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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


Read the rest of what Quinn had to say on Thursday…after the break!
Continue Reading » 8/23: Quinn on reserve LBs, secondary, pass rush

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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.


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.”


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.

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

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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.


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.”


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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