Muschamp updates Gators injuries, filling voids

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Wednesday primarily to discuss the new recruiting class on National Signing Day, but he also touched on a number of issues concerning the team with six weeks to go until the start of spring practice on March 19 ahead of the 2014 season.

INJURED STARTERS STILL ON THE MEND

The Gators’ rash of season-ending injuries last season was highlighted by two big losses on the offensive side of the ball – redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (fibula) and junior Matt Jones (knee).

While Driskel is slowly but surely working his way back – Muschamp noted that he has resumed jogging and is expected to be cleared for the start of spring practice – Jones on Wednesday went under the knife for the second of potentially three surgeries to repair a complete radial tear of his meniscus.

Doctors have told Muschamp that Jones’s meniscus was already “90 percent healed,” which puts him “further along” than the initial projection for his return, but he will not be able to suit up in March and remains on target to get back to work in the summer.

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Georgia Southern deals Florida worst loss in program history as Eagles top Gators 26-20

Already seemingly at rock bottom, the Florida Gators (4-7) on Saturday fell even deeper into a pit of despair, losing their sixth-straight while dropping a game to an FCS opponent for the first time in school history as the Georgia Southern Eagles (7-4) pulled off a 26-20 upset victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Eagles, set to join the FBS as a member of the Sun Belt Conference next season, earned their first-ever victory against an FBS opponent (previously 0-20). UF dropped its first-ever game to an FCS team and was outgained 429-279 on the afternoon despite the visitors not completing a single pass during the game.

Florida opened up with the football and immediately drove it down the field, picking up 63 yards on 13 plays before settling for a 27-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor accounted for 54 of those yards on eight carries.

The Gators found themselves with another scoring opportunity just moments later after the Eagles muffed a punt and gave UF great field position the 25-yard line. Florida moved the ball 17 yards on four plays but had redshirt junior walk-on kicker Frankie Velez 34-yard field goal blocked.

It did not take long for UF to earn another short field. On GSU’s first play of its ensuing drive, RB Johnathan Bryant fumbled the ball. Gators junior defensive back Jabari Gorman forced the fumble, and redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor jumped on top of it for the recovery.

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10/15: Pease talks Taylor, Gators’ pass protection

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively ahead of the seventh game of the season against the Missouri Tigers on Oct. 19.

A CHANGE AT RUNNING BACK

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor has displayed great ability with the ball in his hands during his limited action this season and impressed Pease on Saturday with his poise and flashes of ability. With sophomore Matt Jones now sidelined, Taylor’s role will continue significantly increase going forward.

“I think Kelvin did really well. I mean, he ran the ball hard. You see he made some good vertical cuts and did a good job in space and ran tough,” Pease said. “He did his job. So, I think it’s good experience for him. I think he showed us something. And, you know, he really actually gave us a little spark in running the ball there for a while.”

Pease believes Taylor is ready to handle a large number of carries but said the player has to “zero in” because he’s going to have a lot more pressure on his shoulders and responsibilities other than toting the rock.

“It just can’t be all hand-offs to him. There’s some things that he didn’t do that he needed to do. The expectation on every down,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, the kid is a physical runner. He put it north and south. We missed a couple guys. Just his speed how he hit the holes, he made them miss, especially down in the red zone. And he got good, positive yardage. When we were in that position, we kind of kept going to him a little bit. When he got the ball, he was gaining five, six, seven [yards].”

Though many fans were frustrated that Taylor, outside of the Toledo game, had not seen much action, Pease said Taylor was accepting of his previously limited role.

“The thing about him, leading up to this point and not having so many turns, is that he never complained about it. He never said it’s not fair or this isn’t equal or anything like that. He just continued to work, tried to find some consistency in what he was doing and said when my opportunity comes, I’m gonna do it. Now it’s there. I’m happy for him, and I think he’ll just continue to get better and better.”

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Gators reflect on ‘Cats, look ahead to Razorbacks

A number of players from the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) met with the media throughout the week to discuss team issues and preview Saturday’s game against the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-2, 0-1 SEC).

DEFENSE

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs

» On senior DT Dominique Easley‘s mindset: “He’s doing pretty good. He’s staying positive. I’m trying to keep him positive so everything’s going good. Just trying to put him back in that joking mood he’s always usually in. He’s a big prankster and a big joker so I try to keep him going that way.”

» On the opportunity Easley’s injury presented for him: “It’s a big opportunity because I’m going to have way more reps than I thought I was going to have this year. This is my last year also, so it’s a big opportunity for me to put myself on the market. Me and him talked about that last week. He told me not to miss out on it.”

» On Arkansas’ offense: “Physical, they’re real physical. I think they’re a little chippy, a little dirty, so we’re going to have to be ready for all that this week.”

» On how the Razorbacks are dirty: “I just see from film a lot of the stuff after the play. Especially with the center, number 64, he’ll get after you after the play. He’ll make you want to do some things to him. So we’re going to have to try to keep our temper and keep cool on that. Just hit them in the mouth first. Just keep hitting them until they quit. That’s how you do it.”

Redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor

» On what he says when he trash talks: “You guys couldn’t handle that so I can’t really say that in here. If y’all mic me up, you might find out.”

» On whether Arkansas’ center is ‘dirty’ like Jacbos said: “I haven’t seen ‘dirty.’ I’ve seen that he finishes plays. All that talk of ‘dirty,’ if somebody’s trying to come block you, if you don’t let them get into your body there’s no way they can block you. Using good hands, keeping them away from you. Anything he would try to do, if it was dirty, would be negated because he can’t even touch you.”

» On the Hogs also trash talking: “So, we’ll have a lot of fun. … That’s how I’ve always played. I’ve always played with a lot of emotion. I love the game of football so I’m going to be out there, I’m going to be passionate about what I’m playing. I’m going to let you know what I’m finna do and I’m gonna do it. So that’s just how I like to play.”

» On Arkansas’ physicality: “We’re a physical team as well, so, we go again physical opponents every day in practice. We bang in practice. Not on Thursdays and Fridays because it’s close to the game, but we bang all the way up until [that]. It’s not going to be nothing we’re not prepared for.”

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9/30: Muschamp on Easley to NFL, injuries, Hogs

No. 18/19 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 24-7 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats and his team’s upcoming home game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Oct. 5. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

HEADING TO THE NFL

Asked about senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley future and whether he would consider applying for a medical redshirt and playing a fifth season, Muschamp announced that there was no question Easley would be moving on with his career.

“Dominque’s definitely going to go to the NFL,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s had two ACLs. I think that’s the best move for him right now is go and prepare himself for April and getting ready for that. He and I talked briefly about it. That’s what he wants to do, and I support it 100 percent.”

Muschamp said he is not concerned about teams being worried in regards to Easley’s injury history. He thinks what Easley has been able to do on the field will be more than enough to convince teams to draft him.

“He’ll have plenty of interest. He’s going to be a productive guy on the next level. He’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself in how he plays the game, how he approaches the game. He’ll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization.”

Muschamp also noted that he has not spoken at length with redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose regarding his future though the two did touch base. Debose would have to apply for a second medical hardship waiver but would likely have it granted considering he did not play a single down in 2013.

INJURY UPDATES

Aside from season-ending injuries, the Gators appear to be relatively healthy heading into their next game. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers (ankle), who has missed the last two games, should be back in practice by Tuesday but will definitely see the field by Wednesday at the latest. Muschamp also noted that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) could have played against the Wildcats if needed but was held out as a precaution considering he was a game-time decision.

Redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) will remain out for this week, but sophomore TE Kent Taylor (ankle) should be back in uniform for the game. Muschamp had not previously announced Taylor’s injury but noted Monday that he has missed 2-3 weeks of action.

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9/23: Muschamp talks injuries, rushers, Kentucky

No. 19/20 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers and his team’s upcoming road game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 28. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPNU.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp announced that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel’s surgery, originally scheduled for Sunday, will instead be performed on Wednesday. Driskel broke his right fibula during Saturday’s game and will have a plate inserted in the leg. “Again, very disappointed for Jeff. It’s part of the game, but it’s very difficult to deal with. Really hurt for him and his family and for us as a football team,” he said.

One other serious injury occurred as redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson, who missed all of 2012 due to injury, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot and will probably miss 1-2 weeks. “I’m disappointed for Colin. He was starting to really progress and do well for us,” Muschamp said. “He’s had some issues with his foot; this is a different issue with his foot. It’s something that has not happened before.”

Three other Gators were injured Saturday but each is expected to be active for Saturday’s game. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr hurt his shoulder and will miss practice on Monday but should be back Tuesday or Wednesday. Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who sat out the first two games of the season with a torn pectoral, got poked in the eye early Saturday and had three stitches after the game. “He’s going to be fine for this week. I’ll tell you, a tough young man he is to play through that,” Muschamp said. Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was also knocked from the game after being hit hard on a kickoff return; he was later diagnosed with a thigh contusion and was back at practice running on Sunday.

As for the three Florida players that missed the Tennessee game, Muschamp believes two will be healthy enough to play at Kentucky. Junior CB Marcus Roberson (knee) ran well Sunday and will be back at practice Tuesday, and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) will also be back in action Tuesday. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers, who injured his ankle during practice on Wednesday, was listed as “doubtful” and will likely be out at least one if not two weeks.

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Defense dominates, Murphy shines as Florida wins ninth-straight over Tennessee 31-17

Supported by a dominant defense that forced six turnovers on the afternoon, redshirt junior back-up quarterback Tyler Murphy shined as he led the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) to a 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Replacing junior starting QB Jeff Driskel midway through the first quarter, Murphy finished 8-of-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown and also carried the ball 10 times for 84 yards and another score on the ground.

Driskel, while throwing a pick-six on UF’s second offensive series of the game, broke a bone in his right leg and never returned. He will miss the remainder of the season.

The Gators, which have now won nine-straight games against the Vols dating back to 2005, utilized a superb defensive effort to mitigate the early miscue – along with numerous others throughout the game – and pull off the victory.

Junior punter Kyle Christy muffed a snap on Florida’s first offensive series, and Tennessee subsequently took over at UF’s 15-yard line. UT would not convert the turnover into points, however, because sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. forced and recovered a fumble on second down to give the ball back to UF.

The Vols’ next offensive series ended the same way with Fowler sacking QB Nathan Peterman and forcing a fumble that was recovered by redshirt junior LB Michael Taylor at the six-yard line. The Gators only came away with three points as redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin made a 23-yard field goal.

Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole registered Florida’s third turnover of the game by picking off Peterman at UF’s 44-yard line. Two plays later, Murphy hit senior wide receiver Solomon Patton on a screen that Patton took 52 yards for a touchdown.

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Gameday: No. 9 Florida Gators at No. 24 Miami

Location: Sun Life Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL [Capacity: 76,854]
Weather: 86°F (feels like 94°F), cloudy, isolated t-storms (30%), winds ENE at 6 mph
Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT

Tickets: Best deals on Florida Gators tickets starting at $152 on TiqIQ

TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Tom Luginbill)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter (Limited)

No. 9/12 FLORIDA GATORS No. 24 MIAMI HURRICANES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Al Golden
Record: 1-0 Record: 1-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3.5 | O/U: 48

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Miami leads the all-time series against Florida 28-26, though the Gators actually have a 14-13 advantage going head-to-head with the Hurricanes in Miami, FL.
» Though Florida won the last meeting between the two schools in 2008, that victory snapped a six-game winning streak for Miami in the series.
» The Gators and Canes played annually from 1944-1987 but did not square off at all in the 1990s. On Saturday, they will be sharing the field for the sixth time this century.
» Florida hopes to open the season 2-0 for the ninth-straight year.
» UM has not played a team from the SEC since facing UF in 2008.
» Florida was 4-2 against ranked opponents in 2012, posting a 164-133 scoring margin in those games. Miami, on the other hand, was 0-3 against ranked teams last season and got outscored 36-126 in those contests.
» The Gators are 13-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (1-5 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards). Florida is also 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 (6-5 when an opponent scores first) and 15-1 when leading at the half (4-7 when tied or trailing at the break).
» The Hurricanes are 11-2 under Golden when scoring 30+ points.
» UF still leads the nation in interceptions (97), interception return yards (1,703) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) since 2008.
» Florida had two touchdown drives of 80+ yards against Toledo, the first time that’s happened in the same game since Nov. 5, 2011.
» Miami has amassed 500+ yards of offense in three-straight games along with a combined 126 points and average margin of victory of 22.0 points.
» The Gators’ defense held the Rockets to six points last week, the sixth time the team has held an opponent without a touchdown under Muschamp.
» The Canes have gone three games without allowing an opponent to score a touchdown on their home field. In those 160:39 minutes, Miami has only given up six field goals and 18 total points.
» Florida has forced at least one turnover in 12-straight games.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (349).
» UM will be making its 74th appearance on ESPN, second-most in the history of the network (Auburn – 75).

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (Miami, FL), redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) are all South Florida natives named captains for Saturday’s game.
» Others playing in front of their friends and family include senior linebacker Darrin Kitchens (Homestead, FL), junior S Jabari Gorman (Miami, FL), junior tight end Tevin Westbrook (Coconut Creek, FL), redshirt freshman defensive lineman Bryan Cox, Jr. (Fort Lauderdale, FL), freshman running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) and freshman offensive lineman Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL).

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!
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