Friday Final: “Trash talk,” coaching stops, Tebow

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles some exaggerated “trash talk” leading up to the game, familiar faces for both sides and quarterback Tim Tebow returning to Gainesville, Florida, for the second time in two months.

The Florida Gators (1-0) open their Southeastern Conference slate by hosting the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and will air live on SEC Network.

“TRASH TALK”

During a post-practice interview on Tuesday, Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp (a Deland, Florida, native) was asked about playing at Florida in front of friends and family. In the middle of a rather innocuous reply, he dropped a line that – when singled out and defined as “trash talk” – has since drawn some attention.

“A couple of my [high school] teammates actually went to Florida, so I’m familiar with a lot of those guys. It’s going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces,” said Kemp with a light laugh when he was asked if he knew some players on the Gators.

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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

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8/12: Roper breaks down Gators offense, backup quarterbacks and running backs

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday after the team’s 11th fall practice to provide his thoughts on the offense to this point. Roper also evaluated a number of Gators who should be big factors for Florida in 2014.

EARLY RETURNS

The theme coming out of spring practice was that the Gators installed more of the offense and were much further along in the learning process than Roper expected. While that might have been true then, Roper was cautious Tuesday to say that Florida’s players fully understand what is going on with his scheme.

“I think they’ve got a really good understanding of what we’re asking them to do, our base offense, I should say, the guys that were around for those 15 days – our two offensive lines, our two quarterbacks,” he explained. “Really, the young guys, it’s a battle right now to have a great understanding because it is so new to them and our defense is so multiple and causes so many problems. But the guys that have been in the battles before can obviously apply experiences to what we’re teaching them offensively, I think they’ve really got a good understanding of what we’re doing.”

He later added: “These guys aren’t there yet because they’ve just been in it 25-26 practices in. The biggest thing to guard against is putting too much on their plate.”

While Roper may still be spoon-feeding the Gators his offense, he is pleased with how the team has responded to his system and coaching.

“I think [their attitude's] been really good. I think these guys are excited about playing football,” he explained. “It wouldn’t matter who you rolled in here. When this time of season comes running around, everybody is excited. But I hope they’re enjoying the offense. I hope they’re enjoying competing every day on the practice field, and I think they’re excited about going and competing on Saturdays.”

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Roper enthused heading into Gators spring game

Two days before spring practice ends with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media to provide his final thoughts on his unit heading into Saturday’s spring game.

“LET’S GO SCORE SOME POINTS”

Fans that had time to attend got a sneak peak at Florida’s uptempo offense during the Gators’ open spring practices, but the rest of the base has been patiently waiting to see how Roper has turned around a downtrodden unit in just over two dozen practices.

Roper believes his group is ready to deliver and hopes that fans come away from the spring game confident in Florida’s ability to move the ball up and down the field in 2014.

“What you want to see from the offense is really, ‘Hey, let’s get the right personnel on the field, let’s get lined up, let’s get set with motion, get the ball snapped before the play clock runs out, and let’s have possession of the ball at the end of the play.’ If we’ll do those things and look like a well-coached offense and guys that are locked in, we’re going to make plays in this offense,” he confidently explained.

“That’s going to happen. There’s enough opportunities that will take place. The biggest thing is not beating ourselves, going out there and looking like a well-coached team.”

In order for that to occur, the players need to be as confident as their coach, which Roper believes they are even though the system is still quite new to these Gators. But he is not concerned about their confidence heading into the game. Rather, he wants to see the same thing as fans: points on the scoreboard.

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Roper pleased with installation of Gators offense

By Adam Silverstein and Mike Brandes (OnlyGators.com Contributor)

Nearing the end of the second full week of spring practice, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Thursday to discuss how his unit is progressing and whether he sees the start of a turnaround in a unit that finished 112th in scoring offense (18.8 points per game) and 113rd in total offense (316.7 yards per game) by the conclusion of the 2013 season.

STEP ONE: INSTALLATION

Learning a new offense is difficult for any group of players, especially when it is – in many ways – night and day from one they have run for a number of years. But if the Gators are going to have success in 2014, it will be their offense making the greatest improvement, and that has to begin right away.

“They’re starting to understand more and more every day. Part of the process is you add things to them every day,” explained Roper on Thursday. “I think what we’ve tried to do is create an offense that is easy as possible for us to learn but still complicated to defend. So, I think it’s an offense that, over time, over 45 practices before our first game, that we’ll have a pretty good understanding of.”

Florida new up-tempo set will have a base formation of three-wide. Players will check in with the sideline for each play call and be focused on executing fundamentals on the field rather than trying to trick the opposition with complicated routes or blocking assignments. Roper believes things are going well early on despite the fact that some fans have heard him yelling plenty of times in open practices.

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Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Offense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (2/2): Junior D.J. Humphries, redshirt senior Chaz Green
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson

By the time the 2013 campaign came to an end, the Gators lost three starting tackles for the season. The first of those absentees was Green, who had locked up the starting right tackle job over the summer but tore his labrum in practice and missed the entire season. Then came Humphries, who started the first six games at left tackle but missed the final five after an injured MCL kept him hobbled for the remainder of the year. Florida’s offense struggled mightily, in large part due to a weak offensive line, but Green and Humphries will almost assuredly start for UF as long as they can remain healthy. Johnson did not play in 2013 after suffering a physical setback early in camp but impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism when he was able to practice as a part of the scout team. He is a candidate to see a good number of snaps this year.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Returning starters (0/2): None
Fresh faces: Junior transfer Drew Sarvary, freshman Kavaris Harkless

With Jon Halapio and Kyle Koehne graduating – and Florida’s starting left guard changing positions (more on that below) – new offensive line coach Mike Summers will have the opportunity to hand-pick some players to help solidify the unit. Sarvary – a First Team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection last season – and redshirt junior Trip Thurman will compete for the jobs, as will senior Trenton Brown and redshirt junior Tyler Moore, both of whom started games at tackle for the Gators in 2013. Florida’s guards are a work in progress, no two ways about it. Harkless could get in the mix as well though it is tough to know what UF can get from a freshman offensive lineman in the spring.

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Florida Gators end 2013 season with a whimper as No. 2 Florida State routs hosts 37-7

The 2013 season ended with a whimper for the Florida Gators (4-8), which lost for the third time in the last four years to the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (12-0), dropping Saturday’s contest 37-7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Seminoles continued on their path toward a national title while the Gators finished a season below .500 for the first time since 1979. UF, which ended the year on a seven-game losing streak, also failed to advance to a bowl game for the first time in 23 tries.

Heisman candidate and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston looked every bit the part on Saturday, completing 19-of-31 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those touchdown passes went to Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who tallied 212 yards on eight receptions.

Florida got out of the first quarter trailing just 3-0 thanks to a superb defensive effort.

Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy intercepted Winston on a pass down to UF’s 13-yard line, but the Gators were unable to convert the ensuing possession into points despite moving down to FSU’s 33 on a 50-yard rush by senior WR Trey Burton. Redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin missed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Burton, who head coach Will Muschamp said at halftime would have taken about 35 snaps at quarterback on Saturday, did not return to the game with a shoulder injury.

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11/5: Pease on Wildcat; Brown, Moore step up

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the ninth game of the season against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 9.

SECOND THOUGHTS ON THE BURTON-CAT

Suffice to say, the Gators have not had much success at all running direct snap plays with senior wide receiver Trey Burton this season. Nevertheless, Florida has continued to run them with the latest incarnation coming on Saturday in form of an option on 1st-and-10 from the Georgia 41. UF was trailing UGA 23-20 at the time and ended up completely stalling on the drive. The Gators never touched the ball again.

Asked Tuesday about the decision, Pease admitted that he definitely second-guessed the call following the game, even if he was not completely clear in his reasoning for running it in the first place.

“Well, I look at the play and, I mean, we knew we had it in and a lot of the things we’ve done with Trey have kind of been more inside with him carrying it. This gave us an option. What we wanted to do with him hitting it and also getting the ball to [Solomon Patton]. And, as I look back on it, yeah, I second guess myself on that play,” he said.

“One thing we do is we go through and we say, ‘OK, what plays are good?’ And that’s something we haven’t hit. I think with him it takes some adjustment by a defense to play to him, and we hope that’s what they do defensively. If we just designed the run for him, you’re right, those probably haven’t been that great this year. I know they were more effective last year. But that’s why the play was designed more for him to have an option, it’s either him or getting the ball to Solo.”

NOT-AS-OFFENSIVE LINE

Though Florida still surrendered four sacks on Saturday, only two were blamed on the offensive line. As a whole, the unit played much better with a big – literally – part of that being the effort contributed by a first-time starter in junior right tackle Trenton Brown.

“I think he did a good job in the game. There’s still some things you look at on film and [he can improve on]. He had one holding call,” Pease said. “But I think the kid went out and competed and was good on his assignments. There’s a couple things we’ve got to clean up. I think he’s good now that he’s kind of had some of those been-in-a-game situations. I think he’ll get better.”

Brown admitted that he has plenty of room for improvement but was also perturbed that his 6-foot-8, 360-pound frame did not see the field for more snaps through the first seven games of the season.

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