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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9/7: Quinn talks defense, evaluates players

With the Florida Gators preparing for their second game of the 2011 season (Sept. 10 vs. UAB), defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the Gators defense and evaluate some of Florida’s standout players.

LOOKING FOR THE TURNOVERS

After the game and during media on Monday, head coach Will Muschamp stressed how important turnovers were, a statement that Quinn supported Wednesday evening. “To me it’s a topic that I feel so strongly about – it’s just taking the ball away. I thought we could have had more attempts on the ball – what we call rips and strips,” he said. “On a good game, where you’re really getting a lot of attempts at the ball, I’d like to see that number drastically increase. […] We feel like there are some unique ways [to create turnovers] – maybe we see on tape where a ball carrier carries it loosely and we target that guy. Some of the tipped balls and those kinds of things [could be luck] but in the run game we feel it is something we can do better.”

Though the Gators were unable to take the ball away on Saturday, they did perform well in an area that Florida struggled with one year ago. “I didn’t think there was a lot of missed tackles out there,” he noted. “For the first time out and the first ball game, as a coach, that’s always one of the things you look to see as a defensive coach. Are these guys tackling and finishing on plays? I was encouraged by some of that.”

BACK TO SCHOOL

He may have spent his last 10 years coaching in the NFL, but Quinn also spent some time as a college coach from 1994-2000 with William & Mary, the Virginia Military Institute and Hofstra. After dealing with million-dollar salaried professional athletes who spend hours upon hours working on their game each day, he has noticed one major difference about coaching at the college level. “You have to be really creative in your meeting time. It really tests you in your preparation,” he said. “That’s kind of been one of the things that coming in I knew was going to be a challenge for me – to condense everything – and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Quinn feels like he has been succeeding at his new role so far and is having a good time doing it. “It is a lot of fun, it really is. When you have the energy of some of these young guys – where they want to stay after, do more, come in, watch tape. There’s a lot of questions. All of us as coaches kind of see ourselves as teachers and that’s kind of why we got into it,” he said. “Not only just for the love of football but for the ability to impact some young guys and help them out. To me it’s been a lot of fun going through training camp, helping the young guys develop. […] It’s a cool feeling as a coach to see a guy come through, learn it and now put the skills to work.”

WEEKLY ADJUSTMENTS

Facing so many different teams throughout the course of a season can be quite difficult on a defense – especially one in its first season under a new head coach and coordinator. Quinn realized early on that this would be an issue and believes the Gators are prepared for the obstacle. “I think each team presents unique challenges. Sometimes there is carryover. This team has as similar concept to maybe these three or four teams,” he explained. “I think that’s part of what you do in training camp without necessarily telling the players. That way there’s a little more recall maybe when you get to that type of offense when you get to the regular season, or a certain package of plays perhaps against a certain type of player.”

During training camp, Florida threw as much as possible at the players in order to expose them to plenty of looks and help with recall all season. “I think it was a hard camp. We wanted it to be both hard mentally and physically – just put the pressure on and we kept installing and kept installing knowing there was a lot in,” Quinn said. “We pull some of those clips from training camp [and say], ‘This week we’re going to play this coverage or this pressure just like we did back in training camp.’ And then when you can put it on now you say, ‘Remember this?’ And then you play it and there’s some recall there.”

TURNING UP THE PRESSURE

The Gators notched a pair of sacks on Saturday, but Quinn obviously wants to see more pressure – especially from the defensive line that he is counting on to get to the quarterback and make him feel uncomfortable every play. “We talk about the outside guys trying to collapse the pocket on the tackles and the inside guys you’ll hear us use the [phrase] ‘push the pocket’ so the quarterback doesn’t have a chance to hitch up in the pocket,” he said.

Even if the front seven doesn’t always create sacks, there are plenty of other ways they can be effective and help out the rest of the defense. “We talk about affecting the QB every week. Sometimes it’s hits on the QB – and we don’t necessarily put a number on the sacks. How many hits we can get, how many pressures we can get, batted balls – those are things that can affect a QB,” Quinn explained. “Certainly with a talented QB, the more hits, the more pressure is certainly the formula for us.”

DEALING WITH A YOUNG SECONDARY

Nearly every player in the Gators’ secondary this season is an underclassman, and the defense is counting on them big-time to help solidify what is expected to be a productive starting front seven. Quinn knows the youth can be an issue but hopes that intense game-week preparations can help reduce some of the inexperience. “There’s good and bad with a young player. You have a fresh slate to say, ‘This is how we’re going to go about our business to play ball.’ And then the other time you’re trying to catch them up on techniques all through training camp, especially the rookies who had their first exposure in training camp,” he said. “On the back end with Travaris [Robinson] and Will working with these guys, they’ve done a terrific job getting these guys up to speed.“

He also addressed the fact that Florida started a freshman at safety in week one but said the decision was not made haphazardly. “There’s a lot of communication that goes on there. When we play those guys, we have a high level of confidence that they’re going to go in there and they’re going to be able to communicate, run the package and do it right otherwise we wouldn’t put them out there. Although they are young, we have a lot of confidence in them, we really do,” he said.

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Freshman CB Marcus Roberson: “To me that’s one of the things, when you look at a corner, a guy that has speed and length with some cover ability. I think that gives you traits to be a good corner. And then if you have speed and length – and I think he’s got a little bit of football savvy to him which I like as a young guy. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”

Sophomore S Matt Elam: “In Matt Elam, although he’s a sophomore, we think he’s like our biggest vet back there. I think Matt has some traits to be a really talented safety, and I’m looking forward to him.”

Sophomore CB Cody Riggs: “I’ve always loved the competitive fire of Cody.”

Junior S Josh Evans: “Josh Evan is another one who has terrific size and speed, so I’m hoping he can pull through and do some stuff.”

Freshman S De’Ante “Pop” Saunders: “The one guy that I thought has really come on – he’s changed positions during training camp – is Pop Saunders. From playing corner and safety and nickel, he’s done a good job. […] For him – going through the spring practice as a young player – made a huge difference. Think about all the experience that you gain and the practice that he gained from coming in early. That’s one player that it really benefited him coming in early because he had more of a chance to learn the defense and had some more reps at it. I’m very encouraged. Any time you have a safety that has corner cover skills, that’s really what you’re looking for.”

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely: “I’ve always liked the energy that he brings to the field.”

Redshirt freshman LB Michael Taylor: “Mike Taylor is a guy that I think can provide some versatility, he can play in the regular package, he can play in the nickel package. I think he’s got good instincts, and he’s a player we’re hoping to develop.”

Redshirt junior defensive end Earl Okine: “As a tall guy, he’s got length, and sometimes as a defensive lineman, especially as a two-gap defensive lineman, you look for a guy who has got length who can keep the blockers off him. Earl’s a tall guy, he played with good effort, and we feel like he’s kind of developing in the system here to play both 3-4 and 4-3.”

Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley: “Dominique had a really good camp, and he’s kind of playing what we play our three – our tackle position. Sometimes he lines up all the way on the tackle, sometimes he lines up inside.”

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Gators Halapio, Okine involved in car crash

Florida Gators redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio and redshirt junior defensive tackle Earl Okine were involved in a crash on I-10 in Madison County on Sunday.

The car they were driving “hit small trees and bushes in the median,” according to WCTV, but both players appear to be unharmed after emergency medical personnel dispatched to the scene evaluated the two young men.

A Florida spokesman confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel Sunday evening that the players were not injured in the crash. Expectations are that both will be at practice Monday.

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8/16: Muschamp’s updates on players, scrimmage

With the Florida Gators fully entrenched in fall practice and having completed their first scrimmage, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media early Tuesday and provided updates on how the team is progressing on both sides of the ball heading into the 2011 season, which begins on Sept. 3.

FRESHMEN ROBERSON, DRISKEL STEPPING UP

Every year there seems to be a few freshmen who take it upon themselves to earn major playing time in their first season. Two players who have already begun proving themselves, according to Muschamp, are four-star cornerback Marcus Roberson and five-star quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Competing with seniors, juniors, sophomores and fellow freshmen, Roberson in particular has stood out and could supplant all of them as the latest Florida freshman to start at cornerback. “I think he could possibly start. He’s played well,” Muschamp said. “We’re going to play the best players. I don’t care what grade they are, where they’re from, it don’t matter to me.”

Driskel, fighting with redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and classmate Jacoby Brissett for the back-up QB job behind redshirt senior John Brantley, has emerged as the leader for the job after showcasing his intangibles during a great performance in the team’s first scrimmage on Saturday. Muschamp said Driskel completed approximately 70 percent of his passes during scrimmage while Brantley (who he again said is “far and ahead” of the pack) was around 60 percent.

“His growth process from spring, obviously he has worked extremely hard through the summer dedicating himself to the playbook and learning what to do and how to do it and why we’re doing it that way,” Muschamp said*. “He’s had a very good camp at this point.”

INDIVIDUAL PLAYER & POSITION UPDATES

» Redshirt junior Lerentee McCray – Listed as a defensive end, McCray has earned the starting strong-side linebacker job and is being backed up sophomore Darrin Kitchens. Muschamp said he can also play the buck position if needed, though it will not be his primary assignment. Sophomore Ronald Powell starts at buck linebacker, and redshirt sophomore Kendric Johnson has been backing him up.

» Senior punter David Lerner – Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and getting IVs regularly when participating in practices and workouts. Lerner is the likely back-up to freshman Kyle Christy, who enrolled in January and is expected to be the starter. “He was diagnosed with Crohn’s in July, and his body is taking to the medication. There have been a couple days where he hasn’t felt well, and I’ve just told him to take it to the house, just go and get some rest. He’s in high competition right now to be our starting punter – he and Kyle both. David has had a great camp. This is something he will battle and be fine.”

» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins – “Both of them have played, so they understand what it takes to be successful in this league. Both of them are extremely intelligent. God’s blessed both of them – they’ve got really good athletic ability. They’re both instinctive players and they like playing the game. And they’ve learned to be better communicators, in my opinion, from spring to now. That, to me, is where they’ve taken the next step as players. We need for both of them to have really, really good seasons, and I certainly think they’re both capable of having really good seasons.”

» Sophomore Sharrif Floyd – Listed as a defensive tackle, Floyd has spent most of his time at defensive end for depth reasons but is also being moved inside during rush situations. He joins senior William Green and redshirt junior Earl Okine as the team’s primary DEs.

» Redshirt senior Jaye Howard, redshirt junior Omar Hunter and sophomore Dominique Easley are all rotating inside at the nose tackle/three position. Redshirt freshman NT Leon Orr is also “coming along” because he has kept his weight down and improved his endurance.

» Redshirt senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson – “I want to say this about Deonte: He is a senior and a guy that we really challenged in the offseason about special teams and understanding, if you want to play after college and if you’re not the lead role at your position in the National Football League, you’ve got to play special teams. The guy has done a phenomenal job on special teams. He’s on our punt team; he’s on our kickoff coverage team. I’m very proud of his effort.”

» Freshman De’Ante Saunders – The cornerback has been spending time at nickel but will be worked out at safety soon as the team is in need of trustworthy tacklers. “Pop is playing well. He deserves the opportunity to be a starter at this point,” Muschamp said. “Pop has played more nickel than anything – more than even at corner. We need to shore up some things at safety as far as our tackling is concerned, our space play is concerned. Pop has got good instincts on the back end – when to play the ball, when not to play the ball. We’ve got to tackle better at that position; we cannot continue to miss tackles in the secondary.”

» Freshman Chris Johnson – Listed as a safety, the 5’9”, 205 lbs. Johnson will continue to be worked out at linebacker in order to improve depth at the position. “Chris Johnson is undersized but is a guy that can run and strike,” Muschamp said. “He’s instinctive in the box. He’s got natural box instincts. He comes down in the box and naturally gets it. That’s part of being a good linebacker – having some sort of instincts.”

» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose – Currently in the second group of pass catchers because he continues to be inconsistent in his performance practice-in and practice-out. “[He’s] got to block better, got to catch the ball better, got to run routes better – there’s a lot of things,” Muschamp said. “But it’s consistency in your performance. You can have one great day, and the next day has got to be a great day. You can’t be up-and-down in your performance in this league. The teams are too good.”

» Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley – “Had a good scrimmage yesterday, did some nice things, had an interception. He’s a guy that’s got to continue to progress.”

» Redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Taylor – “[He] is an instinctive, tough player and has done a nice job with some things. Mike has got to continue working on football off the field. He likes sticking his face in there; he likes the physicality of the game, but we’ve got to play smarter at that position.”

» Redshirt freshman tight end Gerald Christian – “We feel like he’s a very good on-the-ball tight end, blocking. He can also do some things as far as movement is concerned because he’s really a tight end and a fullback. Some tight ends can’t move very well, they don’t move very well as far as the point-of-attack and blocking. Fullbacks do. Some fullbacks can’t line up on the line of scrimmage and block the edge because they don’t have the length to block against some of the defensive ends and outside ‘backers they play against. Gerald can do both, and we will use him to do both.”

» Senior tackle William Steinmann – A walk-on who has only seen action in 18 games over three seasons, Steinmann is also being tried out at tight end as an additional blocker.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the grind of fall practice: “The older players understand the grind of camp, they understand how to work through camp. The younger players generally let the external circumstances – the heat, the fatigue, the soreness – soak in a little bit, and that’s when they lose their mental focus. Those are things we’ve got to battle through at this point.”

» On the difference between running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey: “About 0.4 seconds maybe, I don’t know. Jeff I would say is a little bit bigger stature-wise. The other day he did a really nice job chipping one of our defensive ends coming out on protection. I thought he may have cracked his ribs – he turned him upside down.”

» The team worked on end-of-game situations with hopes of putting a bit of pressure on the players in order to test their resolve. The scrimmage consisted of 130 snaps.

» The heat index was 118 degrees on the field Tuesday morning during practice. Muschamp understood the heat and wanted his team to play in those conditions. “You find out a lot about your leadership especially when you face some adversity. We put them in some adverse situations on both sides of the ball,” he said. “You find out a lot about your football team at this time. We’re going to use the heat to our advantage. We ought to be used to playing in the heat and when its hot. When we started camp, we worked early in the morning and late at night to avoid [the heat]. Now it’s time to shore up and get ready for that – we’re going to use that to our advantage.”

» Muschamp said a few prominent individuals recently met with the team including the Southeastern Conference head of officiating Steve Shaw, University of Florida president Bernie Machen, former Gators safety Lawrence Wright and Iraqi war veteran Lt. Greg Gadson (who inspired the New York Giants in 2008).

» On inheriting a roster and not recruiting it himself: “At the end of the day, they’re Florida’s players. They’re not my players.”

* Driskel quote courtesy of InsidetheGators.com

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (99-90)

With the 2010-11 athletic season now in the books and the 2011-12 season about to begin, the focus has shifted from some of the school’s smaller sports to, of course, Florida Gators football. In this new series, OGGOA will take a look at every player of substance on the roster, counting down by jersey number, until the season begins.

99 – Omar Hunter (Buford, GA)
Redshirt junior nose tackle
6’1” 305 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 (29 games): 40 tackles (17 solo, 4.5 for loss), one pass break up, one blocked field goal

2010 Season: Hunter started six games last year but played in every contest and spent some time on special teams. He amassed 23 tackles and had his best game against Kentucky when he recorded three tackles and had his first career pass break up.

2011 Outlook: In the process of losing weight and fighting through injuries, Hunter was limited during the spring but is expected to jockey with sophomore Sharrif Floyd for the starting job at nose in Florida’s 3-4 set. He hopes to serve as a veteran presence for a unit that could be one of the Gators’ strengths come the fall and has set out to prove to the coaching staff that he can be relied upon. “The message I tried to send was that I was going to be there whether I was hurt or not,” he told ESPN.com. “I’m always going to have their backs and I’m always going to push through injuries for them.”

98 – Zach Brust (Jacksonville, FL)
Senior kicker
6’1” 168 lbs.

Quick Bio: A walk-on who enrolled at Florida in 2007, Brust is majoring in building construction and set to play his final season in the Orange and Blue.

Career Stats (four games): 26 kickoffs for 1,562 yards (60.1 average), one missed XP

2010 Season: With redshirt junior Caleb Strugis out due to an injured back, Brust was the Gators’ kickoff specialist against Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Appalachian State. He missed an extra point in the latter game.

2011 Outlook: Due to Strugis having nearly fully recovered from his back injuries, Brust will likely once again be relegated to back-up duty.

97 – Brad Phillips (Gainesville, FL)
Sophomore kicker
5’10 178 lbs.

Quick Bio: A walk-on who enrolled at Florida in 2010, Phillips is a former National Honor Society president who is studying pre-pharmacy at UF.

Career Stats (three games): Nine kickoffs for 572 yards (63.6 average)

2010 Season: Like Brust, Phillips filled in for Sturgis on kickoffs, playing against Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State.

2011 Outlook: Also like Brust, Phillips will be a back-up for Strugis should he get injured or the team decides there is a better option to kick the ball off.

96 – William Green (Hoover, AL)
Senior defensive end
6’4” 245 lbs.

Quick Bio: A Parade and EA Sports All-American out of high school, Green is a four-star recruit who was a member of the Rivals100 and ESPN 150 in 2008. He is studying social & behavioral sciences and is set to graduate after this season. Green has played in 39 games during his college career, missing just one in 2008, but has only made one start.

Career Stats (39 games): 32 tackles (21 solo, nine for loss), two sacks

2010 Season: Green played every game in 2010 and broke out with three tackles and a sack against Appalachian State. He amassed 13 takedowns on the season (11 on his own) and had four tackles for a total loss of 15 yards.

2011 Outlook: Praised by new head coach Will Muschamp for his leadership and work ethic both after practice and in Gator Gatherings throughout the state, Green was listed as a starting defensive end on the team’s spring depth chart and is expected to hold that job going into fall. With redshirt freshman Chris Martin having decided to transfer, Green will be counted on more than ever to play extensively at defensive end while some of the younger players behind him develop.

93 – Kedric Johnson (Palmetto, FL)
Redshirt sophomore defensive end
6’4” 225 lbs.

Quick Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Johnson (like his line mates) is studying social & behavioral sciences at UF. He redshirted in 2009 even though he dressed for the first seven games of the season.

Career Stats/2010 Season: Johnson played in all 13 games last year, registering a total of four tackles (two solo, one for loss) and one pass breakup with most of his work coming on the special teams units.

2011 Outlook: After being cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana on Jan. 9, Johnson hoped to participate in spring practice but was unable to do so after spraining his knee. He was held out of the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut and left off of the spring depth chart due to his injury. He will likely remain a special teams performer this year.

85 – Lynden Trail (Miami, FL)
Redshirt freshman defensive end
6’7” 217 lbs.

Quick Bio: One of the Gators’ most charismatic players, Trail was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. He married his high school sweetheart before enrolling at Florida and currently majors in social & behavioral sciences.

2010 Season: Trail dressed for the first two games but redshirted in order to retain his four years of eligibility.

2011 Outlook: With the size and speed to be explosive off the end, Trail spent time at buck linebacker in the spring and hopes to see the field extensively in 2011.

91 – Earl Okine (Gainesville, FL)
Redshirt junior defensive tackle
6’7” 282 lbs.

Quick Bio: Third-team All-State coming out of high school, Okine was a four-star recruit who redshirted his freshman season after dressing for six games and saw his first game action in 2009. He is majoring in social & behavioral sciences and hopes to have found a final position after being shuffled around during his career.

Career Stats (16 games): Seven tackles (five solo, one for loss), one sack

2010 Season: Seeing action in just five games during his redshirt freshman season, Okine played in 11 contests in 2010 but missed the final two (against Florida State and Penn State) after suffering a concussion in November. He had moved to blocking tight end at one point during fall practice but was transitioned back to the defensive line.

2011 Outlook: Okine worked at both tackle and end during the spring but missed some practice after having what Muschamp termed as a “medical procedure” on his wrist. He was listed in the spring depth chart as a back-up to Floyd at DT but will have to fight to see major playing time there; he could have additional opportunities at end.

THE COUNTDOWN: 99-90 | 89-80 | 79-70 | 69-60 | 59-50 | 49-40 |
39-30 | 29-20 | 19-10 | 9-1

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4/1: Health of Florida’s linemen a concern, etc.

With the Florida Gators 2011 spring practice now in full swing, head coach Will Muschamp met with the media at the conclusion of the third week on Friday. Maintaining a serious and balanced demeanor, Muschamp discussed a number of topics including the team’s health at the line of scrimmage, how many days of practice have actually been successful and how both players and coaches are performing thus far.

OFFENSIVE LINE BANGED UP

An ongoing story throughout spring practice is that linemen on both sides of the ball are missing much-needed time on the field due to injury. Another player was officially added to that list Friday. Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Nick Alajajian, who wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday that he tore his meniscus in practice, will officially miss the remainder of the spring after undergoing surgery that will sideline him for approximately three months. Also currently out of action is junior tackle Xavier Nixon, who sprained his ankle but should be back in action on Monday.

Asked how many players are functional now on the offensive line, Muschamp was quite forthcoming in his reply. “We’re working about seven. That’s total bodies, too. That’s all we got,” he said. “Injuries are part of the game. There’s nobody feeling sorry for the Gators right now, I can tell you that. You got to have other guys step up. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. Somebody else has got to step up. You build depth on your football team through these situations; you find out a lot more about your football team in these situations. It’s something that happens. We don’t have any excuses around here.”

Because Florida is getting thin up front on both sides of the ball, the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9 may be a bit of a mix-and-match between the two squads. “We need to have a good functional day within teaching our schemes. We’re too thin to divide up,” Muschamp said. “I don’t want to get a guy matched up in a bad mismatch issue and you can’t get the ball off in some situations. That certainly can happen, especially as thin as we are. That’s the operation we’re going to have. We met as a staff [Friday] morning, talked about the spring game and the procedures we will go through.”

PLAYMAKERS PROVIDING A MEASURE OF CONSISTENCY

The Gators had a tough time making dynamic plays on offense in 2010, but Muschamp was happy to discuss how some of his offensive playmakers have performed so far in practice. Speaking of the wide receivers, he called redshirt juniors Frankie Hammond, Jr. and Omarius Hines the most consistent while raving about sophomore Quinton Dunbar’s ability to stretch the field in the vertical passing game. “He’s a guy that’s really a weapon outside,” said Muschamp of Dunbar. He also noted that redshirt senior Deonte Thompson “has done some nice things” and that redshirt sophomore Andre Debose (sprained ankle) will be back in action early next week.

Above anyone else, Muschamp went out of his way to praise redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed’s progress. “Jordan Reed is having a really good spring at tight end,” he said. “He’s a match-up issue for a defense. What are you going to put on him in your mans and your zones? He’s able to stretch the field vertically, block on the perimeter, block on the edge, block at the point of attack. I’ve been very pleased with his spring.” Getting the ball to these players will be redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, of whom Muschamp also offered positive reviews. “He’s managing out football team very well,” he said. “He’s got a lot on his plate. It’s a quarterback system as far as in the run game and pass game. We’re very pleased with where he is at this point.”

PRACTICING HARD AND INCREASING FLEXIBILITY

Out of the 10 practices that Florida has held up to this point, Muschamp said that nine have been great. The other? He doesn’t think the team made much progress in that one. However, he thinks the team is responding great overall. “The guys are working very hard. We’ve had great off days of watching film and learning,” he said. “For the most part, they’re paying attention to great detail in what we’re trying to do and learning what we do. It’s not just about learning what to do, learning why we do it is important, too.”

Stressing the ability for his players to perform at multiple positions, Muschamp noted that redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray has also been playing some SAM linebacker and that redshirt junior defensive tackle Earl Okine has also seen time at end. “There’s been some pleasant surprises for us in some cross-training work,” he said. The biggest surprise is certainly redshirt sophomore Jonotthan Harrison, who moved from guard to center and is learning the position at a fast pace. “Jon Harrison at center is a guy that’s done a nice job,” Muschamp said. “There’s an awful lot on the center as far as snapping and blocking. If you’ve never done it before, there’s an awful lot to it. I’ve been pleased with his progress.”

NOTES & QUOTES

» Sophomore running back Mack Brown had successful surgery on a broken fibula and remains on track to return to action in July.

» On what has been worked on recently in practice: “We’ve really [done] a lot of situational work as far as red zone, third down, coming off the goal line, end of game situations that come up. We’ve got a very experienced staff of guys that have come up with a lot of different situations that we’ll practice and go through. Because in this league, we’re going to have four or five games that will come down to the end of the game, and you’ve got to be good at the end of the game. [It’s about] making good decisions – not just as coaches but as players.”

» On if four-star QB Jacoby Brissett has received any teaching yet: “Jacoby came up during his spring break and spent three or four days with us sitting in the meetings and being out at practice. He will spend more time obviously when summer comes in. We’ve got a video playbook that we go through with our players that we put together on both sides of the ball that’s more teaching terminology, formations, sets, routes, run game. We have a pretty extensive video that you can learn from so when you get here you’re familiar with the terminology.”

» On allowing redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey to talk to the media after he was shunned in 2010: “I don’t know about last year. Chris is going to be a productive football player for us. I trust him. Chris Rainey has worked tremendously hard since I’ve been here. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. There’s been nothing that has been any glitch as far as how he’s performed on- and off-the-field for us since I’ve been at the University of Florida. That’s really all I go off of. We all go through a maturing stage in our life. Whatever happened, maybe he grew up from and learned from.”

» On offensive line coach Frank Verducci: “Frank is a great teacher. He’s not a holler and a screamer. Most of these offensive line coaches, they just want to hear themselves talk. Frank doe s a great job of teaching; he teaches the players very professionally. He does a great job of communicating with players about what to do and how to do it, demands great effort. I’ve been very pleased with their execution up to this point.” He also said that Verducci and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have a noticeably great working relationship that is already paying dividends for the team.

» On defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson: “Travaris Robinson is an outstanding football coach. He has tremendous knowledge and appeals to young people. They gravitate to him as a coach, as a person. He does a phenomenal job on the field as far as coaching, getting the message across and the players playing for him. Motivation of players is as much important to me as far as teaching is concerned, that’s part of it. He certainly inspires learning in our group.”

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3/29: Brown hurt, Brantley leads, Demps around

Eight days into spring football practice, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp is starting to get a feel for his team. On Tuesday, he provided some injury updates, talked about the quarterback situation, updated the status of a missing player and provided a bunch of information about the team in general.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt freshman running back Mack Brown (broken fibula): “Mack Brown sustained an injury Friday in practice. Broke a fibula, which is a non-weight bearing bone. It is a three-month procedure, and he will be in fine.” Brown will have surgery on Wednesday and should be active in July.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (sprained ankle): Muschamp called his injury “nothing serious,” indicating that he will be back at full speed sooner than later.

Brown and Debose join junior RB Mike Gillislee (stress fracture in foot – limited for spring), redshirt sophomore defensive end Kendric Johnson (sprained knee – out for spring) and defensive tackles redshirt senior Jaye Howard (ankle scope) and redshirt junior Earl Okine (wrist) on Florida’s injured list.

BRANTLEY STEPPING GAME, LEADERSHIP UP

Coming off a rough first season as the starter, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley is doing well in offensive coordinator Charlie Weis‘s system. While Brantley is proving to be ahead of his primary competition – redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and freshman Jeff Driskel – he still has a way to go in order to be 100 percent comfortable.

“John, in the sense of learning a new offense, is a freshman again as far as the different ball handling and different things Charlie has him doing,” Muschamp said. “I’ve been very pleased with how he’s managed our football team and made plays down the field vertically.” Asked if he was already anointed the team’s starter, Muschamp deflected the question. “John’s had a good spring. He’s playing well right now. He’s doing a nice job managing our offense. We’re in practice eight, and we’ve got a lot of time to go,” he said.

DEMPS WITH TEAM – JUST NOT PRACTICING

Though senior RB Jeff Demps is spending the vast majority of his time practicing with the men’s track and field team for their outdoor season, Muschamp explained that he has been around the football practice facility often, is doing what he can to get engrained with the new program and will get to work with football as soon as track ends.

“He’ll work through the whole summer. He’s been a part of all of our meetings and all of our walkthroughs, so he’s been our building. He’s been working on football,” he said. “He’s been a part of what we’re trying to do. Mentally he has an idea of what we’re going to ask him to do in the fall. This summer, after the outdoor season is over, our players will conduct seven-on-seven and team drills throughout the summer on their own without coaches. He’ll be involved with that. When we start camp in August, he’ll still be competing for the starting job.”

Muschamp also discussed his philosophy about dual-sport athletes like Demps and incoming freshman QB Jacoby Brissett. Specifically of Demps, he said, “If a young man wants to play two sports here, as long as he handles what he’s supposed to off the field and academically, I’m 100 percent for it as long as it helps the University of Florida.”

TEAM NOTES & QUOTES

» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey continues to separate himself from the pack, impressing his coaches as well as his teammates. “[He] has really had a good spring. He’s a guy that makes an awful lot of plays. Getting the ball deeper to him in the backfield helps him. He’s got great vision, cut-back ability and bounce ability. You got to be really gap-sound on him and the run game.”

» Muschamp said the offensive line has “progressed well” overall.

» A number of players were listed as having standout performances on both sides of the ball. “[Tight end] Jordan Reed did some really nice things last Friday as far as catching the ball vertically down the field. [WR] Quinton Dunbar made some plays Saturday in the scrimmage.” Muschamp also pointed out sophomore defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley as well as junior linebacker Jon Bostic, redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins, redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray, sophomore safety Matt Elam and redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown as players who have impressed him.

» Muschamp said senior kicker Caleb Sturgis played well on Saturday and that he is “very pleased with his progress.” He also noted that freshman punter Kyle Christy was strong over the weekend.

» On how quickly the team is picking up the new systems: “We feel comfortable with where we are. It’s all relative. I’ve been pleased so far with retention on both sides of the ball and in special teams.”

» On Murphy and Driskel: “Both of them have made some plays. As far as the ability, the athleticism, the arm talent, the mental capacity to learn and to do things the right way – are all there [for Driskel]. He’s in his eighth college practice, and he’s in an offense where there’s a lot on the quarterback. […] There’s been some bright spots in both of those guys and a bright future in both of those guys.”

» On position flexibility: “We’re going to play the best players. Play the best players that give us the opportunity to be successful and win football games. […] You’ve got to be able to move guys around to find out if they can to do it because you don’t even know until you try a guy at a different spot. […] We’re just trying to experiment to build depth on our football team to get the best 11 on the field instead of just plugging a guy in because he’s a backup.”

» In addition to Dunbar, Muschamp said four other receivers have stood out: Debose, redshirt senior Deonte Thompson, redshirt junior Omarius Hines and redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr.. He believes the team is in need of consistency past those five.

» On if he has any concerns about the size of sophomore CB Cody Riggs: “Cody’s a good football player. He’s got a tremendous heart [and] all the ability as far as playing hard and playing fast and doing the things you got to do to be a good football player. […] It’s not about how tall you are. It’s about if you make plays or not.”

» On the health of sophomore LB Neiron Ball: “He had a procedure done today and he’s going to be fine. We’re just working through that with him right now and his family. It’s an unfortunate situation but he’s a fine young man. Things happen in life sometimes that you don’t understand, but he’s handled this as well as you can handle it. We’re all praying for him and his family right now. He’s going to be fine; the prognosis is very positive and we feel very comfortable about where he is right now. […] I’m not worried about his football future. I’m worried about his overall health right now. The least part of my mind right now is worried about his football future.”

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