Muschamp: Townsend out 8-10 weeks, issues at line of scrimmage, Florida playmakers step up

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media just over one week before the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game to provide updates on individual players and how the team as a whole is progressing heading into its final practices.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore punter Johnny Townsend, who took over the starting job from senior Kyle Christy in 2013, underwent surgery on his wrist and will miss 8-10 weeks of action. Muschamp expects Townsend to be fine for the regular season and disclosed that Townsend’s injury happened over time – wear and tear through his years of playing football. The surgery does open a door for Christy to prove that he can once again handle the starting job in his final year with the program.

Redshirt senior fullback Gideon Ajagbe has also been ruled out for the remainder of spring practice with a shoulder injury. Though he does not need surgery and likely would have come back had there been two weeks of spring left, Ajagbe will heed the caution of Florida’s trainers, which suggested that he just rest up and get ready for the summer.

Sophomore safety Keanu Neal (hamstring) finally returned to the field but was limited, and redshirt junior right guard Tyler Moore (elbow) has been pushing through a weak arm while wearing a brace. Muschamp noted that Moore did not do any strength training until the start of spring practice.

The Gators also hope to get redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (concussion) back on Monday and believe freshman running back Brandon Powell (foot) could be able to participate in non-contact work if his X-ray comes back clear.

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3/19: Renewed optimism as Gators open practice

The Florida Gators began 2014 spring practice on Wednesday, taking the field for the first of 15 times over the next few weeks. The pad-less practice was open to fans and reporters, which got a first-hand look at the team as it went through the motions of offensive and defensive installation. Afterward, head coach Will Muschamp discussed practice, provided injury updates and went over a number of hot topics.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OFFENSE

Muschamp made no bones about it on Wednesday when he matter-of-factly stated that Florida’s “number one priority … is the installation of the offense.” So important is the Gators improving on offense, in fact, that he has explained to defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and the defensive players that they will need to be patent as offensive coordinator Kurt Roper helps get things on track with his new system.

“There’s a lot of give and take in the installation process,” Muschamp said, “and you have to make sure [the defense does not] get too far ahead of the offense.”

To that end, he confirmed that the Gators will be operating their up-tempo in the shotgun. He now prefers to save Florida’s players under center for when the team has to “kneel down at the end [of a game] after a good win.” He quipped, “I don’t want to be in shotgun doing that.”

Roper will try to instill two important tenants into the heads of the players on his side of the ball. The Gators have to play with urgency and need to master execution…and do all of it at a pace that will keep opposing defenses on their toes.

“They understand the advantages of [lining up] quickly and getting themselves in the right spots and the disadvantages it can create for a defense,” explained Muschamp. “Our players talk between offense and defense. The defensive kids talk about how difficult it can be and how stressful it can be under the circumstances of when they do align fast and get aligned quickly.”

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9/3: Pease dismisses “vanilla” tag for Florida; discusses Jones, Showers, freshmen receivers

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the second game of the season against the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 7.

“WE DIDN’T HAVE A ‘VANILLA’ GAME PLAN”

Asked Tuesday if the Gators purposely held back on offense in order to not put some of their new plays and vertical passing game on tape – or if Florida was simply the same old offense that could not do much other than run the ball – Pease appeared to be a bit offended by the implication that the Gators’ offense was vanilla and not creative. He responded with the following (extremely long) rant.

“First off, I don’t know what ‘vanilla’ – because I’ve heard the word ‘vanilla’ – I don’t know what ‘vanilla’ is. I’ve never made a game plan with vanilla and that’s never what I would go into a game plan with. I would feel too uncomfortable thinking we got to save all this, we got to save all that.

“I look at it, compared to what we did last year… We controlled the ball for 40 minutes, finished the game with the last 6:38 on the clock. We rushed for 262 [yards]; we passed for 77 percent. We had one turnover we need to improve on. We had nine explosives. We were 6-of-12 on third downs, which last year at this same thing, we were asking each other what we got to do on third downs. We were 3-for-3 on 3rd-and-1s, which last year that was a concern in our first [press] conference.

“OK, yeah, do we need to improve on sacks? Yeah, we had two sacks. Our protection, our scheme got us. Happy for Mack Brown, happy for Trey Burton how they kind of stepped up with their opportunity.

“We threw the ball down field seven times. Coverage takes some things away. Do you ask a quarterback not into coverage deep? Yeah, you do. We hit Trey Burton on two, we had two check downs, we got a protection issue on one. We’re stretching the field. We can stretch the field if we want to stretch the field. Did we have to stretch the field at a certain part in time? No. Did we have it in the game plan to do it? Yes. I’m not sure what everybody wants. …

“Are we going to throw the ball 75 times a game and throw vertical? No. When a team plays corners coverage like Toledo, you don’t throw the ball vertical. You throw the ball in intermediate to check-down throws. Did we try to throw the ball vertical in the red zone? Yes, we did. Well, they played coverage. So what’s Jeff [Driskel] do? He checks it down to Gideon [Ajagbe], guy bounces off Gideon, Gideon runs for 15 yards, gets a first down, we’re in good position and we continue to score.

“We didn’t have a ‘vanilla’ game plan. You saw reverses. I can’t handle what the refs don’t see but yet they call and it keeps us out of the end zone. …

“Should we have come out in the third quarter and probably had more production in the first two series instead of three-and-outs? Yes. … I think we hit a lull that we got to be able to step it up and not be able to do that, score at the end of the game. So if you’re measuring us against points, yeah, we left points out there. But we had things in control and we ran the last – I don’t even know how many plays – but I know there was 6:38 on the clock and we walked off the field with the offensive on the field. We were on the one-yard line or three-yard line, whatever we were on, trying to score.”

He later added:

“Do I want to see 300 passing yards? Absolutely. Is that going to be a reality? I don’t know. I don’t measure success totally on that. We completed 77 percent yet we have two drops, two tips and a pass that he probably should’ve hit on the end zone but he overthrew it and it got away from him. That’s what I see. The kid’s making good decisions. He’s managing the game. … He’s productive with his hands running it. He’s putting us in the right plays in the run game. That’s what I look at. Are we having a chance to win the game? Yeah, explosiveness, but I’m not measuring it on yards. That’s called you trying to get your guru card. Maybe when I was 30 years old, but I’m not 30 years old anymore.”

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Gators RB Mack Brown’s career changed Saturday

You can’t blame him.

Redshirt junior Mack Brown has stood inside the tunnel ready to run onto Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium dozens of times, but he never thought he would do so as the starting running back for the Florida Gators.

That changed on Saturday.

“It felt good,” he said. “Still ain’t feeling real right now.”

But Brown – who was all smiles after his 25-carry, 112-yard, two-touchdown performance in the season opener – expressed a different emotion when he was standing in that tunnel, his helmet shielding his face from his teammates and coaches.

“I had tears in my eyes, man.”

Brown played in just two games as a freshman, picking up a redshirt to preserve a year of eligibility. He carried the ball 12 times in his second year despite dressing for every game. Last season, as the only veteran back-up running back on the roster behind starter Mike Gillislee, he was beaten out for the second-string job then-freshman Matt Jones. Brown carried the ball 25 times for 102 yards.

He never had more than 10 carries in a game, never scored a touchdown and never had a rush longer than 13 yards.

That changed on Saturday.

“I felt like I was useless the last couple of years, you know? [I] got an opportunity, took the best and ran with it,” he said.

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8/31: Florida vs. Toledo post-game report

No. 10 Florida Gators football (1-0) opened the 2013 regular season with a solid 24-6 victory over the Toledo Rockets (0-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.

ERRICT RHETT AS MR. TWO BITS

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida improved to 15-1 in under Muschamp against unranked opponents.
» The Gators are 80-27 all-time in season openers (65-6 in Gainesville) and have won 24-straight games to begin a season, the longest streak in the SEC and second-longest streak in the nation (Nebraska, 28).
» Florida has won eight-straight games in The Swamp and has not lost at home since Nov. 26, 2011.
» UF improved to 13-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards, 15-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 11-2 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 13-3 when scoring first and 15-1 when leading at the half.
» The Gators scored on their first offensive drive in a season debut for the first time since 2009 (Charleston Southern).
» Florida outgained Toledo 415 yards to 205 yards and dominated the time of possession 39:48 to 20:12.

» Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell played a college football game for the first time in 20 months. He registered a sack on the first series of the game.
» Redshirt junior running back Mack Brown registered a number of firsts and career marks on Saturday. In his first start, Brown carried the ball a career-high 25 times for a career-most 112 yards. He had a career-long 23-yard run and scored twice, including the first touchdown of his career.
» Rushers sophomore Mark Herndon and freshman Kelvin Taylor each averaged over 8.0 yards per carry. Herndon toted the rock four times for 32 yards, while Taylor entered the game late in the fourth quarter and took five carries for 43 yards.
» Redshirt sophomore RB Valdez Showers, a safety who ran the ball in high school, recorded his first rush and reception, finishing with six touches and 53 total yards.
» Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel went 17-for-22, the most efficient game of his career at a 77.3 percent completion rate. That percentage is the highest for a Gators signal caller since Jan. 1, 2010.
» Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III recorded his first career interception.
» Redshirt junior Gideon Ajagbe, a converted linebacker, earned his first career start at fullback and scored his first career touchdown, picking up 16 yards on two receptions.
» Freshman wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood registered his first reception (five yards).
» Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin started his first game and went 1-for-2 on field goals, missing a 39-yard attempt wide left.
» Eight total Florida players earned their first career start while 15 freshman played their first career game.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say after the game…

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Gators blast Rockets 24-6 behind Brown’s two TDs

It did not take long for the No. 10 Florida Gators to assert themselves on Saturday, using a touchdown on their first offensive drive and a stellar performance from redshirt junior running back Mack Brown to blast the Toledo Rockets 17-3 in the season opener for both teams at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Starting his first game at tailback for the Gators, Brown toted the rock a career-high 25 times for a career-high 112 yards, scored the first two touchdowns of his career and broke off for a career-long 23-yard rush on Florida’s first offensive drive of the game.

Toledo started the game on offense but failed to move the ball. On 3rd-and-10, UF redshirt junior Sam linebacker Ronald Powell, playing his first college football game in 20 months, registered the team’s first sack of the season.

The Gators took over on their own 16 and put together an impressive 11-play, 84-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run from Brown. Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel went 3-for-3 with two 15+ yard passes before Brown’s 23-yard run brought Florida down to the 11-yard line.

Brown’s score gave the Gators a touchdown on their first offensive drive in a season opener for the first time since 2009.

Read the rest of the Florida-Toledo game story…after the break!
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Florida Gators 2013 opening week depth chart

Game Week – Monday: LB Antonio Morrison’s Suspension Reduced | RT Chaz Green Out for Season, RB Matt Jones Set for Miami | New Mr. Two Bits, Muschamp on Tight Ends, Season Opener

Though things could still change over the next five days, the Florida Gators on Monday morning released the team’s first official depth chart for the 2013 season.

Florida omitted players that are not participating in the season opener due to injury or suspension; therefore, the depth chart below is an “active” version rather than a “best-case scenario” version. Notations marked with (») can be found below certain positions.

OnlyGators.com will update this post shortly with additional details and thoughts from head coach Will Muschamp‘s Monday press conference.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Tyler Murphy
RB: 33 Mack Brown, 37 Mark Herndon, 10 Valdez Showers
» 24 Matt Jones is not playing on Saturday.
FB: 43 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson
WR (Z): 83 Solomon Patton, 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 85 Chris Thompson
» 13 Latroy Pittman and 4 Andre Debose (out for season) knocked out of Z.
F Position: 8 Trey Burton, 13 Latroy Pittman, 30 Mike McNeely
TE: 88 Clay Burton, 87 Tevin Westbrook, 84 Colin Thompson
» 18 Kent Taylor not on the three-deep.

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 76 Max Garcia
» 74 Trenton Brown no longer the back-up to Humphries.
LG: 76 Max Garcia, 63 Trip Thurman
» 77 Ian Silberman no longer the back-up to Garcia.
C: 72 Jonotthan Harrison, 64 Kyle Koehne
RG: 64 Kyle Koehne, 77 Ian Silberman
» 67 Jon Halapio is not playing Saturday; Thurman moved to left guard.
RT: 73 Tyler Moore, 74 Trenton Brown
» 75 Chaz Green is out for the season; Brown moved to right tackle.

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8/8: Gators evaluate each other in practice

A handful of Florida Gators football players met with the media on Thursday to discuss how the team is looking at the start of fall practices.

“IT’S LIKE WE GOT TO PLAY WITH PILLOWS NOW.”

Suffice to say, redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor is not pleased with the NCAA’s new targeting and contact rules that restrict hits in games and allow referees on the field to assess penalties and eject players during games.

“It’s unfortunate. It’s kind of hard. It’s like we got to play with pillows now,” he quipped on Thursday. “[The coaches] tell you. We watch film. If you come through free on a blitz, they tell you that you got to target low. If you got a receiver flying across the middle, we don’t kill them in practice, but they let you know you can’t go targeting his head. I understand they’re trying to make the game safer.”

Taylor does not plan to change the way he plays, however, noting that thinking about the rule could result in mistakes being made on the field.

“I’m just going to react and play,” he said. “You can’t hold back because that’s when you give up plays, you give up big plays, giving up touchdowns. You can’t think when you’re on the field sometimes; you just got to react. So that’s what I feel. That’s all we have to do. And sometimes it’s out of our hands.”

Taylor also explained the message that head coach Will Muschamp conveyed to the team during meetings throughout the offseason.

“He’s telling us: ‘Be smart. Play smart about it. Don’t go running directly into a guy’s helmet. Don’t launch yourself. If you’re going to hit somebody, hit them face-up. Don’t launch yourself into them. If you’re making a tackle, wrap him up like you’re taught in Pop Warner.’”

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