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 fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 17-12 on Saturday and is beginning to prepare for a home game against the Furman Paladins on Nov. 19. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from Saturday and Monday.
In addition to announcing that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson (neck) will be out for the season, Muschamp said redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley (“banged up”) should all be able to play on Saturday. Green and McCray were tested pre-game on Saturday and could not play; both are expected to return to practice early in the week and try to give it a go again versus Furman.
COSTLY ERRORS AT CRITICAL JUNCTURES
The Gators once again failed to impress on Saturday and continued to make major mistakes after being put in a position to succeed. Florida was inside the five-yard-line twice against South Carolina and came out of the situations with a total of six points rather than the 14 they should have posted. UF also committed a costly offsides penalty continuing what wound up being USC’s final offensive drive. Muschamp said Saturday after the game that Florida’s miscues continue to disappoint him.
“We’ve had three ballgames where we had our opportunities. It comes back to turnovers, critical errors when you got to make plays, you got to make a play on the ball down the field,” he said. “You’re in a situation where it’s a field goal game, and you have to execute in those situations. It comes back on me. [I’ve] got to do a better job coaching, a better job in those critical downs and critical situations. In four of our last games, three of them have come down to the last drive of the game. We have got to win in those situations and we haven’t.”
He expanded on those comments on Monday, explaining what he and the players spoke about during their meeting earlier in the day.
“I told the team this morning at 6:00 a.m. Every football game you play in or you coach in, there are 8-10-12 plays in the game that really determine the outcome. It isn’t one play but generally those collective plays and you never know when those plays are going to happen,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to make plays in those situations. We’ve been very inconsistent obviously in our play, and that falls back on my shoulders, doing a better job putting our guys in situations to be successful.
“We watched plays from the game as an entire team this morning to show them when those situations arrive and how we’re hurting ourselves in a lot of those situations. We’ve got to eliminate that from our game if you expect to win those games. Those critical plays we’ve got to do a better job [on].”
A SILVER LINING TO THE STRUGGLES
Muschamp is not using 2011 as an evaluation season per se but while the team is struggling to get into the W column on a consistent basis, he is noticing some qualities about the players that give him a sense of promise for the future.
“I see a lot of improvement regardless of the results,” he said Saturday. “In the big picture of things, we’ve made tremendous improvements. We play blocks much better up front at times. We do a better job in the run game against a quality defensive football team. [...] We ran the ball in the second half. Is there improvement? Yes. Is it what we want? No. Is it where it needs to be? No. Are we going to get there? Yes, it’s going to get there. You play three quality teams that you feel like you had opportunities to win the games. Is it frustrating? Yeah. But it’s frustrating to lose one when you don’t play very well, too.”
He went into further detail on Monday, discussing specifically the improvements he is seeing game-in and game-out. “We all look at the result at the end of the game and feel like nothing good is happening. That’s not the case. We have a lot of positive things happening, just not enough to get us over the hump to win those games,” Muschamp said.
“The effort. Guys are playing hard with great effort. Individually guys that are doing nice things, as a team doing nice things. We’re just very inconsistent. You can attribute it to a lot of different things, but the bottom line is that it’s inconsistent. I see things that are very promising as far as where we are and what we’re trying to do. It’s not what we want right now, but we’ll certainly get there.
“We improved our tackling defensively. Both linebackers have played extremely well this season. We’re a little inconsistent in some situations Saturday, but we’ve played blocks better up front. We’ve improved in the secondary. Jordan Reed is playing really well. A.C. Leonard is coming along and playing really well. The running backs have played well all season. I think John [Brantley] continues to play well, and I think we’ve got a bright future with Jacoby [Brissett] and Jeff Driskel. Matt Patchan is playing his best football, and Jon Halapio is playing very well. We’re not consistent enough across the board, but there are some guys who are playing good football. Jon Bostic is having an outstanding season.
“There’s a fine line in winning and losing. It’s a really fine line from being 5-5 and possibly 8-2. There’s really fine line, and it goes back to those 8-10-12 plays in a game – you got to make those plays. You got to put your guys in situations to be successful and that’s my job.”
BOWL ELIGIBILITY NOT A CARROT TO BE DANGLED
As a coach who expects much from his players, Muschamp said he has never considered and certainly is not now using bowl eligibility as any type of motivator for his team going into the Furman game.
“For me it’s about playing better. It’s about coaching better. If you do that, things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’ve had our opportunities in the last four weeks to do that. We haven’t exactly closed it out. I don’t know that bowl eligibility should be a motivating factor for you as a competitor.
“When you step on the field, you compete. You can do it every day in practice, you can do it every day in meetings, and you do it every day during game day regardless of who is lined up on the other side. That’s the mental attitude you want to have as a competitor. It’s to go out and compete. You don’t need to be motivated by external factors, in my opinion.”
One positive result of becoming bowl eligible, something that the Gators will be on Saturday after their likely victory over the Paladins, is that Florida will get nearly three additional weeks of practice before playing in the game. Those can be used not only to prepare for the upcoming opponent but to set the tone for spring practice in 2012.
“They’re very important,” Muschamp said of the additional practices. “You got a great opportunity to scrimmage your young players. Our young players have been scrimmaging all year. It’s an opportunity to go out and rep, get better, familiarize with your scheme a little more, get guys turns and reps in what they’re doing. There’s no question – generally you try to get 4-5 fundamental practices and then 4-5 practices on your opponent. And then you break for Christmas, come back to the bowl site and get 4-5 more practices. It’s in essence another spring ball. There is no question it is very beneficial for your program.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On what adjustments he made at halftime: “Execute. Execute.”
» On playing a tough SEC slate of games: “We have two really good teams in our league in Alabama and LSU. The rest of us you could throw us in a sack and shake us up.”
» On his players fumbling the ball: “We just got to play different guys.”
» On deciding to kick the field goals and not go for touchdowns on fourth down: “The game is all about points. Neither offense was doing a whole lot. It was all about getting points early in the game to me. Get as many points as you can, don’t squelch opportunities in the red zone, which we did. You got to score touchdowns in there.”
» On Brantley’s mental makeup: “John’s a guy that, I’ll tell you, I’m very impressed with him as a person and what he’s all about. He’s all about the right things.”
» On the wide receivers not getting separation: “We got to play better. We got to coach better.”
» On the offensive and defensive lines: “Not very good. Real simple. We’re not deep enough. We don’t have enough numbers. It’s real simple. Just look at the roster. We’ve got good talent. We don’t have enough numbers.”
» On if it will take long to develop depth on the lines: “We’ll recruit well up front. I feel very excited about where we are from that standpoint. We’ll continue to improve and gain depth as far as the recruiting is concerned and do a better job coaching the guys here on campus.”
» On if the 5-5 season has affected recruiting: “None.”
» On why redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has not done more this year: “Given his opportunities, he has played well. A little bit is Andre has made some big plays for us, especially in the middle of the season as we’ve moved forward. They play the same position in most situations, so Andre [Debose]’s made a little bit more vertical plays down the field. Very pleased with Quinton recognized this morning for his effort on the field, his blocking in the game. I look for him to continue getting some opportunities.”
» On if Florida is getting enough out of the freshman class: “I’d have to individually think through in my head. Both quarterbacks are going to be outstanding; I’m pleased with where both of them are. Offensively right now A.C. Leonard has really come on. It really put him behind when he had the knee injury there in camp he missed a lot of time. For a freshman that’s very difficult when you miss that many turns and that many reps. I’m very pleased with the secondary players that have played extremely well for us. Graham Stewart has done some nice things at linebacker. Chris Johnson on special teams has been outstanding, Louchiez Purifoy. For a freshman class, there are a bunch of them playing and probably only three guys who will be redshirted in the class.”
» On why penalty numbers being down overall: “We’ve emphasized it as much as we can go over it. We have crowd noise at every practice. We hard count on defense probably once every 2-3 snaps. In critical situations we talk about it. We text the players about it. We’re exhausting every measure we can of jumping offsides and having false starts offensively. We’re going to continue to do a better job because we’re not doing a good job obviously. We’ve been doing that all along. That’s something that we’ve practiced and we do. That’s just what we do. [...] We’ve talked about it. We text them. We had a t-shirt made [that reads] ‘hard count.’ We’ve done everything. We’re exhausting all measures.”