thought we would beat this point on both sides of the ball. Not just on defense but on offense, too. That’s a great credit to our players and the buy-in that they had throughout the summer. Again, there’s just three practices so let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but we are far ahead mentally then I thought we’d be at this point and certainly what Brent [Pease] thought as well.”

He also noted that the team is getting along much better than it was a year ago.

“A lot of that has to do with the staff’s been here a year. There’s a little bit more understanding of what to expect,” Muschamp said. “I think there’s a lot of things that are a little better. Let’s find out and talk to me after practice 18.”

LITTLE RUST FROM INJURED PLAYERS

Muschamp said he was impressed with how redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (head) and sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) have been practicing early on this fall mostly because neither appears to have a mental block after serious health scares nearly cost them their careers last season.

“Any time you deal with the neck or the head, in my coaching career, you always worry about how a player will come back. But both of those guys, it doesn’t seem like it’s slowed them down. They’re both playing very fast and very physical, and I’m very pleased with both of those guys how they’ve come back,” he said.

He also spoke about the positive mentality and increased level of focus that Ball, Roberson and junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (who is not yet back in practice but working hard in rehabilitation) are showcasing.

“I think every injured player has a different appreciation of what they have and what God’s blessed them with. There’s no question that those two young men went through a very difficult time. With Marcus whether or not he was going to play football again, and Ronald of when he’s going to play football again,” Muschamp said.

“Neiron Ball – talk to Neiron. Here’s a young man that, at one point, was a pretty bleak outlook on things as far as ever playing football again. Any young man that has that taken away from him for a period of time or maybe forever, they certainly have a greater appreciation of maybe having the opportunity of what God’s blessed them with and playing a great game.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on Monday…after the break!
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3/26: Muschamp discusses first spring scrimmage

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke at length Monday about the first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, how the team is coming together early into the spring practice session and how some individual players are progressing.

GILLISLEE AND POWELL STAND OUT

Two of the players that the team needs the most out of in 2012 – senior running back Mike Gillislee and junior Buck linebacker Ronald PowellINJURY UPDATES

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (groin) – day-to-day, missed scrimmage
» Junior WR Solomon Patton (groin) – “week-to-week,” missed scrimmage
» Redshirt freshman WR Ja’Juan Story (ankle) – back this week, missed scrimmage
» Redshirt senior defensive end Earl Okine (back) – out for spring
» Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder) – back Monday, missed scrimmage

Sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson remains in a non-contact jersey but is still participating in one-on-ones and 7-on-7 skeleton drills. The team is trying to work him into some drills so he can continue getting all of the reactions down, but he is “not in the fray” as far as tackling and taking on blocks.

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Starting quarterback job: “Nobody really distanced themselves as far as the quarterback position. I thought both guys did play well, did some good things. There is no separation. We will continue to split reps with all three – Tyler Murphy did some nice things as well. […] Really for a first scrimmage, with a lot of new stuff going on, I was very pleased. There was really no procedural issues. A couple times we had to get them back in the huddle to make sure we had the right things communicated. For a first scrimmage, after six practices, I was very pleased with that. There wasn’t a whole lot of lining up offsides, jumping – none of that. For a first scrimmage, I thought both guys managed the huddle very well, getting them in and out and on the play clock the whole time. We had one delay of game [out of] close to 100 snaps in the scrimmage. That was very pleasing as far as just managing our team. They can be more accurate with the ball. Both were the same as far as their completion percentages – right around 60. We’ve got to do a better job catching the football, making some plays around them and being more accurate with the ball, especially on critical downs like third down. They had a couple dropped here and there – both of them did. There wasn’t a whole lot of separation to speak of.”

Freshman offensive linemen D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker: “[They] are both doing an outstanding job up front. Both guys are way ahead athletically than most big guys are at this time. Both guys are very talented. How quickly they will continue to pick up on what they’re doing – time will tell. I’m very pleased with both of those young men.”

Freshman linebacker Antonio Morrison: “Antonio Morrison is a physical, tough, instinctive linebacker that has done some nice things for us.”

Freshman cornerback Willie Bailey: “Willie Bailey just needs to get stronger. Willie is talented. Willie can run. He’s got length; he’s got size for the position. We just got to get stronger in the weight room. He’s got cover skills, and he’s a willing tackler. He’ll take on and play blocks. I’m real pleased with him.”

Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman: “I’ve been very pleased with his progress to this point. Very encouraged. Latroy is another guy who came in and had a great offseason, works hard every day, gives everything he’s got. I’ve been very pleased with his attitude and his playmaking ability. He’s a stronger guy from being a freshman. […] I don’t know where he was rated, so don’t ask me that, but we really liked him in camp. We thought he was a really good player. But he committed a long time ago, too, so that lost its luster, too. If they commit too early then they’re not as good as the other guys.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the offense in the scrimmage: “ I thought offensively we did a nice job getting some movement up front. Did a nice job – we had a red zone period – I thought our offense did a nice job executing down there in the red zone.”

» On the defense in the scrimmage: “It’s a give-and-take. The defense didn’t stop them very well at times. It didn’t’ play as well up front as I thought we should. We weren’t as productive at the linebacker position as I’d like to be.”

» Muschamp said the starting offensive line consisted of senior left tackle Xavier Nixon, redshirt senior left guard James Wilson, redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison, redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan. He singled out Nixon and Halapio as standouts on the offensive line.

» He also said that redshirt senior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. had a nice practice including taking a reverse for a touchdown and showcasing some solid blocking and catching down the field.

» Muschamp believes the defense was too inconsistent across the board during the scrimmage and noted that tackling was a constant issue, especially in the secondary where there were eight missed tackles.

» On not seeing a lot of production from the linebackers in the scrimmage: “When you’re in one of those [hard-hitting scrimmages], you’d like to have a little bit more production from the linebacker position. It was not all their fault; we need to play blocks better up front. We need to take down teams and not let them climb to the next level so quickly, which certainly happened at times.”

» Muschamp said that, after spring is over, he will sit down with both staffs, create a depth chart and figure out who can play and who cannot. “Either you get it done or we move forward and try to find somebody else who can do it,” he said.

» On if he is noticing the team becoming tougher: “We’ve made strides. I really believe that. We’ll find out in the ball. But as a coach, for the first time, I felt like there were some pads popping in practice last week.”

» On Tim Tebow going to New York: “His press conference is bigger than mine. […] Obviously the New York Jets got better. You look at what he did in Denver, taking them to the playoffs, he did a phenomenal job. You meet Tim and you understand that he has the ‘it’ factor. He positively affects everybody around him. It’s pretty well-documented what he did for the University of Florida but not just [here] – college football. He’s had his opportunity on Denver and took them to the playoffs, and now he has a great opportunity in New York.”

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3/19: Muschamp talks youth, injuries, RBs

Head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday before the Florida Gators began their third spring practice of the offseason. He touched on a number of issues concerning the team including its youth, injury issues and options at running back.

INJURY UPDATES

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli (groin) – day-to-day
» Redshirt senior defensive end Earl Okine (back) – day-to-day
» Junior WR Solomon Patton (groin) – “week-to-week”
» Sophomore cornerback Louchiez Purifoy (shoulder) – should practice

» Sophomore CB Marcus Roberson (neck) – out for spring

After injuring his neck in a game against South Carolina, Roberson was forced to miss the remainder of the season and was seen sporting a neck brace as recently as a few weeks ago. Asked why Roberson was participating in some shadow-type drills even though he was listed as being a non-contact player, Muschamp got a little snippy.

“He is moving around fine. Again, it’s just a contact issue. We’re not going to have him do any contact,” he said. “That’s what the orange jersey means. I had to explain that last fall – what non-contact means. Do we have to go through that again? Non-contact means ‘no contact.’”

He then got into specifics on Roberson’s injury and why he has been out so long.

“It was a displacement in the neck area. It was a very serious issue. It was all very healable as far as the medical process is concerned. It just takes time,” Muschamp explained. “He was in a neck brace for 6-8 weeks – a stationary brace. Then he was in a less-confining brace for another six weeks. It was a pretty – it was a scary injury.

“He came in on Sunday [after the injury] and told me, and it was scary. It really was. Any time you deal with the head and the neck, football’s over as far as I am concerned. Our medical people do a great job. They put him through every test you can imagine – took all the pictures and did all the stuff you do. They cleared him for non-contact.

“Marcus is a competitor and any time you take that away from someone, it is very frustrating. Marcus was down – bad. I was worried about him just as a human being. He was really depressed about the situation, something he loves and cares about so much maybe being taken away from him. He’s a guy you’re glad to see back out there. Football is important to him. He likes playing the games, as you see out there. It’s very hard for him to be non-contact. He’s a competitive guy and he likes to play the game.”

PLENTY OF RUNNING BACKS COMPETING

Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey graduating automatically made the Gators bigger at the running back position. However, their departure also left a void as far as depth is concerned. Senior Mike Gillislee and redshirt sophomore Mack Brown have stepped up into the first- and second-string roles, respectively, and Muschamp spoke positively about both on Monday.

“Mike GIllislee is a guy we’re excited about,” he said. “Mack Brown is playing his best ball since he’s been at Florida, according to Brian White who I spoke to this morning.”

He also discussed two players that the team has recently moved into a backfield role – redshirt senior Omarius Hines (tight end) and sophomore Chris Johnson (linebacker/safety).

“He’s an explosive athlete. He’s done some nice things,” Muschamp said of Hines. “It’s hard to judge in helmets obviously. He’s done some nice things carrying the ball. He’s a guy that has got some instincts with the ball in his hands and I’m interested to see him progress. He’s got good hands. We felt that way going in. more than anything, it was adding a bigger body to the backfield. A guy that has played and who we need to find a role for, find some different ways to get him the football.”

He noted that Johnson moved to offense, in part, because he did not necessarily have a full-time role on defense. “Chris really is a tweener as far as the secondary is concerned,” he said. “He gets swallowed up a little bit as a linebacker. I feel like he’s a very physical safety, he’s got a physical nature. He’s a box safety type of guy. He does a nice job in the open part of the field. He’s was a guy that was a good back in high school and a guy that’s got some explosive power. Let’s give him that opportunity to take a shot. We’ve been pretty pleased so far in, again, three days.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar: “Quinton has always worked extremely hard and he had a great offseason this past offseason. Quinton was a redshirt freshman and I would say there aren’t many redshirt freshman that you rely on to be your go-to guy as far as the receiver position or any positions is concerned. Now he’s a year older. I challenged him in front of the entire team. I said, ‘You’re not a freshman anymore. It’s time to take the next step as a football player.’ More than anything it didn’t have anything to do with physical ability, it had to do with mental aptitude, consistency in his performance every day, week-in and week-out in our league.”

» On if he often calls guys out in front of the team: “The other day, when we first started, I called several guys out and told them they need to step up at different position groups. I addressed the entire team about where we are right now. As much as anything, we let everybody understand what our expectation level is so we’re all on the same page. I think it’s important to do that in front of the whole group – offense or defense or in front of the entire team.”

» On how the quarterbacks are progressing: “All three guys are working hard at it. They’re up there watching film and constantly trying to improve themselves and get better. Again, physical ability all three possess the qualities to be good quarterbacks. I want to see them continue to progress this spring.”

» On if he is keeping up with the basketball team: “I’m a big Billy Donovan fan. We were shooting the lights out early yesterday, I know that. We were hot. I love basketball. I love watching and I’m a big fan of Billy Donovan.”

» On redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed: “He’s a guy that’s an explosive match-up issue as far as a defense is concerned. I thought he improved his blocking tremendously for a guy that hasn’t done it a whole lot. […] He’s a guy that continues to make strides as far as that is concerned.”

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