10/24: Quinn on defense; Easley on motivation

No. 2 Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn met with the media on Wednesday to discuss his side of the ball as the team prepares for another tough game against the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs. Junior defensive end Dominique Easley and redshirt senior left guard James Wilson also spoke with the media this week.

» Quinn on redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins: “Even though the one turnover we didn’t get on his interception where we lined up offsides, it was great to see him back and playing and in action. He certainly has speed to match up with people. He’s a good blitzer. I thought he had a couple physical tackles, too. I was really pleased, for having some time off, for him coming back and contributing the way that he did in his first extended action in a while.”

» Quinn on the fourth down touchdown passes thrown last year in the Florida-Georgia game: “The deciding factors in the game. We had a chance to make a play on the ball and we didn’t. We’ve worked hard in terms of playing technique and that kind of thing. As far as a new call and that kind of stuff, some of those same calls happened during the game that we made plays on. It just so happened on those two we didn’t make the play on the thrown ball. Those two were critical fourth-down ones [and we gained] more experience in playing it. Even the tough experiences you lose from in terms of how your play your technique or not getting the ball down. Both of those were 50-50 balls where they had a chance to make a play and we weren’t able to come up with it in that place.”

» Quinn on the Bulldogs’ last offensive drive in 2011: “It was certainly a low point for me. When you look back at it, we had chances to win the game. When you don’t, it eats at you for a long time when you’re thinking about it or during an offseason or when you put the film on during the offseason to start on the study for them. The number of times we’ve seen that sequence of plays this year, during this week especially, is hard because you knew you had a chance to maybe make a stop and give us a chance to win the game, and we weren’t able to get that done.”

» Quinn on the ‘violators’ tag for players likely to fumble the ball: “In a nutshell, sometimes we look for a ball carrier or it could be a quarterback who, when they’re running the ball, they don’t’ keep it secure. It might be a runner who doesn’t keep the ball high and tight or you may see it swing. Sometimes we may say, as a second guy in who’s into the tackle, knowing that a guy doesn’t keep it all the way locked in, you may have an opportunity against this player, for the second guy in, to see if you can get the ball out. A violator, for us, we see as a player who may carry the ball loosely for the second guy in to be able to get it out.”

PLAYERS

» Easley on the Georgia game in 2011: “We lost. We got our butts kicked, and it still hurts.”

» Easley on if he is motivated by last year’s loss: “We was one of the first teams to almost have a losing season in Florida’s history. That takes a toll on us. That takes a toll on all of us just to lose mostly every game that we had.”

» Easley on the ‘violators’ on offense: “They got that ball – that’s ours. They got that ball hanging out. Violator is when somebody doesn’t know how to carry the ball correctly. We’re going to come get it from you. [...] We see that ball. [When] we see a little bit of that pigskin, we’re coming to get it.”

» Easley on the rivalry: “I wouldn’t say it’s nasty. I mean, I don’t like them. They Georgia. That’s all – they’re Bulldogs – that’s all.”

» Easley on his motivation: “I just try to let the other team feel my pain and my hurt, that’s all.”

» Easley on all Florida losses: “Let’s just say… Every one of those games I have not stopped watching. I have those games at my house and I watch every night before I go to sleep.”

» Easley on what it feels like to watch those losses: “It’s like somebody telling you that you’re going to watch a video clip of you getting punched in the face over and over again. You going to get mad every time you watch it?”

» Easley on the success that UF has had already: “One thing about us, we haven’t had success until we win the SEC or the national championship. So there has not been no success this year yet.”

» Easley on losing: “I hate losing. In my high school career I only lost one game. In any sport, I rarely lose, so I hate losing. That’s all. I just hate losing.”

» Wilson on the offensive line’s improvement: “We’ve made leaps and bounds since last season. There is always something to correct and we’re going to do our best like always.”

» Wilson on missing so much of his college career due to injury: “I wish things would have [gone] better, but I’m happy with how everything turned out. This is awesome.”

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10/24: Muschamp, Richt on SEC teleconference

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt made appearances Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding their respective teams and the game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

INJURY UPDATES

Though he was expected to be questionable for this weekend, freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) practiced on Tuesday and is expected to be able to play on Saturday, Muschamp said. He also added that junior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (hamstring), who was supposed to return to practice Monday, will instead try and return Wednesday but is questionable to play.

Richt noted during his portion of the teleconference that starting defensive end Abry Jones (ankle) will be out of action. Though he is a starter, Jones does not make many impact plays for Georgia.

NO SPECIAL APPROACH FOR FLORIDA-GEORGIA

Muschamp has explained all season long that his approach to the team this year is to remain even-keel heading into every game and that no one opponent is more important than another. He expanded on that general thought on Wednesday.

“We approach all games the same. I know no one wants to hear that but that’s the way we do it here,” he said. “I think that when you consistently approach things the same way, you promote consistent performance in your players and you don’t get a lot of peaks and valleys with how they play and how they approach it.”

So while the coaching staff may not be riling up the team in any special way, Muschamp said that the Gators know they are playing the Bulldogs and are well aware of what is on the line – a trip to the SEC Championship.

“We understand what’s at stake. When you got on the practice field on Monday, our guys were excited. You don’t need much pep talks to get them going. You don’t need to find different ways to try and motivate them this week. They will be excited to play,” he said.

Muschamp also addressed Florida’s turnaround this season and noted that, while he did make a few adjustments to his coaching style, his belief system in how to properly run a team and be a successful coach has remained the same.

“The things that we didn’t change is philosophically our core values in the program and what we believe and what we want to be as a football program. That’s what you can’t do,” he said. “It’s one thing to tweak something, but you can’t start changing every time it doesn’t work for sake of change. We never wavered. I never wavered on the path of the program and where we were headed.”

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10/23: Pease coaching to players’ strengths

With the team preparing for its eighth game of the season, a 3:30 p.m. neutral site game against the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL, No. 2 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media Tuesday to discuss his unit’s recent production and significant improvement on the field.

BOISE STATE OFFENSE, SEC-STYLE

Discussing Florida’s offense on Tuesday, Pease cautioned that the team’s low yardage numbers (especially in the passing game over the last three weeks) are not indicative of how productive the team has been on that side of the ball. To his point, the Gators have scored 75 combined points in the last two games including 44 against a South Carolina defense that ranks as one of the best in the country.

“I’m not worried about yards. We’re not going to win any statistical wars this year, and I don’t think we’re trying to,” he said. “I don’t think we’re set up that way yet, especially [as a] coordinator in his first year with a new quarterback. We’re definitely not going to be like West Virginia and those teams where we’re throwing for all these yards.”

Pease insists that his top priority has been calling running an offense that plays to the strengths of Florida’s playmakers. That includes giving senior running back Mike Gillislee plenty of touches and allowing sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel to use his legs in addition to his arm. So while the Gators may not be putting up the same numbers that his Boise State offenses have in the past, the system is not much different.

“We are running the Boise State offense,” he said, “other than probably Kellen Moore couldn’t do some of the runs that Jeff can do. If you go back and look, we had a kid named Grant Hedrick that ran those runs rather than Kellen Moore, just doing the same thing that Jeff does.

“Did you see them as much? No, because Jeff’s in there every play. Grant wasn’t in there every play. We still have the system in place. Now, are you seeing as many throws? No, because Kellen Moore probably isn’t back there until [Driskel] grows into Kellen Moore or a good-throwing quarterback.”

While Florida may not be airing it out in 2012, that is certainly not off the table.

“I’m not saying we can’t down the road but you got to be built a little differently and that’s just not our deal,” Pease said. “It’s all a flow. It’s a game flow of special teams, where you to get the ball and playing off your defense sometimes.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the importance of taking care of the ball: “If there’s one stat you really want to chart every week, it’s ball security. Outside of winning, there’s really one goal board that we have that we really look at and it’s our turnover margin. We stress to kids that we want to be in the top 10 of the nation. It is evident, if you’re in the top 10 of the nation, you’re probably going to be a team with a winning record. […] If you look at the top 10 teams, they’re usually the ones that got the plus category. It takes both sides of the ball. It takes our defense and our special teams getting them, much like last weekend, and then it takes us taking care of it.”

» On Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones: “When we were at Boise State last year, we played him the first game. That kid…going in I don’t think we knew enough about him. We knew he transferred and was probably a good player. After going against him and just watching how fast he played the game, the strength he played with, how they used him, he is definitely an impact player. He can cause fumbles. He’s all over the field. They move him. He’s in coverage. He’s rushing. He’s got an extreme talent and plays the game extremely well.”

» On redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines seeing his role expand in the offense: “He’s worked hard. He’s done good things with the ball. It’s just a matter of us putting him in position to get the ball specifically. You can see – he makes a catch like that. He’s unique because he’s got great size for wherever we put him with great speed. He can get on the edge. He can go down the middle. He can catch it, and he can run it. He’s a guy that, once again, causes problems wherever we put him [for defenses].”

» On redshirt sophomore QB Tyler Murphy lining up at wide receiver in the WildGator package: “It wasn’t necessarily a receiver position. It was where we aligned the quarterback at the time.”

» On not running a pass-happy offense in the SEC: “What we faced in the WAC last year is a little different than what we face every week here. You got to always have a game plan that you’re going to be able to handle the Clowneys and the Montgomerys and the Mingos and the Jones, those kind of people.”

On leaving Boise State for Florida: “I wasn’t really ever considering any other jobs because I was happy at Boise State. This opportunity came up and another opportunity [Alabama] came up.”

On the team’s attitude and energy: “Kids are kids. They’re loose and having fun. Coaches are probably tighter. I’m not understanding them all yet. I’m probably a little bit more intense than I need to be sometimes.”

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10/22: Muschamp on injuries, awards, turnovers

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s big 44-11 win over the then-No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks and preview Saturday’s game against the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp said that junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (pectoral) are once again out for Saturday’s game. Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle) will return to practice Monday before being evaluated again, and junior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (hamstring) will sit on Monday but return to practice on Tuesday (probable for Saturday).

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: junior running back Trey Burton
“Trey does a lot of things for our football team offensively, special teams, really a lot of things go through him. We have a package for him in every game, and we certainly were able to use it Saturday and it was very efficient.”

Big Plays: redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed, redshirt sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar, junior WR Solomon Patton

Scrap Iron: redshirt sophomore right tackle Chaz Green

Defensive Player of the Game: junior defensive end Dominique Easley

Ball Hawks: Burton (two), Patton, sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy (two), redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray, junior DT Sharrif Floyd, sophomore CB Jabari Gorman, sophomore RB Chris Johnson

Special Teams Player of the Game: Purifoy and sophomore punter Kyle Christy
* Christy was also named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Big Plays: Burton, Patton and Johnson

Scout Team Players of the Week: Special Teams – freshman LB Jeremi Powell, Defense – freshmen DL Alex McCalister and Quinteze Williams, Offense – freshman walk-on RB Mark Herndon

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 10/22: Muschamp on injuries, awards, turnovers

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TWO Video BITS: Moultrie’s bunt homer, Tebow

1 » The United States won its sixth-straight World Cup of Softball on Monday, defeating Australia 3-0 in Oklahoma City, OK thanks to a two-RBI double by Samantha Fischer and an “inside the park home run” off of a perfectly placed bunt by former Florida Gators centerfielder Michelle Moultrie. Already up 2-0, the Americans extended their lead by another run when Moultrie’s bunt was fielded and thrown well past the first baseman and rolled alongside the right field wall. She went home-to-home in approximately 12 seconds and provided a highlight play that none will soon forget. “In big games like this, any time they give you a little bit, you have to take as much as you can and try to do what you can for your team,” Moultrie told the Associated Press.

Unfortunately Moultrie and her teammates will not have the opportunity to showcase their skills on what was once the sport’s biggest stage as softball was voted out of the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee in 2005 because of a lack of participation and competition gap. A bid is currently being put together to add softball (along with baseball) back to the games in 2020. Instead, the United States will play in some other events and try to win their eighth-straight world championship in an starting July 13 in Canada. (Japan, the other top team in the world along with the U.S., did not participate in the World Cup for “financial reasons,” according to the AP.)

2 » As part of the new NCAA Football 13 video game produced by EA Sports, users are able to place former Heisman Trophy winners on any team they so choose. To go along with this new feature, the company has been producing a number of commercials to promote the gameplay option including this one of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in a Georgia Bulldogs uniform. The end of the commercial also has a short clip of Herschel Walker in a Gators uniform.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Hunter, Every, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (31-9, 11-7 SEC) won their second-straight weekend series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (24-17, 8-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida won the series opener 3-2 in 16 innings on Friday before dropping Saturday’s contest 5-3 and needing a victory Sunday to clinch the series. The Gators started with a 1-0 lead via a solo homer by junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) in the bottom of the second, tied the game 2-2 in the fourth thanks to a RBI double by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott and fell behind 3-2 in the top of the sixth after the Bulldogs rallied. However, Florida would match and exceed that rally in the bottom frame, scoring four runs including three coming from a homer to right by Pigott (3/3, HR, 4 RBI, R, BB) to take a 6-3 lead.

Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, K) got the start for the Gators but struggled with his command in the fourth. Florida’s bullpen allowed two more earned runs over the next 2.2 innings but was able to close out the contest with 3.1 scoreless innings including junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez striking out three of the five batters he faced. Senior RHP Greg Larson improved to 6-0 with the victory, and junior RHP Austin Maddox notched his 11th save of the season.

2 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics may have come up just short of winning the overall national championship on Saturday but that did not stop freshman Kytra Hunter from picking up her second individual 2012 NCAA Championship on Sunday. Hunter, who won the NCAA all-around title (first in school history) on Friday with a final score of 39.725, captured the NCAA vault title on Sunday with a score of 9.8750. Hunter also came within a hair (0.0125) of taking the floor exercise championship as well.

3 » Speaking of heartbreaking losses, former Florida golfer Matt Every (-7) finished two spots back of Ben Curtis (-9) in the 2012 Valero Texas Open on Sunday, losing out on the title and a $1.116 million championship purse. Every did, however, bring home $545,600 for tying for second place and was not the only former Gators golfer to win big money as Brian Gay (-5) tied for fourth and banked $244,125 and Billy Horschel (+14) came in 75th and won $12,090.

4 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons – averaging 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while starting 56-of-62 games as a rookie so far – was recently profiled in the video below. Hours after this initial posting Parsons posted one of the best lines of his young NBA career, scoring a personal-best 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block.

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Florida women’s tennis takes down Georgia 4-1, wins third-straight SEC Tournament title

No. 3 Florida Gators (21-1) women’s tennis captured the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs (21-4) to bring the title back to Gainesville, FL for the third-straight season and eighth time in the last 11 years.

Competing at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center in Oxford, MS, Florida worked hard to clinch the doubles point and take an early advantage. Junior Caroline Hitimana and sophomore Olivia Janowicz lost the first doubles match 8-1, but the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen and No. 19 pairing of junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather each won their respective matches to give UF a 1-0 lead.

No. 23 Mather followed her doubles win with a dominant singles victory (6-4, 6-4), putting the Gators ahead 2-0. The Bulldogs got a point back as Lilly Kimbell defeated sophomore No. 68 Alex Cercone (6-3, 2-6, 6-3) but lost it just as quickly when No. 10 Embree came from behind to finish off No. 7 Chelsey Gullickson (3-6, 6-4, 7-5).

With three matches remaining, UF was looking for one more point to clinch the title while UGA was hoping to win three-straight in a major comeback effort.

Florida would not give Georgia that opportunity as No. 121 Hitimana earned a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory to clinch the win for the Gators.

No. 1 Will led her singles match (6-7, 7-5, 4-2) at the conclusion of the event, and No. 51 Oyen was fighting for a victory in her contest as well (4-6, 7-5, 5-5).

UF women’s tennis has now won 18 SEC Tournament titles and captured the SEC regular season championship 26 times in the team’s history. Florida will make its 30th appearance in the NCAA Tournament on May 11 as the Gators look to defend their national title.

Photo Credit: Sean Cartell

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did everything they could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six on Saturday but came just short of earning their first national title as the Alabama Crimson Tide edged Florida 197.850-197.775 to win the 2012 NCAA Championship. One of four teams in 31 years to win the national title, Alabama captured their sixth in school history by a 0.075 margin thanks to a stellar 49.500 effort on the balance beam in the final rotation. The Gators led the Crimson Tide by 0.025 heading into the final rotation; however, Florida posted a 49.400 on the floor exercise, allowing Alabama to leap them and earn the championship. All is not lost for the Gators as UF’s individual gymnasts will compete for event national titles on Sunday. Freshman Kytra Hunter already won the NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday.

2 » Looking to carry some momentum from the 16-inning marathon win Friday night, No. 1 Florida baseball (30-9, 10-7 SEC) was not as fortunate Saturday night falling 5-3 to the Georgia Bulldogs (24-16, 8-9 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. UF led 2-1 after the first inning thanks to a two-run bomb by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, 2 RBI, R, SB) but found themselves in a 4-2 hole after UGA rallied for three runs in the top of the third. A solo homer by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/4, HR, RBI, R) cut the Gators’ deficit to a single run in the bottom of the fourth, but Bulldogs’ starter Michael Palazzone and reliever Blake Dieterich combined to no-hit Florida over the final five innings of the game. Georgia’s timely pitching and clutch defense handed the loss to junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (5-2, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 K). UF has not swept a weekend series in over a month hopes to pick up a series win in the rubber match on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2).

3 » No. 1-seed Gators women’s tennis (20-1) swept the No. 4-seed Ole Miss Rebels (17-8) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday, using a 4-0 victory to propel them into the finals on Sunday against No. 3-seed Georgia. Florida captured the doubles point in entertaining fashion having split the first two matches 1-1 before the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen earned a 9-8 (7-5) victory. Singles action was a more of a breeze for the Gators with No. 23 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 10 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-0) and No. 51 Oyen (3-6, 6-1, 6-0) picking up three wins to end the match. UF, which improved to 25-0 all-time in SEC Tournament quarterfinals action on Friday, is now 23-2 in the semifinals and competing for their 18th conference tournament title.Florida defeated Georgia 4-3 on March 4 in Athens, GA in the teams’ sole meeting this season.

4 » No. 3/4 Gators softball (41-5) completed their sweep of the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-23) with a 7-1 victory on Saturday at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida and FIU were scoreless through four innings with Gators sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (24-3) holding the Golden Panthers hitless for most of the contest. Florida jumped ahead 1-0 in the fifth on a RBI double by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/3, RBI, BB), but Rogers allowed FIU to even things up in the top of the sixth. Junior RF Ensley Gammel (1/2, HR RBI, R) put the Gators ahead for good in the sixth with a solo homer that spurned a six-run bottom of the inning including two RBIs by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3, 2 RBI, R, BB) and another solo bomb by freshman left fielder Jessica Damico (1/1, HR, RBI, R). Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 7 K) completed the outing and her team’s third-straight weekend series sweep.

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