Chris Johnson chooses to transfer from Gators

Four contributing players have now left the Florida Gators football team in the last 11 days as head coach Will Muschamp announced Sunday that sophomore running back Chris Johnson has also decided to transfer.

“Both Jacoby [Brissett] and Chris expressed an interest in transferring and getting a fresh start,” the coach said in a school release. “We are very thankful for their contributions to the University of Florida and wish them the best of luck.

Johnson, an undersized yet talented player, originally committed to the Gators as a safety but has also played linebacker and running back over the last two seasons. He has primarily made his mark as a special teams standout, racking up 11 tackles and a forced fumble while also carrying the ball five times for 35 yards in 2012.

He has appeared in all 26 games over two years at Florida and registered eight tackles as a freshman in 2011.

A local product who played for Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, FL, Johnson originally chose UF over Louisville, Memphis, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

He recently made headlines by being thrown out of the 2013 Sugar Bowl after throwing a punch following an onside kick on the opening play of the second half.

Johnson joins Brissett, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan and sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders as players that have left the Gators over the last two weeks.

Eight total players from Muschamp’s first recruiting class in 2011 have transferred including two (Brissett, linebacker Graham Stewart) that committed to the program after he was hired as Urban Meyer’s replacement.

OGGOA Related: Brissett to transfer | Patchan, Saunders leaving Florida

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Will Muschamp not irked by Florida transfers

Though his team faced major depth issues in 2011 and is still trying to fill its roster with talented, hard-nosed players with a winning mentality, head coach Will Muschamp has no concerns whatsoever about the 12 players that have transferred away from the Florida Gators since he took over the team.

Before giving a speech at a Gator Gathering in West Palm Beach, FL on Thursday, Muschamp broke down transfers into three categories (natural attrition, family reasons, other issues) and said he and the coaching staff approach each individual request differently depending on the player and their unique situation.

“What are the reasons?” he asked when posed a question about his thoughts on a dozen players leaving the team since he arrived. “I use Josh Shaw as an example. He’s a young man that came to me. He’s very happy at Florida. He was a good football player for us. He was competing to be a starter at Florida. He had a bright future ahead of him. He had some personal issues within his family that were obviously affecting him at Florida and him being that far away from home.

“Very similar to Graham Stewart’s situation. Both of those young men came to me, and I don’t know at the end of the day that they wanted to leave Florida, but they wanted to do what was best for their family. And I saw both guys on a day-to-day basis struggling. At the end of the day, life’s too short.”

That is why, upon Shaw making a decision where he wanted to transfer [USC], Muschamp petitioned for him to be eligible to play immediately rather than sit out the one-year mandatory transfer window required by the NCAA. Shaw’s waiver was approved, giving Muschamp hope that the same will be true for Stewart at Connecticut.

“Let’s help these guys out,” he said of his position. “I petitioned for Josh to the NCAA for him to be eligible immediately at USC, and I’m doing the same for Graham Stewart because it’s the right thing to do.

“It’s distance from home and being with your family, and family always comes first with me. Helping those young men is a lot more important than what we’re doing at Florida as far as their future is concerned.”

That does not mean that every player who wants to transfer is met with the same reaction. Some do not respond well to being pushed. Others don’t want to (or feel like they can’t) compete against the talent in front of them to start at their position of choice.

Most importantly, Muschamp does not want to even group these types of issues together because sometimes the student-athlete is to blame and other times, well, it could be the coaching staff’s fault that he is not getting the opportunity he deserves.

“Now when a young man comes to me and says, ‘I don’t feel like I’m being treated fairly, and I want to transfer,’ that’s a different case, a different story,” he explained. “I hate to put a blanket over all transfers and say this is what our stance is. I think they’re all different. I view all situations different. Are you at a position that’s stockpiled with four guys better than you? Is that your fault? No. We signed you. That’s our fault. Those are things you have to take into account.”

The good news for Muschamp and the Gators is that, despite losing Stewart on May 4, the team is deeper than it has been in two seasons at the line of scrimmage. He has finally been able to build the depth he has sought out for the last year and believes that Florida will be better for it both in 2012 and beyond.

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SIX BITS: Westbrook, Alli, Brantley, lax, Dunlap

1 » At a Gator Gathering in Orlando, FL on Tuesday, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced that sophomore Tevin Westbrook (6’5” 268 lbs.) will switch from defensive end to tight end over the summer. Westbrook, who appeared in three games as a true freshman but did not see much action in those contests, was one of the last players to commit to Florida in 2011 and did so knowing that he would not play much right away as the team had plans to develop his talents. There were rumors that Westbrook was considering transferring following the spring but he has apparently decided to take on this new challenge. He committed to UF over offers from Connecticut, North Carolina, Purdue and South Florida.

2 » Muschamp also touched on a number of other topics during the event. He noted that redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli will miss approximately three months of action after having successful surgery on a stress fracture in his leg, depleting the team’s pass catchers even further, and added that linebacker Graham Stewart, who the school announced last week decided to transfer, will move on to UConn.

3 » Four-star defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, a pledge to the Gators since Jan. 28, wrote Monday on Facebook that he is now a soft commitment to Florida. UF’s third-highest rated recruit according to Rivals at No. 82 overall and best overall recruit according to ESPNU (No. 18), Brantley wanted to reassure Gators fans that while his commitment status has changed he is not planning to play for any other team but Florida. “I feel like I rushed myself into a commitment, that is all,” he told InsidetheGators.com of his decision to open his recruitment slightly. “Not ever, I am not decommitting,” he added. “Florida is at number one, like way in front of the pack, but then you have Bama at two and three is USC and Florida State.” Other schools have continued to recruit Brantley, but he was quick to note that the Gators have been in constant contact with him as well. In addition to visiting other campuses, Brantley also plans to speak with Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to get a better feeling of what Florida’s depth chart will look like upon his arrival.

4 » Gators lacrosse received a special distinction on Tuesday, just one day after learning they will be the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. As the newest top 25 polls were released, Florida learned that they are the new unanimous No. 1 team in the country. UF took down previously top-ranked Northwestern for the second time this season on Saturday to win the 2012 ALC Tournament and is now both the fastest program in school history to receive a No. 1 ranking and the fastest program in collegiate women’s lacrosse history to earn that distinction. NCAA Tournament action for the Gators begins on May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany.

5 » Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap is ready for his breakout. After leading Cincinnati in sacks as a rookie with 9.5 (all of which he registered in the final eight games of the season), Dunlap slowed down a bit in his sophomore campaign and only registered 4.5. Slowed by a foot injury in the preseason and a hamstring injury that nagged him over the final few games, he struggled to be completely healthy and consistently effective; Dunlap hopes to improve on both in 2012. “When you get there you expect to get the sack. It’s better to be there than not be there,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer of being around the quarterback but not bringing him down. “When I was starting to get them then the unfortunate situation [injury] happened. Now I want to have a complete season. The hamstring is one of those things that really doesn’t go away until you give it good rest. This year I didn’t want it holding me back.”

6 » Cleveland Indians outfielder Johnny Damon, an 18-year MLB veteran and long-time Gators fan who actually committed to Florida before deciding to play professionally, recently provided financial support to the UF College of Medicine in order to aid research opportunities. The $16,000 contribution from Damon’s foundation will be used to help study “a genetic condition called glycogen storage disease type III, which prevents children and adults from properly processing sugar stored in the body,” according to UF. Researchers are currently doing work on the Faroe Islands (where one in 3,000 people have the disease compared to one in 100,000 in the United States) to learn about the disease and determine if they can find a solution that could not only help people with the disease but also “potentially change the course of care for [people with] high blood pressure and other common conditions.”

“Johnny Damon has no connection to this disease, so his willingness to help means a lot to me,” said David Weinstein, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine and director of the UF Glycogen Storage Disease Program. “We hear often about problems in sports, but we don’t frequently hear about athletes who go out of their way to help people. We could not do this without his support.”

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Florida LB Stewart to transfer closer to home

Florida Gators sophomore linebacker Graham Stewart, just months after making the biggest play of his young career in the 2012 Gator Bowl, has decided to transfer and play college football closer to home for personal reasons.

“Graham has told me he wanted to leave to get closer to home due to some personal issues. Family always comes first with me and he needs to be closer to his family,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a school release. “I’m thankful for his contributions to our team and wish him nothing but the best of luck. He will always have my support and backing if he needs any help in the future.”

Stewart, who committed to Florida late in the 2011 recruiting cycle after Muschamp and the Gators made a push for his pledge, spent most of his time on special teams in his only season at UF. He always appeared to be around the ball and had his most memorable moment in orange and blue by returning a blocked punt for a touchdown against Ohio State on Jan 2.

“I have some personal family issues that have caused me to evaluate how far I am away from home,” Stewart said. “I appreciate my time in Gainesville and have nothing but good things to say about Coach Muschamp and the staff at Florida, but some things are more important. I really need to be closer to home.”

Stewart originally committed to Boston College, a school that is approximately two hours away from home, before flipping to Florida on Jan. 29, 2011.

He is the 12th player to transfer off the Gators football team since Muschamp took over.

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4/2: Muschamp on QBs, special teams, motivation

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke on Monday about the team’s weekend scrimmage while also previewing the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

QUARTERBACK COMPETITION RAMPING UP BUT STILL EVEN

Though the team has participated in one-and-a-half scrimmages (Saturday’s was cut short at approximately 35 snaps due to lightning), sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel remain in a dead heat for the starting job.

“Not much separation. Both guys have done some nice things for us. For the few snaps we got in the scrimmage we did a nice job of managing our offense,” Muschamp said on Monday. “They’ve done a really nice job as far as procedural issues, getting in and out of the huddle. We do motions and shifts quite a bit and both of those guys are doing a really nice job of that.”

No matter what happens at the spring game on Saturday, Muschamp does not expect there to be any further clarity in who will start the first game of the season. He said it is “not going to be D-Day” for the players because one good practice will just be intertwined to the other 14 days of competing.

“I don’t know that we will name a starter after spring. We will go into the fall camp [without one]. That to me is becoming more and more evident every day that both guys are guys we can win with. Bottom line. That’s good for us. But both guys are competing at a high level, in my opinion, and they both have done outstanding things throughout spring,” he said. “I’m very pleased with their progress as much as anything in just managing our football team and getting in and out of the huddle and taking a command of the offense. Both of them are working extremely hard off the field. They’re always in the building watching film and doing the things you got to do to be successful. [...]

“The game slows down for older players because they’re able to see and anticipate. Even though we’ve changed some things from a verbiage standpoint, terminology, the game is slowing down for them.”

A MIXED BAG ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Muschamp was quite honest on Monday about the way his special teams unit performed in 2011: “We were really good in all categories, but we were not good in returning punts.” Therefore, Florida is working six players out as punt returners and eight as kick returners in order to get some added production from that unit.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose is the team’s best returning threat (showcasing his ability as a kick returner last year) and has improved his hands from a year ago making him a legitimate option on the punting unit as well. He is getting plenty of competition there, however, from sophomore defensive backs Louchiez Purifoy, De’Ante Saunders and Marcus Roberson, redshirt senior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. and even junior running back Trey Burton. That same group along with redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines and junior DB Cody Riggs is returning kickoffs as well.

Muschamp is also hoping to see sophomore punter Kyle Christy improve his performance from a year ago. He said Christy “really punted the ball well” on Wednesday and continues to progress though he most show that he can be more consistent. “He’s got the leg. He’s got the tools. He’s got the talent. It’s a matter of doing it all the time,” he said. “As Kyle continued to improve that consistency, that’s’ what enabled him to get the job [in the middle of 2011].”

WORK ETHIC AND MOTIVATION ARE IMPROVING

Continue Reading » 4/2: Muschamp on QBs, special teams, motivation

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Muschamp, Quinn talk Gators team, defense

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

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

PRIORITIES FOR 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the defense’s players and the coaches’ philosophies…
Continue Reading » Muschamp, Quinn talk Gators team, defense

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Florida Gators 2012 spring practice depth chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11/14: Muschamp speaks after Florida’s fifth loss

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.

INJURY UPDATES

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.”

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