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 Powell

“You look at the two players of the day – Mike Gillislee and Ronald Powell both had great offseasons,” he said. “They didn’t miss a day. They worked hard. They’ve done a great job in the weight room. They’ve done a great job in our offseason program. And they’ve both, in the first seven days of spring, have had really good springs. They’re in shape and they’re attentive to detail of what they have to do to be successful.”

Gillislee was one of the reasons that Florida was “able to run the ball pretty effectively throughout the scrimmage.” He has also improved his blocking immensely. “Protection he did a nice job,” Muschamp said. “One of the first series there he did a nice job [with] protection, blocking on the edge and then had a nice run for a 20-yard gain, caused two guys to miss. He’s got good vision and a good feel for the running game.”

Being named the official starter seems to be a formality at this point for Gillislee, but it is a goal he will have to continue working towards, according to Muschamp. “If he continues down the same path, there’s no question,” he said. “That’s where competition is your best motivator. I know he’s got guys behind him that are pushing him and doing a good job as well.”

Muschamp also said that Powell was the most productive player on defense; he continues to be impressed with how hard he has worked on a day-to-day basis. “Ronald had a couple good third down stops, a couple good pressures, a sack. He continues to play well. His pad level has improved and his hand placement playing blocks,” he said.

INJURY 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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Muschamp, Quinn talk Gators team, defense

With the Florida Gators set to begin 2012 spring practice on Wednesday, head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics concerning the team’s defense.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease talk Florida Gators offense | Spring depth chart

PRIORITIES FOR 2012

Just as offensive coordinator Brent Pease listed his five offensive philosophies heading into the season, Muschamp took time before answering questions on Wednesday to discuss – in detail – his three priorities for the Gators on both sides of the ball this year.

(1) As we hit spring, the emphasis to me as a team [is on] turnover margin. We’re minus 12 last year. We’re 113th in the country. It’s really a minor miracle we won seven games. You can’t win games turning it over and not getting turnovers. When I was at Texas my second-to-last year, I think we led the country in turnovers. We emphasize it. It’s not like we’re all of a sudden going to start emphasizing it. Dan talks about it with our defense every single day. We’ve got to find different ways to emphasize it. I don’t know what if you do the same things you’re going to get the same results. We had 15 dropped interceptions, so we had 15 times where we have both hands on the ball. And we’ve got to finish plays. We’re going to do more ball drills. We’re going to do some things that we’ve got to do to get the ball in position for our offense and let Brent and the guys have a chance. That’s a huge point of emphasis.

(2) We need to make a lot more explosive plays, but we need to limit them on defense, but turnover margin is really the emphasis we’re looking at. Ball possession, security of the ball offensively, big emphasis.

(3) Mental and physical toughness. We had some discipline issues and that falls on my shoulders – 41 what I would call ‘discipline penalties,’ jumping offsides, false starts, 23 false starts, 18 offside penalties defensively, so that’s almost half of our penalties. Those are things we will not tolerate. We’ve got more depth on our football team now. There were some opportunities last year where a guy would jump offsides and we didn’t have anybody else to go to. That guy won’t play anymore, so we’ll get him out of the game and put somebody else in there. [...] The physical toughness of stopping the run and being able to run the ball when you need to, and again, not being hardheaded, we’re trying to run the ball. When they load the box, you’ve got to be able to create some match ups outside and win, but to do the things you’ve got to do to win games, and we’ll talk a little bit about that further.

» Quinn on improving turnover margin: “There’s really two kinds of turnovers. There’s one that I’ll call a conscious effort: You strip the quarterback, you’ve got a big hit on the running back. Then there’s some that are just an unconscious effort: There was an overthrown ball, you picked it [up]. We’ve got to do a much better job of the conscious effort, making a big emphasis on taking the ball away. As coach had talked about, it’s something that we address a lot. So what did I do this offseason that was an important part for me, to call some other clubs and say what are some of the things you’re doing that you guys played so well to get the ball away. I talked to the guys at San Francisco; they had a terrific turnover margin this year so important for me to reach out. Are you doing anything different? [...] It’s awareness for the players, and I emphasized it, and as Will said, if you can do the same thing you’ll get the same results. We’re going to challenge, do some different drills for it, and we’re going to improve in that area.”

» Quinn on mental and physical toughness: “The off season program was the first step in that, and that’s what you’re trying to do. Let’s face it, everybody in the country is talking about being a tough, physical team. Who wouldn’t want to be on a tough, physical team? We all would be. How do you put that into action? And I think it starts in the weight room. [...] There’s something that you get accomplished when you go through a physical offseason program that you come out the other end and you feel a little stronger, and you feel a little more ready to take on a different role on the field. And then when you get out on the grass it’s the competition, and I think that’s one of the really exciting things about coaching at a place like here that there’s some really good competition on the other side of the ball. I think you gain something from that as a player when you have to go against a certain player, whether it’s covering him or taking him on at the line of scrimmage or in that physical element. So that’s one of the things that I’m looking forward to is competition going forward into spring practice.”

Read more about the defense’s players and the coaches’ philosophies…
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Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart

You may be excited that, in a few lines, you are getting a look at the Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart. Don’t be. As he explained one year ago, head coach Will Muschamp does not put a lot of stock in the spring’s first depth chart, referring to it in 2011 as not worth the paper it was printed on. In other words, it is just a starting-off point for 2012 and plenty can change between now and the end of spring, the start of summer, the beginning of fall or when the season starts. Nevertheless, below is the depth chart as it was presented on March 13.

RELATED: Muschamp, Pease talk offense | Muschamp, Quinn talk defense

Florida omitted players who are injured or limited and not participating in spring practice. A list of those players can be found at the end along with some additional explanations.

QB: 12 Jacoby Brissett OR 6 Jeff Driskel
RB: 23 Mike Gillislee, 33 Mack Brown
FB: 8 Trey Burton OR 43 Hunter Joyer
WR (X): 4 Andre Debose, 89 Stephen Alli
WR (Z): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 83 Solomon Patton
WR (Slot): 85 Frankie Hammond, Jr., 13 Latroy Pittman
TE: 11 Jordan Reed, 20 Omarius Hines* OR 88 Clay Burton

LT: 71 Matt Patchan*, 73 Xavier Nixon
LG: 66 James Wilson, 50 Sam Robey*
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne*
RG: 67 Jon Halapio, 74 Jessamen Dunker
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 71 Matt Patchan*

DE: 73 Sharrif Floyd*, 91 Earl Okine
DT: 44 Leon Orr*, 4 Damien Jacobs*
NT: 99 Omar Hunter, 58 Nick Alajajian
Buck DE: 7 Ronald Powell, 25 Gideon Ajagbe*
SLB: 49 Darren Kitchens, 55 Graham Stewart
MLB: 1 Jon Bostic, 51 Michael Taylor
WLB: 3 Jelani Jenkins, 72 Antonio Morrison

CB: 15 Louchiez Purifoy, 27 Willie Bailey
CB: 31 Cody Riggs*, 14 Jaylen Watkins
Nickel CB: 22 Matt Elam*, 31 Cody Riggs
S: 22 Matt Elam*, 26 De’Ante Saunders
S: 9 Josh Evans, 10 Valdez Showers*

K: 19 Caleb Sturgis, 97 Brad Phillips
P: 44 Kyle Christy
H: 47 John Crowfoot, 44 Kyle Christy
LS: 46 Drew Ferris, 43 Kyle Crowfoot
KR/PR: Not listed

LIMITED FOR SPRING: LB Neiron Ball (vascular condition), CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

OUT FOR SPRING: CB Jeremy Brown (knee), DT Dominique Easley (ACL), OL Cole Gilliam (shoulder), DE Kedric Johnson (shoulder), OL Tommy Jordan (shoulder), LB Lerentee McCray (shoulder), OL Ian Silberman (shoulder)

*BEING CROSS-TRAINED: Floyd – DE/DT/NT, Jacobs – DT/NT, Riggs – S/CB/NCB, Elam – S/NCB, Hines – RB/TE, Patchan – LT/RT, Orr – DT/DE, Ajagbe – SLB/Buck, Jabari Gorman – S/NCB, Showers – S/NCB, Robey – C/G, Koehne – G/C

OGGOA NOTES
- TE A.C. Leonard remains indefinitely suspended from the team for his recent arrest for misdemeanor domestic battery. He would fit in at the first or second slot at his position.
- Wilson was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, a big win for the Gators and their lack of depth and experience on the offensive line.
- Freshman D.J. Humphries, expected to make an impact at offensive tackle, is not yet on the two-deep depth chart likely due to an off-the-field reason like weight or conditioning.
- Brown (CB), Roberson (CB), Easley (DT), McCray (SLB) are four other starters/potential starters who are currently off the depth chart due to injury.

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11/7: Will Muschamp’s Monday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Florida defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 26-21 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a tough road contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 12. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

INJURY UPDATES AND PLAYER AWARDS

The following players will return to practice Monday:
Redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder)

The following players will return to practice Tuesday:
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (arm), redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (foot)

“He’s fine,” Muschamp said of Brantley. “He got a funny hit on [his arm]. He probably could have gone back in, but I told him to sit down and let Jacoby [Brissett] finish it. It was one of those things that was a funny injury. There is nothing serious at all.”

Additional injury notes:
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) remain out of action this week. Freshman offensive lineman Tommy Jordan had surgery Monday morning and will take a redshirt for 2011. Fellow freshman OL Trip Thurman had shoulder surgery earlier this year and will also be redshirted.

Player awards from the Vanderbilt game:
Offensive Player of the Game: Senior running back Jeff Demps
Scrap Iron Award (best OL): Redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan
Big Play Award: Jeff Demps (52-yard touchdown)
Extra Effort Award: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (blocking)
Defensive Player of the Game: Freshman cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Hard Hat Award: Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Week: Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis (55-yard field goal), sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd (blocked field goal), redshirt sophomore TE Jordan Reed (onside recover)
Scout Team Players of the Week: Ryan Parrish, Hygens Succes, Tim Clark

Demps was also named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

GAME AND FUTURE OPPONENT STATEMENTS

Muschamp first provided his general thoughts about Saturday’s victory.

“You go back and look at the game and we were balanced on offense. Being able to run the ball helped us with our play actions down the field. It slows the defensive linemen down a good bit up front. We converted on third down about 50 percent and had some big plays. We were able to get some chuck plays. Defensively we really needed to stop the run game and for the most part we did a decent job of that. We have to finish the game better and cover better – on the back end especially. We had some breakdowns [in the secondary] and obviously had some pass rush issues with Rodgers being able to scramble, create and extend plays. Those are the things we’ve really talked to the kids about.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Nov. 12, South Carolina.

“They’re very balanced on offense – 188 yards rushing per game, 180 passing. Offensively Alshon Jeffrey is an outstanding wide receiver. A guy that is 6’4″ or 6’5″ with great ball skills down the field. He’s a tremendous match-up issue in all situations. [...] Defensively Ellis Johnson does a great job. [The unit has] 27 turnovers this year and is led by Melvin Ingram, a guy from a fake punt against Georgia to sacking the quarterback to playing the runs well inside is a really good athlete, a big guy that plays hard with a great motor. I’m really impressed watching him on film. Defense and special teams for them have scored seven touchdowns, so that’s impressive.”

Muschamp also commented on USC head coach Steve Spurrier:

I got great respect for Coach Spurrier, first of all as a player winning the Heisman Trophy here in 1966 and then the job he did as a head coach here for 12 years was outstanding. You look at the championship run and establishing the tradition of what Florida football is as far as winning championships. [...] I think he changed the SEC as far as the passing game is concerned. When he took over in 1990, the SEC was a running league. It was a ground-and-pound league. He came to Florida and did a great job in the throwing game, changing the perception of the SEC to an offensive league but still remained balanced in everything he did.”

PISTOL SET GIVES GATORS A RUN GAME

Between Brantley’s ankle injury and the numerous other problems the Gators have had running the ball, employing the pistol set on Saturday helped get the run game going again and keep the Commodores’ defense honest. In fact, Florida ran at a near two-to-one clip, though UF was also successful through the air.

Muschamp said Monday that employing the pistol helped in protection and opening up throwing seams down the field while also allowing the Gators to call play actions and run the ball inside. He said Florida plans to keep using the set because it assists in keeping defenses off balance.

Brantley is expected to be back under center at South Carolina but calling some runs from the pistol could still be smart in order to keep the turns he has to make on his ankle to a minimum. Muschamp also explained that UF’s pistol set is not the same as the pistol offense first run at Nevada and now UCLA.

“We were running from a set to be able to get to a downhill running game. What they run is a misdirection running game. It’s a different theory. What they run is a package; what we run is a set to be able to get to some downhill run game. What they do is a total package – they run a total offense that is called the pistol offense. We ran a set to get to our downhill running game. We ran it from a different set to enable John to run our downhill running game. We didn’t change what we were doing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on how the secondary needs to improve: “As far as playing the ball, we’re in situations and we’re in position. You got to play the football. When you’re in position to cover the receiver, you got to play the ball. We just need to finish some plays. [...] Those things are all correctable. Those are all things that we can work on. We’re going to spend a lot time today working on perimeter drill where we work on our eye control, covering and leveraging formations. They just need to improve, and I need to do a better job coaching from my spot.”

» Muschamp on how long he plans on coaching: “I love what I do. I’m very passionate about it. I enjoy coming to work every day regardless of the situation. I can’t picture myself not coaching.”

» Muschamp on if Spurrier called him when he took the Florida job: “I called him to tell him that our doors were always open unless we’re playing South Carolina.”

» Muschamp on redshirt junior DE Earl Okine: “He’s done a nice job. He’s done a better job preparing himself throughout the week as far as practice is concerned and that gives him other opportunities to play.”

» Muschamp on if he is seeing he team mature: “From a competitive standpoint and how we’re practicing, how we’re approaching things, as far as the team is concerned, I do think we’ve made some positive strides.”

» Muschamp on not walking on with the Gators: “Not that Florida missed anything [with me] as a player. I can tell you that.”

» Muschamp on the strides redshirt senior DT Jaye Howard has made: “I think Jaye has played really well. I thought he played well Saturday. He’s a guy that we really challenged him as far as playing hard every snap, giving great effort all the time. Jaye is very talented. He’s strong. He’s a very good athlete. He can bend his lower body, play blocks. A lot of Jaye needs to play hard all the time and do it all the time and be a guy that really shines. I’ve been really proud of his performance and how he’s played this year. I think he’s been very consistent this year.”

» Muschamp on how sophomore safety Matt Elam has stepped up: “He is communicating very well. He was not a very vocal player when I came in here from a standpoint of communicating. He was more worried about getting himself lined up and with what he was doing. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing schematically to understand what the other safety needs to do, what the nickel needs to do. He’s got very good playmaking skills and ability. He’s got natural instincts as a football player. He sees the play before it happens a lot. He anticipates the route breaking off. He anticipates where the runner is going to break. He anticipates where the ball is going.”

» Muschamp on freshman fullback Hunter Joyer: “Wow. He’s had an outstanding year. He’s going to be a heck of a football player for us. He’s smart, understands football. He gets it. It’s important to him. He’s very intelligent and tough. He’s a guy who we like giving the ball too as he gets a lot of positive yards after contact. He’s a really good blocker and picks up the game very well. I think he’s had an outstanding freshman season. He’s basically been the starter for us all year.”

» Muschamp on if he watched Alabama-LSU: “I got through about halftime and then fell asleep [out of exhaustion].”

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11/5: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game notes

The Florida Gators (5-4, 3-4 SEC) finally got off the schnide after a winless October with a 26-21 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-5, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday. Florida played a home game for the first time in over a month and held on to a victory after leading by double digits late in the fourth quarter. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game along with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP THANKFUL FOR FANS, PLEASED WITH EFFORT

At the start of his media availability, Muschamp made it a point to show his appreciation for the support of the Florida fan base. “I want to thank our crowd. We had 90,000 plus for a 12:21 p.m. kick and we have not performed very well on the field up to this point. So I am really proud of our fans and proud to be a part of the Gator Nation. It shows how powerful of a place this place is,” he said.

He also expressed his appreciation for the mentality his football team has had all season long. “I’m really proud of our team from the standpoint of continuing to push, practice and compete, which they do. They do every day in practice. I’ve never been disappointed with our effort or how we approach regardless of the negativity of what’s happened,” Muschamp said. “More than anything, I’m really happy for our team because these guys have really forged together with what we’re trying to do and where we’re headed with this thing. Their effort has been outstanding, and they really needed this today.

“They continue to fight. These guys have pulled together. Adversity either creates division or it unifies you. These guys have pulled together, they really have pulled together. You couldn’t walk on our practice field on Monday or Tuesday of this week – if we ever opened it – and see the team and know the difference if we were 5-4 or we were 9-0 by the way they compete on the practice field. I’m very proud of the effort that they put in. We’re building our battle scars right now, and we’ve got a bunch. I know one thing – we’re going to have a tough group as we continue to move forward with this. Some guys are going to be tight together in what they do. We will benefit from the tough times that we’re traveling through, and [our opponents] better enjoy it while they’ve got it.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played for a second-straight after injuring his ankle on Oct. 1 against Alabama and said it felt “strong” throughout the contest. However, Brantley suffered another injury in the fourth quarter that will be discussed further on Monday. Neither Muschamp nor Brantley would comment on it after the game, though Brantley did admit it came after a shot from a Vanderbilt player.

Also returning at full strength on Saturday were senior running back Jeff Demps, junior RB Mike Gillislee and redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who connected on a 55-yard field goal in the game after missing a 49-yard attempt earlier in the contest.

Unlike Brantley, redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (ankle), redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion) and redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) were all held out of the game Saturday. Rainey was dressed and a game-time decision, but the other players did not dress and were ruled out until next week.

PLAYING SOFT AND NEARLY GIVING IT UP

Florida’s defense was strong most of the game but with a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Gators began playing soft. When UF went up 12 with just minutes to play, the secondary played even softer and allowed Vandy to drive 80 yards on five plays in 57 seconds, giving them an opportunity to try an onside kick and perhaps wind up winning the game. Muschamp was quite displeased with what he saw from that unit at the end of the game.

“When you get put in those situations – i.e. a two score game with 2:13 to go – you still play coverage. We were calling coverages we had been calling and had success with the whole game. Our guys felt like – just don’t get beat deep. That’s not what you can do in these situations,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience. Believe me, Monday morning at 6:00 a.m., we’re going to learn that you can’t play that way at the end of a game. You’ve got to continue to play the game.

“A lot of what I saw is very correctable, in my opinion. Any time you give up some yardage passing – it’s kind of like a sack on offense – everybody wants to point a finger on the offensive lineman. Fourth-and-12 we lose contain[ment] on the quarterback and he holds the ball for three days. That’s the defensive line’s issue. We’ve got to get a lot of things straightened out, some of our underneath coverage. The big emphasis this week, in my opinion going in, was to stop the run game and stop the quarterback runs. I felt like, for the most part, we did a decent job of that.”

He touched on the subject again later, saying that the mistakes that players in the secondary made were mostly due to youth and inexperience – not discipline.

“It has to do with exposure to the situation. To understand it’s a two score game that doesn’t mean it’s a pass skeleton. We still are trying to compete to get the ball off people and make plays,” Muschamp said. “I was thoroughly disappointed with how we [played]; we’re not coaching them to play soft. You let them just throw the ball down the field? That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

“We couldn’t cover a bucket of water on the last drive,” Muschamp joked.

DISCIPLINE ON PENALTIES IMPROVED BUT JUST A SMALL STEP

The most penalized team in the country heading into Saturday’s game, the Gators continued to search for ways to become more disciplined each week. Florida committed just three penalties against Vanderbilt, down from their near double-digit average per game this season.

“It’s been emphasized every week. It’s like all results – you can go out and beat your chest this week and say you must have done a good job coaching penalties. When I was at Texas two years ago, we led the country in turnovers. We don’t coach turnovers any different than we coach today,” Muschamp said.

“Was I a better coach coaching turnovers two years ago than I am now? I don’t think so. We just had some balls bounce our ways a couple times, we got a couple tipped passes, they put the ball on the ground a couple of times. We’ve emphasized discipline in our program. We talk about it all the time. We talk about focusing a little better. We talk about taking a guy out if he jumps offisdes or lines up offsides in situations. We’ve tried to do that in some situations. We’ve explored all of the options. Over a period of time hopefully it’s helped. This is one game. I’m not ready for one game to be ready to waive the flag that we’re disciplined now. We need to work on it day in and day out because we haven’t been consistent all year.”

ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS

Below are a number of questions that have been Tweeted, e-mailed or left in the comment section regarding the game with Muschamp’s respective response.

What has been the problem with the running game recently and how were you able to rectify that this week?
Muschamp said that the team only has 9-10 healthy scholarship offensive linemen active right now. Combining that with a number of injured running backs and it has been tough for the Gators to improve in that area each week. He also touted the newly installed pistol offense (QB in shotgun, RB lined up behind him) as a big help. “Being able to get in the pistol and run the ball a little bit downhill helped our team in this football game. Being able to create some of that downhill running game instead of all the lateral running game, which is sometimes tough in our league.”

Were you going to go for it on the fourth down play that Vanderbilt wound up jumping offsides on?
“We were going to go for it. We were going to win the game.”

Why has the offense been stalling in the second half?
“As much as anything, we didn’t get some stops defensively – that threw us out of our rhythm offensively. You affect each other, whether we think we do or not. [...] You complement each other in every game. I think we had some critical, critical times in the game where we could have made some stops defensively and we didn’t. We got to keep our guys in a rhythm offensively.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the five-point win: “We made it interesting there at the end; we shouldn’t have.”

» Muschamp on the offense stepping up this week: “Our game plan offensively was really good – to get to the line of scrimmage, see the pressures, bring the receiver in, block the edges, change the run game from one side to the other. We were very effective in doing that. You have to credit our offensive staff and Charlie; I thought they did a really good job with that.”

» Muschamp on the downfield passing opening up: “There’s no question – I’ve said it in our game against LSU and obviously in our game against Auburn – we struggle for a number of reasons to be able to throw the ball vertically down the field. When people in this league are able to outnumber you, you can’t get a hat-on-a-hat sometimes in the run game and you have a hard time running it. We’ve faced that. When John’s in there and you have the extra dimension of seeing coverage, taking it to the right spot, getting it to the right people, timing of the passing game, the timing of the offense, getting us in and out of the right protections, seeing the pressure coming off the edge, check the protection. We’re able to do a lot more of that because of a fifth-year senior and a guy who has played a lot of football for us. There is no question that John is a huge part of that.”

» Muschamp on removing redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison from the game in place of redshirt junior center Sam Robey: “We just need to be more consistent with our snaps, and we’ve had issues throughout the year so I felt like we needed to make the change. [...] We’ve had some inconsistencies before in practice. Our decisions are pretty calculated.”

» Muschamp on freshman QB Jacoby Brissett coming in: “I’ve said it all along – not just Jacoby, Jeff Driskel as well – we have the utmost confidence in both of those players that they’re going to be outstanding players.”

» Muschamp on Demps returning: “Every time he’s been healthy for us this year he’s been very productive. [...] He works hard every day, gives you everything he’s got. That’s what being a student-athlete is all about.”

» Muschamp said that over 20 former captains visited this past weekend for a special dinner and to celebrate homecoming.

» Muschamp on not ending a long home winning streak against Vanderbilt: “I don’t think a game in 1945 had anything to do with a game today.”

» Muschamp on if he wavered about trying the 55-yard field goal: “When you get to that 37-38 yard line, I’m kicking a field goal. There’s not a whole lot of kickers in the country you can say that about. [...] In normal situations you might have to get to the 25 to attempt a field goal. When you’re able to have a guy like Caleb, it certainly helps your football team.”

» Redshirt junior defensive end Earl Okine on seeing the field and playing well: “It took me a while to keep progressing. Every week and every day it’s been a grind. Coach Muschamp and Coach Dan Quinn have been pushing me the entire season, and that’s why I’m improving.”

» Okine on the mood of the locker room after the game: “Ecstatic. Ecstatic. Everybody was very happy, relieved, all of the above positive emotions.”

» Demps on getting back out on the field: “It was definitely a good feeling. The offensive line did a great job of opening holes all game, and the wide receivers did a great job on the perimeter blocking.”

» Demps on having just a few games left in his final year: “I’m going to play my last three games here and give it all I got. I enjoyed the whole ride. It’s been tough but anybody can win. When you lose it’s how you face adversity.”

» Demps on the team being close: “We’re definitely a tight group. Throughout the whole offseason, the summer and the spring, I wasn’t around much but when I was there were leaders stepping up all over the place. That really bonded everybody. Even though we’re having a tough season like we are, we have each other’s back. We were there when we started and we’re going to be there at the end.”

» Sophomore safety Matt Elam on the significance of the win: “We got our confidence back. After losing the whole month, a win is a great feeling.”

» Elam on correcting the penalties: “I know there’s been a lot of stuff about us being young and undisciplined. Coach Muschamp is very hard on that, trying to make us more disciplined.”

» Elam on if the win was a relief: “It was a relief we got our win. We got another win, man. It’s been a long time. We ain’t sing the fight song in a long time. It was a great feeling.”

» Elam if the team matured over the losing streak: “We learned. Everybody stuck together. We stuck together and we continued to fight. Everybody went out and practiced hard.”

» Elam on how the secondary will play in 2012: “No, we won’t have those problems.”

» Gillislee on seeing the field again:“I had to just continue doing what I was doing, get back healthy to 100 percent and go out there and produce. Our rushing yards were low the past few games, so we knew we had to go out there and prove a point that we could run the ball.”

» Brantley on picking up a win: “The month of October was rough for us. To get this first win – the first game of November against a good Vanderbilt team – was huge because we’ve got some good teams ahead of us.”

» Brantley on the pistol offense: “It’s easier to establish a downhill run game in that formation. We did a great job all week preparing. The o-line did a great job blocking. You noticed today that Gillislee and Jeff ran hard.”

» Brantley on the penalties being cut down: “It felt really good. We focused on that and focused on our mental discipline all week and it paid off.”

» Brantley on having just three regular season games left: “We had our captains dinner last night. They just kept stressing that we have three more times to run out of the tunnel. That set home on us. We’ve got to cherish these moments, go out there and play our hardest.”

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